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Tun “Hebrew Melodies” were written in London in the autumn of 1814. The immense difliculty of sacred poetry is apparent from the many men of genius who have attempted it with only moderate success. The sublime and affecting ideas involved in the theme being already expressed in Scripture with unrivalled power, and familiar to us from childhood, it is_neither easy to call up thoughts which have the semblance of originality, nor to clothe them in language which will bear to be tried by the lofty standard of inspired song. Lord Byron wisely resolved not to walk in the confined and trodden circle of devotional strains. He had the whole Jewish history open to his choice, and his text is in general those martial, patriotic, and domestic circumstances which allow the imagination its freest range. In spite of the judgment with which he selected his subjects, some of Lord Byron's acquaintances thought the “Hebrew Melodies” below his reputation, pretending, with jesting exaggeration, to prefer Sternhold and Hopkins ; nor were they received very favourably by the public, in part, perhaps, from their expecting in songs the stirring power of his longer compositions. The poet himself did not look back upon them with much complacency. “Sunburn Nathan !” he broke out, when Moore ridiculed the manner in which the “Melodies” were set to Music—“why do you always twit me with his vile Ebrew nasalities? Have I not told you it was all Kinnaird’s doing, and my own exquisite facility of temper Z” Subsequently Jefirey stated in the Edinburgh Review that though obviously inferior to Lord Byron's other works, they displayed a skill in versification, and a mastery in diction which would have raised an inferior artist to the summit of distinction, -—a judgment most gratifying to the poet, who said it was very kind in his critic to like them. A second admirer of the “Hebrew Melodies ”— Mrs. Grant, the author of the “Letters from the Mountains”-——on reading the exquisitely pathetic piece, “Oh weep for those that wept by Babel’s stream,” was unable to resist the literal fulfilment of the poet’s invocation. The most plaintive and poetic passages, indeed, are those which relate to the wanderings of the Jews, and the third stanza of “The Wild Gazelle” is another mournful note struck on the same string which might no less “ope the sacred source of sympathetic tears.” Had all been equal to what is best, the “ Hebrew Melodies ” must soon have excited universal admiration, but the majority of them are somewhat tame in sentiment, and one or two, like “ J ephtha’s Daughter,” are not far removed from the school of Sternhold.
1 [These stanzas were written by Lord Byron, on returning from a ball where Lady Wilmot Horton had appeared in mourning, with numerous spangles on her dress ]
THE HARP THE MONARCH MINSTREL SWEPT.
TRE harp the monarch minstrel swept,
Till David’s lyre grew mightier than his throne !
It told the triumphs of our King,
IF THAT HIGH WORLD.
9 [“ When Lord Byron put the manuscript into my hand, it terminated with this line. As this, however, did not complete the verse, I asked him to help out the melody. He replied, ‘ Why, I have sent you to heaven-—it would be diflicnlt to go further !’ My attention for a few minutes was called to some other person, and his Lordship, whom I had hardly missed, exclaimed, ‘ Here, Nathan, I have brought you down again ;’ and immediately presented me the beautiful lines which conclude the melody.”—NA'rnAN.]
How welcome those untrodden spheres !
To soar from earth and find all fears
More blest each palm that shades those plains
It will not live in other earth. " VOL. H. 0
OH l weep for those that wept by Babel’s stream,
Tribes of the wandering foot and weary breast,
The wild-dove hath her nest, the fox his cave,
ON JORDAN’S BANKS.
I. ON Jordan’s banks the Arab’s camels stray, On Sion’s hill the False One’s.votaries pray, The Baal-adorer bows on Sinai’s steepYet tl1ere—even ther_e—Oh God! thy thunders sleep