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Of the three hundred grant but three,
What, silent still? and silent all?
Ah! no ;-the voices of the dead Sound like a distant torrent's fall,
And answer, 'Let one living head, But one arise, we come, we come!' 'Tis but the living who are dumb.
In vain in vain; strike other chords;
And shed the blood of Scio's vine!
You have the Pyrrhic dance as yet,
The nobler and the manlier one?
Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
It made Anacreon's song divine ;
He served but served Polycrates—
A tyrant; but our masters then
Were still, at least, our countrymen.
The tyrant of the Chersonese
Was freedom's best and bravest friend;
That tyrant was Miltiades !
Oh that the present hour would lend
Another despot of the kind!
Such chains as his were sure to bind.
Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
Such as the Doric mothers bore; And there, perhaps, some seed is sown, The Heracleidan blood might own.
Trust not for freedom to the Franks
They have a king who buys and sells ;
In native swords, and native ranks,
Place me on Sunium's marbled steep,
Where nothing, save the waves and I,
The dramatic poems constitute the last division of the productions of this inexhaustible genius. These would afford a larger field for regular criticism than either of the other classes, if we had room and inclination to enter upon the subject. But our limits begin to fail us; and we took up the pen with a determination to point out beauties rather than defects. Considered merely as dramas, these performances are generally deficient in regularity, and most of them are more carelessly and incorrectly written, than any of the author's other works. But it is impossible to read the poorest of them without meeting, at times, with splendid passages, and without recognising throughout the traces of a masterhand.
2. Our readers will readily conclude, from the tenor of the preceding remarks, that we have no disposition to depreciate the reputation of Lord Byron. Without indulging in a blind and indiscriminate admiration of everything he has written, we have endeavored to render him not only fair, but ample justice; and we trust that we have praised him enough to satisfy his warmest admirers, to the number of whom we profess to belong. We shall not, therefore, be suspected of writing under any unfavorable prejudice, if the few observations upon the moral tendency of these poems, which we now propose to offer, should wear a different aspect from those, which we have made upon their literary character. It
is indeed, much to be regretted, that almost the whole mass of Lord Byron's writings is, in one way or another, tainted with immorality, and fitted to produce an unfortunate effect upon the reader's mind. A considerable part of them are disfigured with absolute grossness. To these the noble author himself did not think it expedient to affix his name, and they are of course, excluded, by this quality, from general perusal, and from the domain of regular criticism. But others, which are wholly free from this stain, are infected with faults more dangerous, perhaps, because less obvious to the unsuspecting or uninformed reader; such as the exhibition, under a favorable point of view, of unnatural and vicious characters, and the introduction of false principles in morals and religion. The looseness of Lord Byron's notions upon these subjects, seems to have been one of the principal sources of these, and all the other defects in his poetry.
Lord Byron appears to have thrown off very early, (if he ever felt it,) the wholesome restraint, which is generally imposed upon young minds by the authority of received opinions; and never to have attained any firm or distinct conception of the sublime truths, which these received opinions rest upon and represent. This would have been a misfortune to himself, rather than the public, were it not that, although he had evidently no settled notions upon these important points, he was extremely fond of treating of them in his writings. His rage for speculation, combined with this entire absence of fixed principles, leaves him in a state of constant vacillation between the most opposite theories. Occasionally he avowed himself a Christian; but in many of his writings he openly scoffs at the popular belief of his country. At times he presents us with pure and elevated views of the character of God, and professes to admit the reality of virtue, and to feel and admire its beauty. More generally we find him inclining to a gross and gloomy materialism, doubting or denying the existence of any good principles or feelings, regarding the universe as a result of blind chance or fate, and man as a mere brute like the rest. At other times he rises a little above this system, into a kind of mazy skepticism, and seems to look upon the nature and destiny of the human race, as a strange and insoluble enigma. Such is the tenor of the reflections contained
in the following powerful passage of the fourth canto of Childe Harold.
Alas! our young affections run to waste,
And to a thought such shape and image given,
As haunts the unquench'd soul-parch'd-wearied-wrung
Of its own beauty is the mind diseased,
And fevers into false creation;-where,
Where are the forms the sculptor's soul hath seized ?
In him alone. Can Nature show so fair?
Where are the charms and virtues, which we dare
And overpowers the page where it would bloom again?
Who loves, raves-'tis youth's frenzy-but the cure
Ideal shape of such; yet still it binds
The fatal spell, and still it draws us on,
Reaping the whirlwind from the oft sown winds;
The stubborn heart, its alchemy begun,
Seems ever near the prize-wealthiest when most undone.
We wither from our youth, we gasp away
Sick-sick; unfound the boon-unslaked the thirst,
Some phantom lures, such as we sought at first
But all too late, so are we doubly curst,
And death the sable smoke where vanishes the flame.
Whose touch turns hope to dust,-the dust we all have trod.
Our life is a false nature-'tis not in
The harmony of things,-this hard decree,
This uneradicable taint of sin,
This boundless Upas, this all blasting tree,
Whose root is earth, whose leaves and branches be
Our right of thought-our last and only place
Is chain'd and tortured-cabin'd, cribb'd, confined,
The beam pours in, for time and skill will couch the blind.
To this terrifying picture of the moral world, in which our young affections are represented as running to waste or watering only the desert, and in which the reality of Love is formally denied, succeeds, a few pages after, a charming passage, where the power of parental and conjugal affection is described, as strong enough to triumph over the agony of a public and painful death in the mind of the Dying Gladiator. There is hardly anything in the whole poem more touching than the second of the following stanzas.