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sure they will pass with no other person.— They are so manifestly inconsistent, as mutually to destroy each other—and so weak, as to be quite insufficient to account for the fact even if they could be effectually combined for that purpose. The party that Lord Byron has chiefly offended, bears no malice to Lords and Gentlemen. Against its rancour, on the contrary, these qualities have undoubtedly been his best protection; and had it not been for them, he may be assured that he would, long ere now, have been shown up in the Fo of the Quarterly, with the same candour and liberality that has there been exercised towards his friend Lady Morgan. That the base and the bigoted—those whom he has darkened by his glory, spited by his talent, or mortified by his neglect—have taken advantage of the prevailing disaffection, to vent their puny malice in silly nicknames and vulgar scurrility, is natural and true. But Lord yron may depend upon it, that the dissatisfaction is not confined to them—and, indeed, that they would never have had the courage to assail one so immeasurably their superior, if he had not at once made himself vulnerable by his errors, and alienated his natural defenders by his obstinate adherence to them. We are not bigots or rival poets. We have not been detractors from Lord Byron's fame nor the friends of his detractors; and we teli him—far more in sorrow than in anger—that we verily believe the great body of the English nation—the religious, the moral, and the candid part of it-consider the tendency of his writings to be immoral and pernicious— and look upon his perseverance in that strain of composition with regret and reprehension. He has no priestlike cant or priestlike reviling to apprehend from us. We do not charge him with being either a disciple or an apostle wf Satan; nor do we describe his poetry as a mere compound of blasphemy and obscenity. On the contrary, we are inclined to believe that he wishes well to the happiness of mankind—and are glad to testify, that his poems abound with sentiments of great dignity and tenderness, as well as passages of infinite sublimity and beauty. But their general tendency we believe to be in the highest degree pernicious; and we even think that it is chiefly by means of the fine and lofty sentiments they contain, that they acquire their most fatal power of corruption. This may sound at first, perhaps, like a paradox; but we are mistaken if we shall not make it intelligible enough in the end. We think there are indecencies and indelicacies, seductive descriptions and profligate representations, which are extremely reprehensible; and also audacious speculations, and erroneous and uncharitable assertions equally indefensible. But if these had stood alone, and if the whole body of his works had been made up of gaudy ribaldry and flashy scepticism, the mischief, we think, would have been much less than it is. He is not more obscene, perhaps, than Dryden or Prior, and other classical and pardoned writers' nor is there any passage in the history
even of Don Juan, so offeusively degrading as Tom Jones’ affair with Lady Bellaston. It is no doubt a wretched apology for the indecencies of a man of genius, that equal indecencies have been forgiven to his predecessors: But the precedent of lenity might have been followed; and we might have passed both the levity and the voluptuousness—the dangerous warmth of his romantic situations, and the scandal of his cold-blooded dissipation. It might not have been so easy to get over his dogmatic scepticism—his hard-hearted maxims of misanthropy—his cold-blooded and eager expositions of the non-existence of virtue and honour. Even this, however, might have been comparatively harmless, if it had not been accompanied § that which may look, at first sight, as a palliation—the frequent presentment of the most touching pictures of tenderness, generosity, and faith. The charge we bring against Lord Byron, in short, is, that his writings have a tendency to destroy all belief in the reality of virtue —and to make all enthusiasm and constancy of affection ridiculous; and this, not so much by direct, maxims and examples, of an imposing or seducing kind, as by the constant exhibition of the most profligate heartlessness in the persons who had been transiently represented as actuated by the purest and most exalted emotions—and in the lessons of that very teacher who had been, but a moment before, so beautifully pathetic in the expression of the loftiest conceptions. When a gay voluptuary descants, somewhat too freely, on the intoxications of love and wine, we ascribe his excesses to the effervescence of youthful spirits, and do not consider him as seriously impeaching either the value or the reality of the severer virtues; and in the same way, when the satirist deals out his sarcasms against the sincerity of human professions, and unmasks the secret infirmities of our bosoms, we consider this as aimed at hypocrisy, and not at mankind: or, at all events, and in either case, we consider the Sensualist and the Misanthrope as wandering, each in his own delusion—and are contented to pity those who have never known the charms of a tender or generous affection.