1821 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Pope

William Hamilton Drummond, "To Lord Byron, on the Vindication of Pope" The Sun (11 June 1821).



Thanks, BYRON, thanks! — What pow'r of truth at last
Has e'er thy soul her inspiration cast?
What kind redeeming spirit come to save
Thy fame from ruth, and th' oblivious grave?
Tho virtue blame thy misanthropic line,
Yet let her praise one manly deed of thine:
Weep, tho' she must, to see thy pow'rs sublime,
Full summ'd to soar beyond the bounds of time,
Soiling their beauteous plumage in the dust;
Yet to thy genius let her voice be just;
Hail the glad change, elate with hope to find
Such noble thoughts y et glowing in thy mind;
And loud exclaim, in joy's extatic thrill,
The lost is found! — The dead is living still!

'Twas great, 'twas good, to gird thee in thy might,
And rise puissant to defend the right,
When drivellers, envious of the poet's name,
Would tear from Twickenham's bard, his well-earn'd fame:
'Twas like thyself to rise in vengeance due,
And with thy lightnings scathe the tasteless crew
That mew and bark, and criticize and preach,
To blast an excellence they ne'er can reach.

Illustrious POPE! beloved of ALL the Nine!
The fairest wreaths of genius yet are thine,
Thine all the graces that to truth belong,
Thou voice of harmony, thou soul of song!
Like thine own HOMER'S JOVE I see thee sit
A mighty monarch in the realms of wit,
And from thy throne suspend a golden chain,
And challenge all thy foes — a graceless train.
Let the long ranks of dullness issue forth,
The scribes, and cold-blood critics of the North,
The Cockney bards, the namby-pamby hosts,
The awkward tribes that affectation boasts,
Coxcombs and Apes, the simpering and the silly,
From sweet Lord FANNY to plebeian WILLY,
The garret's swarms and spawnings of the lake;
Vain all their power thy heaven-built throne to shake.
Fixed on th' eternal base of truth and sense,
Of nature, genius, taste, and eloquence.

Each muse enamoured o'er thy cradle hung,
Dropped dews Hymettian on thy infant tongue;
And tuned thy lips to sing of flocks and swains,
The woods green bowers, and autumn's rich domains,
In lays as sweet as e'er in grove or mead,
Breathed from Sicilian pipe of Mantuan reed.
Boldly to sing the Critics art they taught,
In strains so just, with classic lore so fraught,
That e'en the Stagyrite to praise would bend,
And great Longinus hail thee as his friend.
They gave thee next with magic skill to move
The inmost springs of sympathy and love.
And from thy bosom, pierc'd by secret wo,
Bade the full tide of song melodious flow,
With such prevaiing power that still the tear
Starts to the eye, and gushes while we hear!

But lo! Belinda bursts upon the sight,
A star of joy! — a seraph of delight!
Girt with her sylphs in matchless grace she moves,
Like Paphian goddess with her playful loves.
What charms divine her radiant form invest?
Th' immortal cestus glows beneath her breast,
With witching power her influence to dispense,
Thrill every heart, and rivet every sense.
She, loveliest daughter of the sportive muse,
In accents sweeter than ambrosial dews,
Winning as love, and smiles to which are given
The sweet enthralling agencies of Heaven,
Claims for her bard the bard's immortal name,
And what rash mortal dares contest the claim?

If roused by wrongs, by bitter slander wrung,
Provoked by dunces, and by witlings stung,
From Satire thou hast seiz'd th' avenging bow,
And winged her shafts upon a worthless foe,
Tho' Prudence linger to approve the deed,
The muse awards thee her triumphant meed.

High-minded BYRON, be it thine to tell
With what strong powers he strikes the ethic shell,
The springs of virtue teaches to explore,
And how to truth he does not stoop but soar,
An eagle flight, how far beyond the wing
Of envious daws that scream and think they sing!
Yes, he soar'd upward by the heavenly road
That leads to Immortality's abode;
Taught the calm paths of happiness to scan,
"And justify the ways of God to man."
O theme sublime! how far beyond the sum
Of those who now would blast the Poet's fame.
O theme sublime! most worthy of the art,
And power, and genius of the Poet's heart.

Long may'st thou live, O BYRON, thus to guard,
As well thou canst, the glory of the bard.
The grateful Muse in after time may raise
Some bard for thee "to trim thy withering bays,"
And shield thy fame, when witlingst fops, and clowns,
Would from thy temples steal thy laurel crowns.

A son of song, (if worthy of the name)
E'en now, in Erin, lights for thee a flame
That seldom glows in this ungenial clime,
Where no excitement wakes the rage of rhyme.
A hapless land, where, oh! her shame to own,
No bard is honoured and no muse is known.
This act of thine, like Charity, shall hide
A crowd of faults, and spread thy glory wide.
O blest with genius, why that genius wrong?
Why not to virtue dedicate thy song?
Oh! I could weep to think a soul like thine
E'er laid one offering on corruption's shrine.
But ere repentance, come too late, has shed
Her tearful vial o'er thy hoary head;
While yet thy star, with undiminished force,
Flames in its highest sphere, pursue the course
Where wisdom leads, and to her native skies,
Plumed with her pinions, let thy genius rise;
Rise with the spring of renovated youth,
And all the matchless energies of truth;
Then with thy great precursor shalt thou know,
"Virtue alone is happiness below."
With his shall future ages read thy name,
Bright in the zodiac of poetic fame;
And e'en the present, won to kindness, raise
Her proud Memorial of they well-earned praise.