Page images




JANUARY, 1825.

ART. I.-Lord Byron's Poems. 3 vols. New York. 1815.

THE death of Lord Byron, without depressing the price of stocks or affecting the election of President, has produced a deep and general feeling of regret throughout the country. The loss of a truly great poet is in fact an event that affects immediately, in their occupations and their pleasures, a much larger number of persons, than that of a distinguished statesman or of a military conqueror. Politicians and warriors move the mighty springs, that regulate the destinies of nations, and determine the happiness or misery of the individuals that compose them, but their personal influence upon these individuals is extremely limited. Few see or converse with them. Still fewer enjoy their intimacy. Their reputation with the multitude is matter of history while they live, and when they die it is still the same. The public know as much or more of them than they did before. But the powerful writer, and especially the gifted poet, addresses himself directly to the heart, and makes a warm, personal friend of every man of education and feeling within the circle of his readers. While the others produce their effects upon the condition of individuals, by acting directly upon large masses, he brings out his general effects by operating immediately upon the minds of individuals. He enters in person the sanctuary of every private bosom, and establishes himself as VOL. XX.-No. 46.


a dear and familiar guest in the minds of men, that never saw his face or heard the sound of his voice. In fact, we often really know more of his character and sentiments, than we do of those of our most intimate associates. Montaigne affects to smile at his own simplicity in revealing more of his secret history to the public, than he did to his nearest connexions; but this is the natural and necessary result of all good writing. No man can write with effect and eloquence in prose, and still less in poetry, unless he instinctively, and as it were involuntarily, makes his works a picture of his own intellectual and moral constitution; and hence, when we mee with good writing, we possess of course the means of forming a sort of indirect personal acquaintance with the author. Every one of his successive publications is felt as a visit from a valued friend. Our occupations and our pleasures become in some degree identified with his existence; and when he dies, one of our principal sources of happiness is dried up forever.

These, we think, are the true reasons why we feel so sensibly the death of a great poet; why that of Lord Byron in particular has been lamented as a public calamity, by a hundred nations in Europe and America, nay, in Asia, Africa, Australasia and Polynesia. We have no doubt that tears were shed at the first news of this sad event at Calcutta, at Botany Bay, and at the Sandwich Islands, as well as at Berlin, Paris, Rome, Philadelphia, and London. Sir Walter Scott has degraded his subject, though in very pretty verses, when he tells us in the introduction to the fifth canto of the Lay of the Last Minstrel, that it is mute nature which mourns the death of the poet, and celebrates his obsequies; and also, when in the next stanza he corrects himself by adding, that in reality it is not mute nature, but the spirits of departed knights and maidens, who perform this funeral ceremony by moaning through the woods, and swelling the rivers with tears of regret for the loss of the reputation, which they expected to receive from the labors of the poet. Nor does Sir Walter much mend the matter when he tells us in still better verse, in his Dying Bard's Lament, that the death of the poet should be regretted, because it disenchants the face of nature of half its beauty, and robs the fair and young of their best chance for glory.

« PreviousContinue »