Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

As an industrious and pains-taking body 't is

That Poets should be reckon'd mcritorious: And therefore I submissively propose To erect one Board for Verse and one for Prose.

amused me. It is called Beppo - the short name for Giuseppo, that is, the Joe of the Italian Joseph. It has politics and ferocity.” Again“ Whistlecraft is my immediate model, but Berni is the father of that kind of writing; which, I think, suits our language, too, very well. We shall see by this experiment. It will, at any rate, show that I can write cheerfully, and repel the charge of monotony nd mannerism." He wished Mr. Murray to accept of Beppo as a free gift, or, as he chose to express it, “ as part of the contract for Canto Fourth of Childe Harold ; "adding, however," if it pleases, you shall have more in the same mood; for I know the Italian way of life, and, as for the verse and the passions, I bave them still in tolerable vigour.”

The Right Honourable John Hookham Frere has, then, by Lord Byron's confession, the merit of having first introduced the Bernesque style into our language; but his performance, entitled “ Prospectus and Specimen of an intended National Work, by William and Robert Whistlecraft, of Stowmarket, in Suffolk, Harness and Collar Makers, intended to comprise the most interesting Particulars relating to King Arthur and his Round Table,” though it deligbred all elegant and learned readers, obtained at the time little notice from the public at large, and is already almost forgotten. For the causes of this failure, about which Mr. Rose and others have written at some length, it appears needless to look further than the last sentence we have been quoting from the letters of the author of the more successful Beppo. Whistlecraft had the verse: it had also the humour, the wit, and even the poetry of the Italian model ; but it wanted the life of actual manners, and the strength of stirring passions. Mr. Frere had forgot, or was, with all his genius, unfit to profit hy remembering, that the poets, whose style he was adopting, always made their style appear a secondary matter. They never failed to embroider their merriment on the texture of a really interesting story. Lord Byron perceived this ; and avoiding his immediate master's one fatal error, and at least equalling him in the excellencies which he did display, engaged at once the sympathy of readers of every class, and became substantially the founder of a new species of English poetry.

In justice to Mr. Frere, however, whose “ Speci. men" has long been out of print, we must take this opportunity of showing how completely, as to style and versification, he bad anticipated Beppo and Don Juan. In the introductions to his cantos, and in various detached passages of mere description, he had produced precisely the sort of effect at which Lord Byron airned in what we may call the secondary, or merely ornamental, parts of his Comic Epic. For example, this is the beginning of Whistlecraft's first canto:

“ Princes protecting Sciences and Art

I've often seen, in copper-plate and print ;
I never saw them elsewhere, for my part,

And therefore I conclude there's nothing in 't:
But every body knows the Regent's heart;

I tri he on't reject a well-meant hint;
Each Board to have twelve members, with a seat

To bring them in per ann. five hundred neat:" From Princes I descend to the Nobility :

In former times all persons of high stations,
Lords, Baronets, and Persons of gentility,

Paid twenty guineas for the dedications:
This practice was attended with utility ;

The patrons lived to future generations,
The poets lived by their industrious earning. -

So men alive and dead could live by Learning. “ Then, twenty guineas was a little fortune ;

Now, we must starve unless the times should mond :
Our poets now-a-days are deem'd importune

If their addresses are diffusely penn'u;
Most fashionable authors make a short one

To their own wite, or child, or private friend,
To show their independence, I suppose ;

And that may do for Gentlemen like those. “ Lastly, the common people I beseech

Dear People ! if you think my verses clever,
Preserve with care your noble parts of speech,

And take it as a maxim to endeavour
To talk as your good mothers used to teach,

And then these lines of mine may last for ever;
And don't confound the language of the nation

With long-tail'd words in osity and ation.
“ I think that Poets (whether Whig or Tory)

(Whether they go to meeting or to church)
Should study to promote their country's glory

With patriotic, diligent research;
That children yet unborn may learn the story,
With grammars, dictionaries, canes, and

írch:
It stands to reason - This was Homer's plan,

And we must do - like him - the best we can. “ Madoc and Marmion, and many more,

Are out in print, and most of them have sold;
Perhaps together they may make a score;

Richard the First has had his story told -
But there were Lords and Princes long before,

That had behaved themselves like warriors bold:
Amongst the rest there was the great KING ARTHUR,
What hero's fame was ever carried farther?"

The following description of King Arthur's Christmas at Carlisle is equally meritorious :-. « The Great KING ARTAUR made a sumptuous Feast,

And held his Royal Christmas at Carlisle,
And thither came the Vassals, most and least,

From every corner of this British Isle ;
And all were entertain'd, both man and beast,

According to their rank, in proper style;
The steeds were fed and litter'd in the stable,

The ladies and the knights sat down to table. " The bill of fare (as you may well suppose)

Was suited to those plentiful old times,
Before our ry.odern luxuries arose,

With truffles and ragouts, and various crimes ;
And therefore, from the original in prose

I shall arrange the catalogue in rhymes :
They served up salnon, venison, and wild boars

By hundreds, and by dozens, and by scores. “ Hogsheads of honey, kilderkins of mustard,

Muttons and fatted beeves, and bacon swine :
Herods and bitterns, peacock, swan and bustard,

Teal, ma'lard, pigeons, widgeons, and in fine
Plum-puddings, pancakes, apple-pies and custard :

And therewithal they drank good Gascon wine,
With mead, and ale, and cyder, of our own ;

For porter, punch, and negus were not known. “ The noise and uproar of the scullery tribe,

All pilfering and scrambling in their calling,
Was past all powers of language to describe

The din of manful oaths and female squalling:
The sturdy porter, huddling up his bribe,

And then at random breaking heads and bawling,

# I're often wish'd that I could write a book,

Such as all English people might peruse; I never should regret the pains it took,

That's just the sort of same that I should choose : To sail about the world like Captain Cook,

I'd sling a cot up for my favourite Muse,
And we'd take verses out to Demarara,
To New South Wales, and up to Niagara.

* Ports consume exciseable commodities,

They raise the nation's spirit when victorious, They drive an export trade in whirns and Oddities,

Making our commerce and revenue glorious ;

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,

Thund'ring his deep surprise and indignation ;
The lesser hills, in language of their own,

Discuss'd the topic by reverberation;
Discoursing with their echoes all day long;.

Their only conversation was, 'ding-dong."

Mr. Rose has a very elegant essay on Whistlecraft in his “ Thougbts and Recollections by One of th last Century," which thus concludes :

Outcries, and cries of order, and contusions,
Made a confusion beyond all confusions ;
Beggars and vagabonds, blind, lame, and sturdy,

Minstrels and singers with their various airs,
The pipe, the tabor, and the hurdy-gurdy,

Jugglers and mountebanks with apes and bears, Continued from the first day to the third day,

An uproar like ten thousand Smithfield furs; There were wild beasts and foreign birds and creatures,

And Jews and Foreigners with foreign features. “ All sorts of people there were seen together,

All sorts of characters, all sorts of dresses: The fool with fox's tail and peacock's feather,

Pilgrims, and penitents, and grave burgesses ; The country people with their conts of leather,

Vintners and victuallers with cans and messes; Grooms, archers, varlets, falconers and yenmen,

Damsels and waiting-maids, and waiting-women. “ But the profane, indelicate amours,

The vulgar, unenlighten'd conversation
Of minstrels, menials, courtezans, and boors,

(Although appropriate to their meaner station) Would certainly revolt a taste like yours;

Therefore I shall omit the calculation of all the curses, oaths, and cuts, and stahs,

Occasion'd by their dice, and drink, and drabs. " We must take care in our poetic cruise,

And never hold a single tack too long; Therefore my versatile, ingenious Muse,

Takes leave of this illiterate, low-bred throng, Intending to present superior views,

Which to genteeler company belong, And show the higher orders of society

Behaving with politeness and propriety. “ And certainly ther say, for fine behaving

King Arthur's Court has never had its match ;
True point of honour, without pride or braving,

Strict etiquette for over 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 look'd 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 look'd of an heroic race

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

Large eyes, with ample eyebrows arch'd 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."

