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GEORGE NOEL GORDON, LORD BYRON (1788–1824)
FROM ENGLISH BARDS AND SCOTCH REVIEWERS
Still must I hear? — shall hoarse Fitzgerald bawl
His creaking couplets in a tavern hall,
And I not sing, lest, haply, Scotch Reviews
Should dub me scribbler, and denounce my Muse?
Prepare for rhyme — I'll publish, right or wrong:
Fools are my theme, let Satire be my song. 6
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A man must serve his time to every trade,
Save censure — critics all are ready made.
Take hackney'd jokes from Miller, got by rote,
With just enough of learning to misquote; 66
A mind well skill'd to find or forge a fault;
A turn for punning, call it Attic salt;
To Jeffrey go, be silent and discreet,
His pay is just ten sterling pounds per sheet: 7o
Fear not to lie, 'twill seem a lucky hit;
Shrink not from blasphemy, 'twill pass for wit:
Care not for feeling — pass your proper jest,
And stand a critic, hated yet caress'd.
And shall we own such judgment? no – as
Seek roses in December, ice in June;
Hope constancy in wind, or corn in chaff,
Believe a woman, or an epitaph,
Or any other thing that's false, before
You trust in critics who themselves are sore;
Or yield one single thought to be misled
By Jeffrey's heart, or Lambe's Boeotian head.
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Beholds in various throngs the scribbling crew,
For notice eager, pass in long review;
Each spurs his jaded Pegasus apace,
And rhyme and blank maintain an equal race,
Sonnets on sonnets crowd, and ode on ode;
And tales of terror jostle on the road;
Immeasurable measures move along;
For simpering Folly loves a varied song,
To strange mysterious Dullness still the friend,
Admires the strain she cannot comprehend.
Thus Lays of Minstrels — may they be the last!
On half-strung harps whine mournful to the blast.
While mountain spirits prate to river sprites,
That dames may listen to their sound at nights;
And goblin brats of Gilpin Horner's brood, 151
Decoy young border-nobles through the wood.
And skip at every step, Lord knows how high,
And frighten foolish babes, the Lord knows why;
While high-born ladies in their magic cell,
Forbidding knights to read who cannot spell,
Despatch a courier to a wizard's grave,
And fight with honest men to shield a knave.
Next view in state, proud prancing on his roan,
The golden-crested haughty Marmion, 160
Now forging scrolls, now foremost in the fight,
Not quite a felon, yet but half a knight,
The gibbet or the field prepared to grace –
A mighty mixture of the great and base.
And think'st thou, Scott! by vain conceit per-
On public taste to foist thy stale romance,
Though Murray with his Miller may combine
To yield thy muse just half-a-crown per line?
No! when the sons of song descend to trade,
Their bays are sear, their former laurels fade. 170
Let such forego the poet's sacred name,
Who rack their brains for lucre, not for fame:
Low may they sink to merited contempt,
And scorn remunerate the mean attempt!
Such be their meed, such still the just reward
Of prostituted muse and hireling bard |
For this we spurn Apollo's venal son,
And bid a long “good night to Marmion.”
These are the themes that claim our plaudits
These are the bards to whom the muse must bow:
While Milton, Dryden, Pope, alike forgot, 181 Resign their hallow'd bays to Walter Scott.
+ + + + + + + + With eagle pinions soaring to the skies, 195
Behold the ballad monger, Southey, rise!
To him let Camoëns, Milton, Tasso, yield,
Whose annual strains, like armies, take the field.
First in the ranks see Joan of Arc advance, 199
The scourge of England, and the boast of France!
Though burnt by wicked Bedford for a witch,
Behold her statue placed in glory's niche,
Her fetters burst, and just released from prison,
A virgin Phoenix from her ashes risen.
Next see tremendous Thalaba come on,
Arabia's monstrous, wild, and wondrous son;
Domdaniel's dread destroyer, who o'erthrew
More mad magicians than the world e'er knew.
Immortal hero! all thy foes o'ercome,
Forever reign — the rival of Tom Thumb?
Since startled metre fled before thy face,
Well wert thou doom'd the last of all thy race!
Well might triumphant Genii bear thee hence,
Illustrious conqueror of common sense!
Now, last and greatest, Madoc spreads his sails,
Cacique in Mexico, and Prince in Wales;
Tells us strange tales, as other travellers do,
More old than Mandeville's, and not so true.
Oh! Southey, Southey ! cease thy varied song!
A Bard may chaunt too often and too long: 229
ENGLISH BARDS AND SCOTCH REVIEWERS
As thou art strong in verse, in mercy sparel
A fourth, alas! were more than we could bear.
But if, in spite of all the world can say,
Thou still wilt verseward plod thy weary way;
If still in Berkley ballads, most uncivil, -
Thou wilt devote old women to the devil,
The babe unborn thy dread intent may rue;
“God help thee,” Southey, and thy readers too.
Next comes the dull disciple of thy school,
That mild apostate from poetic rule,
The simple Wordsworth, framer of a lay
As soft as evening in his favourite May;
Who warns his friend “to shake off toil and trouble;
And quit his books, for fear of growing double;”
Who, both by precept and example, shows
That prose is verse, and verse is merely prose,
Convincing all, by demonstration plain,
Poetic souls delight in prose insane;
And Christmas stories, tortured into rhyme,
Contain the essence of the true sublime:
Thus when he tells the tale of Betty Foy,
The idiot mother of “an idiot Boy;”
A moon-struck silly lad who lost his way,
And, like his bard, confounded night with day;
So close on each pathetic part he dwells,
And each adventure so sublimely tells,
That all who view the “idiot in his glory,”
Conceive the Bard the hero of the story.
Shall gentle Coleridge pass unnoticed here,
To turgid ode and tumid stanza dear?
Though themes of innocence amuse him best,
Yet still obscurity's a welcome guest.
If Inspiration should her aid refuse
To him who takes a Pixy for a Muse,
Yet none in lofty numbers can surpass
The bard who soars to elegize an ass.
How well the subject suits his noble mind!
“A fellow-feeling makes us wondrous kindl”
Another Epic! who inflicts again More books of blank upon the sons of men? 38o Boeotian Cottle, rich Bristowa's boast, Imports old stories from the Cambrian coast, And sends his goods to market — all alive! Lines forty thousand, Cantos twenty-five Fresh fish from Helicon who'll buy? who'll buy? The precious bargain's cheap — in faith, not I. Too much in turtle Bristol’s sons delight, Too much o'er bowls of 'rack prolong the night: If commerce fills the purse, she clogs the brain, And Amos Cottle strikes the lyre in vain. 390 In him an author's luckless lot behold ! Condemn'd to make the books which once he sold. Oh! Amos Cottle ! — Phoebus ! what a name To fill the speaking-trump of future fame! —
Health to immortal Jeffrey! once, in name, 430
England could boast a judge, almost the same:
In soul so like, so merciful, yet just,
Some think that Satan has resigned his trust,
And given the Spirit to the world again,
To sentence letters as he sentenced men;
With hand less mighty, but with heart as black,
With voice as willing to decree the rack;
Bred in the courts betimes, though all that law
As yet hath taught him is to find a flaw.
Since well instructed in the patriot school
To rail at party, though a party tool,
Who knows, if chance his patrons should restore
Back to the sway they forfeited before,
His scribbling toils some recompense may meet,
And raise this Daniel to the Judgment Seat.
Let Jeffries' shade indulge the pious hope,
And greeting thus, present him with a rope:
“Heir to my virtues' man of equal mind!
Skill'd to condemn as to traduce mankind, 449
This cord receive — for thee reserved with care,
To yield in judgment, and at length to wear.”
To the famed throng now paid the tribute due, Neglected Genius! let me turn to you. 78o Come forth, O Campbell! give thy talents scope; Who dares aspire if thou must cease to hope? And thou, melodious Rogers! rise at last, Recall the pleasing memory of the past; Arise! let blest remembrance still inspire, And strike to wonted tones thy hallow'd lyre I Restore Apollo to his vacant throne, Assert thy country's honour and thine own. What! must deserted Poesy still weep 789 Where her last hopes with pious Cowper sleep? Unless, perchance, from his cold bier she turns, To deck the turf that wraps her minstrel, Burns! No! though contempt hath mark'd the spurious
The race who rhyme from folly, or for food;
Yet still some genuine sons, 'tis hers to boast,
Who, least affecting, still effect the most;
Grieving, if aught inanimate e'er grieves,
Over the unreturning brave, – alas!
Ere evening to be trodden like the grass
Which now beneath them, but above shall
In its next verdure, when this fiery mass
Of living valour, rolling on the foe,
And burning with high hope, shall moulder cold
Last noon beheld them full of lusty life,
Last eve in Beauty's circle proudly gay,
The midnight brought the signal-sound of strife,
The morn the marshalling in arms — the day
Battle's magnificently stern array!
The thunder-clouds close o'er it, which when
The earth is cover'd thick with other clay,
Which her own clay shall cover, heap'd and pent,
Rider and horse — friend, foe, – in one red burial
-k -k + sk * + :k sk Lake Leman woos me with its crystal face, The mirror where the stars and mountains view The stillness of their aspect in each trace Its clear depth yields of their far height and
hue; There is too much of man here, to look through With a fit mind the might which I behold; But soon in me shall Loneliness renew Thoughts hid, but not less cherish'd than of old,
Eremingling with the herd had penn'd me in their
To fly from, need not be to hate, mankind;
All are not fit with them to stir and toil,
Nor is it discontent to keep the mind
Deep in its fountain, lest it overboil
In the hot throng, where we become the spoil
Of our infection, till too late and long
We may deplore and struggle with the coil,
In wretched interchange of wrong for wrong
"Midst a contentious world, striving where none are
There, in a moment, we may plunge our years
In fatal penitence, and in the blight
Of our own soul turn all our blood to tears,
And colour things to come with hues of Night:
The race of life becomes a hopeless flight
To those that walk in darkness; on the sea
The boldest steer but where their ports invite,
But there are wanderers o'er Eternity
Whose bark drives on and on, and anchor'd ne'er