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Besides had now, after having been three times before erisis when “Rokeby" appeared, its author ought them, exhausted the patience of the reader, and Jo have put forth his utmost strength, and to have began in the fourth to lose its charms. The re- possessed at least all his original advantages, for a viewers may be said to have apostrophized the mighty and unexpected rival was advancing on author in the language of Parnell's Edwin :- the stage-a rival not in poetical powers only, but
in that art of attracting popularity, in which the “ And here reverse the charm, he cries,
present writer had hitherto preceded better men And let it fairly now suffice, The gambol has been shown."
than himself. The reader will easily see that
Byron is here meant, who, after a little velitation The licentious combination of rhymes, in a man of no great promise, now appeared as a serious ner not perhaps very congenial to our language, candidate, in the “First two Cantos of Childe Harhad not been confined to the author. Indeed, in pld." I was astonished at the power evinced by most similar cases, the inventors of such novelties that work, which neither the “Hours of Idleness," have their reputation destroyed by their own imi- nor the “ English Bards and Scotch Reviewers," tators, as Actæon fell under the fury of his own had prepared me to expect from its author. There dogs. The present author, like Bobadil, had taught was a depth in his thought, an eager abundance in his trick of fence to a hundred gentlemen (and la- his diction, which argued full confidence in the indies'), who could fence very nearly, or quite as exhaustible resources of which he felt himself poswell as himself. For this there was no remedy; sessed ; and there was some appearance of that the harmony became tiresome and ordinary, and labor of the file, which indicates that the author both the original inventor and his invention must is conscious of the necessity of doing every justice have fallen into contempt if he had not found out to his work, that it may pass warrant. Lord By. another road to public favor. What has been said ron was also a traveller, a man whose ideas were of the metre only, must be considered to apply fired by having seen, in distant scenes of difficulty equally to the structure of the Poem and of the and danger, the places whose very names are restyle. The very best passages of any popular corded in our bosoms as the shrines of ancient style are not, perhaps, susceptible of imitation, poetry. For his own misfortune, perhaps, but cerbut they may be approached by men of talent; tainly to the high increase of his poetical characand those who are less able to copy them, at least ter, nature had mixed in Lord Byron's system those lay hold of their peculiar features, so as to pro- passions which agitate the human heart with most duce a strong burlesque. In either way, the effect violence, and which may be said to have hurried of the manner is rendered cheap and common; his bright career to an early close. There would and, in the latter case, ridiculous to boot. The have been little wisdom in measuring my force evil consequences to an author's reputation are at with so formidable an antagonist; and I was as least as fatal as those which come upon the musi- likely to tire of playing the second fiddle in the cal composer, when his melody falls into the hands concert, as my audience of hearing me. Age also of the street ballad-singer.
was advancing. I was growing insensible to those Of the unfavorable species of imitation, the au- subjects of excitation by which youth is agitated. thor's style gave room to a very large number, I had around me the most pleasant but least exowing to an appearance of facility to which some citing of all society, that of kind friends and an afof those who used the measure unquestionably fectionate family. My circle of employments was leaned too far. The effect of the more favorable a narrow one; it occupied me constantly, and it imitations, composed by persons of talent, was al- became daily more difficult for me to interest mymost equally unfortunate to the original minstrel, self in poetical composition :by showing that they could overshoot him with his
“How happily the days of Thalaba went by!” own bow. In short, the popularity which once attended the School, as it was called, was now fast Yet, though conscious that I must be, in the decaying.
opinion of good judges, inferior to the place I had
1“Scott found peculiar favor and imitation among the fair 1812, and immediately placed their author on a level with the sex: there was Miss Halford, and Miss Mitford, and Miss very highest names of his age. The impression they created Francis : bat, with the greatest respect be it spoken, none ot was more uniform, decisive, and triumphant than any that his imitators did much honor to the original, except Hogg, the had been witnessed in this country for at least two generations. Ettrick Shepherd, until the appearance of the ' Bridal of Trier- "I awoke one morning,' he says, ' and found myself famons.' main' and Harold the Dauntless,' which, in the opinion of In truth, he had fixed himself, at a single bound, on a sumsome, equalled, if not surpassed, him; and lo! after three or mit, such as no English poet bad ever before attained, but four years, they turned ont to be the Master's own composi- after a long succession of painful and comparatively neglected tione."-Byron's Works, vol. xv. p. 96.
