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

1 [The Hebrew Melodies, though obviously inferior to Lord Byron's other works, display a skill in versification and a mastery in diction, which would have raised an inferior artist to the very suminit of distinction. — Jeffney.]

* [It was about the middle of April that his two celebrated copies of verses, “Fare thee well,” and “A Sketch,” made their appearance in the newspapers : and while the latter poem was generally, and, it must be owned, justly condemned, as a sort of literary assault on an obscure female, whose situation ought to have placed her as much beneath his satire, as the undignified mode of his attack certainly raised her above it, with regard to the other poem. o were a good deal more divided. To many it appeared a strain of true conjugal tenderness, – a kind of appeal which no woman with a heart could resist: while, by others, on the contrary, it was considered to be a mere showy effusion of sentiment, as difficult for real feeling to have produced as it was easy for fancy and art, and altogether unworthy of the deep interests involved in

Yet, oh yet, thyself deceive not;
Love may sink by slow decay,

But by sudden wrench, believe not
Hearts can thus be torn away:

Still thine own its life retaineth—
Still must mine, though bleeding, beat ;

And the undying thought which paineth
Is–that we no more may meet.

These are words of deeper sorrow Than the wail above the dead;

Both shall live, but every morrow Wake us from a widow’d bed.

And when thou would solace gather, When our child's first accents flow,

Wilt thou teach her to say “Father " Though his care she must forego?

When her little hands shall press thee,
When her lip to thine is press'd,

Think of him whose prayer shall bless thee,
Think of him thy love had bless'd :

Should her lineaments resemble
Those thou never more may'st see,

Then thy heart will softly tremble
With a pulse yet true to me.

All my faults perchance thou knowest,
All my madness none can know ;

All my hopes, where'er thou goest,
Wither, yet with thee they go.

Every feeling hath been shaken ;
Pride, which not a world could bow,

Bows to thee—by thee forsaken,
Even my soul forsakes me now :

the subject. To this latter opinion I confess my own to have, at first, strongly inclined ; and suspicious as I could not help thinking the sentiment that could, at such a moment, indulge in such verses, the taste that prompted or sanctioned their publication appeared to me even still more questionable. On reading, however, his own account of all the circumstances in the Memoranda. I found that on both points I had, in common with a large portion of the public, done him injustice. He there described, and in a manner whose sincerity there was no doubting, the swell of tender recollections under the influence of which, as he sat one night musing in his study, these stanzas were produced.—the tears, as he said, failing fast over the paper as he wrote them. Neither did it appear. from that account, to have been from any wish or intention of his own. but through the injudicious zeal of a friend whom he had suffered to take a copy, that the verses met the public eye. — Moore. The appearance of the MS. confirms this account of the circumstances under which it was written. It is blotted all over with the marks of tears.]

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

Boax in the garret, in the kitchen bred,
Promoted thence to deck her mistress' head :
Next—for some gracious service unexpress'd,
And from its wages only to be guess'd —
Raised from the toilet to the table, – where
Her wondering betters wait behind her chair.
With eye unmoved, and forchead unabash'd,
She dines from off the plate she lately wash'd.
Quick with the tale, and ready with the lie —
The gerial confidante, and general spy —
Who could, ye gods ! her next employment guess—
An only infant's earliest governess :
She taught the child to read, and taught so well,
That she herself, by teaching, learn'd to spell.
An adept next in penmanship she grows,
As many a nameless slander deftly shows:
What she had made the pupil of her art,
None know– but that high Soul secured the heart,
And panted for the truth it could not hear,
With longing breast and undeluded ear.
Foil'd was perversion by that youthful mind,
Which Flattery fool'd not.— Baseness could not blind,
Deceit infect not — near Contagion soil—
Indulgence weaken — nor Example spoil—
Nor master'd Science tempt her to look down
On humbler talents with a pitying frown—
Nor Genius swell — nor Beauty render vain —
Nor Envy ruffle to retaliate pain —
Nor Fortune change — Pride raise— nor Passion bow,
Nor Virtue teach austerity — till now.
Serencly purest of her sex that live,
But wanting one sweet weakness—to forgive,
Too shock'd at faults her soul can never know,
Shc deems that all could be like her below :
Foe to all vice, yet hardly Virtue's friend,
For Virtue pardons those she would amend.

