Page images
PDF
EPUB

:

[ocr errors]

1

Greece ; bitter the dismay of the civilised world ; bitter the self-reproaches of many Englishmen.

The corpse was brought home, and buried in the family-vault at Hucknall, near Newstead. The will of Lord Byron left to his sister, Mrs Leigh, the bulk of his property, beyond such as was settled on his wife and daughter. While at Venice, he had given to Moore a fragmentary autobiography, consisting principally of a narrative of his married life, with many highly-spiced details concerning friends and acquaintances. The fortunate recipient had disposed of this prize to the publisher Murray : the latter consulted Mrs Leigh, and Byron's executor, Hobhouse, and, with their approval, committed the MS. to the flames. Moore has intimated that a great deal of it could not possibly have been published-not even at a date remote from the writer's death ; and that the portions most material to the life of Byron himself are substantially reproduced in his published journals and other memoranda.

Wilfulness was probably the leading characteristic of Byron as a man : himself was his centre, and a very uncertain centre too, for he was not less wayward than wilful and egotistic. He had no leading principle of action, and, had he had one, would have been perpetually violating it. We must take him as he stands-a dazzling and a tantalizing phenomenon. How many hearts has he not thrilled with rapture and suspense ! how many “well-regulated minds” has he not lashed or laughed into rage!

His poetry has two main constituents-passion and wit. Were we compelled rigidly to assess the value of these two constituents, according to the positive merit of their respective products, we should probably have to say that the wit was the finer power of the two. The great superiority of Don Juan (and, as a minor sample, the Vision of Judgment) to all his other work, consists ultimately in this—that here the passion and the wit are perpetually interpenetrating and enhancing one another, and are both perfectly limpid and unforced. There is no overloading or attitudinising in the passion; in the wit, no conventional standard of substance or of form. It is not, however, necessary to settle with any nicety the rival claims of passion and of wit as the informing powers of Byron's work; nor even does the mind acquiesce in either or both of these excellent qualities as the final characteristics. The great thing in Byron is GENIUS—that quality so perilous to define, so evanescent in its aroma, so impossible to mistake. If ever a man breathed whom we recognise (athwart much poor and useless work, when strictly tested) as emphatically the Genius, that man was Byron : and, if ever genius made poetry its mouthpiece, covering with its transcendent utterances a multitude of sins whether against art or against the full stature of perfect manhood, Byron's is that poetry. It is therefore as imperishable as genius itself. Its forms have much of the transitory, much even of the spurious : they have already been “found out” to a great extent, and, after suffering a term of more than merited depreciation by reaction, are righting themselves in rather a battered and blowzed condition. But these are the forms : the essence is the genius, and that knows no vicissitude, and acknowledges no fleeting jurisdiction.

W. M. ROSSETTI.

[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION. All my friends, learned and unlearned, have urged me not to publish this Satire with my name. If I were to be "turned from the career of my humour by quibbles qu'ck, and paper bullets of the brain,” I should have complied with their counsel ; but I am not to be terrified by abuse, or bullied by reviewers, with or without arms. I can safely say that I have attacked none personally, who did not commence on the offensive. An author's works are public property: he who purchases may judge, and publish his opinion if he pleases; and the authors I have endeavoured to commemorate may do by me as I have done by them : I dare say they will succeed better in condemning my scribblings than in mending their own. But my object is not to prove that I can write well, but, if possible, to make others write better.

As the poem has met with far more success than I expected, I have endeavoured in this edition to make some additions and alterations, to render it more worthy of public perusa!.

In the First Edition of this Satire, published anonymously, fourteen lines on the subject of Bowles's Pope were written by, and inserted at the request of, an ingenious friend of mine, who has now in the press a volume of poetry. In the present edition they are erased, and some of my own substituted in their stead; my only reason for this being that which I conceive would operate with any other person in the same manner,-a determination not to publish with my name any production which was not entirely and exclusively my own composition.

