“Introductory Notice” to Miscellaneous Poems of Byron

From The Poetical Works of Lord Byron: Miscellaneous Poems. Edited by Mathilde Blind. Walter Scott, 1886, pp. vii-xxviii.

 Towards the close of the eighteenth century, in an age of violent transition from an old order of things to a new, an age of political earthquake, when the violent explosion of the long pent-up social elements in France communicated the shock of a foundering monarchy to the nations of Europe, George Gordon Byron was born, destined by the laws of his land to become a peer of the realm, and by the laws of nature for the poet who should blow the clarion of revolt. Twelve good fairies seemed to stand at the cradle of this descendant of the Norman Burns, endowing him with every gift of fortune, fame, and beauty; but there came the thirteenth a malevolent one, blighting them all by adding the halting foot. And in a certain sense this physical defect was but the material symbol of [viii] “the canker and the grief”  that gnawed at Byron’s heart. As poet, he was the incarnation of the spirit of his time, but, alas! the time was out of joint. He stands between two worlds; and while, almost unconsciously to himself, his voice is the swan-song of feudalism—the dirge of a dying order—a strong, if fitful and fluctuating, foreboding of the finer destinies to follow on these convulsive throes of society pierces the gloom of his darkest conceptions, and lifts him out of hopeless pessimism.

He guessed it not, perhaps, but closely inwoven with the subtlest fibres of his being were the antenatal traits and tendencies of his imperious, eccentric, and turbulent forefathers. To take count of only a few of his immediate predecessors, there is the “wicked Lord Byron,” his great-uncle, who, after killing his cousin and neighbour, Mr. Chaworth, in a fierce kind of duel, was tried for, but acquitted of, wilful murder; and passed the rest of his life in moody, anti-social seclusion at Newstead Abbey, loathing his kind like a second Timon of Athens;—there is the poet’s grandfather, Admiral John Byron, a gallant and daring sailor, dubbed “Foul-weather Jack,” owing to his many mishaps at sea, to whom reference is made in the famous “Epistle to Augusta”—

“A strange doom is thy father’s son’s, and past
Recalling, as it lies beyond redress;
Reversed for him our grandsire’s fate of yore—
He had no rest on sea, nor I on shore.”

Byron’s own father was a handsome, captivating, good-for-nothing kind of Lovelace, whose [ix] accomplishments consisted in gambling, racing, dueling, and running off with heiresses. He made a conquest, first, of the wife of the Marquis of Carmarthen, a Countess Conyers in her own right, who was married to him on being divorced from her husband, and on her death, some years afterwards, in 1784, left Captain Byron one daughter, the poet’s half-sister, Augusta. The young widower next won the affections of Miss Gordon of Gight, a Scotch lady in possession of a considerable fortune, and boasting her descent from the Stuarts;—to which advantages she added a warm heart, joined to a deficiency in judgment, eccentric habits, and an ungovernable temper. It was a fit of rage, caused by an extortionate bill, which, bringing on apoplexy, killed her in 1811. What stormy elements these, to be blended in her only son, born in Holles Street, Cavendish Square, on the 22nd January 1788! The wonder is, that from this witches’ brew of wild and wayward blood there should have emerged a being whose genius, however rooted in melancholy, rose at times into such ethereal height of hope—such bursts of vivid light—such imitations of pure love of human-kind.

But we do not intend here to tell over again the often-told, universally-known story of Lord Byron’s life. It is a story that each biographer manipulates afresh according to the idiosyncrasies of his own character, for there is enough of the heterogeneous, of the mysterious, and of what Goethe calls “the demonic” (using the word in the Socratic sense), to gratify all tastes, and to furnish forth matter [x] for unending controversies. The unfortunate poet, like some dead Egyptian king, in atonement for all past errors and crimes, has been condemned to appear before the tribunal of successive biographers, solemnly pronouncing judgment upon him, extolling him now as angel, now branding him as monster—some flatly denying all heroism in his last noble efforts to contribute to the deliverance of Greece; others even calling into question his right to the poet’s name. Finally, the world has been given to understand, by the latest authority on the subject, that all previous expounders of Byron’s history have been grossly misled or misleading, seeing that there is no mystery, little romance, and less valour, and that, when observed under a microscope, the demon-angel of Lamartine’s imagination shrinks to the ordinary proportions of an aristocrat of the John Bull type—only more inordinately selfish than common, who, whether afloat on Venetian lagoons or cantering through the pine woods of Ravenna, still hankered after the flesh-pots of St. James and the matrimonial delights of Mayfair. Thanks to this author, “the real Lord Byron” has, it is true, been permanently cleansed from the foul stains with which the morbidly brooding rancour of an ill-used wife had helped to bracken his reputation; but in that process of restoration the biographer has also rubbed off a good deal of the Rembrandt-like colour of the original, leaving us a somewhat washed-out picture of Byron, with all the high lights and lurid tones eliminated. But, after all,  the harm done is only [xi] momentary—mere passing shadows, that may obscure, but cannot permanently injure, the true significance of that memorable and magnetic figure standing at the portal of this century.

When all the clamour of adverse and admiring criticism eddying violently round Lord Byron since his first appearance on the literary horizon has subsided, he will be seen in true perspective, as a representative man, not of England, but of Europe—as one who, in his massive personality, summed up a whole epoch, with all its bewildering conflict of chilling scepticism, baffled hopes, and invincible aspirations. In any just criticism of Byron there must be a large admixture of the historic spirit—judging him not merely from the æsthetic point of view as a singer, but treating him broadly as a living, spiritual force manifesting itself through a literary medium. His own intermittent bursts of impatience with the poet’s craft may have a semblance of affectation, but nevertheless contain a considerable amount of truth. For Byron belongs to those militant poets who are tempted now and again to exchange the pen for the sword, the study for the forum, the lonely reveries of the recluse for the roar and resonance of the battle of life. This virile energy of disposition he shares with some of the greatest of all poets: with Æschylus and Dante, with Cervantes and Milton, with Victor Hugo in his fiery Republicanism, and with at least one notable living English example of the poet turning into an apostle of social reform, and pleading the [xii] cause of justice before startled multitudes. There is the after-glow of the French Revolution in all Byron’s work, quite as much as in Shelley’s—with this difference: that his ideas being more solidly rooted in the earth, he suffered all the more bitterly from this recoil of baffled aims. And it was largely due to this recoil of the flow in the tide of human affairs that he became the poet of despondency and despair. Spiritually, he inherits directly from Rousseau, Voltaire, Diderot, and Burns; though it may be granted that in matters of style he was a Conservative, and considerably influenced by Pope, Dryden, and other writers belonging to the school of the classical revival in England.

Sweet things ever turn most sour. And the hope which had electrified the nations at those watch-words of the French Revolution—Liberty, Equality, Fraternity—so soon to be eclipsed by the storm-clouds of the Terror and of the Napoleonic wars; this hope, changed to a dull despair or mocking unbelief of all sublunary things, had poisoned Byron’s soul, darkened his imagination, and tinctured all his views of life. In Spain, standing on the field of Albuero—on the famous plain of Marathon—sailing along the limpid crystal of Alpine lakes, or in white-walled towns of sunny Italy—there stood between him and the beauty of the world not, as was whispered, the ghost of an imaginary Florentine lady done to death for his sake, but a far more terrible apparition—the spectre of murdered Freedom, [xiii] the only love to whom his soul ever remained constant. He is perpetually harping on that string, as, to take one of many examples, in “Childe Harold,” when he cries—

“But France got drunk with blood to vomit crime,
And dreadful have her Saturnalia been
To freedom’s cause, in every age and clime;
Because the deadly days which we have seen,
And vile ambition, that built up between
Man and his hopes an adamantine wall,
And the base pageant last upon the scene,
Are grown the pretext for the eternal thrall
Which nips life’s tree, and dooms man’s worst—his second fall.”

Nothing, surely, proves so conclusively what paramount importance Byron attached to the political crisis of his time than by branding the collapse of the Republic in France as man’s “second fall.” In “The Prisoner of Chillon”—one of his poems of loftiest loveliness—we have a picture, most tender and pathetic, of that brave Bonnivard, who endured long years of imprisonment for the cause of religious liberty; in “The Prophecy of Dante” the immortal Florentine exile hurls the thunderbolts of his fierce invectives against the foreign enslavers of his country; and in “The Isles of Greece” we hear a very cry of anguish wrung from the poet’s heart at her degradation:—

“’Tis something, in the dearth of flame,
     Though link’d among a fetter’d race,
To feel at least a patriot’s shame,
     Even as I sing, suffuse my face;
For what is left the poet here?
For Greeks a blush—for Greece a tear.

[xiv]

Must we but weep o’er days more bless’d?
     Must we but blush? Our fathers bled.
Earth! render back from out thy breast
     A remnant of our Spartan dead!
Of the three hundred grant but three,
To make a new Thermopylæ!

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 “Don Juan,” that crowning work of the poet, by which his name will ever live, we have the reverse side of the medal. The thwarted enthusiasm has turned to searing irony, the exalted hope to stinging ridicule; but if the poet now habitually laughs at mortal things, it is, in truth, that he may not weep. The tormenting conviction of the fierce struggle and anarchy, so lightly veiled by our so-called civilisation, is the clue to guide one through the kaleidoscope labyrinth of this astonishing work, so justly described by Shelley as “something wholly new and relative to the age, yet surpassingly beautiful.” Here the real Byron reveals himself—with “the lightnings of his song” smiting the sham respectabilities, the mock devotions, the general humbug cloaking the reckless selfishness and monstrous corruption of that society which he so intimately knew! Byron, it seems, had intended—after leading the young Don through all the vicissitudes of human [xv] existence—shipwrecks, war, love adventures, court favours, high life and low—to have landed him in Paris at the culminating period of the Revolution, and taking Anacharsis Clootz, the Prussian Baron, for his model, to have made Juan perish by the guillotine for pleading the principles of humanity. It must be deplored as an irreparable loss to literature that the poet’s early death prevented by carrying out his fine conception, and so putting the finishing cantos to this masterpiece.

It may perhaps seem far-fetched, but we seem to detect a suggestive kind of family resemblance between Byron’s “Don Juan” and Goethe’s “Faust.” Not a surface likeness such as the one which the last named poet pointed out in “Manfred;” but one which to us appears to indicate the common sources of contemporaneous thought, the Idées Mères, so to speak, to which they owed their origin. Both “Faust” and “Don Juan” were intended by their makers (though this intention is truncated in the latter work) to traverse the whole gamut of human experience, to snatch breathlessly at every desire as it arose, to seize opportunity as it flies, and yet, in turn, to fine all attainment illusive and transitory, all enjoyment insufficient to allay that insatiable craving for life, which for ever eludes their feverish grasp. Faust, after racing through life—having in turn probed the depths of love, metaphysics, art, power, statecraft, science—finally discovers, in his afflicted old age, the one happy moment of life in  wresting [xiv] a portion of habitable soil from the greedy waves, and on this hard-won bit of earth planting a colony, that in its daily struggle with the elements of nature shall earn its right to life and independence. So, too, Byron, had he carried out his design to the end, would have shown “Don Juan,” after having exhausted all the sensations of pleasure life had to offer him, leaving the excesses of youth behind, turning over a new leaf in the book of life, seeking a fresh outlet for his inexhaustible energies by devoting them to the service, and dying in the defence, of the lately proclaimed rights of Man.

