1828 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lord Byron

Orasmyn, "Byron" Saturday Evening Post 7 (6 December 1828).



How mem'ry loves to dwell upon the light
Of suns beneath Fame's wide horizon set,
And steal, amid the thickly coming night,
A few bright glances that are ling'ring yet:
Rays glistening doubly through the deep'ning jet,
Whose blight must close man's evanescent course!
And kindle up the feeling of regret;
That such should ever lose their pristine force,
Or death arrest in them, life's frail unsteady source.

There are, and have been, who in this dull scene,
Seem'd but as beings of another air,
Spirits of heavenly mould, in mortal sheen,
Whose mental brightness shames the garb they wear:
Who, like the couchant lion in his lair,
Disdain'd to show their hidden mightiness,
Yet could not all restrain the feeling there,
Whose latent touch had more than power to bless,
And seldom cared to show its dazzling loveliness.

There are too, those, born only to reflect
Such splendour round with more ethereal beam,
Dark souls of envy, anxious to detect
Some spring, whose flow may sully o'er the stream
And dim the beauty of its purer gleam:
Yet as the mist before a summer sun,
They vanish like the flitting of a dream,
And only show the radiance of that One,
More bright for the frail cloud of Hate through which it shone.

Byron! could not thy muse arrest the shaft,
Which Envy's minions vainly dared to throw,
Hirelings of bigotry, and bigot's craft,
Whose souls were narrow as their fame was low;
The dregs of Earth, the weeds whose labours grow,
To stagnate in corruption; could not thine
Have silenced calumny's inveterate flow,
And forced her crew to homage genius' line,
When all that Earth could reach, were given thee of the Nine

Alas! not even Fate can stay the arm,
That Envy lifts against the sons of fame,
Nor shield the purest from the slanderer's harm,
When Hate is leagued against a mighty name:
It ever will be, and hath been the same—
For petty fools must feed their useless ire,
And though a god, drank of the eternal flame,
Still would the tongue of hate, decry his lyre,
And strive with vain attempts, to quench the rising fire.

Yet thou may'st look on these complacently,
With pitying soul, and less thou scornful smile
Till their own malice, leave its work to die,
And their dark actions shame their ready wile:
Thy name will shine more brightly for their guile;
Thy faith will show more purely than their zeal;
And 'mid the many errors that defile,
The foes of thy bright fame, each soul will feel
How holy is the fane, where thine was wont to kneel.

Around thy works a fiery halo plays,
Wrapping the soul in awe: whilst terrors spread
Their mantle o'er the fierce effulgent blaze,
That circles in thy more than magic tread.
We deem thee something from the mighty dead,
New risen, full of majesty an power,
And by the charm of those high feelings led
Wander, with minds entranc'd, the flitting hour
Slaves to those thoughts in thee, which o'er all weakness tower.

And if thy lofty soul disdain'd to crouch
Beneath the censure of the despot crowd,
Whose bane is gender'd in their mould'ring touch,
And reputation in their praise bestow'd:
We love thee more, because thou hast not bow'd;
'Twas not with them to crush thy glorious wing,
That hath so many heavenly regions plough'd:
Nor is it in their hostile power to bring
One hue to mar the light of thy imagining.

Peace then to thee and thine, immortal shade,
That peace which thou hast left with us below;
For round the muse was never charm array'd,
More bright than that, which crowns thy offering now,
Nor holier than the light around thy brow;
Though thy own feather plum'd detraction's dart,
Its rankling venom long hath ceased to grow,
But banish'd by the magic of thy art,
Its scar hath left thy fame more lasting for the smart.