— The true antidote to such seductive or revolting views of human nature, is to turn to the scenes of its nobleness and attraction; and to reconcile ourselves again to our kind, by listening to the accents of pure affection and incorruptible honour. But if those accents have flowed in all their sweetness, from the very |. that instantly open again to mock and blaspheme them, the antidote is mingled with the poison, and the draught is the more deadly for the mixture' The reveller may pursue his orgies, and the wanton display her enchantments, with comparative safety to those around them, as long as they know or believe that there are purer and higher enjoyments, and teachers and followers of a happier way. But if the Priest pass from the altar, with so. exhortations to peace and purity still trembling on his tongue, to join familiarly in the grossest and most profane debauchery—if the Matron, who has charmed all hearts by the lovely sanctimonies of her conjugal and maternal endearments, glides out from the circle of her children, and gives bold and shameless way to the most abandoned and degrading vices— our notions of right and wrong are at once confounded—our confidence in virtue shaken to the fouudation—and our reliance on truth and fidelity at an end for ever.
Tais k the charge which we bring against Ixird Byrun. We say that, under some strange misapprehension as to the truth, and the duty of proclaiming it. he has exerted all the powers of flis powerful mind to convince his readers, both directly and indirectly, that all ennobling pursuits, and disinterested virtues, are mere deceits or illusions—hollow and despicable mockeries for the most part, and, at best, but laborious follies. Religion, love, patriotism, valour, devotion, constancy, ambition—all are to te laughed at, disbelieved in, and despised!—and nothing is really good, so far as we can gather, but a succession of dangers to Mil the blood, and of banquets and intrigues t'j soothe it again! If this doctrine stood alone, with its examples, it would revolt, we believe more than it would seduce :—But the author of it has the unlucky gift of personating all those sweet and lofty illusions, and that with tjch ^race and force, and truth to nature, that it it impossible not to suppose, for the time, that Ь' isamonTM the most devoted of their votaries— till he casta off the character with a jerk—and. the moment after he has moved and exalted us i» the very height of our conception, resumes hi« mockery at all things serious or sublime— •vi j l<"t? us down at once on some coarse joke, hard-hearted sarcasm, or fierce and relentless personality—as if on purpose to show
"Whoe'er was edified, himself was not "—
or to demonstrate practically as it were, and '•y example, how possible it is to have all fine »nd noble feelings, or their appearance, for a n irni-nt. and yet retain no particle of respect : >• ¡h'-rn—or of belief in their intrinsic worth Of permanent reality. Thus, we have an indelicate but very clever scene of young Juan's concealment in the bed of an amorous matron, i'.-A 01 the torrent of '-'rattling and audacious eloquence" with which she repels the too jnst suspicions of her jealous lord. All this » merely comic, and a little coarse :—But "i'-:i the poet chooses to make this shameless j abandoned woman address to her young pliant an epistle breathing the very spirit of »arm, devoted, pure, and unalterable love— к profaning the holiest language of the ь-art. and indirectly associating it with the rcr"t hateful and degrading sensuality. In »•-' manner, the sublime and terrific descripi.'i.i of the Shipwreck is strangely and disMtingly broken by traits of low humour and ^tfoonery;—and we pass immediately from "•' rr.oaris of an agonising father fainting over 4 ¡.imished son, to facetious stories of Juan's teeing a paw of his father's dog—and reI :'i'c a slice of his tutor !—as if it were a tee 'aing to be hard-hearted—and pity and
compassion were fit only to be laughed at. In the same spirit, the glorious Ode on the aspirations of Greece after Liberty, is instantly followed up by a strain of dull and coldblooded ribaldry;—and we are hurried on from the distraction and death of Haidee to merry scenes of intrigue and masquerading in the seraglio. Thus all good feelings are excited only to accustom us to their speedy and complete extinction; and we are brought buck, from their transient and theatrical exhibition, to the staple and substantial doctrine of the work—the non-existence of constancy in women or honour in men, and the folly of expecting to meet with any such virtues, or of cultivating them, for an undeserving world; —and all this mixed up with so much wit and cleverness, and knowledge of human nature, as to make it irresistibly pleasant and plausible—while there is not only no antidote supplied, but everything that might have operated in that way has been anticipated, and presented already in as strong and engaging a form as possible—but under such associations as to rob it of all efficacy, or even turn it into an auxiliary of the poison.
