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expressed in any formal manner, his admiration of their beauty. His genius seemed to be, more than that of any other modern poet, akin to that peculiar genius which appears to have been diffused among all the poets and artists of ancient Greece; and in whose spirit, above all its other wonders, the great specimens of sculpture seem to have been conceived and executed.
Modern poets, in general, delight in a full assemblage of persons and ideas, in images, and in a rich variety of effect, something not far dissimilar from which is found and admired in the productions of painters. Byron alone seems to be satisfied with singleness, simplicity, and unity. He shares what some consider to be the disadvantages of sculpture, but which we conceive to be in no small degree the sources of that power, which, unrivalled by any other productions, save only those of the poet, breathes from the inimitable monuments of the severest of the arts. His creations, whether of beauty or of strength, are all simple creations. He requires no grouping to give effect to his favourites, or to
His heroines are solitary symbols of loveliness, which need po foil; his heroes stand alone as upon marble pedestals, displaying the naked power of passion, in the wrapped-up and reposing energy of grief. The artist who would illustrate, as it is called, the works of any of our other poets, must borrow the
tell his story.
mimic splendours of the pencil. He who would transfer into another vehicle the spirit of Byron, must pour the liquid metal, or hew the stubborn rock. What he loses in ease he will gain in power. (See stanzas XLVIII to LIII; and also those that follow on Rome.) The limits of a preface will not permit me to extend my quotations from this poem much further, I must therefore briefly refer the reader to the fine apostrophe to love, stanza CXXI, and following; I cannot, however, omit the description of the dying gladiator, which, in my opinion, is unsurpassingly beautiful :
« I see before me the gladiator lie:
The arena swims around him-he is gone,
The exquisitely pathetic stanzas from CLxvII tO CLXXIII, on the death of the amiable and accomplished Princess Charlotte of England, and those from clxxvii to the end of the poem, can never be perused without exciting the highest emotion and admiration.
There are three only among the great poets of snodern times, who have chosen to depict, in their full shape and vigour, those agonies to which great and meditative intellects are, in the present progress of human history, exposed by the eternal recurrence of a deep and discontented scepticism. But there is only one who has dared to represent himself as the victim of these nameless and undefinable sufferings. Goëthe chose for his doubts and his darkness the terrible disguise of the mysterious Faustus. Schiller, with still greater boldness, planted the same anguish in the restless, haughty, heroic Wallenstein. But Byron sought no external symbol in which to embody the inquietudes of his soul. He took the world and all that it inherits for his arena and his spectators; and he displayed himself before their gaze, wrestling unceasingly and ineffectually with the demon that tormented him. At times there is something mournful and depressing in his scepticism; but oftener it is of a high and solemn character, approaching to the very verge of a confiding faith. Whatever the poet may believe, we his readers always feel ourselves too much ennobled and elevated even by his melancholy, not to be confirmed in our own belief by the very doubts so majestically conceived and uttered. His scepticism, if ever it approaches to a creed, carries with it its refutation in its own grandeur. There is neither philosophy nor religion in those bitter taunts which have been cruelly thrown out, from many quarters, against those moods of mind which are involuntary, and will not pass away;—through his gloom there are frequent flashes of illumination;—and the sublime sadness, which to him is breathed from the mysteries of mortal existence, is always joined with a longing after immortality, and expressed in language that is itself divine.
I have endeavoured to indicate some of what appear to me the most striking beauties of Childe Harold, but to speak of its plan it certainly required the magic of a Byron's verse to carry it through. « No species of writing,” says Dr Hawkesworth, «affords so general entertainment as the relation of events;» and of events this amazing work is utterly destitute: it is from first to last a tissue of dark and melancholy reminiscences, of reveries and reflections, arising from an unequalled keenness of local emotion-often eccentric, yet ever vigorous, and characterised by a painful approximation to the darkest reality of mental suffering and endurance. These, with much splendid description of Europe's most delightful scenery, and much developement of the spirits' most convulsed elements in their wildest «war and chaos,» are the sole materials of Harold.
The principal fault of the poetical fragment called the Giaour is in the great obscurity in which the author has thought fit, not unfrequently, to envelope his meaning. It contains some highly-wrought poetry, particuJarly the lines from 381 to 384, vol. 3. The simile on Greece, which happily is now no longer applicable, has excited general admiration. The Bride of Abydos is, in every respect, superior to the Giaour, though, in point of diction, it has been, perhaps, less warmly admired.
'. The Corsair has been almost universally allowed to be the most finished and the most beautiful of Byron's productions. Even this poem, however, is liable to one objection. This objection is, that Conrad is a personage so eccentric, so oddly composed of discordant qualities, and so remote from common nature, that it is difficult to sympathize in his feelings, at the same time that the affinity of his character to those of the Giaour and Childe Harold, is so marked as to do away the merit, whatever it may be, of singularity, and to give him the character of a mere copy from a capricious original. On the latter part of this objection, it must be remarked, that the Giaour, Conrad, and Lara, may, very probably, have been intended by the author to be identical with Childe Harold; or, in other words, that the materials of which these tales were composed, were originally collected for the purpose of being wrought into a series