1814 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lord Byron

Anonymous, "Inscription on the Monument of a Poetical Sceptic, shewing 'what he was,' and NOT 'what he should have been'" Anti-Jacobin Review 46 (March 1814) 304-05.



When some vain bard consigns his bones to earth,
Unknown to glory, but upheld by birth,
Some vainer bard records where laurels grew,
And blazons virtues which he never knew.
But truth disdains the tributary lay
Which bards congenial to each other pay.
She wrests the pencil from the venal hand,
And wisely quenches fiction's dazzling brand.

In elder times, when Greece was in her prime,
There liv'd a man of genius, wit, and rhyme:
Froward he was, and wayward was his muse,
He sang alike the Temple and the Stews.
And, such the strangeness of his ill-formed mind,
To evil deeds he ever most inclined,
So closely, too, this system he pursued,
Having his lyre, by chance, once tun'd to good,
For once repentance quick his grief displayed
For virtue gratified, and vice dismayed.
A wanderer, to foreign climes he went,
Content with nothing but with — discontent.
In scenes of misery he took delight;
And was most happy, when unhappy quite.
Of love and hatred he would often prate,
Yet, all averred, that he most loved to hate.
He talked of mental strength, and daring deed;
Of Gods — but "Crede nihil" was his creed.
Soft were his strains, and sweet his numbers sowed,
Yet where he soared, some angry demon rode,
Pointed each thought with wretchedness and pain,
Loaded each verse with spleen's infernal train.
And now at Lethe's stream he slakes his thirst
Calls them the best whom late he styled the worst;
Forgetting all he's said in former lays
He turns his praise to blame, his blame to praise.

At length he died — no matter how or where—
The bays were thickly spread upon his bier:
With ready tongues, congenial bards arise
And scatter incense to th' offended skies.
But TRUTH proclaims aloud, in reason's strains,
The cause of all his pleasures, all his pains.

"Oh bard!" she said, "thou insect of an hour!
Debased by luxury, in faith a 'GIAOUR!'
A querulous, unmanageable CHILDE
Of passions headstrong, and of judgment wild;
Who knew thee best most shunned thee, with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love was lust; thy friendship all a cheat;
Thy smiles hypocrisy, thy words deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame."