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“ The man doom'd to sail with the blast of the gale,
Through billows Atlantic to steer,
The green sparkles bright with a Tear.”
And so of instances in which former poets had failed. Thus, we do not think Lord Byron was made for translating, during his nonage, “Adrian's Address to his Soul,” when Pope succeeded so indifferently in the attempt. If our readers, however, are of another opinion, they may look at it.
“ Ah! gentle, fleeting, wavering sprite,
To what unknown region borne
But pallid, cheerless, and forlorn."
However, be this as it may, we fear bis translations and imitations are great favourites with Lord Byron. We have them of all kinds, from Anacreou to Ossiau ; and, viewing them as school exercises, they may pass. Only, why print them after they have had their day, and served their turn? And why call the thing in p. 79 a translation, where two words (86Aw Aeyelv) of the original are er. panded into four lines, and the other thing in p. 81, where uegoVUKTINIS Tof depars is rendered by means of six hobbling verses ? As to his Ossianic poesy, we are not very good judges, being, in truth, so moderately skilled in that species of composition, that we should, in all probability, be criticising some bit of the genuine Macpherson itself, were we to express our opinion of Lord Byron's rhapsodies. If, then, the following beginning of a “Song of Bards” is by his lordship, we venture to object to it as far as we can comprehend it. “What form rises on the roar of clouds, whose dark ghost gleams on the red stream of tempests? His voice rolls on the thunder; 'tis Orla, the brown chief of Oithona. He was," &c. After detaining this “brown chief" some time, the bards conclude by giving him their advice to raise his fair locks;" then to "spread them on the arch of the rainbow ;” and “to smile through the tears of the storm.” Of this kind of thing there are no less than nine pages; and we can so far venture an opinion in their favour, that they look very like Macpherson ; and we are positive they are pretty nearly as stupid and tiresome.*
It is a sort of privilege of poets to be egotists ; but they should " use it as not abusing it;” and particularly one who piques himself (though indeed at the ripe age of nineteen) on being "an infant bard,”—-" The artless Helicon I boast is youth ")-should either not know, or should seem not to know, so much about his own ancestry. Besides a poem above cited, on the family-seat of the Byrons, we have another of eleven pages on the self-same subject, introduced with an apology," he certainly had no intention of inserting it," but really " the particular request of some friends," &c. &c. It concludes with five stanzas on himself, "the last and youngest of a noble line.” There is a good deal also about his maternal ancestors, in a poem on Lachin y Gair, a mountain where he spent part of his youth, and might have learnt that pibroch is not a bagpipe, any more thau duot means & fiddle.
* ["I think I could write a more sarcastic critique on myself than any published. For instance, instead of the remark, -ill-natured enough, but not keen,about Macpherson, I (quoad reviewers) could have said, · Alas, this initation only proves the assertion of Dr. Johnson, that many men, women, and children could write such poetry as Ossian's." "-Lord B. Letters, March 28, 1808.1
As the author has dedicated so large a part of his volume to immortalise his employments at school and college, we cannot possibly dismiss it without presenting the reader with a specimen of these ingenious effusions. In an ode with a Greek motto, called "Granta," we have the following magnificent stanzas :
We are sorry to hear so bad an account of the college psalmody as is contained in the following Attic stanzas :
“Our choir would scarcely be excused
Even as a band of raw beginners;
To such a set of croaking sinners.
“ If David, when his toils were ended,
Had heard these blockheads sing before him,
In furious mood he would have tore 'em !"
