Изображения страниц
[ocr errors]

have hovered before the poet's mind as he wrote,-Milton, perhaps, first of all, the Paradise Lost' (II, 927 ff.) and 'Paradise Regained'; then Dante's 'Paradiso'; many passages in the Bible; and possibly also Cicero's 'Somnium Scipionis' ('De Republica,' bk. VI).

More modern passages, where in part something of a similar sort of imagination is displayed, are to be found in Victor Hugo's 'La-Haut' and 'La Comète' (in 'La Légende des Siècles,' II), or "O gouffre! l'âme plonge et rapporte le doute" ('Les Contemplations,' II), 'Magnitudo Parvi' ('Les Contemplations,' I); D. G. Rossetti's 'Blessed Damozel'; Kipling's 'To Wolcott Balestier' (Dedication to 'Barrack Room Ballads'); and Cowley's 'The Ecstasy.' See also Chaucer's Parlement of Foules' (Proem); Blake's 'Marriage of Heaven and Hell' (passage beginning, "An Angel came to me").

'Cain' was partly planned as early as January, 1821, and was finished early in September of the same year. Byron wrote Murray: "I have a good opinion of the piece, as poetry; it is in my gay metaphysical style, and in the Manfred line."

In the preceding portion of the drama Cain's discontent with the pious and accepted creed and the religious submission of his family is explained, as well as his determination to accompany his tempter, Lucifer, in the quest for boundless knowledge. Later occurs the murder of Abel. Byron in his preface warns us that we must remember that his personages speak strictly in character. "With regard to the language of Lucifer, it was difficult for me to make him talk like a clergyman upon the same subjects." Here, too, some of the conceptions of modern science are early taken up into poetry. "The reader will perceive," Byron writes, “that the author has partly adopted in this poem the notion of Cuvier that the world had been destroyed several times before the creation of man.' In explanation of the dramatic object in the unfolding of Cain's character served by this scene Byron writes: "Cain is a proud man; if Lucifer promised him kingdom, etc., it would elate him; the object of the Demon is to depress him still further in his own estimation than he was before, by showing him infinite things and his own abasement, till he falls into the frame of mind that leads to the catastrophe. from the rage and

fury against the inadequacy of his state to his conceptions." In

[ocr errors]

its own day Cain' raised a great outcry from many of the ultra-orthodox,- -a pother which now it is difficult to understand. Byron's own judgment seems just: "I really thought 'Cain' a speculative and hardy, but still a harmless, production."

[blocks in formation]

280 29 ff.

I fear To sink. i.e., I fear lest I shall sink.

Can I do so? i.e., have faith in Lucifer.

i.e. Who refers to me before his angels as a demon. to miserable things. i.e., to men.

Cf. Matthew,' ch. xiv.

Are the details of the flight through chaos exactly such as they may be imagined as being from the successive points of view of the actors in it?

281: 72.


284: 161-2.

This is the consideration which gives Manfred

The meaning seems to be, that time and space have always existed and must ever be unchanged and as they have been.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

285 175-176. For the world of phantoms to which "beings past return and from which those "still to come emerge, compare the Garden of Adonis in Spenser's 'Faerie Queene' III, vi, stanzas 29 ff.


Byron's power in the pure lyric is doubtless inferior to that of four or five of his contemporaries. The central conception and the opening lines are often extremely good, but the later verses often fall off and he usually fails to give the delicate finish and the subtler note which we expect from Shelley, Coleridge, Keats, or Wordsworth. There are two veins which Byron especially cultivates the short, rounded lyric of sentiment, with musical associations, after the model of Tom Moore and the song-writers (as in 'When we two parted' or 'Maid of Athens'); and the introspective and personal lyric or monody, such as 'Darkness' or 'The Dream.' A haunting, if somewhat obvious, cadence and sentiment, which permanently recommends them to the intimate memory of the reader, attaches to the best of them. Byron's selected lyrics have their own charm and atmosphere, and, in the best sense, are English classics.

287. 'When We Two Parted.' Written 1808, in the poet's twentieth year. Published with Poems,' 1816.

[ocr errors]

It is a frequent practice of Byron to admit lines apparently or actually longer or shorter by a foot than the norm of the stanza would seem to exact. So here lines 5 and 7 apparently require three stresses each. They, however, have each six syllables, like the corresponding lines in stanza 2, and musically or metrically can thus be read to the same time as the rest of the lines. For other and similar irregularities see p. 297 (different rhymescheme for each stanza), p. 299. ("There be none of Beauty's daughters," the scansion throughout.)

288. MAID OF ATHENS.' Written at Athens in 1810. Addressed to the eldest daughter (Theresa Macri) of the widow of the vice-consul for England, at whose house Byron lodged during his first visit to Athens. She is described by a contemporary traveller (Hugh Williams, Travels in Italy, Greece,' etc.) as of middle stature, oval countenance, dark hair and eyes, and pleasing manners. Galt, however (Life of Byron' p. 119), thinks that she has been rendered more famous by his Lordship's verses than her degree of beauty deserved. She was a pale and pensive-looking girl, with regular Grecian features. Whether he really cherished any sincere attachment to her I much doubt." After his departure from Athens Byron wrote in a letter to his friend Drury: "I almost forgot to tell you that I am dying for love of three Greek girls at Athens, sisters. I lived in the same house. Teresa, Mariana, and Katinka are the names of these divinities, all of them under fifteen." From this passage one can fairly judge the sincerity of the poet's attachment. All the better, perhaps, is the poetry itself.

288: 6. "Romaic expression of tenderness. . . . It means, 'My life, I love you!' which sounds very prettily in all languages." [Byron's note.

288: 15. “In the East (where ladies are not taught to write, lest they should scribble assignations) flowers, cinders, pebbles, etc., convey the sentiments of the parties by that universal deputy of Mercury-an old woman. [Byron's note.

288: 21. Istambol. Constantinople.

289. 'AND THOU ART DEAD.' Written in February, 1812. I am not aware that it is to be attached to any circumstance in

the poet's life, but it was written not long after the deaths of his mother and of several of the friends of his youth, which deeply affected him. With this stimulus the poem may very well have been written directly from the Latin text which is prefixed to it, which is echoed in the concluding lines, and which Moore also paraphrased in the poem mentioned below.

289 1. For the motto, cf. Shenstone, ‘Inscription on an Ornamented Urn' (To Miss Dolman: in Chalmers' Poets, xiii, 330). Translated by Moore :

"To live with them is far less sweet,

Than to remember thee."

Moore's poem ('I saw thy form in youthful prime,' in the 'Irish Melodies'), written in a stanza of which Byron's seems to be a modification, and upon a similar theme and from the same motto or text, was probably Byron's starting-point in this lyric. Byron was a great admirer of Moore's songs. The two poems may be compared with profit. They exhibit strikingly the differences in diction, tone of sentiment, and lyric method of the two poets.


[ocr errors]

"CLIME OF THE UNFORGOTTEN BRAVE!" From The Giaour,' written and published in the spring of 1813,-a poem to which a motto from Moore is prefixed.

292: “Know ye the LAND." From 'The Bride of Abydos,' written in November, and published early in December, 1813. These form the opening lines of the poem and are written in a different metre from the rest. These lines were written as an after-thought, while the poem was passing through the press. They suggest at once Goethe's famous lyric, prefixed to the first chapter of the third book of Wilhelm Meister':


"Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen blühn,
Im dunkeln Laub die Goldorangen glühn,
Ein sanfter Wind vom blauen Himmel weht,
Die Myrte still und hoch der Lorbeer steht?

Kennst du es wohl ?-Dahin! Dabin

Möcht ich mit dir, O mein Geliebter, ziehn," etc.

The resemblance, however, is merely in general theme and coloring. Byron has not followed his model very closely, if Goethe were his model. As he did not read German, this last

seems doubtful.

He, however, was accused of borrowing these

lines from Madame de Staël's paraphrase:

"Cette terre, où les myrtes fleurissent,

Où les rayons des cieux tombent avec amour,
Où des sons enchanteurs dans les airs retentissent,

Où la plus douce nuit succède au plus beau jour."

This charge the Countess of Blessington ('Conversations with Byron,' 326) reports him as denying. In any event, while the motive is the same, the resemblance otherwise is merely a vague and general one. The lines as given above are from the Countess of Blessington's book. In Madame de Staël's 'L'Allemagne ' (ch. xxviii) only the first line is given, and that in another form, viz.:

"Connais-tu cette terre où les citronniers fleurissent."

The measure is a four-foot verse of free anapæstic movement.

292: 8. Gúl. The rose. [Byron's note.

293: "O'ER THE GLAD WATERS OF THE DARK-BLUE SEA." The opening lines of The Corsair,' written in December, 1813, and published in January, 1814. The poem is written in heroic couplets. The first line, however, is rhythmically exceedingly irregular, although metrically regular, producing thus a strong effect of rapidity and animation. The management of cadence and pause in this entire passage may be studied with advantage. 294: "SLOW Sinks, more Lovely ere his Race be Run.” The opening lines of the third canto of 'The Corsair,' 1813-14. These lines, however, as Byron tells us in a note, were written in 1811 for another (unpublished) poem,-and so may the more justifiably here be detached from 'The Corsair' as a whole. "They were," he says, "written on the spot,"-i.e., at Athens.

Could a painter comprehend the picture, here given, on one canvas? What does the poet here give which the painter could not give ?

2947. Idra's isle. Idra, otherwise Hydra, an island off the east coast of the Morea.

294: 22.

"Socrates drank the hemlock a short time before sunset (the hour of execution), notwithstanding the entreaties of his disciples to wait till the sun went down." [Byron's note,

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »