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inost limping verses in the realm of rhythm : and lastly and chiefly we have Lucifer—or the devil himself, introduced to the reader as the friend of man, the great enemy of man's Almighty tyrant, and the particular acquaintance of Cain,-and the author! It is amusing to see Sathanas Agonistes, treading the abyss of space with his miserable victim, and to hear him holding a very solemn conversation with the first murderer, made up of patches from Voltaire, Bolingbroke, and Thomas Paine.
This drama was very faithfully analysed by the British Reviewers, when England was shocked by its first appearance. Campbell cauterized the versification of his brother bard, in a style truly chirurgical; while the brilliant Heber-a genius of Byron's order, but dignified by the beauty of holiness-exposed its principles rather to pity, than to chastisement. To ibem, and to Jeffrey, we commend those who would see a full criticism of the monster; while for ourselves, we simply take it up, as a point, from which to look back upon the preceding series of the same author, and to confirm our opinion of the whole train, by marking the littleness of this “most lame and impotent conclusion.” Yet it is after all, as proportionable a capstone, as could have been placed on the Simsy edifice reared for its support. The great father of lies seems io have designed it as the finishing stroke of the work which he had been accomplishing by means of his pliant tool. Pure reason is impossible in support of an unreasonable cause; and so, that which enough resembles it to dupe the unwary is the most proper completion which could be given to a structure especially designed to entrap a class of that, by no means, uncommon description.
We cannot but remark this, because we see in the writings of such a poet the work of a greater original than himself ;who, in his character as the god of this world, is indeed wiser than the children of light. When the great genius, confided by the Creator to some of his favored creatures is, by their own perverse and ungrateful wills, turned from the service of the great author of intellect ; Scripture has informed us, that it becomes the toy or the tool of a far different being. Unconsciously it passes into the service of him whose wages is death; and the labor it performs is unquestionably instigated by his unseen, but terrible influence. The wonderful control, which the works of Byron have already gained over the immortal destinies of thousands of minds, shows evidently how powerful an engine he must have been deemed by the artful manager whose cause they have subserved. How cunning was it in a seducing demon to begin by the soft flattery of our fears and feelings, which appears in the restrained licentiousness of Childe Harold. How well organized was the attack; and how craftily was it followed up by the small artillery that succeeded! And when, before society was aware of the sapping which its morals were undergoing, all things were prepared and ready, how consummately did the whole structure fall in with the hollow diablerie of “ Don Juan :" then, how “like an exhalation," did the damning atheism of Cain arise from the steaming ruins. “Is not the hand of Joab in all this?”
They who work for Satan, little know what he is accomplishing, by the apparently trilling tasks wbich he assigns them. Yet in the end, they have done their share of his work. The maneuvres and excursions, which they seem making for their own amusement, are all the while the direction of a master mind. And he, like a skilful general in the management of his serried columns on the field, is very willing that each little captain should be the autocrat of his own platoons, and rejoice in bis own epaulettes, and march on totally occupied with the banners and the music which he has arranged to suit himself, if only the great action is all the while going on, and they are in their proper places, unconsciously, but mechanically rolling forward, and sustaining the shock of the battle. That Lord Byron had actually any design in all he wrote to consummate the baneful end which will assuredly be effected, in the case of any one who yields to its natural tendency, no one, we are satisfied, will pretend to believe. Such a plan would argue a forethought for which this modern Epimetheus was not distinguished, if there were no other reason for doubting it. But that he, to whom he abandoned hiinself, who is at war with God, and who is availing himself of every means to assail his empire, was not using him as a serviceable recruit, is not so apparent.
As an artist, Lord Byron was more of a Dryden than a Pope. He adhered very little to law, except where he was a law unto himself. This fact, however, detracts nothing from the force of his writings, nor from their power of attracting admiration. Where he makes his own rules, his style of versification is tolerably pleasing ; but his dramas are the most miserable specimens of English blank verse that exist. In rhyme, the flow of his verse is better, often luxuriantly sweet, and sometimes very dignified. Four verses in a small poem published in his “ Hours of Idleness,” should have saved his power of verse-inaking from the premature lash of the Edinburgh Reviewers'; they are worthy of Pope
“No marble marks thy couch of lowly sleep,
But living statues, there, are seen to weep;
Affliction's self deplores thine early doom." But, with all the fame of Childe Harold, it must be allowed that it contains some horrid mutilations of the Spenserian stanza. A late number of Blackwood's severely criticises the noble poet on this point. It does not even spare his lordship’s English grammar, which he ought to have learned at Aberdeen, sufficiently to have kept, forever, from an English classic, such a bastard line as this
“ And dashest him again to earth ;-there let him lay.” Perhaps it is, generally, in the arrangement, rather than in minutiae, that Lord Byron is happy in the use of Spenser's stanza; and in the arrangement, he certainly often triumphs, beyond art, in the might of original genius. It is a good rule to one who instinctively knows its limitations, that the sound should echo the sense. But on this rule Byron often practically improves, where he gives a double force to his passages by expressing, in the concealed effect of the rhythin, a thought which though differing from the signification of the words, still assists them ;—as, for instance, in the following, where, in the simple narration of a history, he gives us all the effect of an arrangement on the battle-field, so that when he concludes with a line directly descriptive of the battle, we feel as if the whole passage had been devoted to it.
