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'Rod'rick, thy wife is dead!—the Church hath
To free inee from thy vows! The broken heart Might yel be heal'd, the wrong redress'd, the throne Rebuilt by that same hand which pull'd it down! Ard these curst Africans. . . Oh for a month "final waste life which millionsmisbestow! .. '"
Returning weakness then admonishes him. however, of the near approach of death; and he b?2s the friendly hand of Roderick to cut short his pangrs. by drawing forth (he weapon which clogs the wound in his side. He then gives him his hand in kindness—blesses and kisses his heroic daughter, and expires. The concluding lines are full of force and tenderlas«.
"When from her father'sbody she arose,
Her arms and cried, 'My Roderick! mine in Hea-
The Last Book describes the recognition and exploits of Roderick in the last of his battles. After the revolt of Julian's army, Orpas, by whose counsels it had been chiefly occasioned, is sent forward by the Moorish leader, to try to win them back; and advances in front of the line, demanding a parley, mounted on the beautiful Orelio, the famous war horse of Roderick, who, roused at that sight, obtains leave from Pelayo to give the renegade his answer; and after pouring out upon him some words of abuse and scorn, seizes the reine of his trusty steed; and
— " ' How now,' he cried, 'Orelio! old companion,.. my good horse !' .. Off with this recreant burthen!' . . .And with that He rais'd hia hand, and rear'd, and bnck'd the steed, Tn that remember'd voice and arm of power Obedient. Down the helpless traitor fell, Vio!fnily thrown; and Roderick over him, Thrice led, with just and unrelenting hand, The trampling hoofe- 'Go, join Witiza now, Where he lies howling,' the avenger cried, 'And tell him Roderick sent thee !' "—pp. 318,319.
He then vaults upon the noble horse; and fitting Count Julian's sword to his grasp, rushes in the van of the Christian army into the thick array of the Infidel,—where, unarmed as he i*. and clothed in his penitential robes of waving black, he scatters death and terror around him. and cuts his way clean through (he whole hont of his opponents. He there descries the army of Pelayo advancing to cooperate; and as he rides up to them with his wonieJ royal air and gesture, and on his wellknovrn steed of royalty, both the King and Suenan are instantaneously struck with the apparition; and marvel that the weeds of penitence should so long have concealed their sovereign. Roderick, unconscious of this recognition, briefly informs them of what has befallen, and requests the honourable rites of Christian sepulture for the unfortunate Julian lad his daughter.
"' In this,—and all things tlte,'— Pelayo answer'd, looking wistfully Upon the Goth, 'thy pleasure shall he done!' Then Rod'rick saw that he was known—and turn'd His head away in silence. But the old man Laid hold upon his bridle, and look'd up In his master's face—weeping and silently! Thereat the Goth with fervent pressure took Ilia hand, and bending down towards him, said, 'My good Siverian, go not thou this day To war! I charge thee keep thyself from harm! Thou art past the age for combats; and with whom Hereafter should thy mistress talk of me, If thou wert gone?' "—p. 330.
He then borrows the defensive armour of this faithful servant; and taking a touching and affectionate leave of him, vaults again on the back of Orelio; and placing himself without explanation in the van of the army, leads them on to the instant assault. The renegade leaders fall on all sides beneath his resistless blows.
"And in the heat of fight,
Rejoicing and forgetful of oil else,
Set up his cry as he was wont in youth, [well!
'Rod'rick The Goth!' . . . his war-cry, known so
Pelayo eagerly took up the word.
And shouted out his kinsman's name belov'd,
'Rod'rick the Goth! Rod'rick and Victory!
Rod'rick and Vengeance!' Odoar gave it forth;
Urban repeated it ; and through his ranks
Count Pedro sent the cry. Not from the field
Of his great victory, when Witiza fell,
With louder acclamations had that name
Been borne abroad upon the winds of heaven."
"O'er the field if spread,
All hearts and tongues uniting in the cry;
The carnage at length is over, and the field is won !—but where is he to whose name and example the victory is owing!
"Upon the banks
Of Sella was Orelio found ; his legs
Days, months, and years, and generations pnss'd,
pp. 339, 340.
These copions extracts must have settled our readers' opinion of this poem; and though they are certainly taken from the better parts of it, we have no wish to disturb the forcible impression which they must have been the means of producing. Its chief fault undoubtedly is the monotony of its tragic and solemn tone—the perpetual gloom with which all its scenes are overcast—and the tediousness with which some of them are developed. There are many dull passages, in short, and a considerable quantity of heavy reading—some silliness, and a good deal of affectation. But the beauties, upon the whole, preponderate;— and these, we hope, speak for themselves in the passages we have already extracted. The versification is smooth and melodious though too uniformly drawn out into long and linked sweetness. The diction is as usual more remarkable for copiousness than force;— and though less defaced than formerly with phrases of affected simplicity and infantine
| are not English
pathos, is still too much speckled with strange words; which, whether they are old or new, at the present day—and we hope never will become so. What use or ornament does Mr. Southey expect to derive for his poetry from such words as avid and aureate, and auriphrygiate? or leman and weedery, frequentage and youthhead, and twenty more as pedantic and affected? What good is there either, we should like to know, in talking of “oaken galilees,” or “incarnadined poitrals,” or “all-able Providence,” and such other points of learning?—If poetry is intended for general delight, ought not its language to be generally intelligible 3
Childe Harold’s Pil
image, Canto the Third. By Lord ByRoN. 8vo. pp. 79. London: 1816.
The Prisoner of Chillon, and other Poems. By Lord ByRoN. 8vo. pp. 60. London: 1816.”
If the finest poetry be that which leaves the deepest impression on the minds of its readers—and this is not the worst test of its excellence—Lord Byron, we think, must be allowed to take precedence of all his distinguished contemporaries. He has not the variety of Scott—nor the delicacy of Campbell— nor the absolute truth of Crabbe—nor the polished sparkling of Moore; but in force of diction, and inextinguishable energy of sentiment, he clearly surpasses them all. “Words that breathe, and thoughts that burn,” are not merely the ornaments, but the common staple of his poetry; and he is not inspired or impressive only in some happy passages, but through the whole body and tissue of his composition. It was an unavoidable condition, perhaps, of this higher excellence, that his scene should be narrow, and his persons few. To compass such ends as he had in view, it was necessary to reject all ordinary agents, and all trivial combinations. He could not possibly be amusing, or ingenious, or playful; or hope to maintain the requisite pitch of interest by the recitation of sprightly adventures, or the opposition of common characters. To produce great effects, in short, he felt that it was necessary to deal only with the greater assions—with the exaltations of a daring
ancy, and the errors of a lofty intellect—with greater pleasure to find these tuneful gentle;
the pride, the terrors, and the agonies of
* I have already said so much of Lord Byron with reference to his Dramatic productions, that I cannot now afford to republish more than one other paper on the subject of his poetry in general: And Iselect this, rather because it refers to a greater variety of these compositions, than because it deals with such as are either absolutely the best, or the most characteristic of his genius. The truth is, however, that all his writings are characteristic; and lead, pretty much alike, to those views of the dark and the bright parts of his nature, which have led me, I fear (though almost irresistibly) into observations more personal to the character of the author. than should generally be permitted to a mere literary Oensor.
strong emotion—the fire and air alone of our human elements. In this respect, and in his general notion of the end and the means of poetry, we have sometimes thought that his views fell more in with those of the Lake poets, than of any other existing party in the poetical commonwealth: And, in some of his later productions especially, it is impossible not to be struck with his occasional approaches to the style and manner of this class of writers. Lord Byron, however, it should be observed, like all other persons of a quick sense of beauty, and sure enough of their own originality to be in no fear of paltry imputations, is a great mimic of styles and manners, and a great borrower of external character. He and Scott, accordingly, are full of imitations of all the writers from whom they have ever derived gratification; and the two most original writers of the age might appear, to superficial observers, to be the most deeply indebted to their predecessors. In this particular instance, we have no fault to find with Lord Byron: For undoubtedly the finer passages of Words: worth and Southey have in them wherewithal to lend an impulse to the utmost ambition o rival genius; and their diction and manner of writing is frequently both striking and original. But we must say, that it would afford us still
men returning the compliment which Lord Byron has here paid to their talents; and forming themselves on the model rather of his imitations, than of their own originals-In those imitations they will find that, though he is sometimes abundantly mystical, he never, or at least very rarely, indulges in absolute nonsense—never takes his lofty fligh" upon mean or ridiculous occasions-an", above all, never dilutes his strong contes” tions, and magnificent imaginations, with * flood of oppressive verbosity. On the con trary, he is, of all living writers, the mo" concise and condensed; and, we would fan
hope, may go far, by his example, to redeem ;!ie sreat reproach of our modern literature— its intolerable prolixity and redundance. In his пегтэиз and manly lines, we find no elaborate amplification ot common sentiments— no ostentatious polishing of pretty expressions; and we really think that the brilliant success which has rewarded his disdain of those paltry artifices, should put to shame for ever that puling and self-admiring race, who can live through half a volume on the stock of a single thought, and expatiate over divers fair quarto pages with the details of one tedious description. In Lord Byron, on the contrary, we have a perpetual stream of thickcoming fancies—an eternal spring of freshblown images, which seem called into existence by the sudden flash of those glowing thonghís and overwhelming emotions, that straggle for expression through the whole flow of his poetry—and impart to a diction that is often abrupt and irregular, a force and a charm which frequently realise all that is said of inspiration.
