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This dull and dark, a thing of prey;
That brilliant, fluttering, and gay.
When such extremes se touchent, 'tis worse
For wonder than Kehama's curse.
When Angels come to sport with woman,
We look for something more than common-
Prosing in rhyme, or rhyming history,
Cain, or some other sort of mystery,
Work for Love's Court, or Court Consistory.
But when an author and reviewer
Are snugly garreted, be sure
That (whether by flattery or bribe,
The fancied badges of each tribe,)
There's something working in the wind
A puff before, or blast behind,
To curl the wave of expectation,
Tickle the gulls, and gull the nation.
Their general junctions such I trow,
But different far their purpose now.
No embryo of the poet's brain
Now wants the critic's venal strain
No bantling illegitimate,
Begot by Sin on mother Wit,
With bastard claims would seek to wage
War 'gainst dull Sense's heritage-
No satire comes, to wrest the crown
From soberer dunces about town
No unfledged madrigal is panting
Within its nest, false plumage wanting
To urge it on its primal flight-
No puling Pastoral seeks the light-
No dreary Drama, from the throes
Of a forced birth, whines forth its woes
No spurious Comedy appears,
With grins for smiles for satire jeers
The Poet seeks, in short, to find,
From the man-midwife of the mind,
Deliverance of another kind.
'Twas sometime gone this Poet's Muse
Loosely attired-perhaps en Blouse-
Held in fair Italy's warm clime
Flirtation with the Son of Rhyme.
Whether it was the warmth of sky
That lit the Heaven-born damsel's
Or whether 'twas the Poet's tongue
That lured the maid, I leave unsung;
And simply say this amorous bout
“ Of linked sweetness long drawn out,”
Going all fair lengths, short of marriage,
Ended, proh pudor! in miscarriage.
To cut a naughty story short,
The wanton Muse in this resort
(I mean the garret) hid her shame,
And left full many a child of Fame-
The Poet's title, not his name
(For she'd a litter quite, the strumpet !)
But robb’d them of their father's trumpet.
The young abortions, thus forsaken,
Might for a common man's be taken;
For ev'n Fame's offspring, if unfather'd,
Like chaff is by the blind world gather’d,
Which proves, in spite of gibing mimics,
The moral want of patronymics,
And plainly shows that merit needs
I take't for fact, each reader knows
The forms of youngsters such as those.
'Tis certain quite as Irish May rents,
(When Bards and Muses are the parents)
That children come in other shapes
Than kings', or peers' or fashion's apes ;
And those whose fate I now rehearse
Were little limbless things in verse,
Without a single foot to walk on;
Like old maids without tales to talk on,
Or prudes without some Airt to randle,
Or tea-table undeck'd with scandal,
Or roast pig without ears for garnish,
Or demirep without her varnish.
High up were piled, unstitch'd, unbound,
Unedited, unnamed, unown'd,
Huge printed packages--whole pages
Destined, if born, to live for ages,
But strangled ere they drew their breath-
A species of Hibernian death.
Full many a quire was there bespread
Of fiery thoughts loose scattered,
With many a wild and wicked joke
Uncrack’d, and many a pun unspoke,
And beauties crush'd, and smother'd sweets,
Like Desdemona, in their sheets.
The bard, a slave of the whole sex,
Rush'd merciless upon the wrecks,
Like waves on shatter'd masts and decks.
One thought alone his brain imbues,
The reputation of his Muse;
For though her character 's a gay one,
Her fame is more than European,
And the whole world (except her lover)
Thought all her young penchants were over.
'Tis therefore that in her behoof
He now would blot each damning proof,
And stand in dire resolve—a pattern
For sculptors of a second Saturn.
The only puzzle that appear'd,
Was how to get the garret clear’d.
His progeny in deathlike slumbers
Lay-how unlike those breathing numbers,
Their full-grown sisters and their brothers,
The sire the same, but different mothers !
Could he but hope they'd slumber here
Eternally, he'd nought to fear;
But when he thought upon the throng
Of those grave rooters-out of song,
Those desperate resurrection-men
Of literature, who wield the pen,
Just as a sexton plies the spade,
Who, in the practice of their trade,
Grub up the dark sepulchre's gloom,
Search subjects in oblivion's tomb,
And with their glutton maws becramm’d,
Feed on all authors-dead or damn'd-
Our poet swore, and justly too,
He'd snatch his babes from the foul crew;
Therefore the critic's counsel craved
How his young implings might be saved.
Quick as the quere was pronounced
The critic on the quarry pounced,
And cried, with a most natural tone,
“ Cut them in pieces--one by one !”
The poet, shock’d, an instant stood
To mark his friend's imp'rative mood.
He, in accordance with the fire
or Genius, long'd to have a pyre
Whereon the bodies might be burn’d;
But this the critic overturn'd,
Lest the young offspring of old Fame
Might spring from the consuming flame,
And each a chattering phenix rise
Up through the chimney to the skies.
To work they went, then, nail and tooth
(Pardon th’inversion), nothing loath.
As for the critic, 'twas his trade
To mar the jokes another made,
And cut (like his tribe, 'tis said)
The writings he had never read :
He plunged in medias res—the story
Hack’d, slash'd, and scatter'd, con amore ;
Quotations flung abroad by chance;
Spoild English epigrams in France;
Made puns upon each rumpled fair sheet,
Swore he was brother to Doll Tearsheet;
And glow'd ʼmidst the disjecta membra,
Although the day was quite Novembry.
And then the unnatural father, too,
Upon his mangled offspring flew;
And seem'd resolved d'avance to try
How he might rob posterity.
Here ends the tale. The moral is,
That Fame, which wise ones call a quiz,
But which most authors think a treasure,
One can forego with honest pleasure,
When he must pay for 't at the price
Of one right feeling's sacrifice.
And also, that though Bards there be
All greatly penitent as he,
Who can, in moments of compunction,
Keep froin their souls Fame's flattering unction,
Critics ne'er Alinch from their foul function!
THE ISLAND.* The eccentric spirit to whom we are indebted for a new poem under the above title, has returned, in this instance, to that style, or rather that class of work which he seemed to have finally abandoned for something, certainly less generally interesting and attractive, however elevated in rank and ambitious in pretension. It is to his narrative poems--his Giaours, his Corsairs, his Laras, &c. that Lord Byron owes his popularity at least, if not his reputation. If it were not for these, and the intense interest that they had excited towards any thing he might offer to the world, his Manfreds, his Cains, and even the noblest of all his productions, his “ Heaven and Earth,” might have remained mysteries, in more senses than one. The latter were a kind of “Cuviare," that nothing could have rendered palatable "to the multitude,” unless their appetite bad been previously excited in a degree that prevented them from judging exactly what it was of which they were partaking If even the “Heaven and Earth” had appeared anonymously, and had not included any internal evidence of the source from whence it came, it would have fallen still-born from the press. As it was, people read it without relishing it, praised it without appreciating it, and laid it by without ever intending or desiring to take it up again. Whereas, of all the numerous fragments which this extraordinary writer has put forth, if there is one which indicates the true nature of the poetical structure he is capable of raising, and (we are determined to hope and expect) he some day or other will raise, to the glory of his art and the immortal honour of his name—it is this.
The Island, as we have hinted above, is a narrative poem, like those by which the author first became celebrated ; with this difference, however, against it—that it is “ founded on facts." We say
We say “ against it,” for this reason,--that facts are not only such “stubborn,” but such stirring things in their individual selves, that any suspected, much more any avowed alteration or embellishment of them, never fails to weaken the effect of a narration in which they are to form a distinguishing feature. Abstract truth will very well bear to be " in fairy fiction dress'd ;" that which merely may have been, may be described to have been in any manner that the fancy or the feelings of the narrator may suggest, consistently with the object in view. But that which has been cannot be safely treated in this way, if the person who treats of it places any dependence on the fact of its having actually happened. To tell us, in the plain and intelligible prose of an eye-witness, that certain events took place thus and thus ; and then to tell us, over again, the same story in substance, but after a different fashion, and one that is intended to be more poetical ;—this is something worse than a work of supererogation. If Lord Byron had a mind to tell a story of the mutiny of a ship's company and its consequences-well and good ; the subject would immediately strike us as being well adapted to his powers, and susceptible of the most poetical treatment. But why hamper himself with an actual narration of a mutiny, only to alter or abandon it, just as he might think fit at the moment ;--re
* The Island; or, Christian and his Companions. A Poem, by the Right Honourable Lord Byron.
taining the actual names, places, &c. but mixing them up with other names and places, and adapting them to other and fancied events ? This is the only general fault we have to find with the interesting work before us. For the rest, it includes several admirable descriptive passages, some fine touches of character and passion, and a few clear, distinct, and highly interesting pictures. It consists of four cantos, the first of which is by many degrees the most inferior : indeed it is inferior to any other piece of writing of the same length that we remember of this author. It merely gives a slight sketch of the completion of the mutiny on board Captain Bligh's ship, and of the captain and part of the crew being set adrift; and then accompanies the mutineers (Christian and his companions) in their adventures in one of the Otaheitan Islands. The second canto introduces us to the two persons who make the principal figures in the poem.—Torquil
, a young mountaineer, who formed one of the mutinous crew, and Neuha, an island girl, who attaches herself to him as a lover. The descriptions of each of these are among the best parts of the
“ There sat the gentle savage of the wild,
In growth a woman, but in years a child,
As childhood dates within our colder clime,
Where nought is ripen'd rapidly save crime;
The infant of an infant world, as pure
From nature lovely, warm, and premature;
Dusky like night, but night with all her stars ;
Or cavern sparkling with its native spars ;
eyes that were a language and a spell ;
A form like Aphrodite's in her shell,
With all her loves around her on the deep;
Voluptuous as the first approach of sleep
Yet full of life for through her tropic cheek
The blush would make its way, and all but speak;
The sun-born blood suffused her neck, and threw
O'er her clear nut-brown skin a lucid hue,
Like coral reddening through the darken’d wave,
Which draws the diver to the crimson cave.
Such was the daughter of the Southern Seas.” The description of the English, or rather Scotch lover, if not so distinct and picturesque, is equally spirited.
“ And who is he?-the blue-eyed northern child
Of isles more known to man, but scarce less wild;
The fair-hair'd offspring of the Hebrides,
Where roars the Pentland, with its whirling seas;
Rock’d in his cradle by the roaring wind,
The tempest-born in body and in mind,
His young eyes opening on the ocean-foam,
Had from that moment deem'd the deep his home;
The giant comrade of his pensire moods ;
The sharer of his craggy solitudes;
The only Mentor of his youth,—where'er
His bark was borne, the sport of wave and air ;-
A careless thing, who placed his choice in chance;
Nursed by the legends of his land's romance;
Eager to hope, but not less firm to bear ;
Acquainted with all feelings, save despair.
Placed in the Arab's clime, he would have been
As bold a rover as the sands have seen,