“ Last noon beheld them full of lusty life;
Last evc, in beauty's circle, proudly gay;
Batlle's magnificently stern array !" Here the first lines while they tell the story before the action, still convey the idea, in connection with the former stanzas, of a marshalling on the field; and this is carried out until we are ready for the cannonade
“Battle's magnificently stern array."
In which though the words mean only the army in line of battle, the sound has all the thunder of their condict—the roar of the discharge—the concussion of the atmosphere—the dying away; and the next line takes up the suppressed effect. The smoke conceals the combat
“The thunder-clouds close o'er it.” But in bis dramas, where he attempts to use the verse of England's dictating, all is meagre. We listen, in vain, for aught of that rhythmical dignity which marks the buskin'd tread of Shakspeare's gorgeous muse, or which often pauses in the measure when “ Jonson's solemn sock is on.” The magnificent sonorousness, the “ Doric delicacy," the full organ swell, the grand orchestral sublimity of Milton's numbers, seem degraded by coinparison with anything that Byron ever wrote. He seems never to have been a student of the legitimate sublime in nature; even there he was à superficial observer; and he had totally extinguished in binself any capability, which he may originally have possessed, to appreciate the sublime in morals, at an early period of his history. We say nothing of the merely intellectual sublime, but of the sublimity of virtue he certainly never conceived. He could, therefore, very easily represent the pious Abel as a “ womanish utierer of weak sentences ;” but he could never command either the thought or the language which Milton has employed to delineate the character of the faithful angel, any more than he was capable of a desire “to vindicate the ways of God, to man." Where in all his works do we find such a conception, or such a passage as this ;
“ So spake the seraph Abdiel, faithful found !
His loyalty he kept, his love, his zeal.” Here the roll of the numbers, is only equalled by the sublimity of the idea. Why is it then, that with all his superior charms of verse, Milton is mostly a name, not an acquaintance, with the majority of educated youth ? In our colleges, Byron is devoutly thought the great English poet, however they may concede to Milton, the right of possession, to be called so. The mind that has dallied along the flowery walks of his earlier writings, stands thrilled before the fictitious splendor of his “ Cain;" while the unpretending dignity of Paradise Lost, like a great mountain in the distance, is indeed complimented for its head above the clouds, but is seldom seen, and never visited by the lounger of the garden. Such is human nature; and the boy, who best exemplifies it, will always desert the fireside, where the flute-notes of gentle Cowper are wooing him to the beauty of holiness, or the vaulted sanctuary where the grand organ of Milton is rolling his soul to heaven, if only the fife and drum of gaudier poets be heard in the streets, to lure him to long hours of truant wandering, that surely close in sorrow. Had the great trio, whose names we have placed at the head of this article, been given to the world in successive generations, standing each in his own as the great poetic star of his times, no doubt they would be deemed as fair examples of the birth, growth, and perfection of poetry, as we are accustomed to regard Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, in the history of the drama. The painter might delineate them allegorically; Byron, as the serpent, not moving on his belly, but majestically erect, as in Eden, and “more subtle than any beast of the field;" Shelley, like the Rabbinical tempter, wa cherub's face, a reptile all the rest ;" while Wordsworth should stand before us, with none of the dragon left, a true “spiritual being," winged, and ready for flight, but walking the earth awhile, to admire even this poor outskirt of the realms of the all-pervading God. The poetry of Byron is the spirit of the loose Epicurean, breaking out in wassail-songs over his cups; the poetry of Shelley, is the breathing of the unchristianized Platonist, standing before the Parthenon at day-break, and absorbed in love and adoration of the beautiful marbles around him ; but Wordsworth’s is the high worship of the Christian, rejoicing at morning, at noon-day, and at even, in the beautiful works of God, and ever contemplating the grand in nature, and the sublimity of virtue, and all that shows anything of the perfection of the original mind.
In passing from Byron to Shelley, we ascend a step in the scale which we are considering. In Shelley, we have unquestionably a greater intellect, and one beautifully cultivated, and expanded by continual philosophical exercise. He seems to have been one with whom deep thought was an instinct; one of those high minds that never have a boyhood. Before the completion of his fifteenth year, he had written and published two novels, “the Rosicrucian,” and “ Zasterozzi.” At the univer