1818 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lord Byron

An Old Friend, "To Lord Byron" Morning Post (9 May 1818).



I've read thy "childish Harold," thou sick Lord;
Thy mawkish grief's enough to make a cat laugh;
I never read such stuff, upon my word,
How shall we look for grain, amid such chaff?

I laughed, till I was fit to die, — how shocking!
At such a song of grief, not loud to sob,
To tell the truth, I thought you were but mocking,
Whether you quizzed the Pilgrim, or old Hob.

"My dear friend Hob! — my virtuous friend sincere!"
How very fine this pretty little sally
With what — not quite ago, a hundred year
You said; now seems in my poor head to tally.

"A friend!" said you — "I never had but one!
That friend a DOG!" Oh, fie! I do declare
I think it too bad to make such fun,
And call folks names — I wonder how you dare.

Now Beppo — tho' I know you love a joke,
You really should not be so bare of face,
One moment grinning — skipping on a rope,
The next, in tears and sighs, with vile grimace.

Thou merry mourner! Hypocrite in rhyme!
Laughing Hyaena! Prince of Buffo's! hail!
Thou sovereign hoaxer! mock of the sublime!
Shalt thou alone have liberty to rail?

Thy prose run mad, thy fondest friends must tire,
Thy "Circumstance that with a crutch-like rod,"
Thy "Whetstone" — thy "monotony in wire,"
Thy "Hope turned to dust — dust which we all have trod!"

And then thy expletives to end a line—
I Here — so — he — be — me — are — of — ye — go — enough?
Enough indeed! — too much, what horrid whine,
And stiffer than old Queen ELIZA'S ruff.

Now, to "enough," — ruff is a better rhyme
Than "of" — I think: — yet BYRON never minds,
He little cares whether his verses chime
Or how much his poor patients' ears he grinds.

Woe to the wretched wight doom'd to rehearse
Thy up-hill lines, — his strength in vain he plies;
At length enraged he cries — "call you this verse?"
"'Tis worse indeed, I think!" the Cockney cries.

We pant, we puff, we blow, like tired steed,
Vainly we hope to reach at length the goal,
There is none: — nor stop, nor rest, nor pause, but read—
Read on, — no meaning, — onward we must roll.

Of "Vathek's" race, the story does remind me,
Or more of Matthews's old Scotch wife's tale,
Beginning, none, — nor end, that we can see,
But when she says, "that's all," the sound we hail.

Now prates he upon politics, now love, now war,
Now ruins, scenery, now day, now night,
Now curses England, — now invokes a star,
Now talks of Rome, and now NAPOLEON'S right.

Now of suspended Habeas, does he prattle,
Now swears it is a shame to starve old Nappy,
Then fierce condemns great Waterloo's fam'd battle,
And now declares, he's very far from happy.

Oh! fare thee well — for ever, fare thee well,
I do implore thee, if thou write'st again,
A more connected story deign to tell,
Or cease to grind our ears, and rack our brain.