But, whatever judgment may be passed on the poems of this noble minor, it seems we must take them as we find them, and be content; for they are the last we shall ever have from him. He is, at best, he says, but an intruder into the groves of Parnassus ; he never lived in a garret like thorough-bred poets; and "though he once roved a careless mountaineer in the Highlands of Scotland," he has not of late enjoyed this advantage. Moreover, he expects no profit from his publication ; and whether it succeeds or not, “it is highly improbable, from his situation and pursuits hereafter," that he should again condescend to become an author. Therefore, let us take what we get, and be thankful. What right have we poor devils to be nice? We are well off to have got so much from a man of this lord's station, who does not live in a garret, but “has the sway " of Newstead Abbey. Again we say, let us be thankful; and, with honest Sancho, bid God bless the giver, nor look the gift-horse in the mouth.*
* [It is authoritatively stated by his biographer, that Jeffrey—the Editor-was not the author of the article. Lord Byron, who at first supposed him the sole aggressor, settled down later into the belief that his antagonist was the versatile Henry Brougham, to whose pen the attack is now very generally attributed. The Monthly Review, in those days the next in circulation to the Edinburgh, gave a much more favourable notice of the "Hours of Idleness.” "These compositions (it said) are generally of a plaintive or an amatory cast, with an occasional mixture of satire ; and they display both ease and strength-both pathos and fire. It will be expected that marks of juvenility and of haste should be discovered in these productions; and we seriously advise our young bard to fulfil with submissive perseverance the duties of revisiou and correction. We discern, in Lord Byron, a degree of mental power, and a turn of mental disposition, which render us solicitous that both should be well cultivated and wisely directed, in his career of life."- Lord Byron repaid the Edinburgh Critique with a Satire-and because himself a Monthly Reviewer.)
INTRODUCTION 10 HOURS OF IDLENESS.
Early in the year 1806 Lord Byron was sitting with Miss Pigot at Southwell, listening to the poems of Burns, when he told the fair reciter that he too was a poet, and wrote down the lines “In thee I fondly hoped to clasp." Then it was that the idea occurred to him of printing his manu
anuscripts for private circulation, and he immediately set about revising old and composing new pieces. The volume was completed in November, and a copy sent to his friend Mr. Beecher, who returned a remonstrance in verse against some licentious stanzas. Lord Byron acknowledged the justice of the rebuke, and the same evening burnt the whole edition, with the exception of a copy retained by Mr. Beecher, and another which had been forwarded to Mr. Pigot at Edinburgh. In January, 1807, he had a second private and enlarged edition of a hundred copies ready for distribution. His favoured correspondents commended the contents, and he was encouraged to prepare an edition for sale, which was published in the course of the summer by Mr. Ridge, a bookseller of Newark, -the printer of the previous private volumes. Twenty poems equal, in Moore's opinion, if not superior to those retained, were now omitted, and others inserted. A second public impression, with further curtailments and additions, came out in the spring of 1808, almost simultaneously with the famous article in the Edinburgh Review. Hitherto the notices of his book had been mostly favourable, and the contemptuous reversal in the high court of criticism of the decision pronounced by inferior judges was gall and wormwood to the anthor. He affected indifference at the time, and pretended that, “as he had been lucky enough on the whole, his repose and appetite were not discomposed.” Afterwards, when the mortification had been swallowed up in victory, he acknowledged how his spirit had fired at the blow. “It knocked me down,” he said, “but I got up again. The effect upon me was rage and resistance; but not despondency nor despair. I was bent on falsifying their raven predictions, and determined to show them, croak as they would, that it was not the last time they should hear from me.” He refreshed his spirits with three bottles of claret, and on that very day commenced “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.” After the first twenty lines he felt considerably better, -a sense of the smart he was about to inflict operating like a charm upon the wound he had received. He affirmed at the time that the Edinburgh reviewers had not performed their task well, but later in life he called the critique “a master-piece of low wit.” The injustice of the article was not, as is often alleged, in the insensibility it showed to poetic genius, for those who could see the germs of "Childe Harold" in the “ Hours of Idleness," might detect the oak in an acord. Nine pieces out of ten are rather vapid imitations of preceding writers, and though the acute and benignant eye of Walter Scott had already distinguished
'passages of noble promise," which led him to expostulate with the editor of the Edinburgh Review upon the bitterness of the critique, yet be frankly confessa that they raised no expectation of even the dawning power which was displayed in the two first Cantos of the Pilgrimage. Many buds of better promise hare never blown. But the unpretending volume of a school-boy-clever for the app at which it was produced-might have been passed in silence, or treated with respect. There was nothing to warrant scornful jeering, and, indeed, zeal for
more than for poetry, is said to have inspired the article, which was dictated by the desire to humble a Peer. The Peer soon taught his critics that they had not set their foot upon a worm, but upon a snake that could sting, ani Jeffrey then endeavoured to extenuate the wantonness of the attack by calling insulting ridicule "innocent pleasantry and moderate castigation.”