Page images
PDF
EPUB

XX.

»1

Then slowly climb the many-winding way,
And frequent turn to linger as you go,
From loftier rocks new loveliness survey,
And rest ye at “ Our Lady's house of woe;
Where frugal monks their little relics show,
And sundry legends to the stranger tell:
Here impious men have punish'd been, and lo!

Deep in yon cave Honorius long did dwell,
In hope to merit Heaven by making earth a Hell.

XXI.

And here and there, as up the crags you spring,
Mark many rude-carved crosses near the path :
Yet deem not these devotion's offering -
These are memorials frail of murderous wrath :
For wheresoe'er the shrieking victim hath
Pour'd forth his blood beneath the assassin's knife,
Some hand erects a cross of mouldering lath ;

And grove and glen with thousand such are rife Throughout this purple land, where law secures not life.o

"The convent of “ Our Lady of Punishment," Nossa Señora de Pena, on the summit of the rock. Below, at some distance, is the Cork Convent, where St. Honorius dug his den, over which is his epitaph. From the hills, the sea adds to the beauty of the view. - Note to 1st Edition. — Since the publication of this poem, I have been informed of the misapprehension of the term Nossa Señora de Pena. It was owing to the want of the tilde or mark over the n, which alters the signification of the word : with it, Peña signifies a rock; without it, Pena has the sense I adopted. I do not think it necessary to alter the passage ; as though the common acceptation affixed to it is “ Our Lady of the Rock," I may well assume the other sense from the severities practised there. - Note to 2d Edition.

2 It is a well known fact, that in the year 1809, the assassinations in the streets of Lisbon and its vicinity were not confined by the Portuguese to their countrymen ; but that Englishmen were daily butchered : and so far from redress being obtained, we were requested not to interfere if we perceived any compatriot defending himself against his allies. I was once stopped in the

XXII.

On sloping mounds, or in the vale beneath, Are domes where whilome kings did make repair; But now the wild flowers round them only breathe; Yet ruin'd splendour still is lingering there. And yonder towers the Prince's palace fair : There thou too, Vathek !1 England's wealthiest son, Once form'd thy Paradise, as not aware When wanton Wealth her mightiest deeds hath done, Meek Peace voluptuous lures was ever wont to shun. 2

way to the theatre at eight o'clock in the evening, when the streets were not more empty than they generally are at that hour, opposite to an open shop, and in a carriage with a friend : had wé not fortunately been armed, I have not the least doubt that we should have "adorned a tale" instead of telling one. The crime of assassination is not confined to Portugal : in Sicily and Malta we are knocked on the head at a handsome average nightly, and not a Sicilian or Maltese is ever punished !

1 [“ Vathek”. (says Lord Byron, in one of his diaries,) " was one of the tales I had a very early admiration of. For correctness of costume, beauty of description, and power of imagination, it far surpasses all European imitations ; and bears such marks of originality, that those who have visited the East will find some difficulty in believing it to be more than a translation. As an easterntale, even Rasselas must bow before it; his happy valley' will not bear a comparison with the Hall of Eblis.' William Beckford, Esq., son of the once-celebrated alderman, and heir to his enormous wealth, published, at the early age of eighteen, “ Memoirs of extraordinary Painters ;” and in the

year after, the romance thus eulogised. After sitting for Hindon in several parliaments, this gifted person was induced to fix, for a time, his residence in Portugal, where the memory of his magnificence was fresh at the period of Lord Byron's pilgrimage. Returning to England, he realised all the outward shows of Gothic grandeur in his unsubstantial pageant of Fonthill Abbey; and has more recently been indulging his fancy with another, probably not more lasting, monument of architectural caprice, in the vicinity of Bath. It is much to be regretted, that, after a lapse of fifty years, Mr. Beckford's literary reputation should continue to rest entirely on his juvenile performances. It is said, however, that he has prepared several works for posthumous publication.] 2 “[When Wealth and Taste their worst and best have done, Meek Peace pollution's lure voluptuous still must shun."

MS.)

XXIII.

Here didst thou dwell, here schemes of pleasure plan,
Beneath yon mountain's ever beauteous brow:
But now, as if a thing unblest by Man,
Thy fairy dwelling is as lone as thou !
Here giant weeds a passage scarce allow
To halls deserted, portals gaping wide :
Fresh lessons to the thinking bosom, how

Vain are the pleasaunces on earth supplied ;
Swept into wrecks anon by Time's ungentle tide!

XXIV.

Behold the hall where chiefs were late convened ! 1 Oh! dome displeasing unto British eye! With diadem hight foolscap, lo! a fiend, A little fiend that scoffs incessantly, There sits in parchment robe array'd, and by His side is hung a seal and sable scroll, Where blazon'd glare names known to chivalry, And sundry signatures adorn the roll, Whereat the Urchin points and laughs with all his

soul.2

| The Convention of Cintra was signed in the palace of the Marchese Marialva. — [" The armistice, the negotiations, the convention itself, and the execution of its provisions, were all commenced, conducted, and concluded, at the distance of thirty miles from Cintra, with which place they had not the slightest connection, political, military, or local*; yet Lord Byron has gravely asserted, in prose and verse, that the convention was signed at the Marquis of Marialva's house at Cintra ; and the author of 'The Diary of an Invalid,' improving upon the poet's discovery, detected the stains of the ink spilt by Junot upon the occasion.” - Napier's History of the Peninsular War.]

2 The passage stood differently in the original MS. Some verses which the poet omitted at the entreaty of his friends can now offend no one, and may perhaps amuse many :

In golden characters right well design'd,
First on the list appeareth one “ Junot :

XXV.

Convention is the dwarfish demon styled
That foild the knights in Marialva's dome :
Of brains (if brains they had) he them beguiled,
And turn'd a nation's shallow joy to gloom.
Here Folly dash'd to earth the victor's plume,
And Policy regain'd what arms had lost :
For chiefs like ours in vain may laurels bloom !

Woe to the conqu’ring, not the conquer'd host,
Since baffled Triumph droops on Lusitania's coast !

Then certain other glorious names we find,
Which rhyme compelleth me to place below :
Dull victors ! baffled by a vanquish'd foe,
Wheedled by conynge tongues of laurels due,
Stand, worthy of each other, in a row-

Sir Arthur, Harry, and the dizzard Hew
Dalrymple, seely wight, sore dupe of t'other tew.

Convention is the dwarfish demon styled
That foil'd the knights in Marialva's dome :
Of brains (if brains they had) he them beguiled,
And turn'd a nation's shallow joy to gloom.
For well I wot, when first the news did come,
That Vimiera's field by Gaul was lost,
For paragraph ne paper scarce had room,

Such Pæans teemed for our triumphant host,
In Courier, Chronicle, and eke in Morning Post:

But when Convention sent his handy-work,
Pens, tongues, feet, hands, combined in wild uproar ;
Mayor, aldermen, laid down the uplifted fork ;
The Bench of Bishops half forgot to snore;
Stern Cobbett, who for one whole week forbore
To question aught, once more with transport leapt,
And bit his devilish quill agen, and swore

With foe such treaty never should be kept,
Then burst the blatant * beast, and roard, and raged, and -

slept !

* " Blatant beast" - a figure for the mob, I think first used by Smollett in his “Adventures of an Atom." Horace has the" bellua multorum capitum:” in England, fortunately enough, the illustrious mobility have not even one.

XXVI.

And ever since that martial synod met,
Britannia sickens, Cintra! at thy name;
And folks in office at the mention fret,
And fain would blush, if blush they could, for shame.
How will posterity the deed proclaim !
Will not our own and fellow-nations sneer,
To view these champions cheated of their fame,

By foes in fight o'erthrown, yet victors here, [year? Where Scorn her finger points through many a coming

XXVII.

So deem'd the Childe, as o'er the mountains he
Did take his way in solitary guise :
Sweet was the scene, yet soon he thought to flee,
More restless than the swallow in the skies :
Though here awhile he learn'd to moralize,
For Meditation fix'd at times on him;
And conscious Reason whisper'd to despise

His early youth, misspent in maddest whim;
But as he gazed on truth his aching eyes grew dim.

Thus unto Heaven appeal'd the people: Heaven,
Which loves the lieges of our gracious King,
Decreed, that, ere our generals were forgiven,
Inquiry should be held

about the thing.
But Mercy cloak'd the babes beneath her wing;
And as they spared our foes, so spared we them ;
(Where was the pity of our sires for Byng ? *)
Yet knaves, not idiots, should the law condemn;
Then live, ye gallant knights ! and bless your "Judges'

phlegm !

* By this query it is not meant that our foolish generals should have been shot, but that Byng might have been spared, though the one suffered and the others escaped, probably for Candide's reason, pour encourager les autres." [See Croker's“ Boswell,” vol. i. p. 298.; and the Quarterly Review, vol. xxvii. p. 207., where the question, whether the admiral was or was not a political martyr, is treated at large.]

« PreviousContinue »