This is our sincere opinion of much of Lord Byron's most splendid poetry—a little exaggerated perhaps m the expression, from a desire to make our exposition clear and impressive —but, in substance, we think merited and correct. We have already said, and we deliberately repeat, that we have no notion that Lord Byron had any mischievous intention in these publications—and readily acquit him of any wish to corrupt the morals or impair the happiness of his readers. Such a wish, indeed, is in itself altogether inconceivable; but it is our duty, nevertheless, to say, that much of what he has published appears to us to have this tendency—and that we are acquainted with no writings so well calculated to extinguish in young minds all generous enthusiasm and gentle affection—all respect for themselves, and all love for their kind—to make them practise and profess hardily what it teachos them to suspect in others—and actually to persuade them that it is wise and manly and knowing to laugh, not only at selfdenial and restraint, but at all aspiring ambition, and all warm and constant affection.
How opposite to this is the system, or the temper, of the great author of Waverley—the only living individual to whom Lord Byron must submit to be ranked as inferior in genius —and still more deplorably inferior in all that makes genius either amiable in itself, or useful to society! With all his unrivalled power of invention and judgment, of pathos and pleasantry, the tenor of his sentiments is uniformly generous, indulgent, and goodhumoured; and so remote from the bitterness of misanthropy, that he never indulges in sarcasm, and scarcely, in any case, carries his merriment so far as derision. But the peculiarity by which he stands most broadly and proudly distinguished from Lord Byron is, that, beginning as he frequently does, with some ludicrous or satirical theme, he never fails to raise out of it some feelings of a generou» oí gentle kind, and to end by exciting our i tender pity, or deep respect, for those very I individúala or classes of persons who seemed at first to be brought on the stage for our mere sport and amusement—thus making the ludicrous itself subservient to the cause of be- • nevolence—and inculcating, at every turn, and as the true end and result of all his trials and experiments, the love of our kind, and ¡ the duty and delight of a cordial and genuine • sympathy with the joys and sorrows of every' condition of men. It seems to be Lord Byron's way, on the contrary, never to excite a kind or a noble sentiment, without making haste to obliterate it by a torrent of unfeeling mockery or relentless abuse, and taking pains to show how well those passing fantasies may be reconciled to a system of resolute misanthropy,
or so managed as even to enhance its шел» or confirm its truth. With what different sensations, accordingly, do we read the works of those two great writers!—With the one. -n seem to share a gay and gorgeous banquet— with the other, a wild and dangerous muí.cation. Let Lord Byron bethink him of tins contrast—and its causes and effects. Thou_L he scorns the precepts, and defies the censure of ordinary men, he may yet be moved bvti< example of his only superior!—In the mean time, we have endeavoured to point ont tie canker that stains the splendid flowers ol Ls poetry—or, rather, the serpent that lurks beneath them. If it will not listen to the loice of the charmer, that brilliant garden, gav a:.: glorious as it is, must be deserted, аы Hi existence deplored, as а влаге to the unroj.
Manfred; a Dramatic Poem. By Lord Byron. 8vo. pp. 75. London: 1811.
This is a very etrange—not a very pleasing —but unquestionably a very powerful and most poetical production. The noble author, we find, still deals with that dark and overawing Spirit, by whose aid he has so often subdued the minds of his readers, and in whose might he has wrought so many wonders, in Manfred, we recognise at once the gloom and potency of that soul which burned and blasted and fed upon itself in Harold, and Conrad, and Lara—and which comes again in this piece, more in sorrow than in anger— more proud, perhaps, and more awful than ever—-but with the fiercer traits of its misanthropy subdued, as it were, and quenched in the gloom of a deeper despondency. Manfred does not, like Conrad and Lara, wreak the anguish of his burning heart in the dangers and daring of desperate and predatory war—nor seek to drown bitter thoughts in the tumult of perpetual contention—nor yet, like Harold, does he sweep over the peopled scenes of the earth with high disdain and aversion, and make his survey of the business and pleasures and studies of man an occasion for taunts and sarcasms, and the food of an immeasurable spleen. He is fixed by the genius of the poet in the majestic solitudes of the central Alps—where, from his youth up, he has lived in proud but calm seclusion from the ways of men: conversing only with the magnificent forms and aspects of nature by which he is surrounded, and with the Spirits of the Elements over whom he has acquired dominion, by the secret and unhallowed studies of Sorcery and Magic. He is averse indeed from mankind, and scorns the low and frivolous nature to which he belongs; but he cherishes no animosity or hostility to that feeble race. Their concerns excite no interest—their pursuits no sympathy—their joys no envy. It is irksome and vexations for him to be crossed by them in his melancholy mus
ings,—but he treats them with gentleness»»!
Eity; and, except when stung to impai.ernу too importunate an intrusion, is kind and considerate of the comforts of all around him. This piece is properly entitled a Dramatic Poem—for it is merely poetical, and is pot « all a drama or play in the modern accepta;;. "• of the term. It has no action : no plot—L;.: no characters; Manfred merely muses ac-1 suffers from the beginning to the end. Hi distresses are the same at the opening of tie scene and at its closing—and the tempi! •which they are borne is the same. A hunter and a priest, and some domestics, aie Ье--: introducea; but they have no connection « ;:i the passions or sufferings on which the interest depends; and Manfred is Substanz у alone throughout the whole piece. He hoto no communion but with the memory of the Being he had loved ; and the immortal Sp.n .; whom he evokes to reproach wilh his nii-rri. and their inability to relieve it. These unearthly beings approach nearer to the chant1er of persons of the drama—but still the? are but choral accompaniments to the performance; and Manfred is, in reality, theui.lv actor and sufferer on the scene. To delineate his character indeed—to render conceivst-.e his feelings—is plainly the whole scope i '• design of the poem; and the conception i.: execution are, in this respect, equally aJn.-able. It is a grand and terrific riaon 0! t being invested with superhuman attributes, in order that he may be capable of пюге thaa human sufferings, and be sustained und« them by more than human force and prid'To object to the improbability of the bcuou is, we think, to mistake the end and з.г.\ •'• the author. Probabilities, we apprehend, did not enter at all into his consideration—!. * object was, to produce effect—to exalt vd dilate the character through whom he waste interest or appal us—and to raise oui conception of it, by all the helps that could be derived írüm the majesty of nature, or the dread of Viperstition. It is enough, therefore, if the situation in which he has placed him is conteirablc—and if the supposition of its reality enhances our emotions and kindles our imagination ;—for it is ¿Manfred only that we are required to fear, to pity, or admire. If we ели once conceive of him as a real existence, and enter into the depth and the height of his pride and his sorrows, we may deal as we please with the means that have been used to famish us with this impression, or to enable us to attain to this conception. We may regaid them but as types, or metaphors, or allegories: But he is the thing to be expressed: arsil the feeling and the intellect, of which all these are but shadows.
