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A T A L E. 1
CANTO THE FIRST.
I. The Serfs ? are glad through Lara's wide domain, And slavery half forgets her feudal chain; He, their unhoped, but unforgotten lord, The long self-exiled chieftain, is restored : There be bright faces in the busy hall, Bowls on the board, and banners on the wall; Far checkering o'er the pictured window, plays The unwonted faggots' hospitable blaze; And gay retainers gather round the hearth, With tongues all loudness, and with eyes all mirth.
II. The chief of Lara is return'd again : And why had Lara cross'd the bounding main ? Left by his sire, too young such loss to know, Lord of himself;— that heritage of woe, That fearful empire which the human breast But holds to rob the heart within of rest!
(A few days after he had put the finishing hand to the “Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte," 'Lord Byron adopted the most extraordinary resolution that, perhaps, ever entered into the mind of an author of any celebrity Annoyed at the tone of disparagement in which his assailants - not content with blackening his moral and social character - now affected to speak of his genius, and somewhat mortified, there is reason to believe, by finding that his own friends dreaded the effects of constant publication on his ultimate fame, he came to the determination, not only to print no more in future, but to purchase back the whole of his past copyrights, and suppress every line he had ever written. With this view, on the 29th of April, he actually enclosed his publisher a draft for the money.
“ For all this," he said, “it might be as well to assign some reason: I have none to give, except my own caprice, and I do not consider the circumstance of consequence enough to require explanation." An appeal, however, from Mr. Murray, to his good-nature and considerateness, brought, in eight and forty hours, the following reply :- If your pre. sent note is serious, and it really would be inconvenient, there is an end of the matter : tear my draft, and go on as usual : that I was periectly serious, in wishing to suppress all future publication, is true ; but certainly not to interfere with the convenionce of others, and more particularly your own."
The following passages in his Diary depict the state of Lord Byron's mind at this period :-“ Murray has had a letter from his brother bibliopole of Edinburgh, who says, he is lucky in having such a poet'- something as if one was a pack-horse, or ass, or any thing that is lis;' or like Mrs. Packwood, who replied to some inquiry after the Odes on Razors, · Laws, sir, we keeps a poet." The same illustrious Edinburgh bookseller once sent an order for books, poesy, and cookery, with this agreeable postscript - The Harold and Cookery are much wanted.' Such is fame! and, after all, quite as good as any other life in others' breath.' 'Tis much the same to divide purchasers with Hannah Glasse or Hannah More." -" March 17th, Redde the Quarrels of Authors,' a new work by that most entertaining and researching writer, D'Israeli. They seem to be an irritable set, and I wish myself well out of it. I'll not march through
With none to check and few to point in time
Coventry with them, that's Aat.' What the devil had I to do with the scribbling? It is too late to inquire, and all regret is useless. But 'an it were to do again-1 should write again, I suppose. Such is human nature, at least my share of it ;though I shall think better of myself if I have sense to stop now.
If I have a wife, and that wife has a son, I will bring up mine heir in the most anti-poetical way - make him a lawyer, or a pirate, or anything. But if he writes, too, I shall be sure he is none of mine, and will cut him off with a Bank token." -“ April 19. I will keep no further journal; and, to prevent me from returning, like a dog, to the voinit of memory, I tear out the remaining leaves of this volume. • Oh fool :1 shall go mad.'"
These extracts are from the Diary of March and April, 1814. Before the end of May he had begun the composition of “ Lara," which has been almost universally considered as the continuation of " The Corsair." This poem was published anonymously in the following August, in the same volume with Mr. Rogers's elegant tale of " Jacqueline;" an unnatural and unintelligible conjunction, which, however, gave rise to some pretty good jokes. "believe,'says Lord Byron, in one of his letters, “I told you of Larry and Jacquy. A friend of mine -- at least a friend of his was reading said Larry and Jacquy in a Brighton coach. A passenger took up the book and queried as to the author. The proprietor said, there were two ;'- to which the answer of the unknown was, 'Ay, ay,-- a joint concern, I suppose, summot like Stern. hold and Hopkins.' Is not this excellent ? I would not have missed the vile comparison' to have escaped being the • Arcades ambo et cantare pares.'"]
