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CANTO THE FOURTH.
Nothing so difficult as a beginning
In poesy, unless perhaps the end;
The race, he sprains a wing, and down we tend, Like Lucifer when hurl'd from heaven for sinning;
Our sin the same, and hard as his to mend, Being pride, (') which leads the mind to soar too far, Till our own weakness shows us what we are. (2)
But Time, which brings all beings to their level,
And sharp Adversity, will teach at last Man, — and, as we would hope, - perhaps the devil,
That neither of their intellects are vast:
["how glorious once above thy sphere,
While youth's hot wishes in our red veins revel,
We know not this— the blood flows on too fast; But as the torrent widens towards the ocean, We ponder deeply on each past emotion. (1)
As boy, I thought myself a clever fellow,
And wish'd that others held the same opinion; They took it up when my days grew more mellow,
And other minds acknowledged my dominion : Now my sere fancy “ falls into the yellow
Leaf,”(?) and Imagination droops her pinion, And the sad truth which hovers o'er my desk Turns what was once romantic to burlesque.
And if I laugh at any mortal thing,
'Tis that I may not weep; and if I weep, 'Tis that our nature cannot always bring
Itself to apathy, for we must steep
(1) [“ Time hovers o'er, impatient to destroy,
And shuts up all the passages of joy :
JOHNSON'S Vanity of Human Wishes. “ 'Tis a grand poem- and so true! - true as the 10th of Juvenal himself. The lapse of ages changes all things — time - language - the earth
the bounds of the sea - the stars of the sky, and every thing about, around, and underneath' man, except man himself, who has always been, and always will be, an unlucky rascal. The infinite variety of lives con. duct but to death, and the infinity of wishes lead but to disappointment." B. Diary, 1821.) (2)
[-"my May of life
Our hearts first in the depths of Lethe's spring,
Ere what we least wish to behold will sleep:
Some have accused me of a strange design
Against the creed and morals of the land, (3) And trace it in this poem every line:
I don't pretend that I quite understand
(1) [Achilles is said to have been dipped by his mother in the river Styx, to render him invulnerable.] (2)
[—“a slow and silent stream,
Paradise Lost, b. vi.] (3) [“ Lord Byron is the very Comus of poetry, who, by the bewitching airiness of his numbers, aims to turn the moral world into a herd of monsters." - WATKINS.
“ Deep as Byron has dipped his pen into vice, he has dipped it still deeper into immorality. Alas! he shines only to mislead - he flashes only to destroy." - COLTON.
“ In Don Juan he is highly profane; but, in that poem, the profaneness is in keeping with all the other qualities, and religion comes in for a sneer, or a burlesque, only in common with every thing that is dear and valuable to us as moral and social beings." - Ecl. Rev.
“ Dost thou aspire, like a Satanic mind,
With vice to waste and desolate mankind ?
This way of writing will appear exotic;
Who sang when chivalry was more Quixotic, And revell’d in the fancies of the time, [despotic;
True knights, chaste dames, huge giants, kings But all these, save the last, being obsolete, I chose a modern subject as more meet.
Perhaps no better than they have treated me
Not what they saw, but what they wish'd to see ; But if it gives them pleasure, be it so;
This is a liberal age, and thoughts are free:
Young Juan and his lady-love were left
To their own hearts' most sweet society ; Even Time the pitiless in sorrow cleft
With bis rude scythe such gentle bosoms; he Sigh'd to behold them of their hours bereft
Though foe to love; and yet they could not be Meant to grow old, but die in happy spring, Before one charm or hope had taken wing.
(1) [See antė, Vol. XI. p. 187.]
Vellit, et admonuit.” – Virg. Ecl. vi.]
Their faces were not made for wrinkles, their
Pure blood to stagnate, their great hearts to fail ; The blank grey was not made to blast their hair,
But like the climes that know nor snow nor hail They were all summer : lightning might assail
And shiver them to ashes, but to trail
They were alone once more; for them to be
Thus was another Eden; they were never Weary, unless when separate : the tree
Cut from its forest root of years—the river Damm’d from its fountain the child from the knee
And breast maternal wean'd at once for ever, Would wither less than these two torn apart ;( ) Alas! there is no instinct like the heart
The heart—which may be broken: happy they !
Thrice fortunate ! who of that fragile mould, The precious porcelain of human clay,
Break with the first fall: they can ne'er behold The long year link'd with heavy day on day,
And all which must be borne, and never told; While life's strange principle will often lie Deepest in those who long the most to die.
(1) [MS. - .
“ from its mother's knee