With regard to the real talents of many of the poetical persons whose performances are mentioned or alluded to in the following pages, it is presumed by the author that there can be little difference of opinion in the public at large ; though, like other sectaries, each has his separate tabernacle of proselytes, by whom his abilities are overrated, his faults overlooked, and his metrical canons received without scruple and without consideration. But the unquestionable possession of considerable genius by several of the writers here censured, renders their mental prostitution more to be regretted. Imbecility may be pitied, or, at worst, laughed at and forgotten ; perverted powers demand the most decided reprehension. No one can wish more than the author, that some known and able writer had undertaken their exposure ; but Mr Gifford has devoted himself to Massinger, and in the absence of the regular physician, a country practitioner may, in cases of absolute necessity, be allowed to prescribe his nostrum to prevent the extension of so deplorable an epidemic, provided there be no quackery in his treatment of the

:

soon

malady. A caustic is here offered, as it is to be feared nothing short of actual cautery can recover the numerous patients afflicted with the present prevalent and distressing rabies for rhyming.

As to the Edinburgh Reviewers, it would indeed require a Herculus to crush the Hydra; but if the author succeeds in merely “bruising one of the heads of the serpent,” though his own hand should suffer in the encounter, he will be amply satisfied. Still must I hear ?-shall hoarse Fitzgerald | The self-same road, but make my own review : bawl

Not seek great Jeffrey's, yet like him will be
His creaking couplets in a tavern hall,

Self-constituted judge of poesy.
And I not sing, lest, haply, Scotch reviews
Should dub me scribbler, and denounce my Save censure--critics all are ready made.

A man must serve his time to every trade
muse?

Take hackney'd jokes from Miller, got by rote,
Prepare for rhyme-.I'll publish right or wrong: With just enough of learning to misquote;
Fools are my theme, let satire be my song. A mind well skill'd to find or forge a fault ;
Oh! nature's noblest gift-my grey-goose A turn for punning, call it Attic salt ;
quill!

To Jeffrey go, be silent and discreet,
Slave of my thoughts, obedient to my will, His pay is just ten sterling pounds per sheet:
Torn from thy parent bird to form a pen, Fear not to lie, 'twill seem a lucky hit ;
That mighty instrument of little men!

Shrink not from blasphemy, 'twill pass for wit ;
The pen ! foredoam'd to aid the mental throes Care not for feeling-pass your proper jest,
Of brains that labour, big with verse or prose, And stand a critic, hated yet caress'd.
Though nymphs forsake, and critics may deride,
The lover's solace, and the author's pride.

And shall we own such judgment ? No: as
What wits, what poets, dost thou daily raise !
How frequent is thy use, how small thy praise ! Hope constancy in wind, or corn in chaff;

Seek roses in December-ice in June ;
Condemn’d at length to be forgotten quite,

Believe a woman or an epitaph,
With all the pages which 'twas thine to write.
But thou, at least, mine own especial pen

Or any other thing that's false, before
Once laid aside, but now assumed again,

You trust in critics, who themselves are sore ;
Our task complete, like Hamet's, shall be free; By Jeffrey's heart, or Lambe's Beotian head. *

Or yield one single thought to be misled
Though spurn’d by others, yet beloved by me:
Then let us soar to-day; no common theme,

To these young tyrants, by themselves
No eastern vision, no distemper'd dream

misplaced, Inspires-our path, though full of thorns, is Combined usurpers on the throne of taste ;

To these, when authors bend in humble awe, plain; Smooth be the verse, and easy be the strain.

And hail their voice as truth, their word as law

While these are censors, 'twould be sin to spare; When Vice triumphant holds her sovereign While such are critics, why should I forbear? sway,

But yet, so near all modern worthies run,
And men through life her willing slaves obey; 'Tis doubtful when to seek, or whom to shun;
When Folly, frequent harbinger of crime, Nor know we whom to spare, or where to strike,
Unfolds her motley store to suit the time; Our bards and censors are so much alike.
When knaves and fools combined o’er all prevail,
When justice halts, and right begins to fail ;

Then should you ask me, why I venture o'er
E'en then the boldest start from public sneers,

The path that Pope and Gifford † trod before ; Afraid of shame, unknown to other fears,

If not yet sicken'd, you can still proceed : More darkly sin, by satire kept in awe,

Go on; my rhyme will tell you as you read. And shrink from ridicule, though not from law.

