Imágenes de página


And certainly they say, for fine behaving
King Arthur's Court has never had its match
True point of honour, without pride or braving,
Strict etiquette for ever on the watch:
Their manners were refined and perfect-saving
Some modern graces, which they could not catch,
As spitting through the teeth, and driving stages,
Accomplishments reserved for distant ages.

They looked a manly, generous generation;

Beards, shoulders, eyebrows, broad, and square, and thick,
Their accents firm and loud in conversation,
Their eyes and gestures eager, sharp, and quick,
Showed them prepared, on proper provocation,
To give the lie, pull noses, stab and kick;
And for that very reason, it is said,
They were so very courteous and well-bred.

The ladies looked of an heroic race

At first a general likeness struck your eye,
Tall figures, open features, oval face,

Large eyes, with ample eyebrows arched and high;
Their manners had an odd, peculiar grace,
Neither repulsive, affable, nor shy,
Majestical, reserved, and somewhat sullen;
Their dresses partly silk, and partly woollen.




Sir Gawain may be painted in a word-
He was a perfect loyal Cavalier;

His courteous manners stand upon record,
A stranger to the very thought of fear.
The proverb says, As brave as his own sword;
And like his weapon was that worthy Peer,
Of admirable temper, clear and bright,
Polished yet keen, though pliant yet upright.



On every point, in earnest or in jest,
His judgment, and his prudence, and his wit,
Were deemed the very touchstone and the test
Of what was proper, graceful, just, and fit;
A word from him set everything at rest,
His short decisions never failed to hit ;
His silence, his reserve, his inattention,
Were felt as the severest reprehension;

His memory was the magazine and hoard,
Where claims and grievances, from year to year,
And confidences and complaints were stored
From dame and knight, from damsel, boor, and peer:
Loved by his friends, and trusted by his Lord,
A generous courtier, secret and sincere,
Adviser-general to the whole community,

He served his friend, but watched his opportunity.






Meanwhile the solemn mountains that surrounded
The silent valley where the convent lay,
With tintinnabular uproar were astounded,

When the first peal burst forth at break of day:
Feeling their granite ears severely wounded,
They scarce knew what to think, or what to say;
And (though large mountains commonly conceal
Their sentiments, dissembling what they feel,

Yet) Cader-Gibbrish from his cloudy throne
To huge Loblommon gave an intimation,
Of this strange rumour, with an awful tone,
Thundering his deep surprise and indignation;
The lesser hills, in language of their own,
Discussed the topic by reverberation ;
Discoursing with their echoes all day long,
Their only conversation was, 'ding dong.'

Those giant-mountains inwardly were moved,
But never made an outward change of place:
Not so the mountain-giants—(as behoved
A more alert and locomotive race),

Hearing a clatter which they disapproved,

They ran straight forward to besiege the place
With a discordant universal yell,

Like house-dogs howling at a dinner-bell.





As Bees, that when the skies are calm and fair,
In June, or the beginning of July,

Launch forth colonial settlers in the air,

Round, round, and round about, they whiz, they fly, With eager worry whirling here and there,

They know not whence, nor whither, where, nor why, In utter hurry-scurry, going, coming,

Maddening the summer air with ceaseless humming;

Till the strong Frying-pan's energic jangle
With thrilling thrum their feebler hum doth drown,
Then passive and appeased, they drop and dangle,
Clinging together close, and clustering down,
Linked in a multitudinous living tangle
Like an old Tassel of a dingy brown ;-
The joyful Farmer sees and spreads his hay,
And reckons on a settled sultry day :-

E'en so the Monks, as wild as sparks of fire,
(Or swarms unpacified by pan or kettle),
Ran restless round the Cloisters and the Quire,
Till those huge masses of sonorous metal
Attracted them towards the Tower and Spire;
There you might see them cluster, crowd, and settle,
Thronged in the hollow tintinnabular Hive;
The Belfry swarmed with Monks; it seemed alive.


