1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lord Byron

J. S. W., "On the Death of Lord Byron" The Kaleidoscope [Liverpool] NS 4 (25 May 1824) 396.



Oh if the toll of trade, the love of pelf,
Stint not each generous sympathy to self,
If bigotry, or power, or worldly art,
Freeze not the softer fountains of the heart;
If there are purer tears, and more sincere
Than those that fall but on the gilded bier,
If there are drops a nation's woes to speak,
To brighten beauty's — honour manhood's cheek;—
Now let them fall, for mute is BYRON'S lyre,
That poured th' impetuous strain with matchless fire;
Now let them flow — for Greece, in sorrow wild,
Her champion mourns; her loved, adopted child.

Oh what a noble spirit here has fled!
What mines of thought are closed — what hopes are dead!
Genius, her mantle o'er him early thrown,
On others smiled, but claimed him as her own.
And he is gone; and swallowed by the tomb
Is the large promise of his mental bloom.
His was th' adventurous song, the noble art
To rouse the dormant feelings of the heart;
And every chord, as touched with wizard wand,
Confessed the master's in the minstrel's hand.

While others sung in feeble love-sick lay,
Heaved girlish sighs, and frittered thought away;
Or sought, in adulation's servile strain,
The meed from power, they ne'er from worth could gain,—
He spurned the fawning tribe, and rushed along,
In the full reckless ride of honest song,
Resistless in its course, with generous rage,
Lashing the vices of a canting age:
Now like a torrent from its Alpine bed,
Bursting in vengeance on the tyrant's head;
Now gliding calm through life's domestic vale,
And murmuring forth some sweet pathetic tale;
And ever where it passed with gentle sweep,
Nature uprose refreshed as from a sleep;
And balmier, too, the life-begetting air,
That shook the new born flowers in thousands there.

While other bards all fluttering sought to skim,
Like summer flies, life's ocean at the brim,
'Twas his to bound on its remotest waves,
To plunge into its drearest, darkest caves;
While superstition trembled at the brink,
He bravely sprung, — for still he dared to think;
By reason's quenchless torch he strove to ken,
The dim, the fearful destinies of men.

Now burst his manly strain that spake of war,
Now chimed it softly to the gay guitar,
And now the storm he sang: the murky clouds
Embrace the giant hills like funeral shrouds;
The eye is startled at the lightning's flash,
And thunders burst, and deafening torrents dash.
'Tis Nature's voice sublime that peals abroad,
And tells of dread Eternity and God.
Along the rocky shore, the boiling wave
Springs up the cliff, a resting place to crave;
And see! the helpless ship, with fearful shock,
Is hurled against the black impending rock,
And hapless wretches vainly cling for life,
Whelmed in the ruthless, elemental strife;
One agonizing shriek — they're heard no more—
The murderous wave rolls freightless to the shore.

Spent is the tempest: now he takes his stand
On mountain's brow, surveys the placid land:
The air is calm, the waves are all asleep;
The riv'let murmurs o'er its pebbly steep;
The sun is up; and hill, and vale, and bower
Are fresh and fragrant from the summer shower:
The lake, save where by gentlest zephyr curled,
Presents beneath a quivering pendent world.
The wild bird's song is joyous, and the shore
Prolongs distinct the splash of distant oar;
Or shout of mountain traveller on his way
O'er craggy steep; or shepherd's rustic lay,
Or lover's flageolet, or the sweet swell,
By distance mellowed, of the village bell.

'Twas Byron's too, to paint the toils, the strife,
The deep afflicting tragedy of life;
By touching tale to draw the generous sigh
From virtue's breast, the tear from beauty's eye,
And oft his muse would mount th' embattled car,
And urge, in deadly fight, the bolts of war;
And oft the eastern couch luxuriant prest,
When love and rapture calmed the soul to rest.
Bright Genius gave to him the subtile art
To trace each winding In the human heart.
And well might woman weep his fate, for he
Has worshipped her in truest minstrelsy,
And robed her, in her joy, or her distress,
In garb of more than earthly loveliness.

And not alone is his the poet's fame,
For his the honoured PATRIOT'S hallowed name.
Despising wealth, save for its use to save
The wretch from want — from slavery the brave,
He heard the sighs of Greece, the fearful strife,
With ruthless foes, for liberty and life.
Beheld her valleys red with Christian gore,
And heard her children wailing on the shore.
He joyful viewed fair Freedom's flag unfurl'd,
O'er those once loveliest isles that gemmed the world,
He marked her gallant sons, though few the band,
Against outnumb'ring hosts make desperate stand;
And even at Thermopylae again,
With sword triumphant, claim the rights of men
There, their expiring country strive to save,
When every foot was on a hero's grave.
And hope was high, that, in her noble ire,
Greece would resume her glory and her fire.
He joined them as a brother, gave his aid,
His heart, his curse, his talents, and his blade.
But worn with toil to meet war's gathering storm,
The burning fever seized his manly form;
And with the mighty dead brave Byron sleeps:
While Freedom for her faithful champion weeps.

Oh, never more shall he delighted view
The verdant plain, the mountain's summit blue,
Oh, never more shall he, enraptured, gaze
Upon the glorious sun's reluming blaze.
Oh, never more with power athletic climb,
The craggy height of Appenine sublime;
That arm that dared the Hellespont to brave
No more shall buffet back the curling wave.
Oh, never more, shall he elated ride,
With soul as boundless, on the ocean wide;
Or mark the gallant ship, when, every sail
Swelled by the welcome freshness of the gale,
Exulting In her strength, the world her home,
She rushes on, and bathes her sides in foam.
Oh, never more on woman's beauty dwell,
And picture passion's calmness, or its swell;
Oh, never more shall sing of joy, of love,
The tolls of men below, their hopes above.
His harp that rang, or loud, or sweetly bland,
No more shall wake — for cold the master's hand.

And he had frailties too, the worldlings say,
Which all his virtues cannot wash away.
Ye heartless shadows, who with bitter hate
Snarl at the worth you cannot emulate;
Lynx-eyed for vices — but for virtues blind,
Your lives a constant libel on mankind!
Why, vermin, seek his glory to efface?
He robbed you not of pension or of place:—
Out, out, invidious hypocritic crew,
His fame 'twere sacrilege to read from you!
It Is enough, he owned a Power Divine;
It is enough, he knelt at Nature's shrine:
He was the friend of man, and let us trust
He mingles with the generous and the just.

Farewell, thou noble spirit! thy bright name,
Shall never perish on the rolls of fame;
And weeping Freedom o'er thy tomb shall bend,
For she has lost a never-wav'ring friend.
Yes! let a Grecian urn thy heart enfold,
'Twas warm for Greece, ere death had made it cold,
Yes! let it rest upon that classic shore,
The once fair seat of liberty and lore;
There, kindred shades of bards and heroes nigh
Shall hail thee to a purer, brighter sky.
Farewell! and, oh, forgivingly regard
This bumble tribute of a feeble bard,
Of one who can thy loss to men deplore,
Who loved thy lay, but loved thy freedom more!
Liverpool.