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a pen as rapid as his own. These shreds of translation, strung together afterwards, have been published and reprinted five times; such a charm and energy does Byron retain beneath the veil of a version which imperfectly transmits the brilliant images of his poetry. Many persons did not think of reading Childe Harold, Conrad, Lara, &c. till induced through the curiosity which the poet himself excited by the report of the adventures of his dissipated youth, of his numerous amours, his unhappy marriage, his voluntary exile, and all the eccentricities of his original character. As it happened, my admiration for the poet remained long independent of the interest subsequently imparted to myself, as well as every body else, by his individual identification with the character of his heroes. But whatever may be the source of the sympathy which Byron awakens, no one escapes its influence; his verses leave no reader indifferent. To whatsoever school they may appertain, they cannot avoid feeling the presence of * Thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.” The incidents of his tales interest us less than the almost metaphysical analysis of the soul of the hero, wrapped, as it is, in gloomy mystery, like a cloud. We pursue the windings of the mystery with extraordinary curiosity and emotion, a curiosity which fevers us like that which absorbs the whole thoughts of Caleb Williams in the Castle of Falkland. This it is which prevents the weariness we should feel from the always imperfect
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development of the same individual character, which, in all the poems of Byron, only changes its title, costume, and situation. Much must also be assigned to the mastery of the style; which, notwithstanding its negligences, surpasses all known English poetry. These negligences,indeed, maybe explained, since Byron, as is reported, never read a word of the verses which he poured out, with spontaneous inspiration, on paper. There are some of his poems which were improvised in three or four days. Hence, the defects of plot. In the way of jragments, Byron is not only the first poet of his country; but I know not where to look for his equal.
A pretence has been lately set up in England that Byron was becoming unfaithful to his own glory; and that his latter works are deficient in the vigour which characterised the first. But if you quote Don Juan, the conversation changes its tone, and loses its literary complexion. The big words of morality, religion, and chivalrous loyalty, compose the text of the discussion. Byron had been pardoned for passing for a voluptuous misanthrope; for a sceptical enthusiast; but he dared to betray the great secret of the English moral aristocracy, and denounce its mock dignity of character. From that moment he became a bad citizen and a fallen poet. It must be confessed, that Don Juan is cosmopolitan in every sense of the word; but it is also a poem which has given the lie to those who pretend that he has only one string to his lyre. What a variety of tones what sublime and graceful deScriptions ! but especially what profound knowledge of the world ! what dexterity in detecting the little springs of so many great actions, and so many great virtues. The demigods descend from their pedestal: it is sometimes, if objectors will have it so, the smile of a daemon which discomposes their laughable gravity; but is it in the right or in the wrong 2 I have, undoubtedly, protested elsewhere against the abuse of talent, the three or four personalities, and the symptoms of bad taste, which stain some of the beautiful pages of the poem ; but, like many others, I am hurried away by the mockery of a superior man, who has closely inspected those whose characters he depicts. There is, in Don Juan, a curious mixture of the satirical spirit of Voltaire, Fielding, and Sterne, with the most noble and exalted poetry. But one is naturally disposed to quarrel with the noble bard, when after having excited in us all the most terrible emotions of our nature, he concludes with bantering us for having believed him in earnest like ourselves. Let any one conceive the idea of Talma, stopping short in the expression of some mental grief, or tragic passion, in order to parody himself! But in the cantos succeeding the fifth, Lord Byron aims more at the sublime, and limits himself to the portraiture of men and things in their unsophisticated state. If he abandons himself to the impulse of susceptibility in favour of liberty, virtue, or any other honourable feeling, he no longer seeks to persuade us that it is feint and mockery; if he traces a chaste picture, he no longer spoils the effect by grotesque imagery; and if he assembles therein less noble figures, it is only for the sake of obeying the eternal law of contrast and of truth. His facility of composition is inexhaustible. He passes
“Du grave au doux, du plaisant au severe;”
but without confounding the different species. His portraits are comic or ridiculous, because they are faithful, and no longer exhibit that burlesque exaggeration which is the constituent of caricature. What a painting is that of Suwarrow and his camp ! What a terrific lecture on military glory, is the narrative of the siege of Ishmael! What a transition from the sultan's seraglio, to the court of Catherine ! and finally, what a striking picture of the domestic interior of the English aristocracy! But here a cry has been raised, that Byron was never used to the good company of London. It must then be denied that the Prince Regent personally met him in such society, and made advances to him, with which the pride of the poet, it is true, was but little flattered; it must be denied that the entirely aristocratic Review of Gifford, stated in 1819, that before his exile, Byron was the idol of all circles; it must, in short, be denied, that the upper class of society is good company, which would be worse than confessing that it is not exempt from the vices with which Lord Byron charges it. It is rather remarkable that this poet, who was aristocratical, by his own confession, in character and habit as well as birth, adopted in their most extreme consequences, all liberal ideas, and de
clared actual war against the egotism of his own class, not only by denouncing the false dignity of their mode of life, but also in protesting against their vainglorious records of chivalrous epochs. While the noble bard designates the poetical manners of feudalism as mummery, another poet, whom his recent title of baronet proclaims to have issued from the popular ranks, has made himself the champion of the oligarchical principles of the day, and the enthusiastic chronicler of feudal traditions. To judge of him from his favourite studies, his style, and the selection of his subjects, Sir W. Scott seems more like a minstrel of the thirteenth than a poet of the nineteenth century. That attachment which he feels to a period, the traces of which are every day escaping, induces him sometimes to describe rather as an antiquary than a poet, even the dresses of his knights. But what life and motion are there in his pictures! what truth of character in personages! who appear in some sort to have descended alive from the old picture frames, in which, for centuries, their representatives have been covered with dust! Again, what animation in the narrative of a battle ! The reader may fancy he sees the waving of the plumes, or hear the tramp of horses, the shock of the combatants, the cries of death or victory, and feel induced to take a part in the action, like Don Quixotte, on the stage of Genés Pasamonte. Are we to conclude from this that Walter Scott is no more than a servile adorer of feudal superstitions 2 No! he is a poet, and the elevation of his character is