1816 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lord Byron

Anonymous, "Lines occasioned by Lord Byron's 'Fare thee Well,' and 'Sketch of Private Character'" The Sun (30 April 1816).



'Tis true, as Burke long since indignant said,
The Age of Chivalry indeed is fled.
Britons attend — a Poet and a Peer
Wakes to his descant loud the public ear.
What mighty themes his eloquence inspire?
For what high purpose doth he strike the lyre?
Is it the deeds of Heroes to rehearse,
And fire their sons to glory in his verse?
To bid a people break Oppression's rod?
To sing the praises of his King or God?
To warn the few, whom Providence hath blest
With rank and power, of what they owe the rest?
Urge wealthy Avarice to unclose her hand,
And pour her bounty o'er a suffering land?—
Not so — the Peer invokes his Muse's aid,
To wound a virtuous Wife and Servant Maid.
What means that plaintive tone — as if the wife
Had call'd her husband to the wordy strife?
That whine of pain from blows, which more "disgraced
As coming from the arm that had embraced"?
What blow was aimed by her, who only fled
When shame and fear had driven her from thy bed?
Nor cry nor plaint from her the public heard;
Nor sympathy she claimed, nor change preferred;
In silence bore her wrongs, and wept her woes;
Or told the hated tale alone to those
Whose help she needed in the rugged road
Thy cruel hand with sharpest thorns had strew'd.
Much injured Dame, thou might'st indeed complain,
(Did not meek modesty thy tongue restrain,)
Thou might'st complain, that by a husband's hand
Thy name was made a story through the land,
Thee, in an evil hour, did Pity move
To over-rate the powers of virtuous love—
Full dearly hast thou rued, with sorest smart,
This venial error of a noble heart;
From thee let Albion's daughters warning take,
Nor trust in marriage to reform a rake.
But he, not thou, a second time deceived
By him, who once thy inmost soul hath grieved;
Heed not the wailings of the canting strain,
Which seeks to lure thee to his arms again.
Religion bids her votaries forgive,
But bids not with the Sons of Vice to live.
Forgiveness doth he name, who fills the page
With the wild ravings of distempered rage?
Who (such the hate that rancles in his breast)
Would make the grave itself no place of rest;
Would close the gates of highest Heaven on prayer;
And bid e'en trembling penitence despair.
Vain man! these monstrous feelings to proclaim,
And think such sentiments can win thee fame—
Thyself the slave of passion thus to brand,
And vent such frenzy in a christian land.
What learn we of the menial, whom thy verse
Loads with invective soul and impious curse?
Save that in humblest circle while she moved,
By those she served her service was approved—
By them above her fellows she was raised;
By thee in bitterness of gall dispraised.
(Her name in future times, as now unknown,)
The filth which at her head thy hand hath thrown,
Shall back return, and rest upon thine own.