Imágenes de páginas

That brow in furrow'd lines had fix'd at last,
And spake of passions, but of passions past;
The pride, but not the fire, of early days,
Coldness of mien, and carelessness of praise ;
A high demeanour, and a glance that took
Their thoughts from others by a single look ;
And that sarcastic levity of tongue,
The stinging of a heart the world hath stung,
Tbat darts in seeming playfulness around,
And makes those feel that will not own the wound;
All these seem'd his, and something more beneatb
That glance could well reveal, or accent breathe :
Ambition, glory, love, the common aim
That some can conquer, and that all would claim,
Within his breast appear'd no more to strive,
Yet seem'd as lately they had been alive ;
And some deep feeling it were vain to trace

At moments lighten’d o'er his livid face.'-Lara, pp. 6, 7. We are not writing Lord Byron's private history, though from the connexion already stated between his poetry and his character, we feel ourselves forced upon considering his literary life, his de portment, and even his personal appearance. But we know enough even of his private story to give our warrant that, though his youth may have shared somewhat too largely in the indiscretion of those left too early masters of their own actions and fortunes, falsehood and malice alone can impute to him any real cause for hopeless remorse or gloomy misanthropy. To what, then, are we to ascribe the singular peculiarity which induced an author of such talent,and so well skilled in tracing the darker impressions which guilt and remorse leave on the human character,so frequently to affix features peculiar to himself to the robbers and the corsairs which he sketched with a pencil as forcible as that of Salvator ?–More than one answer may be returned to this question; nor do we pretend to say which is best warranted by the facts. The practice may arise from a temperament which radical and constitutional melancholy has, in the case of Hamlet, predisposed to identify its owner with scenes of that deep and arousing interest which arises from the stings of conscience contending with the stubborn energy of pride, and delighting to be placed in supposed situations of guilt and danger, as some men love instinctively to tread the giddy edge of a precipice, or, holding by some frail twig, to stoop forward over the abyss into which the dark torrent discharges itself. Or it may be that these disguises were assumed capriciously as a man might choose the cloak, poniard, and dark-lantern of a bravo, for his disguise at a masquerade. Or feeling his own powers in painting the sombre and the horrible, Lord Byron assumed in his

fervour the very semblance of the characters he describes, like an actor who presents on the stage at once his own person and the tragic character with which for the time he is invested. Nor is it altogether incompatible with his character to believe that, in contempt of the criticisms which on this account had attended Childe Harold, he was determined to show to the public how little he was affected by them, and how effectually it was in his power to compel attention and respect, even when imparting a portion of his own likeness and his own peculiarities to pirates, and outlaws.

But although we do not pretend to ascertain the motive on which Lord Byron acted in bringing the peculiarities of his own sentiments and feeling so frequently before his readers, it is with no little admiration that we regard these extraordinary powers, which, amidst this seeming uniformity, could continue to rivet the public attention, and secure general and continued applause. The versatility of authors who have been able to draw and support characters as different from each other as from their own, has given to their productions the inexpressible charm of variety, and

has often secured them against that neglect which in general attends what is technically called mannerism. But it was reserved to Lord Byron to present the same character on the public stage again and again, varied only by the exertions of that powerful genius, which searching the springs of passion and of feeling in their innermost recesses, knew how to combine their operations, so that the interest was eternally varying, and never abated, although the most important personage of the drama retained the same lineaments. It will one day be considered as not the least remarkable literary phenomenon of this age, that during a period of four years, notwithstanding the quantity of distinguished poetical talent of which we may be permitted to boast, a single author, and he managing his pen with the careless and negligent ease of a man of quality, and choosing for his theme subjects so very similar, and personages bearing

so close a resemblance to each other,—did, in despite of these circumstances, of the unamiable attributes with which he usually invested his heroes, and of the proverbial fickleness of the public, maintain the ascendency in their favour, which he had acquired by his first matured production. So however it indisputably has been; and those comparatively small circles of admirers excepted, which assemble naturally around individual poets of eminence, Lord Byron has been for that time, and may for some şime continue to be, the Champion of the English Parnassus. If his empire over the public mind be in any measure diminished, it arises from no literary failure of his own, and from no triumph of his competitors, but from other circumstances, sa frequently alluded to in the publications before us, that they cannot pass without some notice, which we will study to render as brief as it is impartial.

The poet thus gifted, thus honoured, thus admired, no longer entitled to regard himself as one defrauded of bis just fame, and expelled with derision from the lists in which he had stood forward a candidate for honour, but crowned with all which the public could bestow, was now in a situation apparently as enviable aś could be attained through mere literary celebrity. The sequel may be given in the words in which the author, adopting here more distinctly the character of Childe Harold than in the original poem, has chosen to present it to us, and to assign the cause why Childe Harold has resumed his pilgrim's staff when it was hoped he had set down for life a denizen of his native country. The length of the quotation will be pardoned by those who can feel at once the moral interest and poetical beauty with which it abounds.

Something too much of this :- but now 'tis past,
And the spell closes with its silent seal.
Long absent HAROLD re-appears at last;
He of the breast which fain no more would feel,
Wrung with the wounds which kill not, but ne'er heal,
Yet Time, wbo changes all, had altered him
In soul and aspect as in age : years steal

Fire from the mind as vigour from the limb;
And life's encbanted cup but sparkles near the brim.

• His had been quaffd too quickly, and he found
The dregs were wormwood; but he fillèd again,
And from a purer fount, on holier ground,
And deem'd its spring perpetual ; but in vain!
Still round bim clung invisibly a chain
Which gall’d for ever, fettering though unseen,
And heavy though it clank'd not; worn with paio,

Which pined although it spoke not, and grew keen,
Entering with every step, he took, through many a scene:

Secure in guarded coldness, he had mix'd
Again in fancied safety with his kind,
And deem'd his spirit now so firmaly fix’d
And sheath'd with an invulnerable mind,
That, if no joy, no sorrow lurk'd bebind ;
And he, as one, might midst the many stand
Unbeeded, searching through the crowd to find

Fit speculation ! such as in strange land
He found in wonder-works of God and nature's hand.

But who can view the ripened rose, nor seek

To wear it? who can curiously behold
The smoothness and the sheen of beauty's cheek,
Nor feel the beart can never all grow

Who can contemplate Fame through clouds unfold
The star which rises v'er her steep, nor climb ?
Harold, once more within tbe vortex, roll'd

On with the giddy circle, chasing Time,
Yet with a nobler aim than in his youth's fond priue.

But soon be knew himself the most unfit
Of men to herd with Man ; with whom he held
Little in common ; untaught to submit
His thoughts to others, though his soul was quell'd
In youth by his own thoughts ; still uncompelled,
He would not yield dominion of his mind
To spirits against whom his own rebellid;

Proud though in desolation ; which could find
A life within itself, to breathe without mankind.

Where rose the mountains, there to him were friends;

Where rollid the ocean, thereon was his home;
Where a blue sky, and glowing clime, extends,
He bad the passion and the power to roam;
The desert, forest, cavern, breaker's foam,
Were unto him companionship; they spake
A mutual langoage, clearer than the tone

Of his land's tongue, which he would oft forsake
For Nature's pages glass'd by sunbeams on the lake.

• Like the Chaldean, he could watch the stars,
Till he had peopled them with beings bright
As their own beams; and earth, and earth-born jars;
And human frailties, were forgotten quite :
Could he have kept his spirit to that flight
He had been happy; but this clay will sink
Its spark immortal, envying in the light

To which it mounts, as if to break the link
That keeps us from yon beaven which woos us to its brink.

But in Man's dwellings he became a thing
Restless and worn, and stern and wearisome,
Droop'd as a wild-born falcon with clipt wing,
To whom the boundless air alone were home;
Then came his fit again, which to o'ercome,
As eargerly the barr’d-up bird will beat
His breast and beak against his wiry dome

Till the blood tinge his plumage, so the beat
Of his impeded soul would through his bosom eat.

Self-exiled Harold wanders forth again,
With nought of hope left, but with less of gloom ;
The very knowledge that he lived in vain,
That all was over on this side the tomb,
Had made Despair a smilingness assume,
Which, though 'twere wild, -as on the plundered wrecks
When mariners would madly meet their doom

With draughts intemperate on the sinking deck,
Did yet inspire a cheer, which he forbore to check.

Canto III.-p. 7-11. The commentary through which the meaning of this melancholy tale is rendered obvious, has been long before the public, and is still in vivid remembrance; for the errors of those who excel their fellows in gifts and accomplishments are not soon forgotten. Those scenes, ever most painful to the bosom, were rendered yet more so by public discussion; and it is at least possible thas amongst those who exclaimed most loudly on this unhappy occasion, were some in whose eyes literary superiority exaggerated Lord Byron's offence. The scene may be described in a few words :-lhe wise condemned—the good regretted—the multitude, idly or maliciously inquisitive, rushed from place to place, gathering gossip, which they mangled and exaggerated while they repeated it; and impudence, ever ready to hitch itself into notoriety, hooked on, as Falstaff enjoins Bardolph, blustered, bullied, and talked of pleading a cause and taking a side.'

The family misfortunes which have for a time lost Lord Byron to his native land have neither chilled his poetical fire, nor deprived England of its benefit. The Third Canto of Childe Harold exhibits, in all its strength and in all its peculiarity, the wild, powerful, and original vein of poetry which, in the preceding cantos, first fixed the public attention upon the author. If there is any difference, the former

seem to us to have been rather more sedulously corrected and revised for publication, and the present work to have been dashed from the author's pen with less regard to the subordinate points of expression and versification. Yet such is the deep and powerful strain of passion, such the original tone and colouring of description, that the want of polish in some of its minute parts rather adds to than deprives the poem of its energy. It seems, occasionally, as if the consideration of mere grace was beneath the care of the poet, in his ardour to hurry upon the reader the thoughts that glow and words that burn;' and that the occasional roughness of the verse corresponded with the stern tone of thought, and of mental suffering which it expresses. We have

« AnteriorContinuar »