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The answer is easily found. Any one who reads the few selections in the present volume cannot fail to be impressed with the one trait that, above everything else, marks them as a whole, — their fire, their vigor, their “exulting and abounding" energy. In this Byron takes his place second only to Shakespeare. Energy and strength are no small poetical assets. Byron is the greatest singer of the mountains and the sea. The Apostrophe to the Ocean, the stanzas on the Alps, the Some perma- Rhine, the Marble Cascade, in the energy and nent qualities
sweep of their splendid verse, are worthy of their of Byron's poetry theme. Byron, too, can make the dead past live again as can no other poet: he finds out the poetry in history and quickens it to life. We are swept along with him in the impetuous torrent of his verse, and inspired by the poet's own emotion.
It is idle to say that Byron is only too often a faulty artist, careless, sometimes even uncouth. He does not belong to the order of the poets of art. He worked on a large scale, — painted Byron not an
on an immense canvas in vivid colors. To assert, art poet furthermore, that Byron says only the thing that is obvious, is instantly to provoke the answer that he says that thing as no other could, and glorifies it while saying it. He is perhaps not a profoundly original thinker, yet he expressed, interpreted, and applied the thought of a whole continent. A definite philosophy of life and coherent teaching he never attempted, but he voiced universal hopes and aspirations in spirited and inspiring verse. His faults of technic, even his
frequent lapses from good taste, are forgotten in His essential greatness :
his actual greatness. After reading all of his work, sincerity and
– unequal, disappointing, crude, as much of it strength
is, we must finally say, with Mr. Swinburne, that “his is the splendid and imperishable excellence of sincerity and strength.”
The standard, and apparently definitive, edition of the complete works of Lord Byron is that published by Mr. John Murray of London. In this edition the prose works, in six volumes, are edited by Mr. R. W. Prothero; and the poetical works, in seven volumes, are edited by Mr. Ernest Hartley Coleridge. A onevolume edition, The Poetical Works of Lord Byron, is also published by Mr. John Murray, with introduction and notes by Mr. Coleridge. Both editions are imported into this country by Messrs. Charles Scribner's Sons. For ordinary purposes the one-volume edition is superior to any other and can hardly be superseded.
For a further study of Byron and his poems the student will find the following critical and biographical books and articles helpful and interesting:
Byron, by John Nichol, in the English Men of Letters Series.
BYRON, by Theodore Watts-Dunton, in the revised edition of Chambers's Encyclopedia of English Literature.
Needless to say, the bibliography of Byron is almost endless. It is not so easy, however, to find estimates of his genius which err neither on the side of undue depreciation nor on that of excessive praise. There is only one way by which to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion, - and that is by a thorough and careful reading of Byron's works.
SELECTIONS FROM BYRON
LACHIN Y GAIR
This poem was first printed in Hours of Idleness, 1807. It is probably the best of Byron's juvenile poems. “ Lachin
у Gair, or, as it is pronounced in the Erse, Loch na Garr, towers proudly preëminent in the northern Highlands, near Invercauld. One of our modern tourists mentions it as the highest mountain, perhaps, in Great Britain. Be this as it may, it is certainly one of the most sublime and picturesque amongst our ‘Caledonian Alps. Its appearance is of a dusky hue, but the summit is the seat of eternal snows. Near Lachin
у Gair I spent some of the early part of my life, the recollection of which has given birth to these stanzas.”— Byron's note
WAY, ye gay landscapes, ye gardens of roses !
let the minions of luxury rove;
Though still they are sacred to freedom and love : Yet, Caledonia, belov'd are thy mountains,
Round their white summits though elements war; Though cataracts foam 'stead of smooth-flowing fountains,
I sigh for the valley of dark Loch na Garr.
Ah! there my young footsteps in infancy wander'd :
My cap was the bonnet, my cloak was the plaid ; On chieftains, long perish'd, my memory ponder'd,
As daily I strode through the pine-cover'd glade ;
I sought not my home till the day's dying glory
Gave place to the rays of the bright polar star;
Disclos'd by the natives of dark Loch na Garr.
And rides on the wind, o'er his own Highland vale !
Winter presides in his cold icy car :
They dwell in the tempests of dark Loch na Garr.
Tell you that fate had forsaken your cause?”
Victory crown'd not your fall with applause :
You rest with your clan in the caves of Braemar;
Your deeds, on the echoes of dark Loch na Garr.
Years have rolld on, Loch na Garr, since I left you,
Years must elapse ere I tread you again :
Yet still are you dearer than Albion's plain :
1 Many of Byron's maternal ancestors, the Gordons, fought for the Stuart Pretender, Prince Charles.
2 Culloden : the battle that put an end to the hopes of the House of Stuart. It was fought near Inverness, Scotland, April 16, 1746.
3 Pibroch: the martial music played on the bagpipe, but in this instance Byron probably refers to the instrument itself.