[merged small][ocr errors]

Have given her power too deeply to instil
The angry essence of her deadly will;
If like a snake she steal within your walls,
Till the black slime betray her as she crawls;
If like a viper to the heart she wind,
And leave the venom there she did not find;
What marvel that this hag of hatred works
Eternal evil latent as she lurks,
To make a Pandemonium where she dwells,
And reign the Hecate of domestic hells 2
Skill'd by a touch to deepen scandal's tints
With all the kind mendacity of hints, [smiles—
While mingling truth with falsehood—sncers with
A thread of candour with a web of wiles;
A plain blunt show of briefly-spoken seeming,
To hide her bloodless heart's soul-harden'd scheming;
A lip of lies—a face form'd to conceal;
And, without feeling, mock at all who feel :
With a vile mask the Gorgon would disown ;
A cheek of parchment—and an eye of stone.
Mark, how the channels of her yellow blood
Ooze to her skin, and stagnate there to mud,
Cased like the centipede in saffron mail,
Or darker greenness of the scorpion's scale—
(For drawn from reptiles only may we trace
Congenial colours in that soul or face)—
Look on her features 1 and behold her mind
As in a mirror of itself defined :
Look on the picture deem it not o'ercharged —
There is no trait which might not be enlarged :
Yet true to “Nature's journeymen,” who made
This monster when their mistress left off trade—
This female dog-star of her little sky,
Where all beneath her influence droop or die.

Oh! wretch without a tear—without a thought,
Save joy above the ruin thou hast wrought—
The time shall come, nor long remote, when thou
Shalt feel far more than thou inflictest now ;
Feel for thy vile self-loving self in vain,
And turn thee howling in unpitied pain.
May the strong curse of crush'd affections light
Back on thy bosom with reflected blight !
And make thee in thy leprosy of mind
As loathsome to thyself as to mankind :
Till all thy self-thoughts curdle into hate,
Black — as thy will for others would create :
Till thy hard heart be calcined into dust,
And thy soul welter in its hideous crust.
Oh, may thy grave be sleepless as the bed, –
The widow’d couch of fire, that thou hast spread 1
Then, when thou fain wouldst weary Heaven with
player,

Look on thine earthly victims—and despair :
Down to the dust 1–and, as thou rott'st away,
Even worms shall perish on thy poisonous clay.
But for the love I bore, and still must bear,
To her thy malice from all ties would tear—
Thy name—thy human name—to every eye
The climax of all scorn should hang on high,
Exalted o'er thy less abhorr'd compeers—
And festering in the infamy of years.

March 29. 1816. use ‘weltering in the wind," “weltering on a gibbet 2' I have no dictionary, so look. In the mean time, I have put ‘festering : " which, perhaps, in any case is the best word of the two. Shakspeare has it often, and I do not think it too strong

for the figure in this thing. Quick quick I quick I quick . .” Lord Byron to Mr. Murray, April 2.]

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

! [The Poet's sister, the Honourable Mrs. Ileigh. — These stanzas—the parting tribute to her, whose unshaken tenderness had been the author's sole consolation during the crisis of domestic misery — were, we believe, the last verses written by Lord Byron in England. In a note to Mr. Rogers, dated April 16th, he says, – “My sister is now with me, and leaves town to-morrow : we shall not meet again for some time at all events, – of ever ! and, under these circumstances, I trust to stand excused to you and Mr. Sheridan, for being unable to wait upon him this evening.” On the 25th, the Poet took a last leave of his native country.]

2 [These beautiful verses, so expressive of the writer's wounded feelings at the moment, were written in July, at the Campagne Diodati, near Geneva. and transmitted to England for publication, with some other pieces. " de careful," he

Thy soft heart refused to discover
The faults which so many could find;

Though thy soul with my grief was acquainted,
It shrunk not to share it with Inc,

And the love which my spirit hath painted
It never hath found but in thee.

Then when nature around me is smiling,
The last smile which answers to mine,
I do not believe it beguiling,
Because it reminds me of thine;
And when winds are at war with the ocean,
As the breasts I believed in with me,
If their billows excite an emotion,
It is that they bear me from thee.

Though the rock of my last hope is shiver'd,
And its fragments are sunk in the wave,
Though I feel that my soul is deliver'd
To pain — it shall not be its slave.
There is many a pang to pursue me:
They may crush, but they shall not contemn —
They may torture, but shall not subdue me –
'Tis of thee that I think—not of them.“

Though human, thou didst not deceive me,
Though woman, thou didst not forsake, |
Though loved, thou forborest to grieve me, |
Though slander'd, thou never couldst shake, –
Though trusted, thou didst not disclaim me,
Though parted, it was not to fly,
Though watchful, 'twas not to defame me,
Nor, mute, that the world might belie.”

Yet I blame not the world, nor despise it,
Nor the war of the many with one —
If my soul was not fitted to prize it,
'T was folly not sooner to shun :
And if dearly that error hath cost me,
And more than I once could foresee,
I have found that, whatever it lost me,
It could not deprive me of thee.

From the wreck of the past, which hath perish'd,
Thus much I at least may recall,
It hath taught me that what I most cherish'd
Deserved to be dearest of all :
In the desert a fountain is springing,
In the wide waste there still is a tree,
And a bird in the solitude singing,
Which speaks to my spirit of thee.
July 24. 1816

EPISTLE TO AUGUSTA. 6 My sister my sweet sister : if a name Dearer and purer were, it should be thine. Mountains and seas divide us, but I claim No tears, but tenderness to answer mine:

says, “in printing the stanzas beginning. ‘Though the day of my destiny's,' &c., which I think well of as a composition.")

* [“Though the days of my glory are over. And the sun of my faine hath declined.” – MS.] * [“There is many a pang to pursue me, Aud many a peril to stem : They may torture, but shall not subdue me; - They may crush, but they shall not contemn."—MS.] [“Though watchful, 't was but to reclaim me, Nor, silent, to sanction a lie.” – MS.] * [These stanzas—" Than which,” says the Quarterly Review, for January, 1831, “there is, perhaps, nothing more it mournfully and desolately beautiful in the whole range of | I.ord 13yron's poetry" — were also written at Diodati; and

[ocr errors]

Go where I will, to me thou art the same –

A loved regret which I would not resign.

There yet are two things in my destiny, A world to roam through, and a home with thee.

The first were nothing — had I still the last, . It were the haven of my happiness; But other claims and other ties thou hast, And mine is not the wish to make them less. A strange doom is thy father's son's, and past Recalling, as it lies beyond redress; Reversed for him our grandsire's 1 fate of yore, — He had no rest at sea, nor I on shore.

If my inheritance of storms hath been In other elements, and on the rocks Of perils, overlook'd or unforeseen, I have sustain'd my share of worldly shocks, The fault was mine ; nor do I seek to screen My errors with defensive paradox; I have been cunning in mine overthrow, The careful pilot of my proper woe.

Mine were my faults, and mine be their reward, My whole life was a contest, since the day That gave me being, gave me that which marr'd The gift, — a fate, or will, that walk'd astray; And I at times have found the struggle hard, And thought of shaking off my bonds of clay : But now I fain would for a time survive, If but to see what next can well arrive.

Kingdoms and empires in my little day I have outlived, and yet I am not old ; And when I look on this, the petty spray Of my own years of trouble, which have roll'd Like a wild bay of breakers, melts away : Something—I know not what—does still uphold A spirit of slight patience ; – not in vain, Even for its own sake, do we purchase pain.

Perhaps the workings of defiance stir Within me, —or perhaps a cold despair, Brought on when ills habitually recur, – Perhaps a kinder clime, or purer air, (For even to this may change of soul refer, And with light armour we may learn to bear,) Have taught me a strange quiet, which was not The chief companion of a calmer lot.

I feel almost at times as I have felt In happy childhood; trees, and flowers, and brooks Which do remember me of where I dwelt Ere my young mind was sacrificed to books, Come as of yore upon me, and can melt My heart with recognition of their looks; And even at moments I could think I see Some living thing to love—but none like thee.

sent home at the time, for publication, in case Mrs. Leigh should sanction it. “There is,” he says, “amongst the manuscripts an Epistle to my Sister, on which I should wish her opinion to be consulted before publication ; if she objects, of course omit it.” On the 5th of October he writes, – “My sister has decided on the omission of the lines. Upon this int, her option will be followed. As I have no copy of them; request that you will preserve one for me in MS. : for I never can remember a line of that nor any other composition of mine. God help me ! if I proceed in this scribbling, I shall have frittered away my mind before I am thirty ; but poetry is at times a real relief to me. To-morrow I am for Italy.” The Epistle was first given to the world in 1830.]

1 [Admiral Byron was remarkable for never making, a voyage without a tempest. He was known to the sailors by the facetious name of “Four-weather Jack.”

[blocks in formation]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

AND thou wert sad —yet I was not with thcet
And thou wert sick, and yet I was not near;
Mcthought that joy and health alone could be
Where I was not —and pain and sorrow here.
And is it thus 2 — it is as I foretold,
And shall be more so; for the mind recoils
Upon itself, and the wreck'd heart lies cold,
While heaviness collects the shatter'd spoils.
It is not in the storm nor in the strife
We feel benumb'd, and wish to be no more,
ISut in the after-silence on the shore,
When all is lost, except a little life.

I am too well avenged 1–but 't was my right;
Whate'er my sins might be, thou wert not sent
To be the Nemesis who should requite —
Nor did Heaven choose so near an instrument.
Mercy is for the merciful : —if thou
Hast been of such, "t will be accorded now.

1 [These verses were written immediately after the failure of the negotiation for a reconciliation before Lord Byron left Switzerland for Italy, but were not intended for the public eye; as, however, they have recently found their way into circulation, we include them in this collection.]

2 (“I.ord Byron had at least this much to say for himself, that he was not the first to inake his domestic differences a topic of public discussion. On the contrary, he saw himself, ere any fact but the one undisguised and tangible one was, or could be known, held up every where, and by every art of malice, as the most infamous of men, – because he had partel from his wife. He was exquisitively sensitive: he was wounded at once by a thousand arrows; and all this with the most perfect and indignant knowledge, that of all who were assailing him not one knew any thing of the real merits of he case. Did he right, then, in publishing those squibs and tirades 2 No, certainly : it would have been nobler, better, wiser far, to have utterly scorned the assaults of such encmics, and taken no notice, of any kind, of them. But, because this young, hot-blooded, provid, patrician poet did not, amidst the exacerbation of feelings which he could not control, act in precisely the most dignified and wisest of all possible manners of action, — are we entitled, is the world at large entitled, to issue a broad sentence of vituperative condemnation 2 Do tre know all that he had suffered 2 – have toe imagination enough to comprehend wilat he suffered, under circumstances such as these ? — have tre been tried in similar circumstances, whether we could feel the wound unflinct,ingly, and keep the weapon quiescent, in the hand that trembled with all the excitements of insulted privacy, honour, and faith 2 Let reorie consider for a momen' shat it is that they demand when thcy insist upon a poet of Lyron's class

Thy nights are banish'd from the realms of sleep : —
Yes! they may flatter thee, but thou shalt feel
A hollow agony which will not heal,
For thou art pillow'd on a curse too deep;
Thou hast sown in my sorrow, and must reap
The bitter harvest in a woe as real I
I have had many foes, but none like thee;
For 'gainst the rest myself I could defend,
And be avenged, or turn them into friend ;
But thou in safe implacability
Hadst nought to dread — in thy own weakncss
shielded,
And in my love, which hath but too much yielded.
And spared, for thy sake, some I should not spare —
And thus upon the world — trust in thy truth —
And the wild fame of my ungovern'd youth—
On things that were not, and on things that are —
Even upon such a basis hast thou built
A monument, whose cement hath been guilt :
The moral Clytemnestra of thy lord,
And hew'd down, with an unsuspected sword,
Fame, peace, and hope—and all the better life
Which, but for this cold treason of thy heart,
Might still have risen from out the grave of strife,
And found a nobler duty than to part.
But of thy virtues didst thou make a vice,
Trafficking with them in a purpose cold,
For present anger, and for future gold—
And buying other's grief at any price.
And thus once enter'd into crooked ways,
The early truth, which was thy proper praise,
Did not still walk beside thee — but at times,
And with a breast unknowing its own crimes,
Deceit, averments incompatible,
Equivocations, and the thoughts which dwell
In Janus-spirits—the significant eye
Which learns to lie with silence — the pretext
Of Prudence, with advantages annex'd — --------
The acquiescence in all things which tend,
No matter how, to the desired end —
All found a place in thy philosophy.
The means were worthy, and the end is won —
I would not do by thee as thou hast done : *
September, IS16.

abstaining altogether from expressing in his works any thing of his own feelings in regard to any thing that immediately concerns his own history. We tell him in every possible form and shape, that the great and distinguishing merit of his Fo is the intense truth with which this poetry expresses is own personal feelings. We encourage him in every possible way to dissect his own heart for our entertainment – we tempt him by every bribe most likely to act powerfully on a young and imaginative man, to plunge into the darkest depths of self-knowledge; to madden his brain with eternal self-scrutinies, to find his pride and his pleasure in what others shrink from as torture — we tempt him to indulge in these dangerous exercises, until they obviously acquire the ower of leading him to the very brink of frenzy – we tempt im to find, and to see in this perilous vocation, the staple of his existence, the food of his ambition, the very essence of his glory, - and the moment that, by habits of our own creating, at least of our own encouraging and confirming, he is carried one single step beyond what we happen to approve of, we turn round with all the bitterness of spleen, and reproach him with the unmanliness of entertaining the public with his feelings in regard to his separation from his wife. This was truly the conduct of a fair and liberal public : To our view of the matter, Lord Byron, treated as he had been, tempted as he had been, and tortured and insulted as he was at the moment, did no more forfeit his character by writing what he did write upon that unhappy occasion, than another man, under circuinstances of the same nature, would have done, by telling something of his mind about it to an intimate friend across the fire. The public had forced him into the habits of familiarity, and they received his confidence with nothing but anger and scorn.” – Lockha RT.]

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »