« 前へ次へ »
faithful; but I shall not have the pleasure of seeing you again; I am fearful that you will not come as far as Athens.''' Lord Byron fell into a deep reverie, which no one dared to disturb, since those around him were accustomed to see him abstracting himself in this manner, when any serious or melancholy thought surprised him in the midst of a conversation. After a few moments he added these remarkable words :—" It will be hardly believed that I never would part with this cross under any circumstance; it is, however, the fact. I never would give it to my mother, nor my sister, who requested it of me on my return to England. It is a remembrance of the Franciscan prior, who lives in the tower of Diogenes, in Athens. The good monk was very partial to me; and when he heard that I was about to depart, he was much grieved. 'Your lordship must not forget me,' he said, when we parted. 1 Select any thing you please from what I possess, in order that you may keep it as a remembrance of Father Bernard.' I laid my hand on the crucifix, which he carried about him, and asked him if he would give me that. The good father was so delighted with my choice, that tears came to his eyes. He was a man of perfect sincerity in his belief. I have never since parted with the crucifix. I will even avow, that once I was extremely uneasy, under the impression that I had lost it; I was prepossessed with an idea of its value. But, in fact, behold the prediction of Father Bernard
about to be realized; we must take our departure for Greece.*
TO M. AVENEL.
I Have observed that excuse was made for Lord Byron's gloomy misanthropy, and his excess of scepticism. He was young and unfortunate. "The fallen angel," said one of our great poets, "might one day recollect his divine origin, and resume his place in the choir of those spirits,''
"Que Dieu fit pour chanter, pour crnire et pour aimer."
It is said that in his conversation, the noble lord affected to despise women: and he has not abstained from epigrams on them in his writings, even while personifying grace, tenderness and
* I find this anecdote in a curious work on the subject of Lord Byron, published in London, by M. Salvo, who adds that the crucifix was discovered in the noble poet's port-feuUle, by the side of his bed. Prince Mavrocordato sent it to his executors, with his Album and other papers. It is now in the hands of Mr. Hobhouse.
I should add, for the honour of our literature, that if Byron was the first to preach a political crusade in favour of the Greeks, our poets have not deserted the same noble cause. The Hellenists themselves express gratitude to M. Viennet, who set the example among us by devoting the price of his poem of Parga to the relief of the first victims of the war at length declared by the oppressed against the oppretsors.
VOL. II. Q
gentle affection, in the characters of Medora, Zuleika, Ada, &c; hut women pardon everything to those who love; and Byron will consequently share their pardon with J. J. Rousseau, because both have greatly loved. Who wilf place any reliance on the absurd calumnies invented about the author of Manfred, by the petty spite of a few discarded mistresses? Lord Byron has also enacted the part of an oppositionist in his poetry. He is a disaffected Peer, it has been said; true, there are many other greater aristocrats than him, who belong to the opposition in Parliament. But Lord Byron aimed at the character of a theologian in Cain; this set all the theologians against him. The cry of heretic and manichean was raised: the author of Cain was declared the founder of the Satanic School! a designation, which in the 19th century, savours a little of fanaticism. The two principal disciples of the leader are Shelley and Hunt, supported in prose by the paradoxical Hazlitt. Leigh Hunt is himself the founder of another school, ridiculed in Blac/cwood's Magazine under the name of the Cockney School. There is much boldness in the political principles of Leigh Hunt; but bis poetry is characterised by gentleness. A luxury of images in Moore's style may be discerned in it, and a degree of harmony unrestrained by rules and ordinary language: but above all an affected negligence. Mr. Hunt rhymes like a noble bet esprit: and thinks like a demagogue. His enthusiasm for nature has more the air of a pretence
than a real emotion; for his descriptions are neither pastoral nor unartificial. Hazlitt has greatly lauded his Rimini in the Edinburgh Review.* That sublime episode of Dante was a delicate thing to meddle with. Leigh Hunt has overlaid it with an abundance of voluptuous images, and with the pomp of his descriptions, the reader becomes impatient in the midst of the brilliant court, and the magnificent fites to which he is in the first instance conveyed; where the poet seems to revel to such a degree as to lose sight of his two lovers; one is accordingly prompted to skip the two first books in order to find Dante again in the 3rd, which is more dramatic, but which is spun out to a still greater length. In the English poet's narrative, the famous line
"Quel giorno piu non vi legemmo avante"
is divested of the chaste grace, and charm, which it possesses in the mouth of Danle's Francesca. If Hazlitt had been less intimate with Leigh Hunt, he would have perceived, when quoting this passage, that his friend had permitted that character of sensuality which is one of the distinguishing traits of his poetry to transpire. Dante excellently says
"La bocca mi bacio tutto tremante." 1
But Leigh Hunt adds; "sweet was that long
• Mr. Hazlitt has somewhere said that Leigh Hunt was born with the disposition of a lord. Leigh Hunt has written the dedication of a poem lo Lord Byron commencing," My dear Lord Byron."
kiss," and neglects the quel giorno non w legemmo mat. The poem however was not written in a boudoir, but in a prison. The Quarterly Review, which has treated Hunt with obvious malevolence, could not abstain from pointing out this defect. The France sea of Rimini is not worth Lord Byron's Parisina. Mr. Leigh Hunt has himself been very severe on his contemporaries in the text and notes of a poem entitled The Banquet of Poets ; which sufficiently demonstrates that a rich imagination is not sufficient to constitute a poet of the first order.
'Greater expectations might justly be formed of another Arcadian appertaining to the same school, I refer to John Keats, a poet more contemplative than Leigh Hunt,* more incorrect, and quite as diffuse. His friends affirm that he went and died in Italy of a broken heart, in consequence of a criticism in the Quarterly Revieiv.f It was his aim to imbue the deities of the antient mythology with the metaphysical sentiments of modern passion. His Endymion and Lamia are replete with vivid strokes of painting.
Neither must I omit the elegance, (though tinctured with mannerism), the harmony, and gentle dreaminess of Proctor, who under the name of Barry Cornwall has published some
* Leigh Hunt's " Foliage" is neither better nor worse than his other poems; it possesses much vivid brilliancy, amplifications, but little originality.
t It would seem that Keats was affected at the same time with an extremely nervous egotism, and a tendency to consumption.