“ Beppo, which had a story, and which pointed but one way, inet with signal and universal success; while. The Monks and the Giants' have been little appreciated, by the majority of readers. Yet those who will only laugh upon a suflicient warrant, may, on analysing this bravura-poem, find legitimate matter for their mirth. The want of meaning certainly cannot be objected to it, with reason ; for it contains a deep substratum of sense, and does not exhibit a character . which has not, or might not, have its parallel in nature. I remember at the time this poem was published, which was, when the French monarchy seemed endangered by the racil. lating conduct of Louis XVIII., who, under the guidance of successive ministers, was trimming between the loyalists and the liberals, apparently thinking that civility and conciliation was a remedy for all evils,) a friend dared me to prove my assertion; and, by way of a text, referred me to the character of the crippled abbot, under whose direction, • The conrent was all going to the devil,

While he, poor creature, thought himself beloved
For saying handsome things, and being civil,

Wheeling about as he was puild and shoved.' The obvious application of this was made by me to Louis XVII: ; and it it was not the intention of the author to designate him in particular, the applicability of the passage to the then state of France, and her ruler, shuis, at least, che intrinsic truth of the description. Take, in the same way, the character of Sir Tristrani, and we shall find its elements, i pot in one, in diferent living persous.

Songs, music, languages, and many a lay

Asturian, or Armoric, Irish, Basque,
His ready memory seized and bore away ;

And ever when the ladies chose to ask,
Sir Tristram was prepared to sing and play,

Not like a minstrel, earnest at his task,
But with a sportive, careless, easy style,

As if he seem'd to mock himnseli the while.
* His ready wit, and rambling education,

With the congenial influence of his stars,
Had taught him all the arts of conversation,

All games of skill, and stratagems of wars ;
His birth, it seems, by Merlin's calculation,

Was under Venus, Mercury, and Mars :
His mind with all their attributes was mix'd,

And, like those planeis, wand'ring and untix'd. * Who can read this description, without recognising in it the portraits (flattering portraits, perhaps) of two military characters well known in society?"

The reader will find a copious criticism on Whistlecraft, from the pen of Ugo Foscolo, in the Quarterly Review, vol. xxi.]

The little snatches of critical quizzing introduced in Whistlecraft are perfect in their way. Take, for example, this good-humoured parody on one of the most magnificent passages in Wordsworth : " In castles and in courts Ambition dwells,

But not in castles or in courts alone;
She breathed a wish, throughout those sacred cells,

For bells of larger size, and louder tone;
Giants abominate the sound of bells,

And soon the fierce antipathy was shown,
The tinkling and the jingling, and the clangor,

Roused their irrational, gigantic anger. “ Unhappy mortals ! ever blind to fate!

Unbappy Monks ! you see no danger nigh;
Exulting in their sound, and size, and weight,

From morn till noon the merry peal you ply:
The belfry rocks, your bosoms are elate,

Your spirits with the ropes and pulleys fly;
Tired, but transported, panting, pulling, hauling,

Ramping and stamping, overjoy'd and bawling.
" Meanwhile the solemn mountains that surrounded

The silent valloy where the convent lry,
With tintinnabular uproar were astounded,

When the first peal burst forth at break of day:

Beppo.

I. 'T is known, at least it should be, that throughout

All countries of the Catholic persuasion, Some weeks before Shrove Tuesday comes about,

The people take their fill of recreation,

And buy repentance, ere they grow devout,

However high their rank, or low their station, With fiddling, feasting, dancing, drinking, masquing, And other things which may be had for asking.

But why they usher Lent with so much glee in,

Is more than I can tell, although I guess 'Tis as we take a glass with friends at parting, In the stage-coach or packet, just at starting.

II.
The moment night with dusky mantle covers

The skies (and the more duskily the better),
The time less liked by husbands than by lovers

Begins, and prudery flings aside her fetter; And gaiety on restless tiptoe hovers,

Giggling with all the gallants who beset her: And there are songs and quavers, roaring, humming, Guitars, and every other sort of strumming.

VII.
And thus they bid farewell to carnal dishes,

And solid meats, and highly spiced ragouts,
To live for forty days on ill-dress'd fishes,

Because they have no sauces to their stews, A thing which causes many “ poohs” and “pishes,”

And several oaths (which would not suit the Muse), From travellers accustom'd from a boy To eat their salmon, at the least, with soy ;

III.
And there are dresses splendid, but fantastical,

Masks of all times and nations, Turks and Jews, And harlequins and clowns, with feats gymnastical,

Greeks, Romans, Yankee-doodles, and Hindoos; All kinds of dress, except the ecclesiastical,

All people, as their fancies hit, may choose, But no one in these parts may quiz the clergy, – Therefore take heed, yc Freethinkers ! I charge ye.

VIII.
And therefore humbly I would recommend

“ The curious in fish-sauce," before they cross The sea, to bid their cook, or wife, or friend,

Walk or ride to the Strand, and buy in gross (Or if set out beforehand, these may send

By any means lcast liable to loss ),
Ketchup, Soy, Chili-vinegar, and Harvey,
Or, by the Lord! a Lent will well nigh starve ye;

IX.
That is to say, if your religion's Roman,

And you at Rome would do as Romans do,
According to the proverb, - although no man,

If foreign, is obliged to fast; and you, If Protestant, or sickly, or a woman,

Would rather dine in sin on a ragout Dine and be d-d! I don't mean to be coarse, But that's the penalty, to say no worse.

IV.
You'd better walk about begirt with briars,

Instead of coat and smallclothes, than put on
A single stitch reflecting upon friars,

Although you swore it only was in fun; They'd haul you o'er the coals, and stir the fires

Of Phlegethon with every mother's son, Nor say one mass to cool the caldron's bubble That boil'd your bones, unless you paid them double.

V.
But saving this, you may put on whate'er

You like by way of doublet, cape, or cloak,
Such as in Monmouth-street, or in Rag Fair,

Would rig you out in seriousness or joke; And even in Italy such places are,

With prettier name in softer accents spoke, For, bating Covent Garden, I can hit on No place that's call'd “ Piazza" in Great Britain. I

X.
Of all the places where the Carnival

Was most facetious in the days of yore,
For dance, and song, and serenade, and ball,

And masque, and mime, and mystery, and more Than I have time to tell now, or at all,

Venice the bell from every city bore, And at the moment when I fix my story, That sea-born city was in all her glory.

VI.
This feast is named the Carnival, which being

Interpreted, implies“ farewell to flesh:”
So call'd, becanse the name and thing agreeing,

Through Lent they live on fish both salt and fresh.

XI.
They've pretty faces yet, those same Venetians,

Black eyes, arch'd brows, and sweet expressions still; Such as of old were copied from the Grecians,

In ancient arts by moderns mimick'd ill; And like so many Venuses of Titian's

(The best 's at Florence 3. - see it, if ye will,)

1

(* For, bating Covent Garden, I can't hit on

A place," &c.-MS.) : " The Carnival," says Mr. Rose," though it is gayer or doller, according to the genius of the nations which celebrate it, is, in its general character, nearly the same all over the peninsula. The beginning is like any other season ; towards the middle you begin to meet m.isques and mummers in sunshine: in the last tifteen days the plot thickens; and during the three last all is hurly-burly. But to paint these, which may be almost considered as a separate festival, I must avail triell of the words of Messrs. Williarn and Thomas Whistle. craft, in whose. Prospectus and Specimen of an intended National Work' I find the description ready made to my hand, observing that, besides the ordinary dramatis per.

the shops are shut, all business is at a stand, and the drunken cries heard at night afford a clear proof of the pleasures to which these days of leisure are dedicated. These holydays may surely be reckoned amongst the secondary causes which contribute to the indolence of the Italian, since they reconcile this to his conscience, as being of religious institution. Now there is, perhaps, no offence which is so unproportionably punished by conscience as that of indolence. With the wicked man, it is an intermittent disease ; with the idle man, it is a chronic one." - Letters from the North of Italy, vol. ii. p. 171.)

3 [" At Florence I remained but a day, having a hurry for Rome. However, I went to the two galleries, from which one returns drunk with beauty : but there are sculpture and painting, which, for the first time, gave me an idea of what people mean by their cant about those two most artificial of the arts. What struck me most were,- the mistress ot Raphael, a portrait; the mistress of Titian, a portrait ; a Venus of Titian, in the Medici gallery; the Venus; Canova's Venus, also in the other gallery," &c. - Byron Letters, 1817.]

L

Beegare and vagabonds, blind, lame, and sturdy,

Minstrels and singers, with their various airs, The pipe, the tabor, and the hurdy-gurdy,

Jugglers and mountebanks, with apes and bears, Coounde, from the first day to the third day,

An uproar like ten thousand Smithfield fairs'

[ocr errors]

They look when leaning over the balcony,
Or stepp'd from out a picture ty Giorgione,

XII.
Whose tints are truth and beauty at their best ;

And when you to Manfrini's palace go, ?
That picture (howsoever fine the rest)

Is loveliest to my mind of all the show; It may perhaps be also to your zest,

And that's the cause I rhyme upon it so ;
'T is but a portrait of his son, and wife,
And self; but such a woman ! love in life ! 3

XIII.
Love in full life and length, not love ideal,

No, nor ideal beauty, that fine name,
But something better still, so very real,

That the sweet model must have been the same; A thing that you would purchase, beg, or steal,

Wer 't not impossible, besides a shame :
The face recalls some face, as 't were with pain,
You once have seen, but neer will see again;

XIV.
One of those forms which flit by us, when we

Are young, and fix our eyes on every face ;
And, oh! the loveliness at times we sce

In momentary gliding, the soft grace,
The youth, the bloom, the beauty which agree,

In many a nameless being we retrace,
Whose course and home we knew not, nor shall know,
Like the lost Pleiad + seen no more below.

XV.
I said that like a picture by Giorgione

Venetian women were, and so they are,
Particularly seen from a balcony,

(For beauty's sometimes best set off afar) And there, just like a heroine of Goldoni,

They peep from out the blind, or o'er the bar;
And, truth to say, they 're mostly very pretty,
And rather like to show it, more's the pity !

XVL.
For glances beget ogles, ogles sighs,

Sighs wishes, wishes words, and words a letter,

Which flies on wings of light-heel'd Mercuries,

Who do such things because they know no better : And then, God knows, what mischief may arise,

When love links two young people in one fetter,
Vile assignations, and adulterous beds,
Elopements, broken vows, and hearts, and heads.

XVII.
Shakspeare described the sex in Desdemona

As very fair, but yet suspect in fame, 5
And to this day from Venice to Verona

Such matters may be probably the same, Except that since those times was never known a

Husband whom mere suspicion could inflame
To suffocate a wife no more than twenty,
Because sbe had a “ cavalier servente."

XVIII.
Their jealousy (if they are ever jealous)

Is of a fair complexion altogether,
Not like that sooty devil of Othello's

Which smothers women in a bed of feather, But worthier of these much more jolly fellows,

When weary of the matrimonial tether
His head for such a wife no mortal bothers,
But takes at once another, or another's, 6

XIX.
Didst ever see a Gondola ? For fear

You should not, I'll describe it you exactly: 'Tis a long cover'd boat that 's common here,

Carved at the prow, built lightly, but compactly, Row'd by two rowers, each call'd “ Gondolier,"

It glides along the water looking blackly,
Just like a coffin clapt in a canoe,
Where none can make out what you say or co.

XX.
And up and down the long canals they go,

And under the Rialto 7 shoot along,
By night and day, all paces, swift or slow,

And round the theatres, a sable throng,
They wait in their dusk livery of woe,

But not to them do woeful things belong,
For sometimes they contain a deal of fun,
Like mourning coaches when the funeral's done.

[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

! "I know nothing of pictures myself, and care almost as little ; but to me there are none like the Venetian - above all, Giorgione. I remember well his Judgment of Solomon, in the Mariscalchi gallery in Bologna. The real mother is beautiful, exquisitely beautiful.” — Byron Letters, 1820.)

? [The following is Lord Byron's account of his visit to this palace, in April, 1817.-“ To-day, I have been over the Manfrini palace, famous for its pictures. Amongst them, there is a portrait of Ariosto, by Titian, surpassing all my antici. pation of the power of painting or human expression : it is the poetry of portrait, and the portrait of poetry.

There was also one of some learned lady centuries old, whose name I forget, but whose features must always be remembered. I never saw greater beauty, or sweetness, or wisdom :-it is the kind of face to go mad for, because it cannot walk out of its frame. There is also a famous dead Christ and live Apostles, for which Buonaparte offered in vain five thousand louis ; and of which, thougn it is a capo d' opera of Titian, as I am no connoisseur, I say little, and thought less, except of one figure in it. There are ten thousand others, and some very tine Giorgiones amongst them. There is an original Laura and Petrarch, very hideous both. Petrarch has not only the dress, but the features and air of an old woman; and Laura looks by no means like a young one, or a pretty one. What struck most in the general collection, was the extreme resemblance of the style of the female faces in the mass of pictures, so many centuries or generations old, to those you see and meet every day among the existing Italians. The Queen of Cyprus and Giorgione's wife, particularis the latter, are Venetians as it were of yesterday, the same eyes and expression, and, to my mind, there is none finer. You

must recollect, however, that I know nothing of painting, and that I detest it, unless it reminds me of something I have seen, or think it possible to see."]

3 [This appears to be an incorrect description of the picture; as, according to Vasari and others, Giorgione never was married, and died young.] * “ Quæ septem dici sex tamen esse solent.” - OVID.

(" Look to 't: In Venice they do let heaven see the pranks They dare not show their husbands ; their best conscience Is

not to leave undone, but keep unknown."— Othello.] 6 [“ Jealousy is not the order of the day in Venice, and daggers are out of fashion, while duels on love matters are unknown — at least, with the husbands." - Byron Letters.]

1 (An English abbreviation. Rialto is the name, not of the bridge, but of the island from which it is called ; and the Venetians say, il ponte di Rialto, as we say Westminster Bridge. In that island is the Exchange ; and I have often walked there as on classic ground. In the days of Antonio and Bassanio it was secund to none." I sotto portichi," says Sansovino, writing in 1580, " sono ogni giorni frequentati da i mercatanti Fiorentini, Genovesi, Milanesi, Spagnuoli, Turchi, e d'altre nationi diverse del mondo, i quali vi concorrono in tanta copia, che questa piazza è annoverata fra le prime dell' universo." It was there that the Christian held discourse with the Jew; and Shylock refers to it, when he says,

* Signor Antonio, many a time and oft,

In the Rialto, you have rated me." • Andiamo a Rialto' -' l'ora di Rialto' - were on every tongue; and continue so to the present day. - ROGERs.)

[blocks in formation]

smallest degree deviating from the rule of right or the fitness of things, in having an ainoroso. The great sin seems to lie in concealing it, or having more than one ; that is, unless such an extension of the prerogative is understood and approved of by the prior claimant.” — Byron Letters, 1817.] (" A Count of wealth inferior to his quality, Which somewhat limited his liberality." - MS.]

2

« AnteriorContinuar »