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genius of the poet, could not add much to his already great and deserved reputation. The genius and strength of Byron, which was essentially lyrical and descriptive, did not excel in that style of poetry which represents variety of character and professes to reveal the secret motives of human action. The continuation and completion of Don Juan, extending to fifteen cantos, 1822, was his last great work.
It is scarcely necessary to point out the characteristic features of Byron's poetry—the most read, probably, of any in any age or country. His poetic fire, rapidity, grace, mingled irony and pathos have never been surpassed or indeed equalled. Improving upon the example of Scott, he was the first (in practice: in principle he appears from his published letters to have been more conservative) to break away from the traditions of the old • classical’ school, which too often considered the form rather than the substance. The genius of Byron was as versatile as it was energetic. Childe Harold and Don Juan are perhaps the greatest poetical works of this century,* and in his tales and minor poems there is a grace, an interest, and romantic picturesqueness that render them peculiarly fascinating to youthful readers. The Giaour has passages of still higher description and feeling-particularly that fine burst on modern Greece contrasted with its ancient glory, and the exquisitely pathetic and beautiful comparison of the same country to the human frame bereft of life. The Prisoner of Chillon is also natural and affecting: the story is painful and hopeless, but it is told with inimitable tenderness and simplicity. The reality of the scenes iņ Don Juan must strike every reader. Byron, it is well known, took pains to collect his materials. His account of the shipwreck is drawn from narratives of actual occurrence, and his Grecian pictures, feasts, dresses, and holiday pastimes, are literal transcripts from life. Coleridge thought the character of Lambro, and especially the description of his return, the finest of all Byron's efforts: it is more dramatic and life-like than any other of his numerous paintings. Haidee is also the most captivating of all his heroines. His Gulnares and Medoras, bis corsairs and dark mysterious personages,
Link'd with one virtue, and a thousand crimes,— are monstrosities in nature, and do not possess one tithe of the interest or permanent poetical beauty that centres in the lonely residence in the Cyclades. The English descriptions in Don Juan are also far inferior. There is a palpable falling off in poetical powers, and the peculiar prejudices and forced ill-natured satire of the poet are brought prominently
* Some may be disposed to think that the supreme poetic honour is due rather to the Prometheus Unbound or The Cenci—if by 'greatness' is meant at once sublimity of genius, true poetic feeling, and earnestness of moral purpose. To the chefs-d'æuvre of Byron may be more justly conceded the first place for brilliancy.'
forward. Yet even here we have occasionally a flash of the early light that “led astray.” The sketch of Aurora Raby is graceful and interesting (compared with Haidee, it is something like Fielding's Amelia coming after Sophia Western), and Newstead Abbey is described with a clearness and beauty not unworthy of the author of Childe Harold. The Epicurean philosophy of the Childe is visible in every page of Don Juan; but it is no longer grave, dignified, and misanthropical: it is mixed up with wit, humour, the keenest penetration, and the most astonishing variety of expression, from colloquial carelessness and ease to the highest and deepest tones of the lyre. The poet has the power of Mephistopheles over the scenes and passions of human life and society —disclosing their secret workings, and stripping them of all conventional allurements and disguises. Unfortunately his knowledge is more of evil than of good. The distinctions between virtue and vice had been broken down or obscured in his own mind, and they are undistinguishable in Don Juan. Early sensuality had tainted his whole nature. He portrays generous emotions and moral feelings-distress, suffering, and pathos—and then dashes them with burlesque humour, wild profanity, and unseasonable merriment. In Childe Harold we have none of this moral anatomy, or its accompanying licentiousness : but there is abundance of scorn and defiance of the ordinary pursuits and ambitions of mankind.'-Cyclopædia of English Literature. The well-known verse in which he characterises the great historian of the Decline and Fall
might almost equally well be applied to himself, with the difference, however, that the cipwvela of the poet wants the calm gravity of the historian. It is more akin, indeed, to the style (so far as the poetic style can be compared with prose) of the great French critic. Never, says Macaulay, had any writer so vast a command of the whole eloquence of scorn, misanthropy, and despair.
If we compare him with his contemporary Shelley, between whom and himself, as far as their different temperaments and opinions would allow, a friendship had been formed; though they both display a strong antagonism to, and impatience of, received religious and social dogmas, it is obvious to observe that, while with Byron the real or fancied injustice of fashionable society in, as he believed, capriciously selecting him as a sort of 'scape-goat' (but for which he might possibly have lived and died sufficiently orthodox) seems to have been the original cause of his hostility to it, with Shelley the actuating motive was a profound conviction, an over-mastering sympathy with suffering, and a genuine and ardent love of truth. With the one, in fine, a belief in his own personal, with the other a belief in public wrongs appears as the predominating influence—a characteristic difference which, even were we unacquainted with their personal histories, would be sufficiently apparent from the spirit of their respective writings.
THE FIRST DAY OF DEATH.
He who hath bent him o'er the dead
That fires not, wins not, weeps not now,
And but for that chill, changeless brow, Where cold Obstruction's apathy Appals the gazing mourner's heart,* As if to him it could impart The doom he dreads, yet dwells upon :Yes, but for these, and these alone, Some moments, ay, one treacherous hour, He still might doubt the tyrant's power: So fair, so calm, so softly seal'd, The first, last look by death reveald !
* Whose touch thrills with mortality,
And curdles to the gazer's heart,
is one reading.
SUNSET IN HELLAS.
Slow sinks, more lovely ere his race be run,
But lo ! from high Hymettus to the plain
And, dun and sombre 'mid the holy calm,
Again the Ægean, heard no more afar,
What boots the oft-repeated tale of strife,