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the world is at an end, what moral or warning purpose can eternal tortures answer?"
The doctrine of the final reconciliation of good and evil is proclaimed in '' Heaven and Earth '':
"The eternal will
Unto himself all times, all things;
And, gather'd under his almighty wings,
Her Eden in an endless paradise,
Byron's literary affiliations and his relation to contemporary literature in England are as curious and apparently as paradoxical as most other things in his life and opinions. His sources are largely in the eighteenth century both in its revolutionary and its pre-revolutionary periods; and he professed a profound admiration for the poetry of Pope, whose genius and fame he vigorously defended in his generation. This profession was doubtless genuine enough so far as his critical and conscious judgment was concerned. But the real Byron, the inspired Byron, in his own poetry was in almost everything the very opposite of Pope. Where Pope was epigrammatic and balanced and restrained and polished and shining with a merely dry light, Byron was abounding, unequal, negligent, and lurid with the red flames of elemental passion. In satire like " The English Bards " and the " Hints from Horace" Byron imitated Pope as well as his intractable temperament would allow; and doubtless his early study of Pope was not without strong influence (though inconsiderable in comparison with that of his Italian models) in the development of his later and highly original vein of mordant and cynical and audacious satire in " Don Juan." But Byron, if he belonged to any school at all, was one of the Romantics. Romanticism as opposed to classicism characterizes the great bulk of his work. Ascertain strain of sardonic or purposely prosaic realism which now and then crops out in his verse is decidedly non-romantic, it is true, and his romanticism was of a very different type from that of Shelley and Keats. To Scott and in some measure to Coleridge he owes more. The idea and the movement of his romantic verse-tales, as literary forms, are partly modelled upon Scott, and to Scott and to Coleridge he was indebted for the free four-stress verse employed in several of them. With " Christabel " he had early become acquainted, —indeed long before its publication; and it strongly caught his fancy. There are touches of Coleridgean romanticism in the verse of his middle period, as in the following lines from "The Siege of Corinth,"— although Byron protested that they were written before he had heard '' Christabel'' recited:
"There he sate all heavily,
He lifted his head, and he look'd on the sea,
To the Elizabethan romanticists he owes little directly. Indebtedness to Marlowe he disavowed. Shakespere he knew as all the great modern poets know him; but he quotes Falstaff and " Henry IV" perhaps quite as often as the great tragedies. Of the spirit and system of the Elizabethan drama he disapproved. And from Spenser he takes only the stanza and some of the sporadic archaisms of "Childe Harold." Byron affected originality and independence, but he was essentially original and independent. "Childe Harold " and " Don Juan" are new types of poetry,—new at least in English. The former is in some measure romantic. It appeals in the romantic manner to the sense of novelty and wonder, to the spirit of adventure, and to the historical and topographical imagination; the verse-tales that followed are even more romantic and remote from realism; "Don Juan," however, can scarcely be called romantic in manner more than classical or realistic; it is suigeneris, and the doubtful and luxuriant flower of that literary cosmopolitanism towards which the circumstances of his life turned Byron's genius in his later years.
Of contemporary poets and poetry, even before the full development of his cosmopolitan ideas, and largely in consequence of his fanatical admiration for Pope, the prose and critical Byron entertained a low opinion.
"With regard to poetry in general," he writes to Murray in 1817, "I am convinced, the more I think of it, that he [Moore] and all of us—Scott, Southey, Wordsworth, Moore, Campbell, I,— are all in the wrong, one as much as another; that we are upon a wrong revolutionary poetical system, or systems, not worth a damn in itself, and from which none but Rogers and Crabbe are free; and that the present and next generations will finally be of this opinion. I am more confirmed in this by having lately gone over some of our classics, particularly Pope, whom I tried in this way,—I took Moore's poems and my own and some others, and went over them side by side with Pope's, and I was really astonished (I ought not to have been so) and mortified at the ineffable distance in point of sense, learning, effect, and even imagination, passion, and invention, between the little Queen Anne's man and us of the Lower Empire. Depend upon it, it is all Horace then and Claudian now among us; and if I had to begin again, I would mould myself accordingly."1 ,
Dis aliter visum: the influence of the time-spirit was too strong for him, and Byron became what he was in spite of himself.
1 Compare Shelley's penetrating comment upon his opinions in 1821 after Byron had come under the additional influence of Italian classicism: "We talked a great deal of poetry and such matters last night ; and, as usual, differed—and I think more than ever. He affects to patronise a system of criticism fit only for the production of mediocrity; and, although all his finer poems and passages have been produced in defiance of this system, yet I recognise the pernicious effects of it in the Doge of Venice [' Marino Fallero']; and it will cramp and limit his future efforts, however great they may be, unless he gets rid of it."
Byron's motives and methods, and his conception and ideal of poetry, are not easily defined. There are here as everywhere the two sides of Byron, often in apparent contradiction. The love of fame doubtless was a constant motive with him.
"Oh Fame! thou goddess of my heart;
On him who gains thy praise,
Consumed in Glory's blaze,"
he cries in a copy of youthful verses written at Harrow. And throughout his letters his eagerness for fame is evident, however masked by the affectation of indifference. But his love of fame did not draw him out of his orbit. His independence and his energy of will were greater motives. In 1814 after the early success of the first part of "Childe Harold," when for the moment he feared that his vein was exhausted, he writes to Moore:
"I have had my day, and there's an end. The utmost I expect, or even wish, is to have it said in the Biographia Britannica that I might perhaps have been a poet had I gone on and amended. My great comfort is that the temporary celebrity I have wrung from the world has been in the very teeth of all opinions and prejudices. I have flattered no ruling powers; I have never concealed a single thought that tempted me. They can't say I have truckled to the times, nor to popular topics. ..."
It was not the contemplative life, in which Wordsworth's ideal was placed, which could attract Byron; nor the aesthetic life for which Keats yearned; nor