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And saw around me the wide field revive
With all her reckless birds upon the wing,
Shortly after this his Lordship, besides some minor pieces, successively produced the «Prisoner of Chillon,» a Manfred,» and the «Lament of Tasso.» It may not be amiss to quote here a curious passage of the celebrated Goethe, as shewing how strongly Lord Byron was identified with his heroes, when such a man could believe and publish such ridiculous scandal as the personal adventure which he attributes to the noble bard.
a The tragedy of Manfred, by Lord Byron,” says
the distinguished German,«is a most singular performance, and one which concerns me nearly; this wonderful and ingenious poet has taken possession of my Faust, and hypochondriacally drawn from it the most singular nutriment; he has employed the means in it which suit his object in his particular manner, so that no one thing remains the same; and, on this account, I cannot sufficiently admire his ability. The recast is so peculiar, that a highly interesting lecture might be given on its resemblance and want of resemblance to its models though I cannot deny that the gloomy fervour of a rich
and endless despair becomes at last wearisome to us. However the displeasure which we may feel is always connected with admiration and esteem. The very quintessence of the sentiments and passions, which assist in constituting the most singular talent for selfcommentary ever known, is contained in this tragedy.
« The life and poetical character of Lord Byron can hardly be fairly estimated. Yet he has often enough avowed the source of his torments; he has repeatedly pourtrayed it, but hardly any one sympathises with the insupportable pain with which he is incessantly struggling. Properly speaking, he is continually pursued by the ghosts of two females, who play great parts in the above-mentioned tragedy, the one under the name of Astarte, the other without figure or visibility, merely a voice.
«The following account is given of the horrible adventure which he had with the former :- When a young, bold, and highly attractive personage, he gained the favour of a Florentine lady. The husband discovered this, and murdered his wife, but the murderer was found dead in the street the same night, under circumstances which did not admit of attaching surprise to any one.' Lord Byron fled from Florence, and seems to drag spectres after him ever since! This strange incident receives a high degree of probability from innumerable allusions in his poem; as, for instance, in his application of the story of Pausanius to himself. What a wounded heart must the poet have who selects from antiquity such an event, and applies it to himself, and loads his tragic resemblance with it!»
It may be added, and what a marvellous credulity must the good Goethe have given himself up to, in this instance, to distort the application of such an event to Lord Byron!!!
It was during his residence in Italy that Byron wrote the fourth and last canto of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, which abounds in passages of the most tender feeling and the most exquisite taste. This was followed by the elegant and playful poem of « Beppo,» and the wild and romantic one of Mazeppa next appeared.
It was beneath the genial sky of Italy, also, that he planned the extraordinary and daring poem of Don Juan, a work which evinces the same vigorous imagination and poetical excellence; the same sportiveness with all that our fears, our natures, or our prejudices, have rendered sacred. It is not the object just now to
criticise the merits of Don Juan as a poetical production, but merely to observe that, from many passages in this poem, it is evident that Lord Byron's domestic differences still hung heavily on his heart; and that, through the veil of misanthropic disgust and affected gaiety, his attachment to his native land, and even to those ties which once endeared him to it, but the
apparent objects of his contempt, is clearly to be traced. This may appear a bold position, to those who do not perceive that his very satire on the socialities of life originated rather in being excluded from their enjoyment than in disgust; and that his ridicule of the observances of society, and of the marriage tie in particular, is not so much the result of conviction, as it seems intended to convey an idea of his own indifference to domestic happiness, to those whom he once held most dear. He entirely devotes the twelve first stanzas of the third canto to this object, and the expression of his own private feelings. The two following are selected as proofs :
ashamed of being so very fond, They sometimes also get a little tired, (But that, of course, is rare) and then despond:
The same things cannot always be admired, Yet 't is eso nominated in the bond,
That both are tied till one shall have expired. Sad thought! to lose the spouse that was adorning Our days, and put one's servants into mourning.
There's doubtless something in domestic doings,
Which forms, in fact, true love's antithesis;
But only give a bust of marriages;
There's nothing wrong in a connubial kiss :
No one who has read his beautiful «Fare thee well,» and contrasts the sentiments therein expressed with the above quotations, can, I think, view the latter in any other light than that in which I have endeavoured to place them.
The manner in which Don Juan was presented to the world was certainly one of the most curious, if not mysterious, of all things which was ever connected with the publication of a performance whether in poetry or prose. It was advertised in a most singular way, sold by the agents of Lord Byron's bookseller, Mr Murray, all over the country, but unacknowledged by him as his pro. perty, so that, nominally speaking, it was published by nobody. It bore merely the name of its highly respectable printer, Mr Thomas Davison, and the matter proved it could only have been spun from one brain. The work was republished by other booksellers at an infinitely reduced price, yet the rightful proprietor saw