« PreviousContinue »
many utterly irreconcilable sets of tion is not-Whether we wish Greece mere barbarian robbers—the equally to be free from the Turkish sway? barbarous chiefs of whom were pre- As to this, there is no diversity of feeltending to play the parts of gentle- ing among any men of common edumen and generals-and, what was per- cation, and common feeling in any haps still more trying, perpetually an- country of Christendom. The real noyed, interrupted, and baffled by the question is-Whether the Greeks bave ignorance, folly, and obstinate drivel- not chosen to commence their conflict ling, of his own coadjutors, such as at a most improper and imprudent Colonel Stanhope and the German time? And that question we assuredPhilhellenes—he, and he alone, ap- ly cannot have any difficulty about anpears to have sustained throughout the swering. They began their conflict calmness of a philosopher, the inte- when all Europe was in profound grity of a patriot, and the constancy of peace ; so that they could not have any a hero. If anything could have done rational expectation of being supporte Greece real good, in her own sense of ed by any foreign power whatever. the word, at this crisis, it must have This was of itself sufficient idiocy. But been the prolongation of the life he had more still, they began their conflict ere devoted to her service. He had brought they had either heads to guide them with him to her shores a name glo- -hands to fight for them-or money rious and commanding; but, ere he to sustain them. Their chief men are died, the influence of his tried pru- either paltry intriguers from Constandence, magnanimous self-denial, and tinople, or wild robber captains from utter superiority to faction, and all their hills. They have no army, and factious views, had elevated him into scarcely any prospect of having one, a position of authority, before which, as anybody, that has read M. Gameven the most ambitiously unprinci- ba's book, must be convinced. They pled of the Greek leaders were begin, have no resources worth speaking of, ning to feel the necessity of controlling but what they get from abroad-And their passions, and silencing their pre- what permanent or effectual aid can a tensions. The arrival of part of the loan nation expect from loans such as they from England-procured, as it unques- have been asking, and in part obtain tionably had been, chiefly through the ed? There is no real spirit of any kind influence of his name-was, no doubt, among them, except only the spirit of the circumstance that gave such com- hatred to the Turks, and the spirit of manding elevation to his personal in- vile jealousy, and hatred of each other. fluence in Greece, during the closing They began fifty years too soon. Had scenes of his career. But nothing ex- they waited, education was beginning cept the visible and undoubted excel to find its way among the more weallence of his deportment on occasions thy classes-commerce was beginning the most perplexing-nothing but the to flourish-a national spirit was bemoral dignity expressed in every word ginning to be formed—but they startand action of his while in Greece-ed ere any one of the appliances was nothing but the eminent superiority in a state of efficient preparation. Witof personal character, resources, and ness one fact for a thousand. A prigenius which he had exhibited-could vate English nobleman, without any possibly have reconciled the minds of practice either of arms or politics, was, those hostile factions to the notion of almost from the moment he appeared investing any Foreigner and Frank with amongst them, felt universally to be the supreme authority of their execu- the only man capable of discharging tive government. We have no sort of the highest duties in their state. It doubt, that if Byron had died three is true, that this man was Byron ;months later, he would have died go but, after all, what would a foreigner vernor of all the emancipated pro- like Byron have been in any country vinces of Greece. This is a melancholy really fit and ripe for playing the part thought, but it is also a proud one. that Greece has undertaken? Not no
As for the ultimate issue of the pre thing surely--but as surely not very sent conflict—that, even if Byron had much. lived, and continued to act asgloriously The wisdom or folly of the Greek as he had begun-must still, in our cause, as it is called, has, however, bumble opinion, have remained a mat- very little to do with our judgment as ter of the extremest doubt. The quesa to Lord Byron's conduct, after he had VOL. XVII.
espoused it. That conduct, we repeat, The sword, the banner, and the field, was blamelessly illustrious-it was Glory and Greece, around me see ! clear, high, and glorious throughout. The Spartan, borne upon his shield, The last poem he wrote was produced Was not more free. upon his birth-day, not many weeks before he died. We consider it as one of Awake! (not Greece-she is awake!) the finest and most touching effusions Awake, my spirit! Think through whom of his noble genius. We think he who Thy life-blood tracks its parent lake, reads it, and can ever after bring him
And then strike home! self to regard even the worst transgressions that have ever been charged
Tread those reviving passions down,
Unworthy manhood! unto thee against Lord Byron, with any feelings
Indifferent should the smile or frown but those of humble sorrow and man
Of beauty be. ly pity, is not deserving of the name of man.
The deep and passionate If thou regret'st thy youth, why live ? struggles with the inferior elements of
The land of honourable death his nature (and ours) which it records Is here :-up to the field, and give --the lofty thirsting after purity—the
Away thy breath! heroic devotion of a soul half weary of life, because unable to believe in its
Seek out-less often sought than found, own powers to live up to what it so in
A soldier's grave—for thee the best ; tensely felt to be, and so reverentially Then look around, and choose thy ground, honoured as, the right-the whole pic And take thy rest. ture of this mighty spirit, often darkened, but never sunk, often erring, We believe we said, at the beginbut never ceasing to see and to wor« ning of this paper, that we should ship the beauty of virtue—the repen- speak, in the course of it, of Lord Bytauce of it, the anguish, the aspira- ron's genius also, as well as of his tion, almost stifled in despair-the personal character. We feel, howwhole of this is such a whole, that we ever, that it would be in vain to enter are sure no man can read these solemn upon this at any length now; nor are verses too often, and we recommend
we sure that almost anybody would them for repetition, as the best and wish us to do so. He unquestionably most conclusive of all possible an- has taken his place as a British classwers, whenever the name of Byron is sic of the first order: Of that there insulted by those who permit them can be no doubt. Individual men, selves to forget nothing either in his even of great talents, may dispute and life or his writings but the good. cavil under the influence of individual
prejudices, either of poetical theory or 'Tis time this heart should be unmoved,
of personal feeling; but the voice of Since others it hath ceased to move ;
England, the voice of Europe, has spoYet though I cannot be beloved,
ken, and has been heard. There is no Still let me love!
possibility that any man should, withMy days are in the yellow leaf;
out the highest genius, exert over the The flowers and fruits of love are gone;
mind of his contemporaries that sort The worm, the canker, and the grief,
of influence which Byron has exertAre mine alone!
ed, without deserving to do so, and
without continuing to exert a mighty The fire that on my bosom preys
influence over the mind of all future Is lone as some volcanic isle ;
| time. He is, and he always will be, No torch is kindled at its blaze
one of A funeral pile!
“ The dead, but sceptred Sovereigns,
who still rule The hope, the fear, the jealous care, Our spirits from their urns.
The exalted portion of the pain And power of love, I cannot share,
Yet he died at seven-and-thirty ; But wear the chain.
and who shall sayếnay, who can be.
lieve, that the genius of Byron, if his But 'tis not thus--and 'tis not here life had been prolonged, might, must Such thoughts should shake my soul, not have produced works sufficient to
leave even the best of what he has Where glory decks the hero's bier, bequeathed us comparatively in the Or binds his brow.
· He was one of those true masters, language and versification (generally whose successive works attested, almost speaking, for it is often very careless always, progressive power. We cannot as to both of these matters), the keen but look upon the first two cantos of and searching observation--the perChilde Harold, in spite of their many fect knowledge of human nature in exquisite passages, as weak, even boy- very many of its weakest, and in very ish, compositions, compared with the many of its strongest points—the wit third-infinitely more so with the the humour—the really Shakespeafourth. In that last canto of Harold, so rean touches of character scattered over rich with its elaborate pompof language every page—these are excellencies and versification-so pregnant with which sie sufficiently on the surface of passionate thought, with beauty of all this extraordinary poem. The prosorts, with the exquisite feeling of na found philosophical truth displayed in tural beauty, the beauty of art, the the conduct of the work—the gradasolemnity of earthly ruin and decay- tions of the incidents, and the fine so massively strong, and yet so elastic developement of the principal characcally buoyant throughout;-in the la ter--these are matters demanding more ment of Tasso, which we think is, as study, and sure, if that study be given, a whole, superior to Pope's best and to reward it abundantly. greatest effort, the Abelard and Eloisa, Nothing can be more true, than and indeed to any poem of the same that Lord Byron possessed, after all, class that the world has seen-in that but a limited knowledge of man and specimen of intense unaffected pathos, man's nature. Such is certainly the and most graceful versification ;-in case ; for if it had been otherwise, we the splendid narrative of the Corsair must have seen a wider range of chaand Lara, so easy, so terse, so vigore racters and sentiments in his works. ous in composition, and so abounding He knew not, neither does he deal in the display of compact and com- with, the sound, healthy workings of plete imaginative power ;-in the pen- virtuous, innocent, unpolluted nasive elegance of Parasina ;-above all, tures. No; but he deals with the inin the colossal, mysterious, heart-rend most recesses of the dark heart-he ing gloom of Manfred in all and pourtrays the blackest glooms of the in each of these we certainly apprehend most powerful, though the most mithat po succeeding age, in which ge serable of passions-he tears the mask nius is appreciated and honoured, can from the front of frigid hypocrisyever cease to acknowledge and reve he lays bare the misery of unsatisfied rence the soul of a poet, and the hand infidel intellect on the one hand and of a master, of the very highest class. the worthless poverty of mere convenThe few, the very few, who stand tional forms of goodness upon the above Byron, must not be classed at other. In Don Juan, he has shewn all.
himself to be, as a wit and a satirist, In the other serious poems of Lord quite equal to Le Sage-to Voltaire Byron (which we have not named) himself; and he has done so without the public appears to have decided darkening from our eyes one spark of justly, that he has been less fortunate. that nobler and more enthusiastic geThe Corsair threw the Giaour and the nius, which nature had never before Bride of Abydos entirely into the granted to any man in conjunction shade; and, in spite of many isolated with such powers of wit as he pospassages, quite equal to any he ever sessed. No one can defend the liproduced, especially in Cain and Sar, centiousness of some descriptions in danapalus, his more formal dramatic this poem ; but the refinement and art poems, have been weighed in the ba- of the whole composition are so great, Lance against Manfred, and found that we really do not entertain any wanting.
apprehensions of its ever being a faHis Beppo is a very clever jeu d'es vourite book with the sort of readers prit: but Don Juan must not be al- likely to be essentially injured by those luded to so briefly. We have little offensive passages,-which, after all, hesitation in saying, that we regard are not very many—not nearly so many, that work as, upon the whole, the certainly, as those who take their opimost original, remarkable, and power- nions from the reviews must imagine. ful of all the works of Lord Byron's
We shall take leave to conclude this genius. The exquisite grace of its subject (for the present) with another
quotation from the letters of Sir Egere Lord Byron had both unequalled variety ton Brydges. In spite of some feeble- and intenseness in all. He had not only ness of expression, there can be no the supremacy of a sublime, sombre, me doubt that this respectable veteran lancholy, mysterious imagination ; but speaks a great deal of very honest, he had an inexhaustible fund of wit and manly truth about Lord Byron.
humour, and a most precise and minute
knowledge of all the details of common « Such a perpetual tumult of violent life; a familiarity with all its habits and emotions as tliat in which Lord Byron expressions; a lively and perfect insight lived, perhaps contributed to shorten his into all its absurdities ; and a talent of existence : it was a fever which had a exposing them, so practised, so easy, and direct tendency to wear him out; and so happy, that it might be supposed he weakened him for the attack of any acci. had never wandered into the visionary, dental illness, which thus became irresis- and never occupied himself with anything tible. If there be any one who is not but the study of man in familiar society. affected and awed by so sudden a disso. The alternate and opposite ability of lution of so many extraordinary endow- throwing off the incumbrance of all dements; of gifts of nature so very bril- grading circumstances from imagery, liant; of acquisitions so unlikely to re which is the characteristic of the higher cur; of such a fund of images and senti- poetry, and that of bringing forth those ments; and observations, and reflections, very set-offs for the purposes of degraand opinions, so matured, so polished, tion, seems to require such contrary and so habituated to be ready to pour habits of attention, as well as of temper themselves forth to the world on every and feeling, that they have been scarcely occasion; he must be a creature totally ever united in the same person. Nor is insensible, and stupidly indifferent to all it much less extraordinary, that in this, those instinctive sympathies which make as in his graver imagination, all is faithus regard with affection and pride the ful to nature : there is no exaggeration ; intellectual and more dignified part of the points selected for his wit and huour being. He who is himself feeble mour are sketched with admirable exactin intellect, is yet commonly conscious ness; nay, the surprising likeness is one of its value ; he admires and views of the great attractions of this comic with awe the high in talent; he en- painting." vies, and would desire to possess, what is thus denied to him ; he may not ade “ Wherever Lord Byron has given any quately admire the brilliancy of the pros- images, sentiments, or thoughts, as his pect, when the sun lights it up; but he own, there is no reason to suspect that feels a deep chill and loss of pleasure he has imputed to them more force than when the sun retires and leaves all before his own mind and bosom bore witness to. him an indistinct mass of darkness. If, therefore, there are to be found in his Lord Byron was often, in truth, & sun numerous poems frequent passages of that lighted up the landscapes of the noble thoughts, and generous and affectearth, and penetrated into the human ing feelings, they are such as on those beart, and surrounded its altar with beams occasions must have been the inmates of of brightness.
bis own soul and heart. They shew “ His death is an awful dispensation of themselves by their freshness and nature Providence, and humbles the pride of never to be put on, - never worn as a man's ambition, and of his self-estimation. dress. In the eye of Providence those powers “ Lord Byron was himself the being we estimate so loftily must be as nothing, of imagination, whose character breaks or we cannot persuade ourselves they out in all his writings; his life was that would be thus suddenly cut off before of the wild magical spirit, of which the their time.
feelings, the adventures, and the eccen“ But to our narrow ken, the splendid tricities, astonish and enchant us in his genius of Lord Byron must still be con- inventions. The public notoriety of this sidered of mighty import. Yet it is the makes us receive much from him, which inseparable lot of man, not to know in others might be deemed exaggerated the full value of a treasure till it is and over-wrought. A character and life taken from us.' Highly as we admired so singular will always add interest to Lord Byron in his life, we shall admire the writings of the poet. Another mode him, if possible, infinitely more, now that of life might possibly have produced poeit is gone. Variety will not make amends try not less full of power, but it would for intenseness in particular paths: but not have been the same sort of power :
-it might have had more sobriety and saw with indignation the unjust estimate regularity; it would not have had the of character the world was accustomed to same raciness, and, probably, not the make, and the flagrant wrong with which same originality and force: it would have it was accustomed to distribute admiraleft all the ground untouched where tion, honours, and rewards. He bent, Lord Byron has shewn most genius and therefore, the whole force of his mighty most novelty, and upon which no one is faculties, to expose these absurdities in likely to follow him. If he has done striking colours; to throw a broader light wrong, if the evil parts overbalance the on their real features; and to draw the good, so much the worse for the value of veil from the cloven foot, and the satanic his genius. But do they overbalance the qualities which had hitherto been congood ? It is not evil to detect and ex. cealed. pose hypocrisy ; it is not evil to pierce “ He would plead, that, in detecting the disguise of meretricious love; and vice under the robe of virtue, he was not the picture which renders it ridiculous will warring with virtue's cause, but supportavail beyond a thousand thundering ser. ing it; and that the cry of alarm was but mons !
the interested and corrupt cry of those, • But they who are angry with the who could not bear that their own cloak foulness of the prurient curiosity that de- of disguise should be torn from them! tects, would not scruple to be guilty of “ But has he not, in the effort to pull the crime detected ! Such pictures are, down hypocrisy, set up naked and audaindeed, a compound of good and ill: they cious crime? This is the charge against may corrupt some innocent minds, while him; and it is indeed a charge which they may check in their course of vice has sometimes a strong appearance of beothers already corrupted. But this is a ing well founded. All powers of great great set-off to the objections even of energy will occasionally overshoot the some of the least defensible parts of Lord mark : the decision must be made acByron's works.
cording to the predominance of good or ** There is a very doubtful good in be- evil. We must estimate by the comparalieving the mass of mankind much more tive mischief of the character elevated, and virtuous than they are, and thus increa- the character depressed, by these exhibising the success of hypocrisy and insince- tions. Now, daring and open crime ale rity. If they are represented worse, the ways brings with it its own antidote; but falsehood of the representation will re concealed rottenness works under ground, coil upon the author."
covered with flowers, and spreads diseases
and pestilence, without a suspicion whence a There are extremes into which he the sufferings and the destructions come, has been sometimes led by a course of -and, therefore, continues to prostrate sentiment and thought, and a line of fic its victims, unchecked by its success, and tion, which, on deep consideration, will uncorrected by time.” not be found to have the tendency, or We are very far from wishing it to deserve the character, that superficial be supposed that we entirely adopt readers and critics have assigned to them.
some of these views of Sir Egerton; One of the grand faults of mankind, but we adopt certainly the general which Lord Byron's temper, the impulses course and tenor of his opinion; and of his heart, and the vigour of his facul. we are quite sure that all he has said ties, prompted him to combat and expose, is well worthy to be considered, and was hypocrisy and false pretension. He that very seriously.
Look on me!—There is an order