The eTents, such as they aro, upon which the piece may be said to turn, have all taken place long before its opening, and are but dimly shadowed out in the casual communicatkme of the agonising being to whom they relate. Nobly born and trained in the castle of his ancestors, he had very soon sequestered himself from the society of men; and, after running througrh the common circle of human sciences, had dedicated himself to the worship of the wild magnificence of nature, and to those forbidden studies by which he had learned to command its presiding powers.— One companion, however, he had, in all his tasks ana enjoyments—a female of kindred 2>?:iius. taste, and capacity—lovely too beyond all loveliness; but, as we gather, too nearly related to be lawfully beloved. The catastrophe of their unhappy passion is insinuated in the darkest and most ambiguous termsill that we make out is, that she died untimely and by violence, on account of this fatal attachment—though not by the act of its object. He killed her, he says, not with his hand—but his heart; and her blood was ал!, though not by him! From that hour, life is a burden to him, and memory a torture —and the extent of his power and knowledge чттез only to show him the hopelessness and endlessness of his misery.
The piece opens with his evocation of the Spirits of the Elements, from whom he demands the boon of forgctfulness—and questions them as to his own immortality. The scene is in his Gothic tower at midnight—and opens with a soliloquy that reveals at once the state of the speaker, and the genius of the author.
"Th? lamp must be replenish'd—but even then
Nor nattering throb, that brats with hopes or
Or lurking love of something on the earth.—
When his evocation is completed, a star is seen at the far end of a gallery, and celestial voices are heard reciting a great deal of poet/y. After they have answered that the gift of oblivion is not at their disposal, and intimated that death itself could not bestow it on him, they ask if he has any further demand to make of them. He answers,
"No, none: yet stay !—one moment, ere we I would behold ye face to face. I hear [part— Your voices, sweet and melancholy sounds As music on the walers; and I see The steady aspect of a clear large star; But nothing more. Approach me as ye are, Or one, or all, in your accustom'd forms.
Spirit. We have no forms beyond ihe elementa Of which we are the mind and principle: But choose a form—in thai we will appear.
Man. 1 have no choice ; there is no form on earth Hideous or beautiful to me. Let him Who is most powerful of ye, take such aspect As unto him may seem most fitting.—Come!
Seventh Spirit. (Appearing in Ihe »Ларе of a beautiful female figure.) Behold!
M. Oh God! if it be thus, and thou Art not a madness and a mockery, I yet might be most happy.—I will clasp thee. And we again will be— [Thefigure vanishes.
My heart is crush'd! [manfred fallt témelas."—pp. 15, 16.
The first scene of this extraordinary performance ends with a long poetical incantation, sung by the invisible spirits over the senseless victim before them. The second shows him in the bright sunshine of morning, on the top of the Jungfrau mountain, meditating self-destruction—and uttering forth in solitude as usual the voice of his habitual despair, and those intermingled feelings of love and admiration for the grand and beautiful objects with which he is environed, that unconsciously win him back to a certain kindly sympathy with human enjoyments.
"Man. The spirits I have raised abandon me— The spells which I have studied baffle me— The remedy I reck'd of tortured me; I lean no more on superhuman aid: It hath no power upon the past, and for The future, till the past be gulf'd in darkness, It is not of my search.—My mother Earth! And thou fresh breaking Day, and you, ye Moun Why are ye beautiful? I cannot love ye. [tains. And thou, the bright eye of the universe, That openest over all, and unto all Art a delight—thou shin'st not on my heart. And you, ye crags, upon whose extreme edge I stand, and on the torrent's brink beneath Behold the tall nines dwindled as to shrubs In dizziness of distance ; when a leap, A stir, a motion, even a breath, would bring My breast upon its rocky bosom's bed To rest for ever—wherefore do I pause?
Thou winged and cloud-cleaving minister,
[An each pallet
Whose happy flight is highest into heaven.
How glorious in its action and itself!
Bui we, who name ourselves ils sovereigns, we,
Half dust, half deity, alike unfit
To sink or soar, with our mix'd essence make
A conflict of its elements, and breathe
The breath of degradation and of pride,
Contending with low wants and lofty will
Till our mortality predominates,
And men are—what they name not to themselves,
And truHt not to each other. Hark! the note,
[The thepherd't pipe in the distance it heard' The natural music of the mountain reed— For here the patriarchal days ire not A pastoral fable—pipes in the liberal air, Mix'd with the sweet bells of the sauntering herd; My soul would drink those echoes !—Oh, that I were The viewless spirit of a lovely sound, A living voice, a breathing harmony, A bodiless enjoyment—born and dying With the blest tone which made me !"—pp. 20—22.
