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[The seven Satires here grouped together represent work extending from Byron's twentieth to his thirty-sixth year, from the beginning, that is, to the end of his poetical career. Two distinct, and sometimes hostile, veins are to be noted in Byron's genius, - one romantic and lyrical, connecting him with the revolutionary poets of the day, the other satirical and neo-classic, de riving from the school of Queen Anne. In Childe Harold and the Tales the first vein is to be seen almost pure ; in the Satires the second reigns practically unmixed; in Don Juan the two are inextricably blended, giving the real Byron, the full poet. — The history of the Satires is briefly as follows: As early as October, 1807, Byron had written a satirical poem which he called British Bards. This was printed in quarto sheets (but never published), one set of which is now in the British Museum. Lord Brougham's review of Hours of Idleness appeared in the Edinburgh Review of January, 1808. Spurred to revenge the scant courtesy shown him in that essay, Byron added to his satirical verses and published them anonymously as English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, in March, 1809. These began with the ninety-seventh line of the present poem. A second edition, to which he prefixed his name, followed in October of the sanie year, and a third and fourth were called for during his " pilgrimage' in 1810 and 1811. On returning to England he revised the work for a fifth edition, which was actually printed when he suddenly resolved to suppress it. Several copies, however, escaped destruction, and from one of these the poem as it now appears in his Works derives. Byron often in later years regretted the indiscriminate sarcasm of this Satire, but the trick of flinging barbed arrows right and left he never forgot. Many of the judgments, though extravagant in expression as befits the Muse of Juvenal, are shrewdly penetrating Hints from Horace was always a favorite of the author's, but is little read to-day. It was, however, for various reasons not published in the author's lifetime, and was first included among his works in the Murray edition of 1831. – The Curse of Minerva is dated by Byron himself, Athens, March 17, 1811. It was to be published, as was also Hints from Horace, in the volume with the fifth edition of the Bards, and Moore states that The Curse of Minerva, and with it necessarily the other two poems, was suppressed out of deference to Lord Elgin. It was, curiously enough, first published in Philadelphia in 1815. – Byron wrote The Waltz in 1812 and published it anonymously in the spring of the following year. It exhibits at once the indignation felt by many English folk at the introduction of this form of 'round dancing' from Germany, and more particularly, that almost morbid sense of modesty which Byron, like many another man of rakish habits, so often manifested in words throughout his life. The Blues, 'a mere buffoonery,' as Byron calls it, was scribbled' at Ravenna, August 6, 1821, and is apparently a mere unprovoked effervescence of wit. It was published anonymously in Leigh Hant's Liberal of April 26, 1823.- Into the long quarrel between Southey, the reformed radical and obliging poet-laureate, and Byron, leader of the 'Satanic school,' there is neither space nor occasion here to enter. The result on Byron's side, notably the Dedication to Don Juan and The Vision of Judgment, was the writing of some of the most enjoyable satire ever penned. George III. died January 29, 1820; Southey's
apotheosis of that monarch was published in April of the next year as A Vision of Judgment. The inexpressible flatness and absurdity of the hexameters which composed this poem cried out for ridicule, and Byron was ready. He sent the manuscript of his satire of the same name to Murray, October 4, 1821 ; Murray, however, cautiously refrained fron printing, and the poem was first published in the Liberal of October 15, 1822.
- The Age of Bronze was composed in December of 1822 and January of 1823, and three months later was published by John Hunt without the author's name. The poem contains a rapid survey of Napoleon's career, of the Congress of the Allied Powers at Verona, 1822, and the political difficulties of Great Britain of that year.]
ENGLISH BARDS AND SCOTCH
I had rather be a kitten, and cry mew!
POPE PREFACE All my friends, learned and unlearned, have urged me not to publish this Satire with my name. If I were to be 'turned from the career of my humour by quibbles quick, and paper bullets of the brain, I should have complied. with their counsel. But I am not to be terrified by abuse, or bullied by reviewers, with or without arms. I can safely say that I have attacked none personally, who did not commence on the offensive. An author's works are public property: he who purchases may judge, and publish his opinion if he pleases; and the authors I have endeavoured to commemorate may do by me as I have done by them. I dare say ther will sncceed better in condemning my scribblings, than in mending their own. But my object is not to prove that I can write well, but, if possible, to make others write better.
As the poem has met with far more success than I expected, I have endeavoured in this edition to make some additions and alterations, to renıler it more worthy of public perusal.
In the first edition of this satire, published anonymously, fourteen lines on the subject of Bowles's Pope were written by, and inserted at the request of, an ingenious friend of mine, who has now in the press a volume of poetry. In the present edition they are erased, and some of my own substituted in their stead, my only reason for this being that which I conceive would operate with any other person in the same manner, -a determination not to publish with my name any production, which was not entirely and exclusively my own composition.
With regard to the real talents of many of the poetical persons whose performances are mentioned or alluded to in the following pages, it is presumed by the author that there can be little difference of opinion in the public at large; though, like other sectaries, each has his separate tabernacle of proselytes, by whom his abilities are over-rated, his faults overlooked, and his metrical canons received without scruple and without consideration. But the unquestionable possession of considerable genius by several of the writers here censured renders their mental prostitution more to be regretted. Imbecility may be pitied, or, at worst, laughed at and forgotten; perverted powers demand the most decided reprehension. No one can wish more than the author that some known and able writer had undertaken their exposure ; but Mr. Gifford has devoted himself to Massinger, and, in the absence of the regular physician, a country practitioner may, in cases of absolute necessity, be allowed to prescribe his nostrum to prevent the extension of so deplorable an epidemic, provided there be no quackery in his treatment of the malady. A caustic is here offered ; as it is to be feared nothing short of actual cautery can recover the numerous patients afflicted with the present prevalent and distressing rabies for rhyming. – As to the Edinburgh Reviewers, it would indeed require an Hercules to crush the Hydra; but if the author succeeds in merely. bruising one of the heads of the serpent,' though his own hand should suffer in the encounter, he will be amply satisfied.
STILL must I hear? — shall hoarse Fitz
gerald 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
Oh, nature's noblest gift, my grey goose- Speed, Pegasus ! — ye strains of great and quill!
small, Slave of my thoughts, obedient to my will, Ode, epic, elegy, have at you all ! Torn from thy parent bird to form a pen, I too can scrawl, and once upon a time That mighty instrument of little men! I pour'd along the town a flood of rhyme, The pen ! foredoom'd to aid the mental A schoolboy freak, unworthy praise or throes
blame; Of brains that labour, big with verse or I printed — older children do the same. prose,
'T is pleasant, sure, to see one's name in Though nymphs forsake, and critics may
A book's a book, although there's nothing The lover's solace and the author's pride.
in't. What wits! what poets dost thou daily Not that a title's sounding charm can save raise !
Or scrawl or scribbler from an equal grave: How frequent is thy use, how small thy This Lambe must own, since his patrician
praise, Condemn'd at length to be forgotten quite, Fail'd to preserve the spurious farce from With all the pages which ’t was thine to
No matter, George continues still to write,
The self-same road, but make my own re-
Not seek great Jeffrey's, yet like him will Then let us soar to-day; no common theme,
be No eastern vision, no distemper'd dream Self-constituted judge of poesy. Inspires — our path, though full of thorns, is plain;
A man must serve his time to ev'ry trade Smooth be the verse, and easy be the strain. Save censure critics all are ready made.
Take hackney'd jokes from Miller, got by When Vice triumphant holds her sov'
With just enough of learning to misquote;
is just ten sterling pounds per
sheet: And weigh their justice in a golden scale; Fear not to lie, 't will seem a sharper hit; E'en then the boldest start from public Shrink not from blasphemy, 't will pass for sneers,
wit; Afraid of shame, unknown to other fears, Care not for feeling - pass your proper jest, More darkly sin, by satire kept in awe, And stand a critic, hated yet caress'd. And shrink from ridicule though not from law.
And shall we own such judgment ? no
Such is the force of wit! but not belong Seek roses in December, ice in June; To me the arrows of satiric song;
Hope constancy in wind, or corn in chaff;
Believe a woman or an epitaph,
To these young tyrants, by themselves mis- Then Congreve's scenes could cheer, or placed,
Otway's melt Combined usurpers on the throne of taste; For nature then an English audience felt. To these, when authors bend in humble But why these names, or greater still, reawe,
trace, And hail their voice as truth, their word When all to feebler bards resign their as law
place? While these are censors, 't would be sin to Yet to such times our lingering looks are spare;
cast, While such are critics, why should I for- When taste and reason with those times are bear ?
past. But yet, so near all modern worthies run, Now look around, and turn each trifling 'T is doubtful whom to seek, or whom to
Survey the precious works that please the Nor know we when to spare, or where to
This truth at least let satire's self allow, Our bards and censors are so much alike. No dearth of bards can be complain'd of
now. Then should you ask me, why I venture The loaded press beneath her labour groans, o'er
And printers’ devils shake their weary The path which Pope and Gifford trod be
While Southey's epics cram the creaking If not yet sicken'd, you can still proceed:
shelves, Go on; my rhyme will tell you as you read. And Little's lyrics shine in hot-press'd • But hold !' exclaims a friend, here 's
twelves. some neglect:
Thus saith the preacher: “Nought beneath This, that, and t'other line seem incor
the sun rect.'