? The reader is apprised, that the name of Lara being Spanish, and no circumstance of local and natural description fixing the scene or hero of the poem to any country or age, the word 'Serf,' which could not be correctly applied to the lower classes in Spain, who were never vassals of the soil, has nevertheless been employed to designate the followers of our fictitious chieftain. – [Lord Byron elsewhere intinates, that he meant Lara for a chief of the Morea.)
3 [Lord Byron's own tale is partly told in this sectionSIR WALTER SCOTT.]
But one is absent from the mouldering file,
VI. That now were welcome in that Gothic pile.
Not much he loved long question of the past,
Nor told of wondrous wilds, and deserts vast,
In those far lands where he had wander'd lone, He cornes at last in sudden loneliness,
And — as himself would have it seem - unknown: And whence they know not, why they need not gucss ; Yet these in vain his eye could scarcely scan, They more might marvel, when the greeting's o'er, Nor glean experience from his fellow man; Not that he came, but came not long before : But what he had beheld he sbunn'd to show, No train is his beyond a single page,
As hardly worth a stranger's care to know;
If still more prying such inquiry grew,
Not unrejoiced to see him once again, They see, they recognise, yet almost deem
Warm was his welcome to the haunts of men ; The present dubious, or the past a dream.
Born of high lineage, link'd in high command,
He mingled with the Magnates of his land; He lives, nor yet is past his manhood's prime, [time; Join'd the carousals of the great and gay, Though sear'd by toil, and something touch'd by And saw them smile or sigh their hours away ; ? His faults, whate'er they were, if scarce forgot, But still he only saw, and did not share, Might be untaught him by his varied lot ;
The common pleasure or the general care; Nor good nor ill of late were known, his name He did not follow what they all pursued, Might yet uphold his patrimonial fame :
With hope still baffled still to be renew'd; His soul in youth was haughty, but his sins
Nor shadowy honour, nor substantial gain, No more than pleasure from the stripling wins ; Nor beauty's preference, and the rival's pain : And such, if not yet harden'd in their course, Around him some mysterious circle thrown Might be redeem'd, nor ask a long remorse.
Repell’d approach, and show'd him still alone;
Upon his eye sat something of reproof,
That kept at least frivolity aloof;
And they the wiser, friendlier few confess'd
They deem'd him better than his air express'd. The pride, but not the fire, of early days, Coldness of mien, and carelessness of praise ;
VIIL A high demeanour, and a glance that took
'T was strange – in youth all action and all life, Their thoughts from others by a single look ; Burning for pleasure, not averse from strife; And that sarcastic levity of tongue,
Woman — the field — the ocean - all that gave The stinging of a heart the world hath stung, Promise of gladness, peril of a grave, That darts in seeming playfulness around,
In turn he tried — he ransack'd all below, And makes those feel that will not own the wound; And found his recompence in joy or woe, All these seem'd his, and something more beneath, No tame, trite medium ; for his feelings sought Than glance could well reveal, or accent breathe. In that intenseness an escape from thought: Ambition, glory, love, the common aim,
The tempest of his heart in scorn had gazed That some can conquer, and that all would claim, On that the feebler elements hath raised ; Within his breast appear'd no more to strive,
The rapture of his heart had look'd on high, Yet seem'd as lately they had been alive ;
And ask'd if greater dwelt beyond the sky: And some deep feeling it were vain to trace
Chain'd to excess, the slave of each extreme, At moments lighten'd o'er his livid face.
How woke he from the wildness of that dream ? 1 [It is a remarkable property of the poetry of Lord Byron, and again, varied only by the exertions of that powerful genius that although his manner is frequently varied, although he which, searching the springs of passion and of feeling in their appears to have assumed for an occasion the characteristic innermost recesses, knew how to combine their operations, so stanza and style of several contemporaries, — yet not only is that the interest was eternally varying, and never abated, his poetry marked in every instance by the strongest cast of although the most important personage of the drama retained originality, but in some leading particulars, and especially in the same lineaments. It will one day be considered as not the character of his heroes, each story so closely resembled the least remarkable literary phenomenon of this age, that the other, that, managed by a writer of less power, the effect during a period of four years, notwithstanding the quantity of would have been an unpleasant monotony. All, or almost all, distinguished poetical talent of which we may be permitted his heroes have somewhat the attributes of Childe Harold :- to boast, a single author – and he managing his pen with the all, or almost all, have minds which saom at variance with. careless and negligent ease of a man of quality, and choosing beir fortunes, and exhibit high and poignant feelings of pain for his theme subjects so very similar, and personages bearing and pleasure; a keen sense of what is noble and honourable; so close a resemblance to each other, - did, in despite of these and an equally keel siisceptibility Quiniustice or injury,under circumstances, of the unamiable attributes with which he the garbo stoicism or contempt.oi.mankind. The strength usually invested his heroes, and of the proverbial fickleness of or early passion, and the glow of youthful feeling are unilormly
the public, maintain the ascendency in their favour, which he painted as chied or studied by a train of early imprudences
had acquired by his first matured production. So, however, or of darker guns, and the sense of enjoyment Larnisted, it indisputably has been. — Sir Walter Scott.] by too intunate an acquaintance with the vanity of human ? [This description of Lara, suddenly and unexpectedly stres. These general attributes mark the stern features of returned from distant travels, and re-assuming his station
in IT Lord Byron's heroes, from those which are shaded by the the society of his own country, has strong points of resemblance scalloped hat of the illustrious Pilgrim, to those which lurk to the part which the author himself seemed occasionally to under the turban of Alp the Renegade. It was reserved to bear amid the scenes where the great mingle with the fair. him to present the same character on the public stage again Sir Walter Scott.]
Alas! he told not but he did awake
Where history's pen its praise or blame supplies,
He wandering mused, and as the moonbeam shone
Through the dim lattice o'er the floor of stone,
And the high fretted roof, and saints, that there With eye more curious he appear'd to scan,
O'er Gothic windows knelt in pictured prayer, And oft, in sudden mood, for many a day,
Reflected in fantastic figures grew, From all communion he would start away :
Like life, but not like mortal life, to view; And then, liis rarely call'd attendants said, (tread His bristling locks of sable, brow of gloom, Through night's long hours would sound his hurried And the wide waving of his shaken plume, O'er the dark gallery, where his fathers frown'd Glanced like a spectre's attributes, and gave In rude but antique portraiture around:
His aspect all that terror gives the grave. They hearil, but whisper'd — " that must not be
XII. known The sound of words less earthly than his own.
'T was midnight - all was slumber; the lone light Yes, they who chose might smile, but some had seen
Dimm'd in the lamp, as loth to break the night. They scarce knew what, but more than should have
Hark! there be murmurs heard in Lara's hall been.
A sound — a voice — a shriek - a fearful call ! Why gazed he so upon the ghastly head
A long, loud shriek - and silence - did they hear Which hands profanc had gather'd from the dead,
That frantic echo burst the sleeping ear ? That still beside his open'd volume lay,
They heard and rose, and, tremulously brave, As if to startle all save him away?
Rush where the sound invoked their aid to save; Why slept he not when others were at rest ?
They come with half-lit tapers in their hands, Why heard no music, and received no guest ?
And snatch'd in startled haste unbelted brands.
Pale as the beam that o'er his features play'd,
Yet he was firm, or had been firm till now,
And still defiance knit his gather'd brow;
Though mix'd with terror, senseless as he lay,
There lived upon his lip the wish to slay ;
Some half-form'd threat in utterance there had died,
Some imprecation of despairing pride ;
His eye was almost seald, but not forsook
Even in its trance the gladiator's look, The immortal lights that live along the sky:
That oft awake his aspect could disclose,
And now was fix'd in horrible repose.
They raise him — bear him;- hush! he breathes,
he speaks, And Innocence would offer to her lore.
The swarthy blush recolours in his cheeks, These deck the shore; the waves their channel make
His lip resumes its red, his eye, though dim,
Rolls wide and wild, each slowly quivering limb
Recalls its function, but his words are strung
In terms that seem not of his native tongue ; Secure that nought of evil could delight
Distinct but strange, enough they understand To walk in such a scene, on such a night!
To deem them accents of another land; It was a moment only for the good :
And such they were, and meant to meet an ear
That hears him not-alas ! that cannot hear!
His page approach'd, and he alone appcar'd Of skies more cloudless, moons of purer blaze,
To know the import of the words they heard ; Of nights more soft and frequent, hearts that now- And, by the changes of his cheek and brow, No— no- the storm may beat upon his brow, They were not such as Lara should avow, Unfelt — unsparing - but a night like this,
Nor he interpret, - yet with less surprise A night of beauty, mock'd such breast as his.
Than those around their chieftain's state he eyes,
But Lara's prostrate form he bent beside,
And in that tongue which seem'd his own replied,
And Lara heeds those tones that gently seem And his high shadow shot along the wall :
To soothe away the horrors of his dream There were the painted forms of other times,
If dream it were, that thus could overthrow 'T was all they left of virtues or of crimes,
A breast that needed not ideal woe.
Whate'er his frenzy dream'd or eye beheld, That speeds the specious tale from age to age ; If yet remember'd ne'er to be reveald,
In vigilance of grief that would compel The soul to hate for having loved too well.
Rests at his heart: the custom'd morning came,
XVI. Vain thought! that hour of ne'er unravell’d gloom Came not again, or Lara could assume A seeming of forgetfulness, that made His vassals more amazed nor less afraid Had memory vanish'd then with sense restored ? Since word, nor look, nor gesture of their lord Betray'l a feeling that recall’d to these That fever'd moment of his mind's disease. Was it a dream ? was his the voice that spoke Those strange wild accents; his the cry that broke Their slumber? his the oppress'd, o'erlabour'd heart That ceased to beat, the look that made them start ? Could he who thus had suffer'd so forget, When such as saw that suffering shudder yet? Or did that silence prove his memory fix'd Too deep for words, indelible, unmix'd In that corroding secrecy which gnaws The heart to show the effect, but not the cause ? Not so in him; his breast had buried both, Nor common gazers could discern the growth Of thoughts that mortal lips must leave half told; They choke the feeble words that would unfold.
XVIII. There was in him a vital scorn of all : As if the worst had fall'n which could befall, He stood a stranger in this breathing world, An erring spirit from another huri'd; A thing of dark imaginings, that shaped By choice the perils he by chance escaped ; But 'scaped in vain, for in their memory yet His mind would half exult and half regret: With more capacity for love than earth Bestows on most of mortal mould and birth, His early dreams of good outstripp'd the truth, And troubled manhood follow'd baffled youth; With thought of years in phantom chase misspent, And wasted powers for better purpose lent; And fiery passions that had pour'd their wrath In hurried desolation o'er his path, And left the better feelings all at strife In wild reflection o'er bis stormy life; But baughty still, and loth himself to blame, He calld on Nature's self to share the shame, And charged all faults upon the fleshy form She gave to clog the soul, and feast the worm ; Till he at last confounded good and ill, And half mistook for fate the acts of will : Too high for common selfishness, he could At times resign his own for others' good, But not in pity, not because he ought, But in some strange perversity of thought, That sway'd lim onward with a secret pride To do what few or none would do beside ; And this same impulse would, in tempting time, Mislead his spirit equally to crime; So much he soar'd beyond, or sunk beneath, The men with whom he felt condemn'd to breathe, And long'd by good or ill to separate Himself from all who shared his mortal state ; His mind abhorring this had fix'd her throne Far from the world, in regions of her own : Thus coldly passing all that pass'd below, His blood in temperate seeming now would fluw: Ah ! happier if it ne'er with guilt had glow'd, But ever in that icy smoothness flow'd ! 'Tis true, with other men their path he walk'd, And like the rest in seeming did and talk'd, Nor outraged Reason's rules by flaw nor start, His madness was not of the head, but heart; And rarely wander'd in his speech, or drew His thoughts so forth as to offend the view.
XVII. In him inexplicably mix'd appear'd Much to be loved and hated, sought and fear'd; Opinion varying o'er his hidden lot, In praise or railing ne'er his name forgot: His silence form'd a theme for others' prate They guess'd - they gazed — they fain would know
his fate. What had he been ? what was he, thus unknown, Who walk'd their world, his lineage only known ? A hater of his kind ? yet some would say, With them he could seem gay amidst the gay ; But own'd that smile, if oft observed and near, Waned in its mirth, and wither'd to a sneer; That sinile might reach his lip, but pass'd not by, None e'er could trace its laughter to his eye: Yet there was softness too in his regard, At times, a heart as not by nature hard, But once perceived, his spirit seem'd to chide Such weakness, as unworthy of its pride, And steel'd itself, as scorning to redeem One doubt from others' half withheld csteem ; In self-inflicted penance of a breast Which tenderness might once have wrung from rest;
XIX. With all that chilling mystery of mien, And seeming gladness to remain unseen, He had (if 't were not nature's boon) an art Of fixing memory on another's heart: It was not love perchance nor hatc - nor aught That words can image to express the thought; But they who saw him did not see in vain, And once beheld, would ask of him again : And those to whom he spake remember'd well, And on the words, however light, would dwell: None knew, nor how, nor why, but he entwined Himself perforce around the hearer's mind; There he was stamp'd, in liking, or in hate, If greeted once ; however brief the date
Doubt not my fitting answer to requite
That friendship, pity, or aversion knew,
XX. There is a festival, where knights and dames, And aught that wealth or lofty lineage claims, Appear-a highborn and a welcome guest To Otho's hall came Lara with the rest. The long carousal shakes the illumined hall, Well speeds alike the banquet and the ball ; And the gay dance of bounding Beauty's train Links grace and harmony in happiest chain : Blest are the early hearts and gentle hands That mingle there in well according bands; It is a sight the careful brow might smooth, And make Age smile, and dream itself to youth, And Youth forget such hour was past on earth, So springs the exulting bosom to that mirth!
XXI. And Lara gazed on these, sedately glad, His brow belied him if his soul was sad ; And his glance follow'd fast each fluttering fair, Whose steps of lightness woke no echo there : He lean'd against the lofty pillar nigh, With folded arms and long attentive eye, Nor mark'd a glance so sternly fix'd on his ni brook'd high Lara scrutiny like this: At length he caught it — 't is a face unknown, But seems as searching his, and his alone; Prying and dark, a stranger's by his mien, Who still till now had gazed on him unseen: At length encountering meets the mutual gaze Of keen inquiry, and of mute amaze ; On Lara's glance emotion gathering grew, As if distrusting that the stranger threw; Along the stranger's aspect, fix'd and stern, Flash'd more than thence the vulgar eye could learn.
“ Thou shunn'st no question ! Ponder — is there none
“ Whatc'er I be,
XXII. “ 'Tis he !” the stranger cried, and those that heard Re-echoed fast and far the whisper'd word. “ 'Tis he!”—“'Tis who?" they question far and near, Till louder accents rung on Lara's car; So widely spread, few bosoms well could brook The general marvel, or that single look : But Lara stirr'd not, changed not, the surprise That sprung at first to his arrested eyes Seem'd now subsided, neither sunk nor raised Glanced his eye round, though still the stranger gazed; And drawing nigh, exclairn'd, with haughty sneer, " 'Tis he! - how came he thence ? — what doth he
XXIII. It were too much for Lara to pass by Such questions, so repeated fierce and high ; With look collected, but with accent cold, More mildly firm than petulantly bold, He turn'd, and met the inquisitorial tone“ My name is Lara ! - when thine own is known,
XXIV. “ To-morrow! - ay, to-morrow!" further word Than those repeated none from Lara heard ; Upon his brow no outward passion spoke; From his large eye no flashing anger broke ; Yet there was something fix'd in that low tone, Which show'd resolve, determined, though unknown.