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ON THE DEATH OF THE RIGHT HON. R. B. SHERIDAN.1
mtlX AT D1U »Y-LANE THEATRI. •
Whin the last sunshine of expiring day
In summer's twilight weeps itself away,
Who hath not felt the softness of the hour
Sink on the heart, as dew along the flower T
With a pure feeling which absorbs and awes
While Nature makes that melancholy pause,
Her breathing moment on the bridge where Time
Of light and darkness forms an arch sublime.
Who hath not shared that calm, so still and deep,
The voiceless thought which would not speak but weep,
A holy concord—and a bright regret,
A glorious sympathy with Suns that set?
Tl» not harsh sorrow—but a tenderer woe,
Xarneless, but dear to gentle hearts below,
Felt without bitterness — but full and clear,
A sweet dejection—a transparent tear,
Unraix'd with worldly grief or selfish stain.
Shed without shame—and secret without pain.
Even as the tenderness that hour instils When Summer's day declines along the hills, So feels the fulness of our heart and eyes When all of Genius which can perish dies. A mighty Spirit is eclipsed—a Power Hath pass'd from day to darkness — to whose hour Of light no likeness is bequeath'd—no name, Focus at once of all the rays of Fame I The flash of Wit—the bright Intelligence, The beam of Song — the blaze of Eloquence, Set with their Sun—but still have left behind The enduring produce of Immortal Mind; Fruits of a genial mom, and glorious noon, A deathless part of him who died too soon.
'[Mr. Sheridan died the 7th of July. 1816, and this monody wu written at Diodati on the 17th, at the request of Mr. Douglas Kinnalrd. "1 did as well a* 1 could," says Lord Byron, " but where I have not my choice, I pretend to answer for nothing." A proof-sheet of the poem, with the words ■* by request of a friend" in the titlepage, having reached htm, — "I request you," he says, " to expunge that lame, unless you please to add, ' by a person of ouallty,' or - or* wit and humour.' It Is sad trash, and must nave been done to make it ridiculous."]
1 [Sheridan's own monody on Carrick was spoken from the ume boards, by Mrs. Yates, In March, 1779. "One day." •ay* Lord Byron, " I saw turn take It up. He lighted upon th* dedication to the Dowager I*ody Spencer. On seeing it, he flew into a rage and exclaimed,' that it must be a forgery, as he had never dedicated anything of his to such a d—d canting,' Sec. &c. — and so he wont on for half an hour abusing his own dedication, or at least the object of it. If all writers were equally sincere, it would be ludicrous." — Byron Diary, i-si.j • [Sec Fox, Burke, and Pitt's eulogy on Mr. Sheridan's : - - ■ h on the charges exhibited against Mr. Hastings in the House of Commons. Mr. Pitt entreated the House to adjourn, to give time for a calmer consideration of the question than could then occur after the Immediate effect of that oration— "Before ray departure from England," says Gibbon, " I was present at the auguit spectacle ofMr. Hastings's trial in Westminster Hall. It is not my province to absolve or condemn the governor of India; but Mr. Sheridan's eloquence demanded my applause; nor could I hear without emotion the personal compliment which he paid me in the presence of the British nation. This display of genius biased four successive days," Ax. On being asked by a brother Whig, at the conclusion of the speech, how he came to compliment
But small that portion of the wondrous whole.
These sparkling segments of that circling soul,
Which all embraced—and lighten'd over all.
To cheer—to pierce—to please—or to appal.
From the charm'd council to the festive board,
Of human feelings the unbounded lord;
In whose acclaim the loftiest voices vied, [pride.
The praised — the proud—who made his praise their
When the loud cry of trampled Hlndostan »
Arose to Heaven in her appeal from man.
His was the thunder—his the avenging rod,
The wrath — the delegated voice of God!
Which shook the nations through his lips — and blazed
Till vanquish'd senates trembled as they praised.'
And here, oh ! here, where yet all young and warm, The gay creations of his spirit charm, The matchless dialogue—the deathless wit, Which knew not what It was to intermit; The glowing portraits, fresh from life, that bring Home to our hearts the truth from which they spring; These wondrous beings of his fancy, wrought To fulness by the flat of his thought. Here in their first abode you still may meet. Bright with the hues of his Promethean heat; A halo of the light of other days, Which still the splendour of its orb betrays.