efforts."-- Advertisement to Byron's Life and Works, vol. 3 “These two Cantos were published in London in March, viii.
for four or five years held in letters, and feeling of Mnestheus. I have already hinted that the maalike that the latter was one to which I had only terials were collected for a poem on the subject of a temporary right, I could not brook the idea of Bruce, and fragments of it had been shown to some relinquishing literary occupation, which had been of my friends, and received with applause. Notso long my chief diversion. Neither was I disposed withstanding, therefore, the eminent success of to choose the alternative of sinking into a mere Byron, and the great chance of his taking the wind editor and commentator, though that was a species out of my sails,” there was, I judged, a species of of labor which I had practised, and to which I was cowardice in desisting from the task which I had attached. But I could not endure to think that I undertaken, and it was time enough to retreat might not, whether known or concealed, do some- when the battle should be more decidedly lost. thing of more importance. My inmost thoughts The sale of “Rokeby,” excepting as compared with were those of the Trojan captain in the galley race,- that of “ The L&dy of the Lake," was in the high" Non jam, prima peto, Mnestheus, neque vincere certo;
est degree respectable; and as it included fifteen Quanquam 0!-sed superent, quibus hoc, Neptune, dedisti ; hundred quartos, in those quarto-reading days, Extremos padeat rediisse : hoc vincite, cives,
the trade had no reason to be dissatisfied. Et prohibete nefas."'\--Æx. lib. v. 194. I had, indeed, some private reasons for my
W. S. *Quanquam 0!" which were not worse than those ABBOTSFORD, April, 1830.
1 " I seek not now the foremost palm to gain ;
Though yet—but ah! thai haughty wish is vain!
If they want to depose him, I only wish they would not set me up as a competitor. I like the man-and admire his works to what Mr. Braham calls Entusymusy. All such stuff can only vex him, and do me no good."-Byron's Diary, Nov., 1813 - Works, vol. ii. p. 259.
DRYDEN. .“ George Ellis and Murray have been talking something about Scott and me, George pro Scoto,--and very right too.
3 The 4to Edition was published by John Ballantyne and Co. £2 28. in Janu ary, 1813.
A POEM IN SIX CANTOS.
JOHN B. S. MORRITT, Esq.,
THE SCENE OF WHICH IS LAID IN HIS BEAUTIFUL DEMESNE OF ROKEBY,
IS INSCRIBED, IN TOKEN OF SINCERE FRIENDSHIP, BY
ADVERTISEMENT. The Scene of this poem is laid at Rokeby, near Greta Bridge, in Yorkshire, and shifts to the adjacent fortress of Barnard Castle, and to other places in that Vicinity.
The Time occupied by the Action is a space of Five Days, Three of which are supposed to elapse between the end of the Fifth and beginning of the Sixth Canto.
The date of the supposed events is immediately subsequent to the great Battle of Marston Moor, 3d July, 1644. This period of public confusion has been chosen, without any purpose of combining the Fable with the Military or Political Events of the Civil War, but only as affording a degree of probaCbility to the Fictitious Narrative now presented to the Public.?
When conscience, with remorse and fear,
1 Dec. 31, 1812.
now is, it be likely to satisfy the just expectations which that 2 " Behold another lay from the harp of that indefatigable reputation has excited, is a question which, perhaps, will not minstrel, who has so often provoked the censure, and extorted be decided with the same ananimity. Our own opinion is in the admiration of his critics; and who, regardless of both, and the affirmative, but we confess that this is our revised opinion ; following every impulse of his own inclination, has yet raised and that when we concluded our first perasal of Rokeby, our himself at once, and apparently with little effort, to the pinnacle gratification was not quite unmixed with disappointment. of public favor.
The reflections by which this impression has been subsequent“A poem thus recommended may be presumed to have ly modified, arise out of our general view of the poem ; of the already reached the whole circle of our readers, and we be- interest inspired by the fable ; of the masterly delineations of lieve that all those readers will concur with us in considering the characters by whose agency the plot is unravelled ; and of Rokeby as a composition, which, if it had preceded, instead of the spirited nervous conciseness of the narrative."- Quarterly following, Marmion, and the Lady of the Lake, would have Revier, No. xvi. contributed, as effectually as they have done, to the establishment of Mr. Scott's high reputation. Whether, timed as it 3 See Appendix, Note A.
Hears, upon turret-roof and wall,
Relax'd that grasp, the heavy sigh,
Those towers, which in the changeful gleam
IV. He woke, and fear'd again to close His eyelids in such dire repose ; He woke,—to watch the lamp, and tell From hour to hour the castle-bell, Or listen to the owlet's cry, Or the sad breeze that whistles by, Or catch, by fits, the tuneless rhyme With which the warder cheats the time, And envying think, how, when the sun Bids the poor soldier's watch be done, Couch'd on his straw, and fancy-free, He sleeps like careless infancy.
III. Thus Oswald's laboring feelings trace Strange changes in his sleeping face, Rapid and ominous as these With which the moonbeams tinge the Tees. There might be seen of shame the blush, There anger's dark and fiercer flush, While the perturbed sleeper's hand Seem'd grasping dagger-knife, or brand.
Far town-ward sounds a distant tread,
1 This couplet is not in the original MS. MS.
-"shifting gleam.” : MS.-"Of feelings rcal, and fancies vain.” * MS.—"Nor longer nature bears the shock,
That pang the slumberer awoke." • There appears some resemblance betwixt the visions of Oswald's sleep and the waking-dream of the Giaour :
He stood.-Some dread was on his face.
The spur hath lanced his courser's sides;
157. 6 MS -"Till underneath the castle bank.
Nigh and more nigh the sound appears,
The warder's challenge next he hears." 7 See Appendix, Note B.
“The natural superiority of the instrument over the employer, of bold, unhesitating, practised vice, over timid, selfish, crafty iniquity, is very finely painted throughout the whole of this scene, and the dialogue that ensues. That the mind of Wycliffe, wrought to the utmost agony of suspense, has given such acuteness to his bodily organs, as to enable him to distinguish the approach of his hired bravo, while at a distance be yond the reach of common hearing, is grandly imagined, and admirably true to nature."--Critical Review.
As marshalling the stranger's way,
VI. The stranger came with heavy stride," - The morion's plumes his visage hide, And the buff-coat, an ample fold, Mantles his form’s gigantic mould." Full slender answer deigned he To Oswald's anxious courtesy, But mark’d, by a disdainful smile, He saw and scorn’d the petty wile, When Oswald changed the torch's place, Anxious that on the soldier's face Its partial lustre might be thrown, To show his looks, yet hide his own. His guest, the while, laid low aside The ponderous cloak of tough bull's hide, And to the torch glanced broad and clear The corslet of a cuirassier ; Then from his brows the casque he drew, And from the dank plume dash'd the dew, From gloves of mail relieved his hands, And spread them to the kindling brands, And, turning to the genial board, Without a health, or pledge, or word Of meet and social reverence said, Deeply he drank, and fiercely fed;" As free from ceremony's sway, As famish'd wolf that tears his prey.
Tidings of deep and dread concern,
VII. With deep impatience, tinged with fear, His host beheld him gorge his cheer, And quaff the full carouse, that lent His brow a fiercer hardiment. Now Oswald stood a space aside, Now paced the room with hasty stride, In feverish agony to learn
IX. But yet, though BERTRAM's harden'd look, Unmoved, could blood and danger brook, Still worse than apathy had place On his swart brow and callous face; For evil passions, cherish'd long, Had plough'd them with impressions strong. All that gives gloss to sin, all gay Light folly, past with youth away, But rooted stood, in manhood's hour, The weeds of vice without their flower.>
1 MS." The cry was-- Heringham comes post,
With tidings of a battle lost.'
His answer," &c. 2 MS.
-" with heavy pace, The plumed morion hid his face." See Appendix, Note C. • MS.--"That fell upon the stranger's face.”
"he freed his hands." • MS.—" Then turn'd to the replenish'd board.”
cumstances, which none but a poetical mind could have conceived, give great relief to the stronger touches with which this excellent sketch is completed."-Critical Review. & MS.—“ Protracted o'er his savage feast.
Yet with alarm he saw at last.” g" As Roderick rises above Marmion, so Bertram ascends above Roderick Dhu in awfulness of stature and strength of coloring. We have trembled at Roderick ; but we look with doubt and suspicion at the very shadow of Bertram-and, as we approach him, we shrink with terror and antipathy from • The lip of pride, the eye of flame.'”
British Critic. 10 See Appendix, Note D.
7 "The description of Bertram which follows, is highly picturesque ; and the rude air of conscious superiority with which he treats his employer, prepares the reader to enter into the full spirit of his character. These, and many other little cir