If this analogy exist, as I think it does, between such otherwise widely dissimilar works, it would be not a little instructive to find out to what causes it may be assigned. But the question is a vast one, and the restricted limits of this introduction will only allow of a few desultory hints. As we have pointed out already, the period was essentially one of transition; feudalism had passed away, the obstructions of ecclesiastical supremacy were removed, the barriers rigidly separating class from class had been broken, and what had hitherto still survived of the cramping regulations of the Middle Ages with regard to trade and commerce were now finally abolished. The individual delivered suddenly from a number of civil and religious disabilities felt all his energies powerfully stimulated. To the strong and capable portion of the middle class now opened out illimitable vistas of achieving future wealth, power, happiness. The race-course  [xvii] was thrown open, the victory to the strong, and in the eager pursuit of the prizes of life the weaklings must necessarily resign themselves to go to the wall. In their complete negation of all authority and triumphant self-assertion, in their keen zest with which they follow the perpetual flux of human affairs, in their worship of the beauty of the material universe as opposed to Christian asceticism and the negation of the flesh, “Faust” and “Don Juan” are the chosen types of the poetic interpretation of the principle of individualism. For even as the “Divina Commedia” is the consummate flower and supreme outcome of ten centuries of Roman Catholic supremacy; as “Paradise Lost” is the offspring of the Protestant secession—so the central figures in Goethe’s drama and Byron’s epic are the children of the insurrection of man’s mind against those crippling bonds of custom still inherited by generation after generation, “like an endless disease.” They claim absolute expansion of individual life, regardless of restrictions; they deny all authority, human or divine, to curb their passions or curtail their enjoyments, being a law unto themselves, with happiness for their goal—that futile and illusive goal, which ever melts into air as they approach—so that finally their eyes are opened to the vanity of all “miserable aims that end in self.” Much the same conception of life pervades the Laras, Giaours, Corsairs of Lord Byron’s earlier and more immature period;—the predominant mood of these demi-peers, demi-pirates, being on of haughty isolation from the herd of men, engaged as they  [xviii] are in a miserable tête-a-tête with their own spleenful cogitations on snowy Alpine peak or wave-washed Ionian isle; this arrogant contempt for mankind in general finally recoiling on themselves in a deep desolation of spirit.

It may not be amiss to glance for a moment for Byron’s massive individualism to what we may perhaps call the altruism of that literary phenomenon, Walt Whitman, whom we cannot help regarding as the John the Baptist of a new revelation. He undoubtedly is the first authentic voice of Democracy made audible in literature. For as to Byron and Shelley, it needs only to look at the delicate beauty of their lineaments, to understand that, with the high-bred instincts of an old race in their veins, their aspirations could not fail to be after a Republic moulded on the Greek model, or shaped in accordance with a somewhat exclusive ideal. Walt Whitman, on the contrary, coming himself of rough work-a-day folk, feels the actual pulse of the people, and in their hearing, adapted to the needs of their hard, ugly, toilsome lives, he utters a thrilling word—the Shibboleth of the future—en masse. In this new conception of life we notice an affinity to the great music-dramas of Wagner, inasmuch as the predominance of melody, or the manifestation of individual expression, is subordinated to, although not absorbed in, the vast symphonic harmonies of the cooperating whole. This abiding consciousness of being simply an organic particle of the living body of the people—this recognition of the social bond,  [xix] which, having ceased to be theoretic, has passed into the very flesh and blood of its prophet—marks and, in its illimitable hospitality and joyful inclusiveness of all sorts and conditions of men, from the most abject and degraded beggar crouching in the mud, effectually shuts the door on that era of the absolutism of the individual which is typified in action by the conqueror of Marengo and Austerlitz, and in literature by Lord Byron—“the grand Napoleon of the realms of rhyme.”

To turn now from the significance and heart of Byron’s poetry to his qualification as a craftsman, we shall find that, with many splendid and rare gifts, he lacked certain others, pre-eminently those which are the result of a patient and deliberate effort at attaining to perfection of verbal expression; nor does he, on the other hand, possess those inspirations of seemingly lawless, yet flawless, melody which seem to flow so spontaneously from the lips of the greatest lyrists. We must not look to Byron for the luscious beauty and verbal sorcery of Keats in such lines as—

     “Casements opening on the foam
Of perilous seas in fairylands forlorn,”

nor must we expect to hear such ethereal rapture and “embodied joy” of lark-like song as welled from the Ariel lips of Shelley. Byron himself hits his weak point accurately when he says, “I am like the tiger (in poesy); if I miss the first spring, I go growling back  [xx] to my jungle. There is no second; I can’t correct; I can’t, and I won’t.” So, of course, he misses many of those happy effects due to the cunning manipulation of language, and to the deliberate weighing of the relative value of each word, which is an ever-fresh surprise in the exquisitely finished work of such a poet as Lord Tennyson.

Again it may be said, that although he possesses complete mastery of the Ottava Rima—handling the stanza with such admirable skill that it becomes in turn the most appropriate vehicle of the deepest pathos or of the most incisive satire—yet he falls far short, nay, never attempts, the intricate rhythmical effects and metrical marvels “of linked sweetness long drawn out” in which Mr. Swinburne is unapproached. But although Byron has the defects of his qualities, the volume of his poetic impulse is so potent as to obliterate what would be serious flaws and blemishes in work of a different description; for his genius, in its resistless flow, might be likened to a mighty torrent with a sound as of modulated thunder speeding on with the untiring energy of elemental forces.

Byron is a master of monumental expression. His phrases spring finished and full-armed from his glowing imagination. He has the secret of fusing scattered and ephemeral sense-impressions into a single image of exhaustive significance—of flashing the inner meaning of whole periods of history into a few illuminating words; in fact, he is a true artist, inasmuch as he does not enumerate but select—not acting by nature  [xxi] as copyist and photographer, but rather, after the manner of the bee, compounding a richer substance from the bitter-sweet garden of experience. To take a few instances of his power of hitting a subject right in the centre, with unerring aim, see how he paints all the cruel depravity and savage lusts of the city of the Cæsars in his description of the dying Gladiator—

“Butcher’d to make a Roman holiday;”

how he sums up the mediæval conflict raging between Emperor and Pope as to the relative supremacy of the temporal and spiritual power in the line—

“An emperor tramples where an emperor knelt;”

and how incomparably he expresses the external fascination of Rome, in all her deathless beauty and desolation, where he calls her “The Niobe of Nations.” No poet or historian, however, voluminously eloquent, has ever said or sung anything as pithy and conclusive as those fine immortal stanzas of “Childe Harold,” which Byron has devoted to “the lone mother of dead empires.” The poet is no less happy when, inspired by the master works of antiquity, he conveys the transcendent quality of the Apollo Belvedere by calling him the “The sun in human limbs array’d,” and that of the Venus de Medici by speaking of her as the goddess “who loves in stone and fills the air around with beauty.” As to felicitous touches of that kind in his descriptions of nature, they are countless. What strikes  [xxii] one about them is their accuracy, unstudied ease, and lucidity of expression. One feels that the poet had looked at the thing with all his soul, and was chiefly thinking of it, not of the way he should say it in, when he tried to catch the fleeting impression; a method unconsciously illustrated by that line in “The Island”—

“Who thinks of self when gazing at the sky?”

How tender is his touch, when, after drawing a marvellous word-picture of the “Falls of Velino” with their “hell of waters,” he shades off the horror with the lovely—

“Its unemptied cloud of gentle rain
Is an eternal April to the ground”;

or that beautiful description of

“The branching stag swept down with all his herd
To quaff a brook which murmur’d like a bird.”

As to examples of dazzling wit and trenchant sarcasm, the harvest would be so plentiful that the only puzzle is what to choose, since the “vision of Judgment” and “Don Juan” bristle with epigrammatic phrases and pungent couplets, such as—

“And scribbles as if head-clerk to the Fates,”

or the description of English country-house life in autumn—

“If she hath no wild boars, she hath a tame
Preserve of bores, who ought to be made game”;

[xxiii]

or, again, the description of greeting between the archangel Michael and Satan:—

“Yet still between his Darkness and his Brightness
There pass’d a mutual glance of great politeness.”

Byron’s poetic work may be roughly divided into three periods, or, more correctly, sections, for they intersect and overlap each other as regards their time of production. We have, first, the partly narrative, partly lyrical class of poems, to which belong the earlier cantos of “Childe Harold,” the “Giaour,” “Bride of Abydos,” “Corsair,” “Lara,” “Siege of Corinth,” etc., which, at their time of publication, enjoyed such immense and instantaneous popularity, and since then, in a literary sense, have fallen into “the sere and yellow leaf.” We are no longer attracted by the vivid glow of the oriental landscapes, and the glamour has departed from those proud and solitary figures, haunted by remorse and passion, in which the poet seems to reproduce the adventurous and turbulent spirit of his own grim ancestors. Next in order we may consider the plays, “Manfred,” “Marino Faliero,” “Cain,” “Sardanapalus,” “Werner,” etc., etc. Byron, although essentially undramatic, in the sense that his power of embodying character is restricted within certain definite limits, has yet within those limits a very unmistakable faculty of pourtraying men and women of marked and powerful individuality. The oriental monarch, “Sardanapalus,” for example, is a very distinct creation from “Cain,” or “Manfred,” or “Marino Feliero”; “Donna Julia”  has nothing [xxiv] in common with the Greek slave, “Myrrha,” nor the self-willed, imperious Gulbeyaz with Adah’s wifely tenderness and self-devotion. But it would seem that Byron, in order to powerfully depict any character, must be able to trace in it some analogy to his own; or, at any rate, that the situation should have come well within the range of his own immediate experience. Like the giant Antæus, who recruited his strength whenever he touched the ground, so Byron’s imagination had need to draw his from contact with the world of reality. Byron can thus construct a magnificent “Cain” from the andacious workings of his own troubled and sceptical spirit; or he can show us the reverse side of the medal, and in the effeminate ruler of Assyria body forth a genuine Eastern king—voluptuous, pleasure-loving, indolent, yet not without humane and magnanimous traits running like golden ore through his nature. Sardanapalus is also Byron, but with a difference—Byron, supposing he happened to be the successor to the throne of Nimrod and Semiramis. Nevertheless, there are in this play unmistakable signs of pure dramatic inspiration. For example, when the king, in a spasm of warlike enthusiasm, while eagerly arming for the fight with the rebels, suddenly flings down the proffered helmet, calling for one that shall be lighter and more ornate, as well as for a mirror in which to see how his armour becomes him. Still more dramatic is the final touch, when Sardanapalus, about to mount the self-chosen funeral  [xxv] pyre, takes the cup with which Myrrha, according to her country’s wont, is about to make a libation to the gods, and hastily drains it in memory of past banquets. Myrrha, too, cast in a more heroic mould than Byron’s women habitually are, is a splendid and well-worked-out conception of a noble Greek type. Nothing could paint her nature better than her brief words in reply to the king’s entreaty that she shall reconsider her decision of perishing with him in the flames; scornfully ignoring his speech by the simple inquiry whether she shall begin lighting the torches, she then adds—

“I’ve lit the lamp which lights us to the stars.”

Byron, however, shows most dramatic, or, to speak more accurately, we should perhaps say, scenic power, in his selection of the general appropriateness of the backgrounds, situation, and subject matter of his plays. The character of his personages is not so much dramatically developed before our eyes through and by action, as effectively displayed by a series of powerful groupings, something not unlike to the famous group of the Laocoon.

The blank verse of the dramas is often poor—wanting in flexibility and variety of rhythm, and never enchanting the reader by those unexpected modulations and rich harmonies, the secret of which is only possessed by a few masters of that metre to which Byron had an antipathy, “because,” as he said, “every line had to be good.”

We now come to the third group of Lord Byron’s works—the late cantos of “Childe Harold,”  [xxvi] “Beppo,” the “Vision of Judgment,” and “Don Juan.” In the first of the above-mentioned group, and the last and culminating effort of his earlier period, the poet seems bidding a pathetic adieu to the illusions of youth. Henceforth he will set his leading theme—“How transient are all mortal things”—to a thousand different tunes. But this knowledge, instead of guiding him to that which his great contemporary Goethe had pointed to as the entrance to the new or spiritual life of man—to Resignation—stung his proud, self-willed spirit to more obstinate revolt; a revolt which, flinging his gauntlet in the face of Fate, he defies all things in heaven and earth, laughing at venerable beliefs, trampling on the sanctities of home, fiercely scoffing at the delusions called love! Such a bonfire as Byron’s wild genius kindled in “Don Juan” wherein to scorch, consume, and annihilate the things which most men regard with reverence or affection, the world has never seen before, and, no doubt, will never see again.
It is a whole outworn structure of society, inevitably dragging along with it much that must remain evergreen in human affairs, that crackles away so merrily in these cantos, scattering such coruscations of wit. In these astonishing satires we shall find most things—fun, pathos, beauty, tenderness, sarcasm, epic energy, and idyllic sweetness: one thing, however, we must not look for, as it never even faintly dawns on the author of “Don Juan,” and that is that devout and reverent spirit of self- [xxvii] abnegation in his mental attitude towards the Cosmos which renovates society and saves the individual from a futile and losing battle with destiny.

But, all deductions made, what a vast, varied, and magnificent body of poetic work has been left us by this man of prodigal endowments, who passed away at the comparatively early age of thirty-six! Yet a single passage we must quote to show the intrinsic splendour of Byron at his best. It is from the lovely episode of Juan and Haidee:—

“It was the cooling hour, just when the rounded
     Red sun sinks down behind the azure hill,
Which then seems as if the whole earth it bounded,
     Circling all nature, hush’d, and dim, and still,
With the far mountain-crescent half surrounded
     On one side, and the deep sea calm and chill
Upon the other, and the rosy sky,
With one star sparkling through it like an eye.

“And thus they wander’d forth, and, hand in hand,
     Over the shining pebbles and the shells,
Glided along the smooth and hardened sand,
     And in the worn and wild receptacles
Worked by the storm, yet worked as it were planned
     In hollow halls, with sparry roofs and cells,
They turned to rest, and each clasped by an arm,
Yielded to the deep twilight’s purple charm.

“They look’d up to the sky, whose floating glow
     Spread like a rosy ocean, vast and bright;
They gazed upon the glittering sea below,
     Whence the broad moon rose circling into sight;
They heard the waves splash and the winds so low,
     And saw each other’s dark eyes darting light
Into each other—and, beholding this
Their lips drew near and clung into a kiss.”

[xxvii]

We may not unaptly close this short study of Lord Byron’s works by referring the reader to “Euphorion,” that monument of love which Goethe, the founder of “world literature” erected to the English poet’s memory, when he embodied the spirit of modern poetry in the second part of “Faust,” as the product of the union of classical art and romanticism. In “Euphorion” Byron is typified as the beautiful, impetuous, and untamable boy who leaps from the arms of Helena, to the horror of Faust and the beholders, and, bounding from crag to crag in the pursuit of fleet-footed beauty, falls back killed to earth in his attempt to soar. This breathless chase after the ideal; the reckless indifference to the yearning hands and pleading voices fain to restrain him; this scorn and contempt of all limitations, domestic and social; this Titanic audacity and spiritual isolation, will remain, after all is said and done, the final expression of Lord Byron’s personality in life and literature and not only of him, but of all poets and prose-writers like Heine, Alfred de Musset, George Sand, Leopardi, Mickiewic, Pushkin, and others, who, in age of transition and unrest, have directly inherited of his storm-tossed spirit.

MATHILDE BLIND.