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ry thing, and a little more, who may be occasionally found among the worshipful fraternity, in whose volunteer corps we have enrolled ourselves, should surely be able to measure the capacities of men, the number of their years and the result of their mental exercises being given; or a horse-jockey would have a right to laugh at the science of the craft. Lord Byron
“ Published-older children do the same." But it were to be wished, for the sake of the unfortunate censors, who are often left in the dark, and led into error as to this point, that all
young writers would state their age with the same candour. Not that it is proper or commendable, as a general principle, for young persons to publish at all. In after years they invariably regret the premature trial of their inexperienced pinions in the broad glare of day. Medwin makes Byron say, (and we believe him, in this at least, to be a faithful reporter,) that there were many things in his “ Hours of Idleness," much better than the critics were willing to allow. The admirers of his genius coincide with him, we believe, generally, in this opinion; and we know not for what reason so large a portion of that work is omitted in the present edition.
In 1809, something more than a year after the effusions of our author's adolescent audacity had been authoritatively damned, appeared “ The English Bards and Scotch Reviewers;" a satire which has received immeasurably too much praise, as is natural in a world in which the inspiration of masice is far more sure of finding a frequent audience, than that of maturer indignation. The latter directs the polished shafts of its quiver with judicious aim. In pursuing vice and folly, it prefers, like the son of Latona, to begin the work of destruction with the dogs and ignobler animals. It lashes crime, rather than the criminal; or, when the introduction of persons is unavoidable, and the application of the satire to individuals inevitable, treats them as the personifications of prevalent enormities. Such is legitimate salire, which is read, and is applicable in all ages; wbile gross attacks upon living men, as well in their literary or public character as in their private peculiarities, misfortunes, or infirmities, are in their own day vulgar and despicable; and, if not obsolete in after ages, remain only in the memory of mankind as blots on the fame of their
perpetrator. With many of those whom he had attacked in his satire, as licentious, mercenary, and cowardly-to say nothing of his notions about their intellectual capabilities-- Lord Byron was afterwards on terms of friendship, professed or real. This proves that the subjects of his abuse were, morally speaking,
wiser and better men than himself: but those who understand the nature of genius, its grandeur, and its weaknesses, its triumphs, and its humiliations, cannot feel their respect for his powers as a poet diminished, by an early and premature performance, like this satire. His subsequent success has probably made it immortal; that is to say, it will always be printed among his works. Though he was content to allow its suppression in England, it has been as widely circulated here as his most transcendant productions. The prohibition in his native land must cease in a few years.
When the reputation of a writer has been sounded as far and wide as that of Byron, it may be indeed said with truth, “vox missa nescit reverti.” He, no doubt, himself believed, that it was not worth preserving, at the risk of losing a single friend, after the plaudits which succeeded the appearance of Childe Harold.
Cordially agreeing, as we do, with an elder brother of the north, as to the merits of this satire, we cannot forbear expressing our wish, that, for the credit of a journal so much respected, and so respectable, as that wherein a recent criticism on our author's life and writings appeared, all the rest of the article had been more deliberately considered, before it had passed the rubicon of the press. The writer is, we have no doubt, a good and worthy man; one who fears God, and loves his neighbour. But he knows nothing of poetry, or he could not have concocted, in cold blood, the mass of at best unmeaning, we will not say unfair, censure set forth in his review. He did not feel, or he forgot, for the time being, the respect which is due to the memory of genius, when he waged, with the stale weapons so often handled against the living offender, a posthumous warfare with the ashes of the dead. We shall refer to one specimen only of the fairness of his criticism the selection he has made from the two first cantos of Childe Harold; which is given as a sample of the general strain of the poetry throughout, but which, in fact, contains the tamest stanzas he could select, and the most devoid of pathos and imagination. He never read, or never felt the beauty of the passage, beginning
“He who hath sailed upon the dark blue sea," &c. Or he would not have included them in the sweeping sentence of mediocrity, which he passes on the whole of these cantos.
The two first parts of Childe Harold appeared in 1812, and were followed in the succeeding year by the Giaour and Bride of Abydos. The Corsair succeeded in 1814. They contributed largely to open a new era in English poetry. The me
trical romances of Scott had broken the Gallic chains with which the school of Pope had fettered the noble powers of our language for versification. The fresh spirit of ancient minstrelsy breathed around the bard, and " distant warblings” from the elder times fell upon his ear, and were echoed by his harp. As Scott had burst the trammels of monotonous metre, Byron effectually substituted the energetic expression of natural passion and feeling, for the conventional, and artificial, and trite vocabulary of preceding poets. In some of his narrative poems, he assumed the license which Scott had taken; and, in The Corsair and Lara, used the heroic measure with a familiarity which devested it of the palling chime so much admired by our ancestors. The versification of his productions, written in rhyme, soon became Italianised. Don Juan is an exceedingly improper book; but in one respect, at least, is useful. It proves the boundless capabilities of the English language, in its present state, for every variety of metre, every tone of feeling in poetry ; its fertility in rhyme; and its elasticity, if we may so speak, in adapting its syllables to the fancy or the necessity of the composer.
This innovation on long established canons, did not take place without much uproar among the Aristarchuses of England, and of this country. We recollect, that a Yankee gentleman came to New-York to conduct a Review, avowing, that one of his prominent objects was to write down Lord Byron. It appears that the poet read, by accident, some of the precious criticisms of this metrophaginian. He said to Medwin “Some American reviewer has been persevering in his abuse and personality ; but he should have minded his leger; ver excited my spleen." We remember one of the choice notions broached by our deceased brother, (we mean defunct as a magazine-monger,) in speaking of the Lament of Tasso. The following passage occurs near the commencement of the poem:
" And the abhorred grate
Stands scoffing through the never-opened gate," &c. 6 Now," quoth the reviewer, “grate and shade, displayed and gate, do not harmonize.” Excellent critic!
The “Ode to Napoleon" appeared also in 1814; “ Lara," and the “Hebrew Melodies," in the year following. In 1816, the exhaustless fertility of the noble bard, gave birth to the Siege of Corinth," " Parasina,” the “ Monody on the Death
of Sheridan," the third canto of “Childe Harold," the “Prisoners of Chillon," and several minor productions. Domestic broils and misfortunes, as to the causes of which there is much to be said on both sides, had now poured their vials of bitterness on a spirit naturally haughty, and perhaps capricious and overbearing; but not, we are fain to believe, naturally prone to misanthropy, and to a hatred of virtue. Early indulgence, subsequent unkind treatment, a flood of dangerous popularity, pecuniary embarrassments, a separation from wife and daughter, vulgar abuse from every source, the insidious sympathy of bad companions—these are surely accidents sufficiently powerful, when operating on a fiery temperament, and a strong imagination, associated with a consciousness of superiority which is often confounded with vanity, to produce an ascetic influence on the mind, a dislike of mankind generally, and a contempt for the mild and genial charities of human nature. Is no allowance to be made for constitutional infirmity, or for the operation of evil on its latent tendencies ? or must we, with Southey, make the man himself the author of evil, an incarnation of Beelzebub ? We speak not of his writings, but of his life. Because the genius of an individual has made his name familiar in men's mouths as household words, are bis domestic miseries, his private habits, to be subjected to the scrutiny of each unit in the universal rabble ? Pain and sorrow attend upon every dereliction from duty or propriety in this world, as surely as the shadow accompanies the body. We read also of penal fires hereafter. On what principle of justice is the sufferer entitled to the supererogatory damnation of coarse speculation on his manners and morals, the solemn denunciation of pharisaical virtue, with which the press has teemed in the case before us? These officious good people made the evil by their interference, and then excommunicated the patient on whom they had visited it. But will they not be content now he is dead? Must he be hung in chains, dressed, like a victim of the inquisition, in a coat painted with flames and demons, as a warning and a terror to all others in like cases offending? If such be their benevolent wish, it is vain and unavailing. Public feeling is against them. When the news was first whispered abroad that Byron was dead, that the power which had so long exercised its high control over the sensibilities and the imagination of the reading public, had passed for ever away,
“To breathless nature's dark abyss—" There was a sudden sadness which fell heavily on the spirit,
and each one whom the outpourings of his intense thought had charmed and interested, felt as if he had lost a friend. We thought of the splendour of his genius, and of its extinction, as if some " bright particular star,” whose course we had loved to mark, though seemingly erratic, and with sometimes diminished lustre, had disappeared in heaven. We thought of his misfortunes with sorrow; and sighed that one whose longings were for better things than earth has to offer, should have been disappointed in possessing the qualified good which earth can sometimes afford even to the peasant : and when the bust, which was brought to the academy by one of our countrymen, dressed with its sable and mournful emblem, exhibited his exquisitely moulded features, in “all their marble-chiselled beauty, we believe there were few, very few, who approached it without a feeling of awe and sadness--few, very few, who did not tread more slowly and cautiously as they approached the image of the bard.
" They drew near very solemnly
To dead Napoleon !" But we are perpetually running into long digressions, which a natural enthusiasm, and the temptations and facilities for wandering which the subject offers, will, we hope, be a sufficient excuse for, to our readers. To proceed with the catalogue of our author's principal works. In 1817, he published “ Manfred,” the “ Lament of Tasso,” “ Darkness,” and some smaller pieces, among which were those written expressly about his domestic affairs, which we willingly admit he might better have stifled; as it was making'a voluntary appeal to the public about matters not of their cognisance, and giving them jurisdiction, whether they are willing to entertain it or not. The • Curse of Minerva," which had been written several years before, saw the light also about this time... As a satire, it is more powerful than the “ English Bards." “ Beppo,” and the splendid fourth canto of “Childe Harold,” in which the author's faculty seems to have reached its meridian, came out in 1818. From the constantly sustained elevation of language, the frequent use of apostrophes, and the reference to his own feelings, preserved throughout the latter poem, the critics have been led to accuse him of an ambitious and affected phraseology; of clothing common-place in gorgeous expressions and allusions ; in plainer English, of bombast. There may be a few
passages which are subject to such a censure; but, for ourselves, we have read the poem often, and have not yet been able to convince ourselves, that what we had taken for subli