At this period of hie soliloquy, he is descried by a Chamois hunter, who overhears its continuance.
"To be thus—
Grey-hair'd with anguish, like these blasted pines,
Ye tooling crags of ice!
pp. 23, 24.
Just as he is about to spring from the cliff, he is seized by the hunter, who forces him away from the dangerous place in the midst of the rising tempest. In the second act, we find him in the cottage of this peasant, and in a still wilder state of disorder. His host offers him wine ; but, upon looking at the cup, he exclaims—
"Away, away ! there's blood upon the brim! Will it then never—never sink in the earth f
C. Hun. What dost thou mean» thy senses wander from thee.
Man. I say'tis blood—my blood! the pure warm
Which ran in the veins of my fathers, and in ours
C. 11 un. Man of strange words, and some halfmaddening sin, &.C.
-Vu«. Think'st thou existence doth depena on It doth ; but actions are our epochs: mine [time? Have made my days and nights imperishable, Endless, and all alike, as sands on the shore. Innumerable atoms ; and one desert, Barren and cold, on which the wild waves break, But nothing rests, save carcasses and wrecks, Rocks, and the salt-surf weeds of bitterness.
C. Hun. Alas! he's mad—but yet I must not leave him.
Man. I would I were—for then the things I see œ-u)d be but a distempered dream.
С. Лия. What i* it
That thou dost see, or think thou look's! upon I
Мал. Mveell. and thee—a peasant of the Alps Thy humble virtues, hospitable home, And spirit patient, pious, proud and free; Thy self-respect, grafted on innocent thought«; Thy days of health, and nights of sl**ep; thy toi.*. By danger dignified, yet guiltless; hopes Of cheerful old age and a quiet grave, Wiih croes and garland over its grtcn turf, And thy grandchildren's love fur epitaph; This do 1 see—and then I lookwithiii— It matters not—my soul was scurch'd already!"
The following scene ie one of the most poetical and most sweetly written in lie poem. There is a still and delicious witchery in the tranquillity and seclusion of the place, and the celestial beauty of the Being «Ьо reveals herself in the midst of these visible enchantments. In a deep valley атопг the mountains, Manfred appears alone before a lofty cataract, pealing in the quiet sunshine down the still and everlasting rocks; a:,J says—
"It is not noon—the sunbow's rays still arch
[fíe take* some of the water into the pain a/ \a hand, and flinfrt it in the air, mut*rrine tit d' juration. After a paute, the \Vurn Of The Alps rúe* beneath the arch of the »ii«b» r1' the torrent.]
Man. Beautiful Spirit! with thv hair ofligh:. And dazzling eyes of glory! in whose form The charms of Earth's least-mortal daughter? gru* To an unearthly stature, in an essence Of purer elements; while the hues ot youth,— Carnation'd like a sleeping infant's cheek, Rock'd by the beating of her mother's heart. Or the rose tints, which summer's twilight Icau? Upon the lolly glacier's virgin snow. The bluph of earth embracing with her heaven,— Tinge thy celestial aspect, and make lame The beauties of the sunbow which benda o'er t¿« • Beautiful Spirit! in thy calm clear brow, Wherein isglass'd serenity of soul, Which of itself shows immortality. I read that thou wilt pardon to a Son Of Earth, whom the abstruser Powers permit At times to commune with them—if thai he Avail him of his spells—to call thee thus, And gaze on thee a moment.
Witch. Son of Earth!
I know thee, and the Powers which give theepow?
Man. To look upon thy beauty !—nothing father."—pp. 31, 32.
There is something exquisitely beautih;! '.•> our taste, in all this passage; and loth th* apparition and the dialogue are so rotMfî51p that the sense of their improbability is sw>:" lowed up in that of their beauty ;—end, without actually believing that such spirit» e»:;! or communicate them«elves, we feel for "> moment as if we stood in their рте*«*