Is new;' yet still from change to change What then ? the self-same blunder Pope
What varied wonders tempt us as they And careless Dryden — Ay, but Pye has not:
The cow-pox, tractors, galvanism, and gas, Indeed !- 't is granted, faith ! - but what In turns appear, to make the vulgar stare,
Till the swoln bubble bursts and all is Better to err with Pope than shine with
air ! Pye.
Nor less new schools of Poetry arise,
Where dull pretenders grapple for the Time was, ere yet in these degenerate prize: days
O’er taste awhile these pseudo-bards preIgnoble themes obtain'd mistaken praise,
vail; When sense and wit with poesy allied, Each country book-club bows the knee to No fabled graces, flourish'd side by side;
Baal, From the same fount their inspiration drew, And, hurling lawful genius from the throne, And, rear'd by taste, bloom'd fairer as they
Erects a shrine and idol of its own; grew.
Some leaden calf - but whom it matters Then, in this happy isle, a Pope's pure
From soaring Southey down to grovelling Sought the rapt soul to charm, nor sought
Stott. in vain; A polish'd nation's praise aspired to claim, Behold ! in various throngs the scribbling And raised the people's, as the poet's fame.
crew, Like him great Dryden pour’d the tide of For notice eager, pass in long review: song,
Each spurs his jaded Pegasus apace, , In stream less smooth, indeed, yet doubly And rhyme and blank maintain an equal strong
care I ?
Sonnets on sonnets crowd, and ode on ode; Such be their meed, such still the just And tales of terror jostle on the road;
reward Immeasurable measures move along; Of prostituted muse and hireling bard ! For simpering folly loves a varied song, 150 For this we spurn Apollo's venal son, To strange mysterious dulness still the And bid a long 'good night to Marmion.'
friend, Admires the strain she cannot compre
These are the themes that claim our hend.
plaudits now; Thus Lays of Minstrels — may they be the These are the bards to whom the muse last!
must bow; On half-strung harps whine mournful to While Milton, Dryden, Pope, alike forgot, the blast.
Resign their hallow'd bays to Walter Scott. While mountain spirits prate to river sprites,
The time has been, when yet the muse That dames may listen to the sound at
was young, nights;
When Homer swept the lyre, and Maro And goblin brats, of Gilpin Horner's brood,
sling, Decoy young border-nobles through the An epic scarce ten centuries could claim, wood,
While awe-struck nations hail'd the magic And skip at every step, Lord knows how high,
The work of each immortal bard appears And frighten foolish babes, the Lord knows The single wonder of a thousand years. why;
Empires have moulder'd from the face of While high-born ladies in their magic cell,
earth, Forbidding knights to read who cannot Tongues have expired with those who gave spell,
them birth, Despatch a courier to a wizard's grave, Without the glory such a strain can give, And fight with honest men to shield a As even in ruin bids the language live. knave.
Not so with us, though minor bards, content,
On one great work a life of labour spent: Next view in state, proud prancing on With eagle pinion soaring to the skies, 201
Behold the ballad-monger Southey rise ! "The golden-crested haughty Marmion, To him let Camoens, Milton, Tasso yield, Now forging scrolls, now foremost in the Whose annual strains, like armies, take the fight,
field. Not quite a felon, yet but half a knight, First in the ranks see Joan of Arc advance, The gibbet or the field prepared to grace; The scourge of England and the boast of A mighty mixture of the great and base.
France ! And think'st thou, Scott ? by vain conceit Though burnt by wicked Bedford for a perchance,
witch, On public taste to foist thy stale romance, Behold her statue placed in glory's niche; Though Murray with his Miller may com- Her fetters burst, and just released from bine
prison, To yield thy muse just half-a-crown per A virgin phenix from her ashes risen. line ?
Next see tremendous Thalaba come on, No! when the sons of song descend to Arabia's monstrous, wild, and wondrous son; trade,
Domdaniel's dread destroyer, who o'erTheir bays are sere, their former laurels
More mad magicians than the world e'er Let such forego the poet's sacred name,
knew. Who rack their brains for lucre, not for Immortal hero ! all thy foes o'ercome, fame:
For ever reign — the rival of Tom Thumb! Still for stern Mammon may they toil in Since startled metre fled before thy face, vain,
Well wert thou doom'd the last of all thy And sadly gaze on gold they cannot gain !