[BORN Jan. 22, 1788. Educated at Harrow, and Trinity College, Cambridge. Published Hours of Idleness in 1807. A review of this book in the Edinburgh provoked the Satire English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, which was published in March 1809. After this date Byron travelled in Spain, Greece and Turkey for two years. On his return he published the two first Cantos of Childe Harold in 1812. During the years 1813-1815 he wrote The Giaour, Bride of Abydos, Corsair, Lara, Hebrew Melodies, Siege of Corinth, Parisina. The two last were published in the spring of 1816 shortly after Byron's separation from the wife whom he had married on Jan. 2, 1815. This year, 1816, was the most important epoch in his life. He left England never to return; settled first at Geneva, where he made the acquaintance of Shelley, composed the Third Canto of Childe Harold, Prisoner of Chillon, and Prometheus, and began Manfred. In 1817 he removed to Venice, finished Manfred, wrote the Lament of Tasso, the Fourth Canto of Childe Harold, and Beppo. In the years 1818 and 1819, still residing at Venice, he produced the Ode on Venice, Mazeppa, and the first four Cantos of Don Juan. In 1820 and 1821, while living at Ravenna, he wrote the Prophecy of Dante, Marino Faliero, Sardanapalus, The Two Foscari, Cain, Heaven and Earth, and A Vision of Judg ment. Part of the two next years was spent at Pisa in close intimacy with Shelley. Werner, The Deformed Transformed, The Island, and the remaining Cantos of Don Juan, on which Byron had been from time to time at work during his Ravenna residence, were completed. On July 13, 1823, Byron sailed from Genoa for Greece, in order to take active part in the liberation of that country from Turkish rule. He died of fever at Missolonghi on the 19th of April, 1824, at the age of thirty-six years and three months.]

The first thing that strikes a student of Byron's collected works is the quantity of poetry produced by him in a short lifetime. The second is the variety of forms attempted—the scope and range of intellectual power displayed. The third is the inequality of the

performance, due apparently in certain cases to haste of composition, in others to imperfect sympathy with the subjects treated, or again to some contemptuous compliance with a fashion which the author only tolerated.

Byron's character is stamped upon his work in a remarkable degree; and his character was powerfully biassed by external circumstance. The critic cannot therefore neglect his biography. In early childhood he was left to the sole care of a violent and injudicious mother. Impressed with the importance of the title to which he succeeded at the age of ten, he yet had neither friends nor connections of his own rank, and but slender means for sustaining its dignity. Handsome, active, and ambitious, he was debarred from engaging in field-sports by the malformation of his ankle. Thus, from the first, he lived under conditions eminently unfavourable for the growth of an equable temperament or for the acquisition of just views about society. His mental powers were acute and vigorous; his emotions sincere and direct; the impressions made upon his sensitive nature by the persons with whom he came in contact were vivid and indelible. Yet his judgment of the world was prematurely warped, while his naturally earnest feelings were overlaid with affectations and prejudices which he never succeeded in shaking off. He was constitutionally shy, uncertain in society, preferring the solitude of hills and woods and water, to the men and women whom he learned to misconceive and misinterpret. Though he strove to conceal this shyness beneath an assumption of off-handed ease, his manners to the last were awkward. It was his misfortune to be well-born but ill-bred, combining the pride of a peer with the self-consciousness of a parvenu. He rarely suffered his true opinions and emotions to be visible. What he proffered his acquaintance in their stead was stamped with artificiality. Trelawny thought that Byron was what London in the days of the Prince Regent made him. But we must go further back, and recognise that from his boyhood he began to construct and wear a masquerade costume that could not be abandoned. When Shelley discerned the 'canker of aristocracy' and 'perverse ideas' in one whom he admired but never made his friend; when Goethe complained of his 'Empeiria' or taint of worldliness, they laid their fingers on this radical blot. The ostentation which repels us in Byron's correspondence and in the records left of him by his associates, the swaggering tone that spoils so much of his best work and makes it impossible to love

« AnteriorContinuar »