« PreviousContinue »
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 St. Palaye, passim, and more particularly vol. ii. page 69. The vows of chivalry were no better kept than any other vows whatsoever; 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 courtesie et de gentilesse” had much more of love than of courtesy or gentleness. See Rolland on the same subject with St. Palaye. Whatever other objection may be urged to that most unamiable 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 Tristram and Sir Lancelot were no better than they should be, although very poetical personages and true knights “sans peur,” 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 are over, though Maria Antoinette was quite as chaste as most of those in whose honours lances were shivered, and knights unborsed..
Before the days of Bayard, and down to those of Sir Joseph Banks (the most chaste and celebrated of ancient and modern times), few exceptions will be found to this statement, and I fear a little investi. gation will teach us not to regret these monstrous mummeries of the middle ages.
I now leave - Childe Harold" to live his day, such as he is; it had been more agreeable, and certainly more 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
* The Rovers. Antijacobin.
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) are 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.
Not in those climes where I have late been straying,
To such as see thee not my words were weak;
Ah! may’st thou ever be what now thou art,
Beholds the rainbow of her future years,