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In spring and in autumn thy glories of shade
And oh, Dinas Emlyn! thy daughters so fair,
When half of their charms with Cadwallon shall die?'
Most of this, with submission to Sir Walter, is merely fanciful. That neither mute nature, nor the ghosts of departed knights and maidens, have much to do with the lamentations that follow the decease of a poet is a matter of course; and we apprehend that it is not from a selfish calculation of what they shall lose in renown and glory, that at such times the brightest eyes are suffused with tears, and the noblest hearts swelled with sorrow. The fair daughters of Dinas Emlyn. had no reason to fear, that they should ever be in want of an enthusiast to worship their eyes, while their bosoms were as white, and while their dark hair waved as profusely as before, whatever might become of the Dying Bard; nor would the young men of this village, when called on to perform their military duty in repelling the Saxons, have inquired very anxiously beforehand, whether their future exploits were likely to be as well described as their former ones. All this, we repeat, is in a great measure fanciful, and the real state of the case is much more honorable to human nature, than the one here supposed. As far as there is anything selfish in our feelings of regret at the death of a great poet, it is not the loss of reputation, that we are troubled about, but the loss of the pleasure we derive from reading good verses. But selfishness is not the sole, nor yet the chief cause of our sorrow. We grieve because the principle of sympathy, with which we are all endowed, naturally comes into action when the fine chords that connect our souls with the souls of those we love are violently rent asunder by the hand of death; and we know and love our favorite authors, as was just observed, often much better than we do our nearest friends. We also grieve
We mourn at once
because a great man has fallen in Israel. for an object of private regard, and for a public benefactor. The sympathy of others gives a new intensity to all individual emotions; and we are doubtless struck with double sorrow for the death of Lord Byron, when we recollect that half the civilised world is bearing us company.
The interest we all felt in this extraordinary being was increased by the singular circumstances, that attended his progress through the world. He not only wrote poetry but acted it. His short life was a strange fantastic drama, as wild as the Midsummer Night's Dream. He exhibited himself by turns as a man and a poet, and in either character he was always assuming some eccentric shape; disappointing expectation, defying calculation, spurning at all laws critical, moral, and political,-but still redeeming his follies and vices by continual displays of good feeling, and uninterrupted flashes of the true fire of poetry. We saw him in the first instance wooing the Muses with the awkward and unsuccessful airs of a stripling; but even then there was some promise of the better things, that were to follow. There are those among us, who read with pleasure the high souled ballad of Lachin y Gair, although the minstrel's harp was then far from being fitly tuned to the lofty pitch of his sentiments. We next saw him dragged before a critical tribunal, accused of writing indifferent poetry while he was at school, and of being a Lord; and for these high crimes and misdemeanors condemned to be pilloried in the Edinburgh, and pelted with the keenest and coarsest jokes, which the Reviewers could muster. Lord Byron was probably regarded by these ingenious gentlemen, as some dainty sprig of nobility, that was giving itself the airs of a poet; a fashionable butterfly, whom it was a sort of condescension to break upon the critical wheel, but with whom they could do their worst without the fear of resistance. They soon found, however, that they had caught a Tartar; and at his Lordship's next public appearance, we saw him carrying the war into the camp of these borderers with a furious resolution, and a manly vigor, that brought them directly to a sense of their error. They shrunk at once from the conflict, did not venture to notice the English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, although it was one of the best poems that had appeared since the time of Cowper; and
soon after sunk into the tone of fond and almost indiscriminate adulation, with which they have generally received his Lordship's subsequent productions.
In the interval between these two appearances the noble bard had made, or rather attempted, another so completely unsuccessful, that it has perhaps been hardly heard of in this country. Before the publication of the English Bards he had printed, in partnership with Mr Hobhouse, a collection of poems, which cannot be said to have been published, because it remained upon the bookseller's hands, and was, after a while, converted into waste paper. A few of the pieces are, we believe, incorporated in some of the late collections. Let this fact console the young claimants for poetical distinction, whose first productions have been treated in a similar way. In this world of intrigue and management, a writer, or a man, who chooses to depend for success upon his own deserts, must wait a little while for it; but then, when it comes it is worth having. What satisfaction is there in wearing a laurel wreath, if a man is to go into the woods and cut it down with his own penknife? And again, the greatest genius does not arrive at the maturity of his power, till after frequent efforts and repeated failures. The reception given to these poems by the public was probably as good as they deserved.
Such were the first events of Lord Byron's literary life. At this time the scene changes. His restless and soaring spirit began to feel itself uneasy in the prison house of the British isles, and solitary in the crowded walks of Bondstreet and Piccadilly. The greater part of Europe was closed against him by the continental system; but a breach had just been made by Lord Wellington in the long line of batteries erected to support it; and Spain and Portugal were now open. Lord Byron made a rapid tour through these countries, and through some of the most interesting parts of Greece. The view of these ancient seats of civilisation, and the influence of the high recollections connected with them, seem to have given fresh force and brilliancy to his Lordship's poetical talent; and the two first cantos of Childe Harold, the greater part of which, as he tells us, was written at intervals of leisure, while he was upon his travels, exhibit the highest point of excellence to which he ever at
tained. None of his subsequent writings evince greater power either of thought, imagination, or style. Some are of equal merit in all these respects; but in no other work has he sustained himself for an equal length of time, at the greatest elevation to which his genius was capable of raising him. His English Bards had already attracted the public attention, and prepared the readers of poetry to look for something as good or better from the same quarter; but they had not anticipated anything like this grand and beautiful display. This time there was no difference of opinion or feeling. It was one general burst of delight and admiration from all classes of readers. Lord Byron's literary friends, whom he consulted about the expediency of publishing the work, had told him that it had merit, but that it would not be relished by the mass; and had advised him not to print. A similar judgment was passed, under the same circumstances, upon Paul and Virginia, the most popular book that ever was written. Such is the value of closet criticism, compared with that which is enlightened, directed, and controlled by public opinion; and such, we may add, are the partial judgments of literary friends. But these lukewarm advisers, when they saw the success of the work, screwed up their taste in a moment to the sticking place of the general admiration; the author's enemies, the reviewers, were upon their knees; and Lord Byron, from being a discontented misanthrope, the butt of critics and the scorn of booksellers, became the idol of his nation; from an associate, as the story ran, of wolves and bears, he started into view as the reigning lion of the day. In his former publication he had treated with culpable levity some of his nearest connexions, and especially his guardian the Earl of Carlisle, well known in this country as one of the members of a commission sent out to treat with Congress during the revolutionary war, of which Lord Howe was the head, and the celebrated Ferguson, secretary,—a nobleman of the highest character, and whose only fault was, that he had written some indifferent tragedies. This levity, and other indiscretions of a similar kind, had produced a coldness towards him on the part of his family. All was now forgotten. Without being very attractive or agreeable in his social habits, he became, in consequence of his high poetical reputation, graced and
set off by his noble birth and splendid fortune, an object of universal interest and curiosity. Nothing seemed to be wanting to complete his happiness but a good wife; and as the ladies were all in love with him, it was not difficult to supply this deficiency. He soon married an accomplished and beautiful woman, established himself in a splendid mansion on Piccadilly Terrace, and began to write more poetry. Sir Walter Scott had brought into vogue by his Lay of the Last Minstrel, and his Marmion, the fashion of long ballads in six cantos, written in a short octosyllabic measure; and Lord Byron, with a view probably of surpassing this great and only competitor upon his own ground, produced in rapid succession the Giaour and the Bride of Abydos; and afterwards, to prove the facility with which he could manage all measures, the Corsair and Lara in the common heroic couplet. None of these poems were to be compared with Childe Harold; nor would they perhaps of themselves have given a sudden reputation to a new pretender; but under favor of the vogue that had now attached itself to the author's name, they all passed for prodigies. Besides these greater pieces, he threw off with careless prodigality, on every occasion that presented itself, a variety of shorter ones mostly of the lyric class, some of which, and more especially the best of the Hebrew Melodies, are among the sweetest and sublimest strains to be found in the English, or any other language, and are far superior to the longer works of the same period.
Such was the position of Lord Byron at this second period of his life. He certainly appeared to the world, as one of the most favored and enviable beings in creation. Placed at the summit of fame and fortune, in the pride of health, and with the consciousness of genius, he had seemingly nothing to do but to go on triumphantly through life, conquering and to conquer, revising his old poems and writing new ones. A few months elapsed, and we saw him breaking away suddenly in disgust from his wife and child, his family, his friends, and his country, and wandering about the world, a wretched and solitary outcast; detesting the very name of an Englishman, and regarded in turn by all that bore it with a feeling of aversion, which could hardly be repressed by a just admiration of his genius. After wasting his best years in this intolerable exile, we have seen him finally dying of fatigue and fever in the marshes of Missolonghi.