Page images
PDF
[graphic]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

THE

POETICAL WORKS

OF

LORD BYRON.

A ROMAUNT.

L'urriven est uoe espece de llvre, dont on n'a lu que la premiere page quand on n'a vu que son pays. J'en si feuiliete un asses grand nombre, que j'ai trouve egalement mauvaises. Cet examen ne m'a point etc" tnfructueux. Je haissals ma patrie. Toutes les impertinences des peuples divers, parmi lesquels j'ai vecu, m'ont reconcile avec elle Quand je n'aurais tire d'autre benefice de mes voyages que celui-ld, je n'en regretterais ni les frals ni les fatigues. La Cosuofolith. 1

PREFACE

[TO THX FIRST AND SECOND CANTOs].

Thi following poem was written, for the most part, sniist the scenes which it attempts to describe. It *M begun in Albania; and the parts relative to Spam and Portugal were composed from the author's "iwratiom in those countries. a Thus much it may * necessary to state for the correctness of the descriptions. The scenes attempted to be sketched are in Spain, Portugal, Epirus, Acarnania, and Greece. Twre, for the present, the poem stops: its reception •31 determine whether the author may venture to conduct his readers to the capital of the East, tarough Ionia and Phrygia: these two Cantos are oerelv experimental.

A fictitious character is Introduced for the sake of siinz some connection to the piece; which, however, snaies no pretensions to regularity. It has been '>?Sested to me by friends, on whose opinions I set a iii?h value, that in this fictitious character, "Childe Harold," I may incur the suspicion of having insome real personage: this I beg leave, once frail, to disclaim—Harold is the child of imaginOko, for the purpose I have stated. In some very tIWal particulars, and those merely local, there *3ht be grounds for such a notion; but In the main Fiats, I should hope, none whatever.

It is almost superfluous to mention that the ap. KSatton "Childe," as " Childe Waters," "Childe

'[Par M. lie Monthron, Paris. 1798. Lord Byron someJ.wre calli It " an amusing little volume, full of French sinwrej."]

Childers," &C, is used as more consonant with the old structure of versification which I have adopted. The "Good Night," in the beginning of the first canto, was suggested by "Lord Maxwell's Good Night," In the Border Minstrelsy, edited by Mr. Scott

With the different poems which have been published on Spanish subjects, there may be found some slight coincidence in the first part, which treats of the Peninsula, but it can only be casual; as, with the exception of a few concluding stanzas, the whole of this poem was written in the Levant

The stanza of Spenser, according to one of our most successful poets, admits of every variety. I>r. Beattie makes the following observation : — " Not long ago, I began a poem in the style and stanza of Spenser, in which I propose to give full scope to my inclination, and be either droll or pathetic, descriptive or sentimental, tender or satirical, as the humour strikes me; for, if I mistake not, the measure which I have adopted admits equally of all these kinds of composition."' — Strengthened in my opinion by such authority, and by the example of some in the highest order of Italian poets, I shall make no apology for attempts at similar variations in the following composition; satisfied that, if they are unsuccessful, their failure must be in the execution, rather than in the design, sanctioned by the practice of Ariosto, Thomson, and Beattie. London, February, 1812.

* P'Bvron,Joannlni in Albania Begun Oct.Slst, 1B09. Concluded Canto 2d. Smyrna, March 28th, 1810. Byron."—MS.] a Beattie's Letters.

A 3

ADDITION TO THE PREFACE.

I Have now waited till almost all our periodical journals have distributed their usual portion of criticism. To the justice of the generality of their criticisms I have nothing to object: it would ill become me to quarrel with their very slight degree of censure, when, perhaps, If they had been less kind they had been more candid. Returning, therefore, to all and each my best thanks for their liberality, on one point alone shall I venture an observation. Amongst the many objections justly urged to the very indifferent character of the "vagrant Childe" (whom, notwithstanding many hints to the contrary, I still maintain to be a fictitious personage), it has been stated, that, besides the anachronism, he is very unknightly, as the times of the Knights were times of Love, Honour, and so forth. Now, it so happens that the good old times, when "l'amour du bon vieux tems, l'amour antique" flourished, were the most profligate of all possible centuries. Those who have any doubts on this subject may consult Salnte-Palaye, pnttim, and more particularly vol. 11. p. 69.' The vows of chivalry were no better kept than any other vows whatsoever j and the songs of the Troubadours were not more decent, and certainly were much less refined, than those of Ovid. The "Cours d'amour, parlemens d'amour, ou de courtcsie et dc gentilesse" had much more of love than of courtesy or gentleness. See Roland on the same subject with Sainte-Palaye. Whatever other objection may be urged to that most unamiabie personage Childe Harold, he was so far perfectly knightly in his attributes—"No waiter, but a knight templar."« By the by, I fear that Sir Trlstrem and Sir Lancelot were no better than they should be, although very poetical personages and true knights "sans pcur," though not "sans reproche." If the story of the Institution of the "Garter" be not a fable, the knights of that order have for several centuries borne the badge of a Countess of Salisbury, of indifferent memory. So much for chivalry. Burke need not have regretted that its days arc over, though Marie-Antoinette was quite as chaste as most of those in whose honour lances were shivered, and knights unhorsed.

Before the days of Bayard, and down to those of Sir Joseph Banks (the most chaste and celebrated of ancient and modem times), few exceptions will be found to this statement; and I fear a little investigation will teach us not to regret these monstrous mummeries of the middle ages.

I now leave " Childe Harold" to live his day, such

1 [" Qu'on lise dans l'Auteur du roman de Gerard dp Roussillon en Provencal, les details tres-circonstancips dans lesqnels il entre Bur la, reception faite par le Comte Gerard a I'amtiwadeur du roi Charles; on y verra des partirularttes sinzulicres, qui donnpnt une strange idde des rnccurs pt dp la polltessc de ce* ticcles. aussl corrompus qu'ignorans." — .Wmotres lur i Ancienne ChevaUrU, par M. de la Curne de Saintc-Palaye, Parts, 1781, loc. «7.J

* The Rovers, or the Double Arrangement — fBv Canning and Frcre; first published in the Anti-jacobin, orWeekly Examiner.]

3 Tin one of his early poems — '* Childish Recollections," Lord Byron compares himself to the Athenian misanthrope,

of whose bitter a] 1-1 - -

no authentic part

pophthegms many are upon record, though iculars of his life nave come down to us;

"Weary of love, of life, devoured with spleen, 1 rest a perfect Timon, not nineteen," &c.3

as he is; It had been more agreeable, and certainly raorc easy, to have drawn an amiable character. It had been easy to varnish over his faults, to make him do more and express less; but he never was intended as an example, further than to show, that early perversion of mind and morals leads to satiety of past pleasures and disappointment in new ones, and that even the beauties of nature, and the stimulus of travel (except ambition, the most powerful of all excitements), arc lost on a soul so constituted, or rather misdirected. Had I proceeded with the poem, this character would have deepened as he drew to the close; for the outline which I once meant to fill up for him was, with some exceptions, the sketch of a modern Timon ', perhaps a poetical Zeluco. * London, 1813.

TO IANTHE.5

Not in those climes where I have late been straying, Though Beauty long hath there been matchless deem'd j

Not in those visions to the heart displaying
Fonns which it sighs but to have only dream'd,
Hath aught like thee In truth or fancy seem'd:
Nor, having seen thee, shall I vainly seek
To paint those charms which varied as they beam'd—
To such as see thee not my words were weak;
To those who gaze on thee what language could they
speak?

Ah! may'st thou ever be what now thou art,
Nor unbeseem the promise of thy spring.
As fair in form, as warm yet pure In heart,
Love's image upon earth without his wing,
And guileless beyond Hope's imagining!
And surely she who now so fondly rears
Thy youth, In thee, thus hourly brightening,
Beholds the rainbow of her future years,
Before whose heavonly hues all sorrow disappears.

Young Peri ' of the West! — t is well for me
My years already doubly number thine j
My loveless eye unmoved may gaze on thee,
And safely view thy ripening beauties shine;
Happy, I ne'er shall see them In decline;
Happier, that while all younger hearts shall bleed,
Mine shall escape the doom thine eyes assign
To those whose admiration shall succeed, [decreed.
But mix'd with pangs to Love's even loveliest hours

* fit was Dr. Moore's object, In this powerful romance (now unjustly neglected), to trace the fatal effects resulting from a fond mother's unconditional compliance with the humours and passions of an only child. With high advantages of person, birth, fortune, and ability, Zeluco Is n?presented as miserable, through every scene of life, owing to the spirit of unbridled self-indulgence thus pampered in in

fancyj
» (The Lwhr

ward fifth Earl of Oxford (now Lady Charlotte Bacon>, In the

lie Lady Charlotte Harley, second daughter of Ed.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

Oh: let that eye, which, wild as the Gazelle's,1 Sow brightly bold or beautifully shy, Wins as it wanders, dazzles where it dwells, Glance o'er this page, nor to my verse deny That smile for which my breast might vainly sigh, Could I to thee be ever more than friend: This much, dear maid, accord; nor question why To one so young my strain I would commend, Uit bid me with my wreath one matchless lily blend.

Such is thy name with this my verse entwined;

And long as kinder eyes a look shall cast

On Harold's page, Ianthe's here enshrined

Shall thus be first beheld, forgotten last:

My days once number'd, should this homage past

Attract thy fairy fingers near the lyre

Of him who hail'd thee, loveliest as thou wast,

Such is the most my memory may desire;

more than Hope can claim, could Friendship less require?

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Whilome in Albion's Isle there dwelt a youth,
Who ne in virtue's ways did take delight;
But spent his days in riot most uncouth,
And vex'd with mirth the drowsy ear of Night.
Ah me! in sooth he was a shameless wight,
Sore given to revel and ungodly glee;
Few earthly things found favour in his sight
Save concubines and carnal companie,
And flaunting wassail era of high and low degree.

A spedes of the antelope. "You have the eyes of a is considered all over the East as the greatest com. eUiDMit that can be paid to a woman.]

i THe little village of Castri stands partly on the site of Delphi. Along the path of the mountain, from Chrysso, are tee remains of sepulchres hewn in and from the rock- "One," tod the guide, "of a king who broke his neck hunting." His kcjsety had certainly chosen the fittest spot for such an sctMVreraent- A little above Castri is a cave, supposed the t Frutian, of immense depth ; the upper part of it Is paved, and Bom a cowhouse. On the other side of Castri stands a Greek some way above which is the cleft In the rock, a range of caverns difficult of ascent, and apparently kg to the interior of the mountain; probably to the Co.

redan" Cavern mentioned by Pausanias. From this part descmd the fountain anil the "Dews of Castnlic." — [" We were sprinkled," says Mr. Hobhouse, "with the spray of the nacsorta! rill, and here. If any where, should have felt the rion : we drank deep, too, of the spring ; but — - for myself)—without feeling sensible of any

III.

Chllde Harold 4 was he hight:—but whence his name And lineage long, it suits me not to say; Suffice it, that perchance they were of fame, And had been glorious in another day: But one sad losel soils a name for aye, However mighty In the olden time j Nor all that heralds rake from cofBn'd clay, Nor florid prose, nor honeyed lies of rhyme, Can blazon evil deeds, or consecrate a crime.

IV.

Childe Harold bask'd him In the noontide sun, Disporting there like any other fly; Nor deem'd before his little day was done One blast might chill him into misery. But long ere scarce a third of his pass'd by, Worse than adversity the Childe befell j He felt the fulness of satiety i Then loathed he in his native land to dwell, Which seem'd to him more lone than Eremite's sad cell. V.

For he through Sin's long labyrinth had run, Nor made atonement when he did amiss, Had slgh'd to many though he loved but one And that loved one, alas I could ne'er be his. Ah, happy she I to 'scape from him whose kiss Had been pollution unto aught so chaste; Who soon had left her charms for vulgar bliss, And spoll'd her goodly lands to gild his waste, Nor calm domestic peace had ever deign'd to taste.

VI.

And now Childe Harold was sore sick at heart, And from his fellow bacchanals would flee; "V Is said, at times the sullen tear would start, But Pride congcal'd the drop within his ee: Apart he stalk'd in joyless reverie, And from his native land resolved to go, And visit scorching climes beyond the sea; With pleasure drugg'd, he almost long'd for woe, And e'en for change of scene would seek the shades below. »

VII.

The Childe departed from his father's hall: It was a vast and venerable pile; So old, it seemed only not to fall, Yet strength was pillar'd in each massy aisle. Monastic dome! condemn'd to uses vile! Where Superstition ohee had made her den Now Paphian girls were known to sing and smile j And monks might deem their time was come agen, If ancient tales say true, nor wrong these holy men.

> [This stama is not in the original MS.] » ["Childe Buron."_MS.]

9 [In these stanzas, and Indeed throughout his works, we must not accept too literally Lord Byron*s testimony against himself — he took a morbid pleasure in darkening every shadow of his self-portraiture. His interior at Newstead had, no doubt, been, in some points, loose and Irregular enough; but it certainly never exhibited any thing of the profuse and Satanic luxury which the language in the text might seem to indicate. In fact, the narrowness of his means at the time the verses refer to would alone have precluded this. His household economy, while he remained at the abbey. Is known to have been conducted on a very moderate scale; and, besides, his usual companions, though far from being averse to convivial indulpcncfs, were not only, as Mr. Moore says, "of habits and tastes too intellectual for mere vulgar debauchery," but assuredly, quite Incapable of playing the parts of flatterers and parasites.]

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »