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being as yet too immature to rival them. I for my part can never even think of equalling with them any other of their contemporaries;

either Coleridge, poet and philosopher wrecked in a mist of opium; or Shelley, beautiful and ineffectual angel, beating in the void his luminous wings in vain. Wordsworth and Byron stand out by themselves. When the year 1900 is turned, and our nation comes to recount her poetic glories in the century which has then just ended, the first names with her will be these.

The passage is notorious for a clever wayward injustice it does to Shelley. (The only void in which Shelley ever beat his luminous wings in vain was a void in Mr. Arnold's understanding.) But will it last in equal disrepute for its prophecy concerning Byron? The year 1900 has been turned, and eighteen years have been added, and today (let us be frank about it) that prophecy has come nowhere near fulfilment. Indeed promise of defeat followed close on its utterance, when Swinburne—who of all men then alive to be listened to -Swinburne, professed hater of despotism, who of all men might have been counted on to lift a louder trumpet and resound the rally-Swinburne, who had written in praise of Byron words so noble that they might well seem to melt into a pledge to escort a fellow-spirit through darkness and detraction up to glory

Tarry, dear cousin Suffolk!
My soul shall thine keep company to heaven;
Tarry, sweet soul, for mine, then fly abreast!

-when Swinburne so promptly wheeled back on past praise and joined with the revilers to revile-so persuasively too! But that the absurdity was possible may teach us two things: the first, that in these days a claim for Byron really needs pressing among his countrymen; the second that one who presses it must first lay his account with their present neglect, and—what is more -recognise it for an obstinate neglect, born not of idleness or indifference but of positive reluctance to allow the claim. Indeed the other day a teacher in an ancient University advertised a course of lectures on the "Romantic Revolt” in English Poetry and left Byron out!

This reluctance begins and ends at home. On the continent of Europe, through which his poetry first ran as a flame, it has endured and burnt constantly. When he died, on the 19th of April 1824, at Missolonghi, the Greek Provisional Government in the midst of the Easter festival, closed all shops and public offices, and proclaimed, with salute of guns, a general mourning for twenty-one days. Today I take down from the shelf a volume (dated 1905) by Dr. George Brandes—it is Volume 4 of a series treating of Main Currents in Nineteenth Century Literature and treats particularly of Naturalism in England, and this is what I find. Dr. Brandes, viewing the movement by his sense of proportion, assigns 33 of his pages to Wordsworth, 17 to Coleridge, 12 to Southey, 25 to Scott, 19 to Keats, 17 to Landor, 43 to Shelley, and no less than 116 to Byron! It is obvious that between this foreign critic and our domestic lecturer we must strike a balance somewhere, somehow. And Byron belongs to us!

There may be cities who refuse,

To their own child the honours due,
And look ungently on the Muse;

But ever shall those cities rue
The dry, unyielding, niggard breast,
Offering no nourishment, no rest,

To that young head which soon shall rise
Disdainfully, in might and glory, to the skies.


Easy talk about reaction will not carry us very far. The first two cantos of Childe Harold appeared on March 10, 1812, and, as everyone knows, Byron flashed into sudden, dazzling fame. Edition crowded on edition. Before its appearance Tom Moore gratified his lordship by expressing a fear that it was too good for its age. To this the late Professor Nichol somewhat tartly (but in my opinion very justly) retorted that this is precisely what it was not.

Its success was due to the reverse being the truth. It was just on the level of its age. Its flowing verse, defaced by rhymical faults perceptible only to finer ears, its prevailing sentiment, occasional boldness relieved by pleasing platitudes, its half affected rakishness, here and there elevated by a rush as of morning air, and its frequent richness-not yet, as afterwards, splendour-of description, were all appreciated by the fashionable London of the Regency; while the comparatively mild satire, not keen enough to scarify, only gave a more piquant flavour to the whole.

For three full heady years Byron-a spoilt child from the cradle-knew the idolatry of this society and inhaled its incense. His name (I can conceive no more illustrious triumph, in England, for art over the popular imagination) figured in the shop-windows over new styles in collars and neck-ties. The young shopman behind the counter read his poems, and on Sundays walked Hampstead Heath as a full-blooded Giaour arming an Odalisque-and after all, when we consider, this was a deal better than playing the “Abstract Buck" on the model of the Prince Regent. Byron in fine and in the language of the day was the “rage”: and he fed it lavishly:all too carelessly as an artist, and with seeming carelessness as a dandy who chose to be a genius; yet all the while with an irritable care which vanity taught vanity to conceal. These three marvellously successful years were his worst, whether we take him as artist or as man; years in which he poured out The Giaour, The Bride of Abydos, The Corsair, Lara. There was no resisting them. Lara," says he, “I wrote while undressing after coming home from balls and masquerades, in the year of revelry, 1814.” Now in 1814 a class in England-Byron's class-was celebrating the apparent end of the Napoleonic struggle. It had profiteered pretty successfully through that struggle; it was emerging in a triumphant political position; and its exultation shaped itself in the form of the improved Brighton Pavilion and the sort of behaviour that went on inside it. (The Brighton Pavilion, you may remember, was adapted to resemble the Kremlin at Moscow.) Our rulers, long denied Continental travel, were hungry for foreign parts, where Byron had been; for foreign titillations, which Childe Harold had enjoyed and reported. "Sentimentalists, says George Meredith, "are a perfectly natural growth of a fat soil," and sentiment is an even readier coinage than hypocrisy for the tribute that vice pays to virtue. What sentimentalist of the Regency could command his duct of tears over such a passage as

He who hath bent him o'er the dead,
Ere the first day of Death is fled,
The first dark day of Nothingness,
The last of Danger and Distress,
(Before Decay's effacing fingers
Have swept the lines where Beauty lingers,) ...

or refuse a thrill to the question

Know ye the land where the cypress and myrtle

Are emblems of deeds that are done in their clime? Where the rage of the vulture, the love of the turtle,

Now melt into sorrow, now madden to crime?

When writing like that enjoys a ragea patently excessive rage we ought not to grieve that reaction comes, nor to grieve that it comes swiftly: but we may deplore (I think) when it descends upon the poet at the hands of those who taught him to be overweening, and afterwards found sanctuary for their sins of taste in the violence they contributed to his punishment. As Macaulay noted, the age set about smashing its idol in characteristic British fashion, assailing not the poetry he had written up to 1816, and not at all (of course) themselves for its having entranced them; but assailing the man for having been wicked in a wicked age; and this although his wickedness was half a parade of perverse vanity, and although, as a fact, he was so innocent of the charge upon which they seized as to be helpless before it, in a bewilderment at what it all meant.

We know no spectacle (says Macaulay) so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality. In general, elopements, divorces, and family quarrels, pass with little notice. ... But once in six or seven years our virtue becomes outrageous. We cannot suffer the laws of religion and decency to be violated. We must make a stand against vice. We must teach libertines that the English people appreciate the importance of domestic ties. Accordingly some unfortunate man, in no respect more depraved than hundreds whose offences have been treated with leniency, is singled out as an expiatory sacrifice. If he has children, they are taken from him. If he has a profession, he is ruined. He is cut by the higher orders and hissed by the lower. He is, in truth, a sort of whipping-boy, by

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