But should there be to whom the fatal blight Of failing Wisdom yields a base delight, Men who exult when minds of heavenly tone Jar in the music which was bora their own, Still let them pause—ah 1 little do they know That what to them seem'd Vice might be but Woe. *
Gibbon with the epithet " luminous," Sheridan answered, in a half whisper, " I said ' voluminous.' "]
4 T" I heard Sheridan only once, and that briefly; but I liked his voice, his manner, and his wit. He is the only one of them I ever wished to hear at greater length." — Byron Diary, 1821.]
9 [" Qnce I saw Sheridan cry, after a splendid dinner. I had the honour of sitting next him. The occasion of his tears was some observation or other upon the subject of the sturdiness of the Whigs in resisting office and keeping to their principles. Sheridan turned round: —' Sir, it is easy for my Lord G. or Earl G. or Marquis B. or Lord H., with thousands upon thousands a year, 6ome of it cither preirntly derived or inherited in sinecure or acquisitions from the public money, to boast of their patriotism and keep aloof from temptation: but they do not know from what temptation those have kept aloof who had equal pride, at least equal talents, and not unequal passions, and nevertheless knew not In the course of their lives what it was to have a shilling of their own.' And in saying this he wept. I have more than once heard him say,' that he never had a shilling of his own.' To be sure, he contrived to extract a good many of other people's. In 1815, 1 found him at my lawyer's. After mutual greetings, he retired. Before recurring to my own business, I could not help inquiring that of Sheridan. 'Oh,' replied the attorney, 'the usual thing 1 to stave off an action.'— * Weil,' said I,' and what do you mean to do ?'—' Nothing at all for the present,' said he: * would you have us proceed against old Sherry? what would be the use of it ?1 and here he began laughing, and going over Sheridan's good gifts of conversation. Such was Sheridan 1 he could soften an attorney 1 There has been nothing like it since the days of Orpheus."— Byron Diary, 181£l.]
Hard is his fate on -whom the public gaze
Is fix'd for ever to detract or praise;
Repose denies her requiem to his name,
And Folly loves the martyrdom of Fame.
The secret enemy whose sleepless eye
Stands sentinel—accuser—judge—and spy,
The foe—the fool—the jealous—and the vain,
The envious who but breathe in others' pain,
Behold the host! delighting to deprave,
Who track the steps of Glory to the grave,
Watch every fault that daring Genius owes
Half to the ardour which its birth bestows,
Distort the truth, accumulate the lie,
And pile the pyramid of Calumny!
These are his portion—but if join'd to these
Gaunt Poverty should league with deep Disease,
If the high Spirit must forget to soar,
And stoop to strive with Misery at the door, *
To soothe Indignity—and face to face
Meet sordid Rage—and wrestle with Disgrace,
To find in Hope but the renew'd caress,
The serpent-fold of further Faithlessness: —
If such may be the ills which men assail.
What marvel if at last the mightiest fail?
Breasts to whom all the strength of feeling given
Bear hearts electric—charged with fire from Heaven,
Black with the rude collision, inly torn,
By clouds surrounded, and on whirlwinds borne,
Driven o'er the lowering atmosphere that nurst Thoughts which have turn'd to thunder—scorch, and burst.2
But far from us and from our mimic scene Such things should be — If such have ever been; Ours be the gentler wish, the kinder task, To give the tribute Glory need not ask, To mourn the vanish'd beam, and add our mite Of praise in payment of a long delight Ye Orators I whom yet our councils yield, Mourn for the veteran Hero of your field I The worthy rival of the wondrous Three I > Whose words were sparks of Immortality: Ye Bards I to whom the Drama's Muse is dear, He was your Master—emulate him here! Ye men of wit and social eloquence !* He was your brother—bear bis ashes hence 1 While Powers of mind almost of boundless range,1 Complete in kind—as various in their change, While Eloquence—Wit—Poesy—and Mirth, That humbler Harmonist of care on Earth, Survive within our souls—while lives our seme Of pride In Merit's proud pre-eminence, Long shall we seek his likeness—long In vain. And turn to all of him which may remain, Sighing that Nature form'd but one such man. And broke the die—in moulding Sheridan.
Diodatl, July 17. ISIS.
Our life Is twofold: Sleep hath its own world,
1 [This was not fiction. Only a few days before his death, Sheridan wrote thus to Mr. Rogers: —' I am absolutely undone and broken-hearted. They are going to put the carpets out of window, and break into Mrs. S.'s room and take me: 150V. will remove all difficulty. For God's take let me see you I" Mr. Moore was the immediate bearer of the required sum. This was written on the 15th of May. On the 14th of July, Sheridan's remains were deposited in Westminster Abbey,— his pall-bearers being the Duke of Bedford, the Earl of Lauderdale, Earl Mulgrave, the Lord Bishop of London, Lord Holland, and Earl Spencer.]
1 [" Abandon'd by the skies, whose beams hare nurst
Their very thunders, lighten—scorch — and burst."
■ Fox—Titt—Burke. ['* When Fox was asked, which he thought the best speech he had ever heard, he replied, * Sheridan's on the impeachment of Hastings in the House of Commons. When he made it. Fox advised him to speak it over again in Westminster Hall on the trial, as nothing better could be made of the subject: but Sheridan made his new speech as different as possible, and, according to the best fudges, very Inferior, notwithstanding the panegyric of Burke, who exclaimed during the delivery of some passages of it — * There, that is the true style—something between poetry and prose, and better than cither.'"—Byron Diary, (from Lord Holland^ 1821.]
* [" In society I have met Sheridan frequently. He was superb! I have seen him cut up Whttbrcad, quit Madame de Stacl. annihilate Colman, and do little less by s«me others of good fame and ability. I have met him at all places and parties
They do divide our being; they become
A portion of ourselves as of our time,
And look like heralds of eternity;
They pass like spirits of the past,—they speak
Like sibyls of the future; they have power—
The tyranny of pleasure and of pain;
They make us what we were not — what they will,
And shake us with the vision that *s gone by,
The dread of vanish'd shadows—Are they so?
—at Whitehall with the Melbourne*, at the Marquis of Tavistock's, at Koblns's the auctioneers, at Sir Humphry Davy's, at , Sam Rogers's—in short, in most kinds of company, and always found him convivial and delightful."— Byron Diary, 1821.]
5 [" Lord Holland told me a curious piece of sentimentality in Sheridan. The other night we were all delivering oar respective and various opinions upon him and other kommtt marquaru, and mine was this: —' Whatever Sheridan hsi done or chosen to do has been par excellence alwars the htu of Its kind. He has written the best comedy (School ft* Scandal), the best drama (fn my mind, far beyond that St Giles's lampoon, the Beggars' Opera), the best farce (tbr Critic—it is only too good for a farce), and the best addrcsi (Monologue on Garrick), and, to crown all, delivered the very best oration (the famous Begum speech) ever conceived or heard in this country.' Somebody told Sheridan this the ueiday, and, on hearing it. he burst into tears' Poor Briaslej if they were tears of pleasure, I would rather hare said the* few, but most sincere, words, than have written the Dint * made his own celebrated philippic. Nay, his own i never gratified me more than to hear that he had < moment's gratification from any praise of min Diary. Dec. 17. 1813.]
* [In the first draught of this poem. Lord Byron bad entitled It The Destiny." Mr. Moore aars. " It cost bin away a tear In writing," and justly characterises it as " the ewst mournful, as well as picturesque ' atory of a wandennc life that ever came from the pen and heart of man." It w composed at Diodati, in July 1816.]
Is not the past all shadow? What arc they?
I saw two beings in the hues of youth
3f a time-honour'd race. *—It was a name [why?
1 C "*be was hli sight,
For never did he turn his glance until
Her own had led by gazing on an object."—MS.]
't See ante, p. 3S4—" Our union," said Lord Byron in S21," would have healed feuds in which blood had been shed w our fathers—ft would have joined lands, broad and rich— t would have joined at least one heart and two persons not 11-matched in years (she is two years my elder)—and—and — and — what has been the result!"]
1 [The picture which Lord Byron has here drawn of his poothful love shows how genius and feeling can elevate the realities of this life, and give to the commonest events and obterts an undying lustre. The old hall at Annesley, under the name of the " antique oratory," will long call up to fancy the "maiden and the youth" who onco stood in it; while the
Looking afar if yet her lover's steed
A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
There was an ancient mansion, and before
Its walls there was a steed caparison'd:
Within an antique Oratory stood
The Boy of whom I spake; —he was alone,
And pale, and pacing to and fro: anon
He sate him down, and seized a pen, and traced
Words which I could not guess of; then he lean'd
His bow'd head on his hands, and shook as't were
With a convulsion — then arose again,
And with bis teeth and quivering hands did tear
What he had written, but he shed no tears. 3
And he did calm himself, and fix his brow
Into a kind of quiet: as he paused,
The Lady of his love re-enter'd there;
She was serene and smiling then, and yet
She knew she was by him beloved,—she knew,
For quickly comes such knowledge, that his heart
Was darken'd with her shadow, and she saw
That he was wretched, but she saw not all. 4
He rose, and with a cold and gentle grasp
He took her hand; a moment o'er his face
A tablet of unutterable thoughts
Was traced, and then it faded, as it came;
He dropp'd the hand he held, and with slow steps
Retired, but not as bidding her adieu,
For they did part with mutual smiles; he passVI
From out the massy gate of that old Hall,
And mounting on his steed he went his way;
And ne'er repass'd that hoary threshold more.
A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
image of the " lover's steed," though suggested by the unromantic race-ground of Nottingham, will not the less conduce to the general charm of the scene, and share a portion of that light which only Genius could shed over it—Moohe.]
* [" 1 had long been in love with M. A. C, and never told It, though the had discovered it without. I recollect my sensations, but cannot describe them, and it Is as well."—Byron Diary, 1822 ]
• [This Is trae keeping—an Eastern picture perfect in its foreground, and distance, and sky, and no part of which is so dwelt upon or laboured as to obscure the principal figure. It is often in the slight and almost imperceptible touches that the hand of the master is shown, and that a single spark, struck from his fancy, lightens with a long train or Illumination that of the reader Sir Walter Scott.]
A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Lady of his love was wed with One
Who did not love her hotter : — in her home,
A thousand leagues from his, — her native home,
She dwelt, begirt with growing Infancy,
Daughters and sons of Beauty, — but behold!
I'pon her face there was the tint of grief,
The settled shadow of an inward strife,
And an unquiet drooping of the eye,
As if its lid were charged with unshed tears.
What could her grief he ? — she had all she loved,
And he who had so loved her was not there
To trouble with bad hopes, or evil wish,
Or Ul-repress"d affliction, her pure thoughts.
What could her grief be ? — she had loved him not,
Nor given him cause to deem himself beloved,
Nor could he be a part of that which prey'd
Upon her mind — a spectre of the past.
A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Wanderer was rcturn'd. — I saw him stand
Before an Altar — with a gentle bride;
Her face was fair, but was not that which made
The Starlight of his Boyhood ; — as he stood
Kvcn at the altar, o'er his brow there came
The selfsame aspect, and the quivering shock
That in the antique Oratory shook
His bosom in its solitude; and then —
As in that hour — a moment o'er his face
The tablet of unutterable thoughts
Was traced—and then it faded as it came,
And he stood calm and quiet, and he spoke
The fitting vows, but heard not his own words,
And all things reel'd around him ; he could see
Not that which was, nor that which should have been—
But the old mansion, and the accustomed hall,
And the remcmbcr'd chambers, and the place,
The day, the hour, the sunshine, and the shade,
All things pertaining to that place and hour,
And her who was his destiny, came back
And thrust themselves between him and the light:
What business had they there at such a time ? 1
A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
A change' came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Wanderer was alone as heretofore,
The beings which surrounded him were gone,
Or were at war with him; he was a mark
For blight and desolation, compass'd round
With Hatred and Contention; Pain was mht'd
In all which was served up to him, until.
Like to the Pontic monarch of old days,'
He fed on poisons, and they had no power,
But were a kind of nutriment; he lived
Through that which had been death to many men,
And made him friends of mountains: with the stars
And the quick Spirit of the Universe
He held his dialogues ! and they did teach
To him the magic of their mysteries;
To him the book of Night was open'd wide.
And voices from the deep abyss re s eal'd
A marvel and a secret — Be it so.
My dream was past; it had no further change.
It was of a strange order, that the doom
Of these two creatures should be thus traced out
Almost like a reality — the one
To end in madness — both in misery. *
At Ferrara, in the Library, are preserved the original MSS. of Tasso's Gierusalemme and of Guarini's
1 [This touching picture agrees closely, in many of its circumstances, with Lord Byron's own prose account of the wedding tn his Memoranda; in which he describes himself as waking, on the morning of his marriage, with the most melancholy reflections, on seeing his wedding-suit spread out before him. In the same mood, he wandered about the grounds alone, till he was summoned for the ceremony, and joined, for the first time, on that day, his bride and her family. He knelt down — he repeated the words after the clergyman; but a mist was before his eyes — his thoughts were elsewhere; and he was but awakened by the congratulations of the bystanderB to find that he was — married. — Moore.]
8 [** For it becomes the telescope of truth,
And shows us all things naked as they are." — 3IS.] 3 Mithridatcs of Pontus.
Pastor Fido, with letters of Tasso, one from Titian to Ariosto, and the inkstand and chair, the tomb and the house, of the latter. But. as misfortune tw a greater interest for posterity, and little or none for
* [This poem Is written with great beauty and . ■ • but is extremely painful. We cannot maintain our ■rrtstomed tone of levity, or eren speak like calm literary jodm in the midst of these agonising traces of a wounded and da tempered spirit. Even our admiration is swallowed up to ■ most painful feeling of pity and of wonder. It is Impossible to mistake these tor fictitious sorrows, conjured up for the | purpose of poetical effect. There is a dreadful tone of sincerity, and an energy that cannot be counterfeited, in tlic expression of wretchedness, and alienation from buxctn-kLki. which occurs in every line of this poem. — Jetpekt.]
1 [In a moment of dissatisfaction with himself, or durinf some melanchuly mood, when his soul felt the wortblwiae** of fame and glory, Lord Byron told the world that his axue should, for a long season, shroud herself In solitude iwe ante, p. 460.); and every true lover of genius I
Lose years! — It tries the thrilling frame to bear
her lofty music was to cease. But there was a tide in his spirit obeying the laws of its nature, and not to be controlled by any human will. When he said that he Was to be silent, be looked, perhaps, into the Inner regions of his soul, and saw there a dim, hard, and cheerless waste, like the sand of the sea-shore; but the ebbed waves of passion in due course returned, and the scene was restored to its former beauty and magnificence, — its foam. Its splendours, and Its thunder. The mind of a mighty poet cannot submit even to chains of its own imposing: when it feels most enslaved, even then, perhaps, ii it about to become most free ; and one sudden sash may raise it from the darkness of its despondency up to the pure air of untroubled confidence. It required, therefore, but small knowledge of human nature, to assure ourselves that the obligation under which Lord Byron had laid himself could not bind, and that the potent spirit within htm would laugh to scorn whatever dared to curb the frenzy of its own inspirations.
It was not long, therefore, till he again came forth In his perfect strength, and exercised that dominion over our spirits which Is truly a power too noble to be possessed without being wielded. Though all his heroes are of one family, yet are they a noble band of brothers, whose, countenant-es and whose souls are strongly distinguished by peculiar characteristics. Each personage, as he advances before us, reminds us of some other being, whose looks, thoughts, words, and deeds had troubled us by their wild and perturbed grandeur. But though all the same, yet are they alt strangely different. We hail each successive existence with a profounder sympathy: and we are lost Jn wonder. In fear, and In sorrow, at the infinitely varied struggles, the endless and agonising modifications of the human passions, as they drive along through every gate and avenue of the soul, darkening or brightening, elevating or laying prostrate.
From such agitating and terrific pictures, It is delightful to tarn to those compositions In which Lord Byron has allowed his son! to (ink down Into gentler and more ordinary feelings. Many beautiful and pathetic strains have Sowed from his heart, of which the tenderness Is as touching as the grandeur of his nobler works is agitating and sublime. To those, indeed, who looked deeply into his poetry, there never was at any time a want of pathos; but it was a pathos so subduing and so profound, that even the poet himself seemed afraid of being delivered up unto it; nay, ho seemed ashamed of being overcome by emotions, which the gloomy pride of his intellect often vainly strove to scorn ; and he dashed the weakness from his heart, and the tear from his eyes, like a man suddenly assailed by feelings which he wished to hide, and »hich, though true to his nature, were inconsistent with the character which that mysterious nature had been forced, as in self-defence, to assume.
But there Is one poem in which he has almost wholly laid aside all remembrance of the darker and stormier passions; in which the tone of his spirit and his voice at once Is changed, and where he who seemed to care only for agonies, and remorse, and despair, and death, and insanity, In all their most appalling forms, shows that ha has a heart that can feed on the purest sympathies of our nature, and deliver ltserf up to the sorrows, the sadness, and the melancholy of humbler •ouU. The "Prisoner of Chlllon" is a poem over which Infancy has shed its first mysterious tears for sorrows so alien to Its own happy innocence, — over which the gentle, P*ire, and pious soul of Woman has brooded with ineffable, and yearning, and bursting tenderness of affection,—and over which old Age, almost loosened from this world, has bowed his hoary head in delighted approbation of that fra
Long years of outrage, calumny, and wrong;
ternal lore, whose beauty and simplicity fling a radiance over the earth he 4s about to leave, and exhibit our fallen nature in near approximation to the glories of Its ultimate destiny. The " Lament "possesses much of the tenderness and pathos of the " Prisoner of Chillon." Lord Byron has not delivered himself unto any one wild and fearful vision of the imprisoned Tasso, — he has not dared to allow himself to rush forward with headlong passion into the horrors of his dungeon, and to describe, as he could fearfully hare done, the conflict and agony of his uttermost despair,—but he shows us the poet sitting m his cell, and singing there — a low, melancholy, wailing Lament, sometimes, indeed, bordering on utter wretchedness, but oftener partaking of a settled grief, occasionally subdued into mournful resignation, cheered by delightful remembrances, and elevated by the confident nope of an immortal fame. His is the gathered grief of many years, over which his soul has brooded, till she nas in some measure lost the power of misery ; and this soliloquy Is one which we can believe he might nave uttered to himself any morning, or noon, or night of his solitude, as he seemed to be half communing with his own heart, and half addressing the ear of that human nature from which he was shut out, but of which he felt the continual and abiding presence within his imagination— Phofessor Wilson.]
1 [The original MS. of this poem is dated," The Apennines, April 20. 1817." It was written in consequence of Lord Byron having visited Ferrara, for a single day, on his way to Florence. In a letter from Rome, he says —" The 'Lament of Tasso,' which I sent from Florence, has, I trust, arrived. I look upon it as a ' These be good rhymes I' as Pope's papa said to him when he was a boy."]
3 [Tasso's biographer, the Abate SerassI, has left it without doubt, that the first cause of the poet's punishment was his desire to be occasionally, or altogether, free from his servitude at the court of Alfonso. In 1575, Tasso resolved to visit Rome, and enjoy the Indulgence of the jubilee; 14 and this error," says the Abate, " increasing the suspicion already entertained, that he was in search of another service, was the origin of his misfortunes. On his return to Ferrara, the Duke refused to admit him to an audience, and he was repulsed from the houses of all the dependants of the court j and not one of the promise/ which the Cardinal Albanohad obtained for him were carried Into effect. Then it was that Tasso—after having suffered these hardships for some time, seeing himself constantly discountenanced by the Duke and the Princesses, abandoned by his friends, and derided by his enemies—could no longer contain himself within the bounds of moderation, but, giving vent to his choler, publicly broke forth into the most injurious expressions imaginable, both against the Duke and all the house of Kste, cursing his past service, and retracting all the praises he had ever given in his verses to those princes, or to any individual connected with them, declaring that they were all a gang of poltroons, Ingratcs, and scoundrels (poltroni, ingrati, c ribald!). For this offence he was arrested, conducted to the hospital of St. Anna, and confined in a solitary cell as a madman." — Sbhassi, Vita del Tasso.]
3 [in the Hospital of St. Anna, at Ferrara, they show a cell, over the door of which is the following Inscription: — ** Rlspettate, O poster!, la celebrita dl questa stanza, dove Torquato Tasso, Infermo pio di trlstezza che delirio, ditenuto dimoro anni vii. mesi U., scrisse verse e prose, e fu rimesso in lfberta ad Instanza delta citU di Bergamo, nel giorno vi. LugLto, 1686." — The dungeon is below the ground