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untamed pride and trembling susceptibility, but he had almost exhausted the springs of his poetry and his life; and it is too obvious that the pestilential climate of Missolonghi only accelerated an event which a few years must have consummated in Italy.
Lord Byron's Tomb.
The genius of Byron was as versatile as it was energetic. Childe Harold' and 'Don Juan' are perhaps the greatest poetical works of this century, and in the noble poet's tales and minor poems there is a grace, an interest, and romantic picturesqueness, that render them peculiarly fascinating to youthful readers. The 'Giaour' has passages of still higher description and feeling-particularly that fine burst on modern Greece contrasted with its ancient glory, and the exquisitely pathetic and beautiful comparison of the same country to the human frame bereft of life :
[Picture of Modern Greece.]
He who hath bent him o'er the dead,
That fires not-wins not-weeps not-now-
The doom he dreads, yet dwells upon-
Hers is the loveliness in death,
A gilded halo hovering round decay,
Spark of that flame-perchance of heavenly birthWhich gleams-but warms no more its cherished
The 'Prisoner of Chillon' is also natural and affecting: the story is painful and hopeless, but it is told with inimitable tenderness and simplicity. The reality of the scenes in 'Don Juan' must strike every reader. Byron, it is well known, took pains to collect his materials. His account of the shipwreck is drawn from narratives of actual occurrences, and his Grecian pictures, feasts, dresses, and holiday pastimes, are literal transcripts from life. Coleridge thought the character of Lambro, and especially the description of his return, the finest of all Byron's efforts: it is more dramatic and life-like than any other of his numerous paintings. Haidee is also the most captivating of all his heroines. His Gulnares and Medoras, his corsairs and dark mysterious personages
Linked with one virtue and a thousand crimes
are monstrosities in nature, and do not possess one tithe of the interest or permanent poetical beauty that centres in the lonely residence in the Cyclades. The English descriptions in Juan are also far inferior. There is a palpable falling off in poetical power, and the peculiar prejudices and forced illnatured satire of the poet are brought prominently forward. Yet even here we have occasionally a flash of the early light that led astray.' The sketch of Aurora Raby is graceful and interesting (compared with Haidee, it is something like Fielding's Amelia coming after Sophia Western), and Newstead Abbey is described with a clearness and beauty not unworthy the author of 'Childe Harold.' The Epicurean philosophy of the Childe is visible in every page of Don Juan,' but it is no longer grave, dignified, and misanthropical: it is mixed up with wit, humour, the keenest penetration, and the most astonishing variety of expression, from colloquial carelessness and ease, to the highest and deepest tones of the lyre. The poet has the power of Mephistophiles over the scenes and passions of human life and society-disclosing their secret workings, and stripping them of all conventional allurements and disguises. Unfortunately, his knowledge is more of evil than of good. The distinctions between virtue and vice had been broken down or obscured in his own mind, and they are undistinguishable in 'Don Juan.' Early sensuality had tainted his whole nature. He portrays generous emotions and moral feelings -distress, suffering, and pathos-and then dashes them with burlesque humour, wild profanity, and unseasonable merriment. In 'Childe Harold' we have none of this moral anatomy, or its accompanying licentiousness; but there is abundance of scorn and defiance of the ordinary pursuits and ambition of mankind. The fairest portions of the earth are traversed in a spirit of bitterness and desolation by one satiated with pleasure, contemning society, the victim of a dreary and hopeless scepticism. Such a character would have been repulsive if the poem had not been adorned with the graces of animated description and original and striking sentiment. The poet's sketches of Spanish and Grecian scenery, and his glimpses of the life and manners of the classic mountaineers, are as true as were ever transferred
Ancient of days! august Athena! where,
First in the race that led to Glory's goal, They won, and passed away-is this the whole ? A schoolboy's tale, the wonder of an hour! The warrior's weapon, and the sophist's stole, Are sought in vain, and o'er each mouldering tower, Dim with the mist of years, gray flits the shade of
Son of the morning, rise! approach you here! Come, but molest not yon defenceless urn: Look on this spot-a nation's sepulchre ! Abode of gods, whose shrines no longer burn. Even gods must yield-religions take their turn: 'Twas Jove's 'tis Mahomet's-and other creeds Will rise with other years, till man shall learn Vainly his incense soars, his victim bleeds; Poor child of Doubt and Death, whose hope is built on reeds.
Bound to the earth, he lifts his eye to heavenIs't not enough, unhappy thing! to know Thou art? Is this a boon so kindly given, That being, thou wouldst be again, and go, Thou know'st not, reck'st not, to what region, so On earth no more, but mingled with the skies? Still wilt thou dream on future joy and wo? Regard and weigh yon dust before it flies: That little urn saith more than thousand homilies.
Or burst the vanished hero's lofty mound:
He fell, and falling, nations mourned around;
Look on its broken arch, its ruined wall,
And passion's host, that never brooked control:
Well didst thou speak, Athena's wisest son! 'All that we know is, nothing can be known.' Why should we shrink from what we cannot shun? Each hath his pang, but feeble sufferers groan With brain-born dreams of evil all their own. Pursue what chance or fate proclaimeth best ; Peace waits us on the shores of Acheron: There no forced banquet claims the sated guest, But silence spreads the couch of ever-welcome rest.
Yet if, as holiest men have deemed, there be A land of souls beyond that sable shore, To shame the doctrine of the Sadducee And sophists, madly vain of dubious lore, How sweet it were in concert to adore With those who made our mortal labours light ! To hear each voice we feared to hear no more! Behold each mighty shade revealed to sight, The Bactrian, Samian sage, and all who taught the right!
The third canto of Childe Harold' is more deeply imbued with a love of nature than any of his previous productions. A new power had been imparted to him on the shores of the Leman lake.' He had just escaped from the strife of London and his own domestic unhappiness, and his conversations with Shelley might also have turned him more strongly to this pure poetical source. An evening scene by the side of the lake is thus exquisitely described :
It is the hush of night; and all between Thy margin and the mountains, dusk, yet clear, Mellowed and mingling, yet distinctly seenSave darkened Jura, whose capped heights appear Precipitously steep; and drawing near, There breathes a living fragrance from the shore, Of flowers yet fresh with childhood: on the ear Drops the light drip of the suspended oar, Or chirps the grasshopper one good-night carol more; He is an evening reveller, who makes His life an infancy, and sings his fill ! At intervals, some bird from out the brakes, Starts into voice a moment-then is still. There seems a floating whisper on the hillBut that is fancy, for the star-light dews All silently their tears of love instil, Weeping themselves away, till they infuse Deep into nature's breast the spirit of her hues.
How the lit lake shines, a phosphoric sea, And the big rain comes dancing to the earth! And now again 'tis black-and now the glee Of the loud hill shakes with its mountain-mirth, As if they did rejoice o'er a young earthquake's birth. In the fourth canto there is a greater throng of images and objects. The poet opens with a sketch of the peculiar beauty and departed greatness of Venice, rising from the sea, with her tiara of proud towers' in airy distance. He then resumes his pilgrimage-moralises on the scenes of Petrarch and Tasso, Dante and Boccaccio-and visits the lake of Thrasimene and the temple of Clitumnus. His verses on the latter have never been surpassed :
[Temple of Clitumnus.]
But thou, Clitumnus! in thy sweetest wave Of the most living crystal that was e'er The haunt of river-nymph, to gaze and lave Her limbs where nothing hid them, thou dost rear Thy grassy banks whereon the milk-white steer Grazes; the purest god of gentle waters! And most serene of aspect and most clear! Surely that stream was unprofaned by slaughters, A mirror and a bath for Beauty's youngest daughters! And on thy happy shore a temple still, Of small and delicate proportion, keeps,
Upon a mild declivity of hill,
Its memory of thee; beneath it sweeps Thy current's calmness; oft from out it leaps The finny darter with the glittering scales, Who dwells and revels in thy glassy deeps; While, chance, some scattered water-lily sails Down where the shallower wave still tells its bubbling tales.
The Greek statues at Florence are then inimitably described, after which the poet visits Rome, and revels in the ruins of the Palatine and Coliseum, and the glorious remains of ancient art. His dreams of love and beauty, of intellectual power and majesty, are here realised. The lustre of the classic age seems reflected back in his glowing pages, and we feel that in this intense appreciation of ideal beauty and sculptured grace-in passionate energy and ecstacy-Byron outstrips all his contemporaries. The poem concludes abruptly with an apostrophe to the sea, his joy of youthful sports,' and a source of lofty enthusiasm and pleasure in his solitary wanderings on the shores of Italy and Greece. The greatness of Byron's genius is seen in Childe Harold'its tenderness in the tales and smaller poems-its rich variety in Don Juan.' A brighter garland few poets can hope to wear-yet it wants the unfading flowers of hope and virtue!
The seal is set.-Now welcome, thou dread power! Nameless, yet thus omnipotent, which here Walk'st in the shadow of the midnight hour With a deep awe, yet all distinct from fear; Thy haunts are ever where the dead walls rear Their ivy mantles, and the solemn scene Derives from thee a sense so deep and clear, That we become a part of what has been, And grow unto the spot, all-seeing, but unseen.
And here the buzz of eager nations ran, In murmured pity, or loud-roared applause, As man was slaughtered by his fellow-man. And wherefore slaughtered? wherefore, but because Such were the bloody circus' genial laws, And the imperial pleasure. Wherefore not? What matters where we fall to fill the maws Of worms-on battle-plains or listed spot? Both are but theatres where the chief actors rot.
Dark-heaving; boundless, endless, and sublimeThe image of Eternity-the throne Of the Invisible; even from out thy slime The monsters of the deep are made; each zone Obeys thee; thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone. And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be Borne, like thy bubbles, onward: from a boy I wantoned with thy breakers-they to me Were a delight; and if the freshening sea Made them a terror-'twas a pleasing fear; For I was as it were a child of thee, And trusted to thy billows far and near, And laid my hand upon thy mane-as I do here.
[An Italian Evening on the Banks of the Brenta.] · [From Childe Harold."]
The moon is up, and yet it is not nightSunset divides the sky with her—a sea Of glory streams along the alpine height Of blue Friuli's mountains: heaven is free From clouds, but of all colours seems to be Melted to one vast Iris of the west, Where the day joins the past eternity; While on the other hand, meek Dian's crest Floats through the azure air-an island of the blest.
A single star is at her side, and reigns With her o'er half the lovely heaven; but still Yon sunny sea heaves brightly, and remains Rolled o'er the peak of the far Rhætian hill, As day and night contending were, until Nature reclaimed her order: gently flows The deep-dyed Brenta, where their hues instil The odorous purple of a new-born rose, Which streams upon her stream, and glassed within it
Filled with the face of heaven, which, from afar,
And now they change; a paler shadow strews
[Midnight Scene in Rome-the Coliseum.]
The stars are forth, the moon above the tops
I learned the language of another world.
And twines its roots with the imperial hearths,
While Caesar's chambers and the Augustan halls
[From Don Juan."]
'Twas twilight, and the sunless day went down
Then rose from sea to sky the wild farewell
Then shrieked the timid, and stood still the braveThen some leaped overboard with dreadful yell, As eager to anticipate their grave;
And the sea yawned around her like a hell,
And down she sucked with her the whirling ware, Like one who grapples with his enemy, And strives to strangle him before he die.
And first one universal shriek there rushed,
Louder than the loud ocean, like a crash
Accompanied with a convulsive splash,
There were two fathers in this ghastly crew,
And with them their two sons, of whom the one Was more robust and hardy to the view;
But he died early; and when he was gone, His nearest messmate told his sire, who threw One glance on him, and said, Heaven's will be done!
I can do nothing;' and he saw him thrown
The other father had a weaklier child,
Of a soft cheek, and aspect delicate; But the boy bore up long, and with a mild
And patient spirit held aloof his fate; Little he said, and now and then he smiled,
As if to win a part from off the weight He saw increasing on his father's heart, With the deep deadly thought that they must part. And o'er him bent his sire, and never raised
His eyes from off his face, but wiped the foam From his pale lips, and ever on him gazed:
And when the wished-for shower at length was come, And the boy's eyes, which the dull film half glazed, Brightened, and for a moment seemed to roam, He squeezed from out a rag some drops of rain Into his dying child's mouth; but in vain!
And thus, like to an angel o'er the dying
Who die in righteousness, she leaned; and there All tranquilly the shipwrecked boy was lying,
As o'er him lay the calm and stirless air: But Zoe the meantime some eggs was frying,
Since, after all, no doubt the youthful pair Must breakfast, and betimes-lest they should ask it, She drew out her provision from the basket.
And now, by dint of fingers and of eyes,
And words repeated after her, he took A lesson in her tongue; but by surmise,
No doubt, less of her language than her look: As he who studies fervently the skies,
Turns oftener to the stars than to his book: Thus Juan learned his alpha beta better From Haidee's glance than any graven letter.
'Tis pleasing to be schooled in a strange tongue By female lips and eyes-that is, I mean When both the teacher and the taught are young;
As was the case, at least, where I have been ; They smile so when one's right, and when one's wrong, They smile still more, and then there intervene Pressure of hands, perhaps even a chaste kiss ;I learned the little that I know by this.
[Haidee and Juan at the Feast.] Haidee and Juan carpeted their feet
On crimson satin, bordered with pale blue; Their sofa occupied three parts complete
Of the apartment-and appeared quite new; The velvet cushions-for a throne more meet
Were scarlet, from whose glowing centre grew A sun embossed in gold, whose rays of tissue, Meridian-like, were seen all light to issue. Crystal and marble, plate and porcelain,
Had done their work of splendour; Indian mats And Persian carpets, which the heart bled to stain, Over the floors were spread; gazelles and cats, And dwarfs and blacks, and such-like things, that gain Their bread as ministers and favourites-that's To say, by degradation-mingled there As plentiful as in a court or fair.
One large gold bracelet clasped each lovely arm,
And clinging as if loath to lose its hold:
A light gold bar above her instep rolled Announced her rank; twelve rings were on her hand; Her hair was starred with gems; her veil's fine fold Below her breast was fastened with a band
Of lavish pearls, whose worth could scarce be told; Her orange-silk full Turkish trousers furled About the prettiest ankle in the world.
Her hair's long auburn waves, down to her heel Flowed like an alpine torrent, which the sun Dyes with his morning light-and would conceal
Her person if allowed at large to run, And still they seemed resentfully to feel
The silken fillet's curb, and sought to shun
The very air seemed lighter from her eyes,