“But hold !” exclaims a friend, "here's some Such is the force of wit ! but not belong

neglect:

This-that-and t'other line seem incorrect. To me the arrows of satiric song;

What then? the self-same blunder Pope has got, The royal vices of our age demand

And careless Dryden-“Ay, but Pye has not:” A keener weapon, and a mightier hand.

Indeed !-'tis granted, faith!- but what care I ?
Still there are follies, e'en for me to chase,

Better to err with Pope, than shine with Pye.
And yield at least amusement in the race:
Laugh when I laugh, I seek no other fame; Time was, ere yet in these degenerate days
is up, and scribblers are my game.

Ignoble themes obtain'd mistaken praise,
Speed, Pegasus !-ye strains of great and small, When sense and wit with poesy allied,
Ode, epic, elegy, have at you all!

No fabled graces, flourish'd side by side ; Itoo can scrawl, and once upon a time

From the same fount their inspiration drew,
Ipour'd along the town a flood of rhyme:

And, rear'd by taste, bloom'd faireras they grew.
A schoolboy freak, unworthy praise or blame: Then, in this happy isle, a Pope's pure strain
I printed-older children do the same.

Sought the rapt soul to charm, nor sought in vain;
'Tis pleasant, sure, to see one's name in print; A polish'd nation's praise aspired to claim,
A book's a book, although there's nothing in’t. And raised the people's, as the poet's fame.
Not that a title's sounding charm can save Like him great Dryden pour’d the tide of song,
Or scrawl or scribbler from an equal grave:
This Lambe must own, since his patrician name Messrs Jeffrey and Lambe are the Alpha
Fail'd to preserve the spurious farce from shame. and Omega, the first and last, of the Edinburgh
No matter, George continues still to write, Review; the others are mentioned hereafter.
Though now the nanie is veil'd from public sight. + Author of the Baviad and Mævind, and
Moved by the great example, I pursue first editor of the Quarterly Review.

a

The cry

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

ret:

sun

wit;

run:

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

e:

d.

Instream less smooth, indeed, yet doubly strong. Their bays are sear, their former laurels fade.
Then Congreve's scenes could cheer, or Otway's Let such forego the poet's sacred name,
melt-

Who rack their brains for lucre, not for fame :
For nature then an English audience felt. Low may they sink to merited contempt,
But why these names, or greater still, retrace, And scorn remunerate the mean attempt!
When all to feebler bards resign their place? Such be their meed, such still the just reward
Yet to such times our lingering looks are cast, Of prostituted muse and hireling bard!
When taste and reason with those times are past. For this we spurn Apollo's venal son,
Now look around, and turn each trifling page, And bid a long "good-night to Marmion."
Survey the precious works that please the age;
This truth at least let satire's self allow,

These are the themes that claim our plaudits
No dearth of bards can be complain'd of now.

now: The loaded press beneath her labour groans,

These are the bards to whom the muse must bow; And printer's devils shake their weary bones;

While Milton, Dryden, Pope, alike forgot, While Southey's epics cram the creaking shelves, Resign their hallow'd bays to Walter Scott. And Little's* lyrics shine in hot-press'd twelves.

The time has been, when yet the muse was Thus saith the preacher: “Nought beneath the

young,

When Homer swept the lyre, and Maro sung, Is new;" yet still from change to change we

An epic scarce ten centuries could claim,

While awe-struck nations hail'd the magic name:
What varied wonders tempt us as they pass ! The work of each immortal bard appears
The cow-pox, tractors, galvanism, and gas, The single wonder of a thousand years.
In turns appear, to make the vulgar stare,

Empires have moulder'd from the face of earth,
Till the swoll'n bubble bursts-and all is air !

Tongues have expired with those who gave
Nor less new schools of Poetry arise,

them birth,
Where dull pretenders grapple for the prize : Without the glory such a strain can give,
O'er taste awhile these pseudo-bards prevail ; As even in ruin bids the language live.
Each country book-club bows the knee to Baal, Not so with us, though minor bards content,
And, hurling lawful genius from the throne,

On one great work a life of labour spent :
Erects a shrine and idol of its own;

With eagle pinion soaring to the skies,
Some leaden calf-but whom it matters not, Behold the ballad-monger Southey rise !
From soaring Southey down to grovelling Stott. To him let Camoëns, Milton, Tasso yield,
Behold! in various throngs the scribbling crew,

Whose annual strains, like armies, take the field.
For notice eager, pass in long review:

First in the ranks see Joan of Arc advance, Each spurs his jaded Pegasus apace,

The scourge of England, and the boast of France!

Though burnt by wicked Bedford for a witch,
And rhyme and blank maintain an equal race ;
Sonnets on sonnets crowd, and ode on ode;

Behold her statue placed in glory's niche;
And tales of terror jostle on the road;

Her fetters burst, and just released from prison,
Immeasurable measures move along;

A virgin phoenix from her ashes risen.
For simpering folly loves a varied song,

Next see tremendous Thalaba come on,

Arabia's monstrous, wild, and wondrous son ;
To strange mysterious dulness still the friend,
Admires the strain she cannot comprehend.

Domdaniel's dread destroyer, who o'erthrew
Thus lays of minstrels-may they be the last!-.

More mad magicians than the world ere knew.
On half-strung harps whine mournful to the blast; For ever reign-the rival of Tom Thumb!

Immortal hero! all thy foes o'ercome,
While mountain spirits prate to river sprites,
That dames may listen to the sound at nights; Well wert thou doom'd the last of all the race!

Since startled metre fled before thy face,
And goblin brats, of Gilpin Horner's brood,
Decoy young border nobles through the wood, Illustrious conqueror of common sense !

Well might triumphant genii bear thee hence,
And skip at every
step, Lord knows how high, Now, last

and greatest, Madoc spreads his sails,
And frighten foolish babes, the Lord knows why; Cacique in Mexico, and prince in Wales ;
While high-born ladies in their magic cell,
Forbidding knights to read who cannot spell,

Tells us strange tales, as other travellers do,
Despatch a courier to a wizard's grave,

More old than Mandeville's, and not so true. And fight with honest men to shield a knave.

O! Southey! Southey ! cease thy varied song!

A bard may chant too often and too long :
Next view in state, proud prancing on his roan, As thou art strong in verse, in mercy spare !
The golden-crested haughty Marmion,

A fourth, alas, were more than we could bear.
Now forging scrolls, now foremost in the fight, But if, in spite of all the world can say,
Not quite a felon, yet but half a knight,

Thou still wilt verseward plod thy weary way;
The gibbet or the field prepared to grace ; If still in Berkley ballads most uncivil,
A mighty mixture of the great and base. Thou wilt devote old women to the devil, t
And think'st thou, Scott ? by vain conceit per- The babe unborn thy dread intent may rue :
chance,

“God help thee," Southey, and thy readers too.
On public taste to foist thy stale romance,
Though Murray with his Miller may combine

Next comes the dull disciple of thy school, To yield thy muse just half-a-crown per line?

That mild apostate from poetic rule,

The simple Wordsworth, framer of a lay
No! when the sons of song descend to trade,
* T. Moore.

* Thalaba, Southey's second poem.
7 Stott, better known in the Morning Post † See The Old Woman of Berkley, a ballad
by the name of Hafiz,

by Southey.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

sense,

:

*

As soft as evening in his favourite May, Hibernian Strangford! with thine eyes of blue, Who warns his friend "to shake off toil and And boasted locks of red or auburn hue, trouble,

Whose plaintive strain each love-sick miss And quit his books, for fear of growing double;" admires, Who, both by precept and example, shows And o'er harmonious fustian half expires, That prose is verse, and verse is merely prose ; | Learn, if thou canst, to yield thine author's Convincing all, by demonstration plain, Poetic souls delight in prose insane ;

Nor vend thy sonnets on a false pretence. And Christmas stories tortured into rhyme Think'st thou to gain thy verse a higher place, Contain the essence of the true sublime.

By dressing Camoëns in a suit of lace? Thus, when he tells the tale of Betty Foy, Mend, Strangford ! mend thy morals and thy The idiot mother of "an idiot boy ;"

taste; A moon-struck, silly lad, who lost his way, Be warm, but pure; be amorous, but be chaste ; And, like his bard, confounded night with day; Cease to deceive; thy pilfer'd harp restore, So close on each pathetic part he dwells, Nor teach the Lusian bard to copy Moore. And each adventure so sublimely tells, That all who view the idiot in his glory,”

In many marble-cover'd volumes view Conceive the bard the hero of the story.

