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LONDON CRITICAL JOURNAL.
Art. I.–Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. Canto the Third. By
Lord Byron. 8vo. pp. 79. Murray. London, 1816. THERE
HERE are two things which discover the stinted resources of an author—the sameness of his efforts on the ground on which his fame was first purchased, and the desertion of his genius in
every adventure beyond it. Having gone quite through his round of dark, portentous, and preposterous characters, Lord Byron, beginning again with that with which he first set out, invites us to undertake another journey with him and his old companion, that we may hear what they have further to say in disparagement of good order and human happiness, and the sacred right of living at large, and doing what one lists. There has since issued from the press a little brood of minor poems, beginning with the Prisoner of Chillon, in which lastmentioned production we see something of reclaimed nature and the pathos of real sensibility; but it would seem as if
ord Byron was at home only in his own menagerie, out of the bounds of which his genius could find no sufficient excite ment to raise it above insipidity and languor. In the poem at the head of this article, the vagrant sentimentalist, whose feelings and disgusts are esteemed by the poet so worthy of being recorded, and who follows Lord Byron as a shadow does the substance, is introduced to us as a tourist through that line of country in which Englishmen of all denominations and callings have for these last two years, since the continent has been open to us, and for a century preceding the revolutionary war, been rambling. The descriptive powers of the poet have given a new interest to many of the scenes which
VOL. IX. NO. XVII.
meet the eye in this beaten track; and the painting in these descriptions would be often delightful
, if the colours had been free from that foul admixture with which the personal character of the Childe has adulterated them. His impertinence is every where; it mixes itself with every scene; the glassy lake, the green valley, the azure distance, and the hoary pile, have all their peace disturbed by the repinings of a moody profligate, who, being destitute of the social principle, supposes himself in love with solitude, and mistakes his quarrel with man whom he has injured, and therefore hates, for a delight in the works of God, whom he has neither loved nor known. There is a species of misanthropy which great poets have well understood, and which excites our commiseration and respect, although we are the objects of its scorn. We can bear to be the objects of that harmless aversion which is the too frequent result of excess even on the virtuous side, and is wont to be produced by the recoil of too sanguine expectations and ill-requited benevolence; but to be told by an insolent renegade from society, by one who is a professed disciple of Epicurus, and whom the poet represents as the “ outlaw of his own dark mind,” that he looks upon us all with sovereign contempt; that he “ holds little in common with us ;" that he cannot « submit his thoughts to others;" that he has a life within himself to breathe without mankind,” and, oh exquisite effrontery! that “ disgust has weaned his heart from all worldlings,” is too provoking patiently to endure.
The Canto now published is in some parts scarcely intelligible and one of the difficulties we have had to encounter has been to ascertain when Lord Byron speaks in his own character, and when he is the organ of the fictitious character with which he seems so strangely enamoured. It is pretty evident, however, that the poet's own circumstances are first introduced to us. The first line of the poem hobbles terribly.
“Is thy face like thy mother's, my fair child!” is a line which, if this poem should go down to a distant age, some sagacious critic, ignorant of the contempt in which our admired versifiers of the present day hold all the demands of the car, may conjecture to have been framed after the manner of the epic poets of remoter antiquity, in imitation of the thing described, and to suggest to the mind the vacillating gait of infancy. But we who are in the secret know better ; we boast a school of versifiers, who have ingeniously discovered that cadence, and metre, and musical arrangement, are among the false ornaments and illegitimate arts of poetry.
Into the feelings of Lord Byron as a father we do not enter :