With all these undoubted claims to onr '.^miration, however, it is impossible to deny that the noble author before us has still something to learn, and a good deal to correct. He s frequently abrupt and careless, and somelimes obscure. There are marks, occasionally, of effort and straining after an emphasis, »hich is generally spontaneous; and, above ill, there is far too great a monotony in the шога! colouring of his pictures, and too much repetition of the same sentiments and maxims. H' delights too exclusively in the delineation "I a certain morbid exaltation of character and feeling—a sort of demoniacal sublimity, not without some traits of the ruined Archangel. H-1 is haunted almost perpetually with the 'таге of a being feeding and fed upon by '"'•lent passions, and the recollections of the itistrophes they have occasioned: And, •i >'J?h worn out by their past indulgence, enable to sustain the burden of an existence -hich they do not continue to animate :—full !' pnile, and revenge, and obduracy—disdain: '•" lit> and death, and mankind and himself —and trampling, in his scom, not only upon 4- falsehood and formality of polished life, •'•:t npon its tame virtues and slavish devotion: Yet envying, by fits, the very beings he •Apises, and melting into mere softness and '/"wmassion, when the helplessness of child'!">! or the frailty of woman make an appeal '" his jenerosity. Such is the person with "horn we are called upon almost exclusively !o sympathise in all the greater productions fihisdistinguished writer:—InChilde Harold - л the Corsair—in Lara—in the Siege of Corinth — in Parisina, and in most of the "sailer pieces.
It is impossible to represent such a charac:°f better than Lord Byron has done in all l'^y productions—or indeed to represent any 'fun? more terrible in its anger, or more altrac'n'" in its relenting. In point of effect, we r'*lily admit, that no one character can be '"'•'f poetical or impressive :—But it is really ! 4j much to find the scene perpetually filled
by one character—not only in all the acts of each several drama, but ш all the different dramas of the series;—and, grand and impressive as it is, we feel at last that these very qualities make some relief more indispensable, and oppress the spirits of ordinary mortals with too deep an impression of awe and repulsion. There is too much guilt in short, and too much gloom, in the leading character :— and though it be a fine thing to gaze, now and then, on stormy seas, and thunder-shaken mountains, we should prefer passing our days in sheltered valleys, and by the murmur of calmer waters.
We are aware that these metaphors may be turned against us—and that, without metaphor, it may be said that men do not pass their days in reading poetry—and that, as they may look into Lord Byron only about as often as they look abroad upon tempests, they have no more reason to complain of him for being grand and gloomy, than to complain of the same qualities in the glaciers and volcanoes which they go so far to visit. Painters, too, it may be said, have often gained great reputation by their representations of tigers and others ferocious animals, or of caverns and banditti—and poets should be allowed, without reproach, to indulge in analogous exercises. We are far from thinking that there is no weight in these considerations; and feel how plausibly it may be said, that we have no better reason for a great part of our complaint, than that an author, to whom we are already very greatly indebted, has chosen rather to please himself, than us, in the use he makes of his talents.
This, no doubt, seems both unreasonable and ungrateful: But it is nevertheless true, that a public benefactor becomes a debtor to the public; and is, in some degree, responsible for the employment of those gifts which seem to be conferred upon him, not merely for his own delight, but for the delight and improvement of his fellows through all generations. Independent of this, however, we think there is a reply to the apology. A great living poet is not like a distant volcano, or an occasional tempest. He is a volcano in the heart of our land, and a cloud that hangs over our dwellings; and we have some reason to complain, if, instead of genial warmth and grateful shade, he voluntarily darkens and inflames our atmosphere with perpetual fiery explosions and pitchy vapours. Lord Byron's poetry, in short, is too attractive and too famous to lie dormant or inoperative; and, therefore, if it produce any painful or pernicious effects, there will be murmurs, and ought to be suggestions of alteration. Now. though an artist may draw fighting tigers ana hungry lions in as lively and natural away as he can, without giving any encouragement to human ferocity, or even much alarm to human fear, the case is somewhat different, when a poet represents men with tiger-like dispositions:—and yet more so, when he exhaust» the resources of his genius to make this terrible being interesting and attractive, and 10 represent all the lofty virtues as the natural allies of his ferocity. It is still worse when he proceeds to show, that all these precious gifts of dauntless courage, strong affection, and high imagination, are not only akin to guilt, but the parents of misery ;—and that those only have any chance of tranquillity or happiness in this world, whom it is the object of his poetry to make us shun and despise.
These, it appears to us, are not merely errors in taste, but perversions of morality: and, as a great poet is necessarily a moral teacher, and gives forth his ethical lessons, in general with far more effect and authority than any of his graver brethren, he is peculiarly liable to the censures reserved for those who turn the means of improvement to purposes of corruption.
It may no doubt be said, that poetry in general tends less to the useful than the splendid qualities of our nature—that a character poetically good has long been distinguished from one that is morally so—and that, ever since the time of Achilles, our sympathies, on such occasions, have been chiefly engrossed by persons whose deportment is by no means exemplary; and who in many points approach to the temperament of Lord Byron's ideal hero. There is some truth in this suggestion also. But other poets, in the first place, do not allow their favourites so outrageous a monopoly of the glory and interest of the piece —and sin less therefore against the laws either of poetical or distributive justice. In the second place, their heroes are not, generally, either so bad or so good as Lord Byron's —and do not indeed very much exceed the standard of truth and nature, in either of the extremes. His, however, are as monstrous and unnatural as centaurs, and hippogriffe— and must ever figure in the eye of sober reason as so many bright and hateful impossibilities. But the most important distinction is, that the other poets who deal in peccant heroes, neither feel nor express that ardent affection for them, which is visible in the whole of this author's delineations; but merely make use of them as necessary agents in the extraordinary adventures they have to detail, and persons whose mingled vices and virtues are requisite to bring about the catastrophe of their story. In Lord Byron, however, the interest of the story, where there happens to be one, which is not always the case, is uniformly postponed to that of the character itself—into which he enters so deeply, and with so extraordinary a fondness, that he generally continues to speak in its language, after it has been dismissed from the stage; and to inculcate, on his own authority, the same sentiments which had been previously recommended by its example. We do not consider it as unfair, therefore, to say that Lord Byron appears to us to be the zealous apostle of a certain fierce and magnificent misanthropy; which has already saddened his poetry with too deep a shade, and not only led to a great misapplication of great talents, but contributed to render popular some тегу false estimates of the constituents of human happiness and merit. It is irksome,
however, to dwell upon observations so general—and we shall probably have betler meant of illustrating these remarks, if they are real)? well founded, when we come to speak 01 it,particular publications by which they bare now been suggested.
We had the good fortune, we believe, to be among the first who proclaimed the ruing ci a new luminary, on the appearance of Ci^. Harold on the poetical horizon,—and we pursued his course with due attention tL-c'..i several of the constellations. If we hare lately omitted to record his progress »uh .;same accuracy, it is by no means because «e have regarded it witn more indifference, ot supposed that it would be less interesting to the public—but because it was so extreme!; conspicuous as no longer to require tbe notices of an official observer. In general wf do not think it necessary, nor indeed r,L.:r fair, to oppress our readers with an accsca of works, which are as well known to them as to ourselves; or with a repetition v! *-• timents in which all the world is ас*--; Wherever, a work, therefore, is very popub:. and where the general opinion of its menu appears to be substantially right, we ;r_:» ourselves at liberty to leave it oat of o«i chronicle, without incurring the oenrare « neglect or inattention. A very rigorous application of this maxim might have tared oti readers the trouble of reading what we to» write—and, to confess the truth, we »rile il rather to gratify ourselves, than with uV br:r of giving them much information. At ibf same time, some short notice of the progrès of such a writer ought, perhaps, to appeal in his contemporary journals, as a tribute doe to his eminence ;—and a zealous critic cas scarcely set about examining the men;-' any work, or the nature of its reception by the public, without speedily discoverinz те:; urgent cause for his admonitions, both to -tauthor and his admirers.
Our last particular account was of tbe Corsair ;—and though from that time to the :»:• lication of the pieces, the titles of which «; have prefixed, the noble author has pnxito1^ as much poetry as would have made ihe кгtune of any other person, we can aflbr<! •• take but little notice of those intennrda'f performances; which have already f*s*-' their ordeal with this generation, an<i '<•'? fairly committed to the final judgment ol pNo terity. Some slight reference to them, bo»ever, may be proper, both to mark the progress of the author's views, and tbe butory of big fame.
Lara was obviously the sequel of th« Сетscar—and maintained, in general, the suv tone of deep interest, and lofty feeing .though the disappearance of Menor* fran thf scene deprives it of the enchaiiline fv~'-ness, by which its terrors were there red'-en:' •'• and make the hero on the whole le«1 (*l'--: vating. The character of Lara, too, a rather too laboriously finished, and his nocturnal ет counter with the apparition is worked op to* ostentatiously. There is infinite beaut) я the sketch of the dark page—and in
the moral or general reflections which are interspersed with the narrative. The death af Lara, however, is by far the finest pasftzt in the poem, and is fully equal to any thing eke which the author has ever written. Though it is not under our immediate cognisance, we cannot resist the temptation of Iraiisf ribinjr the greater part of the passage— in which the physical horror of the event, thongh described with a terrible force and fidelity, is both relieved and enhanced by the beautiful pictures of mental energy and retrains affection with which it is combined. Our readers will recollect, that this gloomy and daring chief was mortally wounded in battle, ami led out of it, almost insensible, by liai sad and lovely page, whom no danger «mid ever separate from his side. On his retreat, slaughter and desolation falls on his disheartened followers; and the poet turns from the scene of disorder—
"Beneath > lime, remoter from the scene,
Where but for him thai elrife bad never been,
A breathing but devoted warrior lay:
'TwM Lara bleeding fast from life away!
Hit follower once, and now his only guide,
Kneels Kaled watchful o'er hie welling side,
And wilh hie scarf would staunch the tides that rush,
Huh each convulsion, in a blacker gush;
And then, as his faint breathing waxes low,
In feebler, nut lees fatal tricklings flow:
He «arce can speak; but motions him 'tis vain,
And merely odds another throb to pain.
He Hasp« the hand that pang which would assuage,
And sadly smiles his thanks to that dark page
Who nothing fears, nor feels, nor heeds, nor sees,
Sate that damp brow which rests upon his knees;
.4"' iliai pale aspect, where the eye, though dim,
Hrid ill the light that shone on earth for him!
^Tlie foe arrives, who long had search'd the field,
Jbetr words though faint were many—from the tone Their import those who heard could judge alone; from this, you might have deem'd young Kaled's
Jlore near than Lara's, by his voice and breath;
''Bui sasping heev'd the breath that Lara drew,
i'h 'he cold grasp! but feels, and feels in vain, '« that faint throb which answers not again.
It beats!' Away, thou dreamer! he is gone! t once tea» Lara which thou look'sl upon.
'He gaz'd, as if not yet had pass'd away The haughty spirit ofthat humble clay; And those around have rous'd him from his trance, But cannot tear from thence his fixed glance; And when, in raising him from where he bore Within his arms the form that felt no more, ie saw the head his breast would still sustain, [loll down, like earth to earth, upon the plain! iie did not dash himself thereby; nor tear The glossy tendrils of his raven hair, 3ut strove to stand and gaze; bul reel'd and fell, 'caree breathing more than thai he lov'd so well! Then that He lov'd! Oh! never yet beneath The breast of Man such trusty love may brealhe! That trying moment hath at unce reveal'd The secret, long and yet bul half-conceal'd; [n baring to revive that lifeless breast, [is grief seem'd ended, but the sex confest! And life rcturn'd, and Kaled fell no shnme— What now to her was Womanhood or Fame Î"
We must stop here ;—but the whole sequel of the poem is written with equal vigour and Feeling; and may be put in competition with any thing that poetry has ever produced, in point either of pathos or energy.
The Siege Of Corinth is next in the order of time; and though written, perhaps, with too visible a striving after effect, and riot very well harmonised in all its parts, we cannot help regarding it as a magnificent composition. There is less misanthropy in it than in any of the rest; and the interest is made up of alternate representations of soft and solemn scenes and emotions—and of the tumult, and terrors, and intoxication of war. These opposite pictures are perhaps too violently contrasted, and, in some parts, too harshly coloured; but they are in general exquisitely designed, and executed with the utmost spirit and energy. What, for instance, can be finer than the following nightpiece? The renegade had left his tent in moody musing, the night before the final assault on the Christian Avails.
'"Tie midnight! On ihe mountain's brown
The transition to the bustle and fury of tue morning muster, as well as Ihe moving picture of the barbaric host, is equally admirable.