Hayley, in vain attempting something new;

Whether he spin his comedies in rhyme, Shall gentle Coleridge pass unnoticed here, Or scrawl, as Wood and Barclay walk, 'gainst To turgid ode and tumid stanza dear?

time, Though themes of innocence amuse him best, His style in youth or age is still the same, Yet still obscurity's a welcome guest.

For ever feeble and for ever tame. If Inspiration should her aid refuse

Triumphant first see Temper's Triumphs shine! To him who takes a pixy for a muse,

At least I'm sure they triumph'd over mine. Yet none in lofty numbers can surpass

Of Music's Triumphs all who read may swear, The bard who soars to elegize an ass.

That luckless music never triumph'd there. How well the subject suits his noble mind, A fellow-feeling makes us wondrous kind." Moravians, rise! bestow some meet reward

On dull devotion-Lo! the Sabbath bard, Oh! wonder-working Lewis! monk, or bard, Sepulchral Grahame, pours his notes sublime Who fain wouldst make Parnassus a churchyard! In mangled prose, nor e’en aspires to rhyme ; Lo! wreaths of yew, not laurel, bind thy brow, Breaks into blank the Gospel of St Luke, Thy muse a sprite, Apollo's sexton thou!

And boldly pilfers from the Pentateuch; Whether on ancient tombs thou tak’st thy stand, And, undisturbed by conscientious qualms, By gibbering spectres haild, thy kindred band; Perverts the Prophets, and purloins the Psalms. Or tracest chaste descriptions on thy page, To please the females of our modest age: Hail, Sympathy! thy soft idea brings All hail, M.P.! from whose infernal brain A thousand visions of a thousand things, Thin-sheeted phantoms glide, a grisly train ; And shows, dissolved in thine own melting tears, At whose command “grim women” throng in The maudlin prince of mournful sonneteers. crowds,

Andart thou not their prince, harmonious Bowles! And kings of fire, of water, and of clouds, Thou first, great oracle of tender souls ? With “small grey men,

"wild yagers,” and Whether in sighing winds thou seek'st relief, what not,

Or consolation in a yellow leaf; To crown with honour thee and Walter Scott ; Whether thy muse most lamentably tells Again, all hail ! if tales like thine may please, What merry sounds proceed from Oxford bells; St Luke alone can vanquish the disease; Or, still in bells delighting, finds a friend Even Satan's self with thee might dread to dwell, In every chime that jingled from Ostend ; And in thy skull discern a deeper hell.

Ah! how much juster were thy muse's hap,

If to thy bells thou wouldst but add a cap! Who in soft guise, surrounded by a choir

Delightful Bowles ! still blessing and still blest, Of virgins melting, not to Vesta's fire, With sparkling eyes, and cheek by passion 'Tis thine, with gentle Little's moral song,

All love thy strain, but children like it best. flush'd,

To soothe the mania of the amorous throng! Strikes his wild lyre, whilst listening dames are

With thee our nursery damsels shed their tears, hush'd ?

Ere miss as yet completes her infant years ; 'Tis Little! young Catullus of his day,

But in her teens thy whining powers are vain --As sweet, but as immoral, in his lay!. Grieved to condemn, the muse must still be just, Now to soft themes thou scornest to confine

She quits poor Bowles for Little's purer strain. Nor spare melodious advocates of lust.

The lofty numbers of a harp like thine; Pure is the flame which o'er her altar burns ;

"Awake a louder and a loftier strain,' From grosser incense with disgust she turns: Yet kind to youth, this expiation o'er,

Such as none heard before, or will again! She bids thee “mend thy line and sin no more.

Where all discoveries jumbled from the food,

Since first the leaky ark reposed in mud, For thee, translator of the tinsel song, liy more or less, are sung in every book, To whom such glittering ornaments belong, From Captain Noah down to Captain Cook.

Nor this alone ; but, pausing on the road, * Coleridge's Poems, page 11, Songs of the Pixies, i.e., Devonshire fairies ; p. 42, we have * Hayley's two most notorious verse prolucLines to a Young Lady; and p. 52, Lines to a tions are Triumplis of Temper and Triumphs Young Ass.

of Music.

a

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »