Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

RETROSPECT OF HIS POETRY,

441

to inculcate, on his own authority, the same sentiments which had been previously recommended by its example. We do not consider it as unfair, therefore, to say that Lord Byron appears to us to be the zealous apostle of a certain fierce and magnificent misanthropy; which has already saddened his poetry with too deep a shade, and not only led to a great misapplication of great talents, but contributed to render popular some very false estimates of the constituents of human happiness and merit. It is irksome, however, to dwell upon observations so general — and we shall probably have better means of illustrating these remarks, if they are really well founded, when we come to speak of the particular publications by which they have now been suggested.

We had the good fortune, we believe, to be among the first who proclaimed the rising of a new luminary, on the appearance of Childe Harold on the poetical horizon, - and we pursued his course with due attention through several of the constellations. If we have lately omitted to record his progress with the same accuracy, it is by no means because we have regarded it with more indifference, or supposed that it would be less interesting to the public — but because it was so extremely conspicuous as no longer to require the notices of an official observer. In general, we do not think it necessary, nor indeed quite fair, to oppress our readers with an account of works, which are as well known to them as to ourselves; or with a repetition of sentiments in which all the world is agreed. Wherever a work, therefore, is very popular, and where the general opinion of its merits appears to be substantially right, we think ourselves at liberty to leave it out of our chronicle, without incurring the censure of neglect or inattention. A very rigorous application of this maxim might have saved our readers the trouble of reading what we now write — and, we confess the truth, we write it rather to gratify ourselves, than with the hope of giving them much information.

At the same time, some short notice of the progress of such a writer ought, perhaps, to appear in his contemporary journals, as a tribute due to his eminence; -- and a zealous critic

442

LORD BYRON

- LARA.

can scarcely set about examining the merits of any work, or the nature of its reception by the public, without speedily discovering very urgent cause for his admonitions, both to the author and his admirers.

Our last particular account was of the Corsair ; — and though from that time to the publication of the pieces, the titles of which we have prefixed, the noble author has produced as much poetry as would have made the fortune of any other person, we can afford to take but little notice of those intermediate performances; which have already passed their ordeal with this generation and are fairly committed to the final judgment of posterity. Some slight reference to them, however, may be proper, both to mark the progress of the author's views, and the history of his fame.

LARA was obviously the sequel of the Corsair — and maintained, in general, the same tone of deep interest, and lofty feeling: - though the disappearance of Medora from the scene deprives it of the enchanting sweetness, by which its terrors were there redeemed, and makes the hero on the whole less captivating. The character of Lara, too, is rather too laboriously finished, and his nocturnal encounter with the apparition is worked up too ostentatiously. There is infinite beauty in the sketch of the dark page — and in many of the moral or general reflections which are interspersed with the narrative. The death of Lara, however, is by far the finest passage in the poem, and is fully equal to anything else which the author has ever written. Though it is not under our immediate cognisance, we cannot resist the temptation of transcribing the greater part of the passage - in which the physical horror of the event, though described with a terrible force and fidelity, is both relieved and enhanced by the beautiful pictures of mental energy and redeeming affection with which it is combined. Our readers will recollect, that this gloomy and daring chief was mortally wounded in battle, and led out of it, almost insensible, by that sad and lovely page, whom no danger could ever separate from his side. On his retreat, slaughter and desolation fall on his disheartened fol.

DEATH SCENE OF LARA.

443

lowers; and the poet turns from the scene of disorder —

· Beneath a lime, remoter from the scene,
Where but for him that strife had never been,
A breathing but devoted warrior lay :
'Twas Lara bleeding fast from life away!
His follower once, and now his only guide,
Kneels Kaled watchful o'er his welling side,
And with his scarf would staunch the tides that rush,
With each convulsion, in a blacker gush;
And then, as his faint breathing waxes low,
In feebler, not less fatal tricklings flow :
He scarce can speak; but motions him 'tis vain,
And merely adds another throb to pain.
He clasps the hand that pang which would assunge,
And sadly smiles his thanks to that dark page ;
Who nothing fears, nor feels, nor heeds, nor sees,
Save that damp brow which rests upon his knees ;
Save that pale aspect, where the eye, though dim,
Held all the light that shone on earth for him.
"The foe arrives, who long had search'd the field,

Their triumph nought till Lara too should yield;
They would remove him; but they see 'twere vain,
And he regards them with a calm disdain,
That rose to reconcile him with his fate,
And that escape to death from living hate :
And Otho comes, and leaping from his steed,
Looks on the bleeding foe that made him bleed,
And questions of his state: he answers not;
Scarce glances on him as on one forgot,
And turns to Kaled : — each remaining word,
They understood not, if distinctly heard ;
His dying tones are in that other tongue,
To which some strange remembrance wildly clung," &c.
Their words though faint were many

from the tone Their import those who heard could judge alone; From this, you might have deem'd young Kaled's death More near than Lara's, by his voice and breath ; So sad, so deep, and hesitating broke The accents his scarce-moving pale lips spoke ; But Lara's voice though low, at first was clear And calm, till murm'ring death gasp'd hoarsely near : But from his visage little could we guess, So unrepentant, dark, and passionless, Save that when struggling nearer to his last, Upon that

page

his eye was kindly cast; And once as Kaled's answ'ring accents ceast, Rose Lara's hand, and pointed to the East.

444

LORD BYRON

SIEGE OF CORINTH.

“But gasping heav'd the breath that Lara drew,
And dull the film along his dim eye grew;
His limbs stretch'd flutt'ring, and his head dropp'd o'er
The weak, yet still untiring knee that bore !
He press’d the hand he held upon his heart-
It beats no more! but Kaled will not part
With the cold grasp ! but feels, and feels in vain,
For that faint throb which answers not again.
• It beats !' Away, thou dreamer! he is gone!
It once was Lara which thou look'st upon.
"He gaz'd, as if not yet had pass'd away
The haughty spirit of that humble clay;
And those around have rous'd him from his trance,
But cannot tear from thence his fixed glance ;
And when, in raising him from where he bore
Within his arms the form that felt no more,
He saw the head his breast would still sustain,
Roll down, like earth to earth, upon the plain !
He did not dash himself thereby ; nor tear
The glossy tendrils of his raven hair,
But strove to stand and gaze; but reel’d and fell,
Scarce breathing more than that he lov'd so well!
Than that He lov'd ! Oh! never yet beneath
The breast of Man such trusty love may breathe
That trying moment hath at once reveald
The secret, long and yet but half-conceal'd;
In baring to revive that lifeless breast,
Its grief seem'd ended, but the sex confest!
And life return'd, and Kaled felt no shame-

What now to her was Womanhood or Fame ? We must stop here;- but the whole sequel of the poem

is written with equal vigour and feeling; and may be put in competition with any thing that poetry has ever produced, in point either of pathos or energy.

The SIEGE OF CORINTH is next in the order of time; and though written, perhaps, with too visible a striving after effect, and not very well harmonised in all its parts, we cannot help regarding it as a magnificent composition. There is less misanthropy in it than in any of the rest; and the interest is made up of alternate representations of soft and solemn scenes and emotions and of the tumult, and terrors, and intoxication of war. posite pictures are perhaps too violently contrasted, and, in some parts, too harshly coloured ; but they are in general exquisitely designed, and executed with the

These op

[blocks in formation]

utmost spirit and energy. What, for instance, can be finer than the following night-piece? The renegade had left his tent in moody musing, the night before the final assault on the Christian walls.

" 'Tis midnight! On the mountain's brown
The cold round moon shines deeply down;
Blue roll the waters; blue the sky
Spreads like an ocean hung on high,
Bespangled with those isles of light,
So wildly, spiritually bright;
Who ever gaz'd upon them shining,
And turn 'd to earth without repining,
Nor wish'd for wings to flee away,
And mix with their eternal ray ?
The waves on either shore lay there,
Calm, clear, and azure as the air;
And scarce their foam the pebbles shook,
But murmur'd meekly as the brook.
The winds were pillow'd on the waves;
The banners droop'd along their staves,
And, as they fell around them furling,
Above them shone the crescent curling ;
And that deep silence was unbroke,
Save where the watch his signal spoke,
Save where the steed neigh'd oft and shrill,
And echo answer'd from the hill,
And the wide hum of that wild host
Rustled like leaves from coast to coast,
As rose the Muezzin's voice in air

In midnight call to wonted prayer."— The transition to the bustle and fury of the morning muster, as well as the moving picture of the barbaric host, is equally admirable.

The night is past, and shines the sun
As if that morn were a jocund one.
Lightly and brightly breaks away
The Morning from her mantle grey,
And the Noon will look on a sultry day!
Hark to the trump, and the drum,
And the mournful sound of the barb'rous horn,
And the flap of the banners, that flit as they're borne,
And the neigh of the steed, and the multitude's hum,
And the clash, and the shout, “They come, they come !'
The horsetails are pluck'd from the ground, and the sword
From its sheath! and they form—and but wait for the word.

« ÎnapoiContinuați »