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valled, in earlier or in later times ;-and places | excessive simplicity. It is in vain to expect the them, in our estimation, in the very highest praises of such people; for they never praise; and foremost place among ancient or modern --and it is truly very little worth while tó poets.
disarm their censure. It is only the praises It is in these particulars that the inferiority of the real lovers of poetry that ever give it of their recent imitators is most apparent–in true fame or popularity—and these are little the want of ease and variety-originality and affected by the cavils of the fastidious. Yet grace. There is, in all their attempts, what the genius of most modern writers seems to ever may be their other merits or defects, an be rebuked under that of those pragmatical air of anxiety and labour-and indications, by and insignificant censors. They are so much far too visible, at once of timidity and ambi- afraid of faults, that they will scarcely venture tion. This may arise, in part, from the fact upon beauties; and seem more anxious in of their being, too obviously and consciously, general to be safe, than original. They dare imitators. They do not aspire so much to not indulge in a florid and magnificent way of rival the genius of their originals, as to copy writing, for fear of being charged with bomtheir manner. They do not write as they bast by the cold blooded and malignant. They would have written in the present day, but as must not be tender, lest they should be laughthey imagine they themselves would have ed at for puling and whining; nor discursive written two hundred years ago. They revive and fanciful like their great predecessors, the antique phraseology, repeat the venerable under pain of being held out to derision, as oaths, and emulate the quaint familiarities of ingenious gentlemen who have dreamed that that classical period—and wonder that they the gods have made them poetical! are not mistaken for new incarnations of its Thus, the dread of ridicule, which they departed poets! One great cause why they have ever before their eyes, represses all the are not, is, that they speak an unnatural dia- emotions, on the expression of which their lect, and are constrained by a masquerade success entirely depends; and in order to habit; in neither of which it is possible to escape the blame of those to whom they can display that freedom, and those delicate traits give no pleasure, and through whom they can of character, which are the life of the drama, gain no fame, they throw away their best and were among the chief merits of those who chance of pleasing those who are capable of once exalted it so highly. Another bad effect relishing their excellences, and on whose ad. of imitation, and especially of the imitation miration alone their reputation must at all of unequal and irregular models in a critical events be founded. There is a great want of age, is, that nothing is thought fit to be copied magnanimity, we think, as well as of wisdom, but the exquisite and shining passages; in this sensitiveness to blame; and we are from which it results, in the first place, that convinced that no modern author will ever all our rivalry is reserved for occasions in write with the grace and vigour of the older which its success is most hopeless; and, in ones, who does not write with some portion the second place, that instances, even of occa of their fearlessness and indifference to censional success
, want their proper grace and sure. Courage, in short, is at least as neceseffect, by being deprived of the relief, shading, sary as genius to the success of a work of and preparation, which they would naturally imagination; since, without this, it is imhave received in a less fastidious composition; possible to attain that freedom and self-pos. and, instead of the warm and native and ever- session, without which no talents can ever varying graces of a spontaneous effusion, the have fair play, and, far less, that inward conwork acquires the false and feeble brilliancy fidence and exaltation of spirit which must of a prize essay in a foreign tongue-a collec- accompany all the higher acts of the undertion of splendid patches of different texture standing. The earlier writers had probably and pattern.
less occasion for courage to secure them these At the bottom of all this—and perhaps as advantages; as the public was far less critical its most efficient cause—there lurks, we sus in their day, and much more prone to admirapect, an unreasonable and undue dread of tion than to derision : But we can still trace criticism ;—not the deliberate and indulgent in their writings the indications both of a criticism which we exercise, rather for the proud consciousness of their own powers and encouragement of talent than its warning- privileges, and of a brave contempt for the but the vigilant and paltry derision which is cavils to which they might expose themperpetually stirring in idle societies, and but selves. In our own times, we know but one too continually present to the spirits of all who writer who is emancipated from this slavish aspire to their notice. There is nothing so awe of vulgar detraction—this petty timidity certain, we take it, as that those who are the about being detected in blunders and faults most alert in discovering the faults of a work and that is the illustrious author of Waverley; of genius, are the least touched with its beau- and the other novels that have made an era ties. Those who admire and enjoy fine poetry, in our literature as remarkable, and as likely in short, are quite a different class of persons to be remembered, as any which can yet be from those who find out its flaws and defects traced in its history. We shall not now say --who are sharp at detecting a plagiarism or how large a portion of his success we ascribe a grammatical inaccuracy, and laudably into this intrepid temper of his genius; but we dustrious in bringing to light an obscure pas- are confident that no person can read any one sage-sneering, at an exaggerated one-or of his wonderful works, without feeling that wondering at the meaning of some piece of their author vas utterly careless of the re
proach of small imperfections; disdained the As Plays, we are afraid we must also say inglorious labour of perpetual correctness, and that the pieces before us are wanting in interhas consequently imparted to his productions est, character, and action :—at least we must that spirit and ease and variety, which re- say this of the three last of them-for there is minds us of better times, and gives lustre and interest in Sardanapalus-and beauties beeffect to those rich and resplendent passages sides, that make us blind to its other defects. to which it left him free to aspire.
There is, however, throughout, a want of Lord Byron, in some respects, may appear dramatic effect and variety; and we suspect not to have been wanting in intrepidity. He there is something in the character or liabi has not certainly been very tractable to ad- of Lord Byron's genius which will render ilus vice, nor very patient of blame. But this, in unattainable. He has too little sympathy with him, we fear, is not superiority to censure, the ordinary feelings and frailties of humanity, but aversion to it; and, instead of proving to succeed well in their representation—His that he is indifferent to detraction, shows soul is like a star, and dwells apart.” It does only, that the dread and dislike of it operate not hold the mirror up to nature," nor catch with more than common force on his mind. the hues of surrounding objects; but, like a A critic, whose object was to give pain, would kindled furnace, throws out its intense glare desire no better proof of the efficacy of his in- and gloomy grandeur on the narrow scene flictions, than the bitter scorn and fierce de- which it irradiates. He has given us, in his fiance with which they are encountered; and other works, some glorious pictures of nature the more vehemently the noble author pro- | --some magnificent reflections, and some intests that he despises the reproaches that imitable delineations of character: But the have been bestowed on him, the more certain same feelings prevail in them all; and his it is that he suffers from their severity, and portraits in particular, though a little varied would be glad to escape, if he cannot over- in the drapery and attitude, seem all copied bear, them. But however this may be, we from the same original. His Childe Harold, think it is certain that his late dramatic efforts his Giaour, Conrad, Lara, Manfred, Cain, and have not been made carelessly, or without Lucifer—are all one individual. There is the anxiety. To us, at least, they seem very elab- same varnish of voluptuousness on the surorate and hard-wrought compositions; and face--the same canker of misanthropy at the this indeed we take to be their leading char- core, of all he touches. He cannot draw the acteristic, and the key to most of their pe- changes of many-coloured life, nor transport culiarities.
himself into the condition of the infinitely diConsidered as Poems, we confess they ap- versified characters by whom a stage should pear to us to be rather heavy, verbose, and be peopled. The very intensity of his feelinelegant--deficient in the passion and energy ings—the loftiness of his views—the pride of which belongs to the other writings of the his nature or his genius-withhold him from noble author and still more in the richness this identification; so that in personating the, of imagery, the originality of thought, and heroes of the scene, he does little but repeat the sweetness of versification for which he himself. It would be better for him, we used to be distinguished. They are for the think, if it were otherwise. We are sure it most part solemn, prolix, and ostentatious--would be better for his readers. He would lengthened out by large preparations for catas- get more fame, and things of far more worth trophes that never arrive, and tantalizing us than fame, if he would condescend to a more with slight specimens and glimpses of a extended and cordial sympathy with his felhigher interest, scattered thinly up and down low-creatures; and we should have more many weary pages of declamation. Along variety of fine poetry, and, at all events, bet. with the concentrated pathos and homestruck ter tragedies. We have no business to read sentiments of his former poetry, the noble him a homily on the sinfulness of pride and author seems also, we cannot imagine why, uncharity ; but we have a right to say, that to have discarded the spirited and melodious it argues a poorness of genius to keep always versification in which they were embodied, to the same topics and persons; and that the and to have formed to himself a measure world will weary at last of the most energetic equally remote from the spring and vigour of pictures of misanthropes and madmen-out. his former compositions, and from the soft- laws and their mistresses ! ness and flexibility of the ancient masters of A man gifted as he is, when he aspires at the drama. There are some sweet lines, and dramatic fame, should emulate the greatest many of great weight and energy; but the dramatists. Let Lord Byron then think general march of the verse is cumbrous and of Shakespeare-and consider what a noble unmusical. His lines do not vibrate like range of character, what a freedom from manpolished lances, at once strong and light, in nerism and egotism, there is in him! How the hands of his persons, but are wielded like much he seems to have studied nature; how clumsy batons in a bloodless affray. Instead little to have thought about himself; how of the graceful familiarity and 'idiomatical seldom to have repeated or glanced back at melodies of Shakespeare, they are apt, too, to his own most successful inventions! Why fall into clumsy prose, in their approaches to indeed should he? Nature was still open the easy and colloquial style; and, in the before him, and inexhaustible; and the freshloftier passages, are occasionally deformed by ness and variety that still delight his readers, low and common images, that harmonize but must have had constant atractions for him. ill with the general solemnity of the diction. self. Take his Hamlet, for instance. What a character is there !-how full of thought spirit of the drama-if he has no hankering and refinement, and fancy and individuality! after stage-effect—if he is not haunted with " How infinite in faculties! In form and the visible presentment of the persons he has motion how express and admirable! The created-if, in setting down a vehement inbeauty of the universe, the paragon of ani- vective, he does not fancy the tone in which mals!" Yet close the play, and we meet with Mr. Kean would deliver it
, and anticipate the him no more-neither in the author's other long applauses of the pit, then he may be works, nor any where else! A common sure that neither his feelings nor his genius
uthor who had hit upon such a character, are in unison with the stage at all. Why, would have dragged it in at every turn, and then, should he affect the form, without the worn it to very tatters. Sir John Falstaff, power of tragedy? He may, indeed, produce again, is a world of wit and humour in him- a mystery like Cain, or a far sweeter vision, self. But except in the two parts of Henry like Manfred, without subjecting himself to IV., there would have been no trace of such the censure of legitimate criticism : But if, a being, had not the author been “ordered with a regular subject before him, capable of to continue him" in the Merry Wives of all the strength and graces of the drama, he Windsor. He is not the least like Benedick, does not feel himself able or willing to draw or Mercutio, or Sir Toby Belch, or any of the forth its resources so as to affect an audience other witty and jovial personages of the same with terror and delight, he is not the man we author-nor are they like each other. Othello want—and his time and talents are wasted is one of the most striking and powerful in- here. Didactic reasoning and eloquent deventions on the stage. But when the play scription will not compensate, in a play, for a closes, we hear no more of him! The poet's dearth of dramatic spirit and invention : and creation comes no more to life again, under a besides, sterling sense and poetry, as such, fictitious name, than the real man would have ought to stand by themselves, without the done. Lord Byron in Shakespeare's place, unmeaning mockery of a dramatis persona. would have peopled the world with black As to Lord Byron's pretending to set up the Othellos! What indications are there of Lear Unities at this time of day, as “the law of in any of his earlier plays ? What traces of literature throughout the world,” it is mere it in any that he wrote afterwards? None. It caprice and contradiction. He, if ever man might have been written by any other man, was, is a law to himself—"a chartered liberhe is so little conscious of it. He never once tine;'—and now, when he is tired of this returns to that huge sea of sorrow; but has unbridled licence, he wants to do penance left it standing by itself, shoreless and un- within the Unities! This certainly looks very approachable! Who else could have afforded like affectation; or, if there is any thing sinnot to have “drowned the stage with tears'' cere in it, the motive must be, that, by getfrom such a source ? But we must break ting rid of so much story and action, in order away from Shakespeare, and come at last to to simplify the plot and bring it within the the work before us.
prescribed limits, he may fill up the blank In a very brief preface, Lord Byron renews spaces with long discussions, and have nearly his protest against looking upon any of his all the talk to himself! For ourselves, we plays, as having been composed with the will confess that we have had a considerable most remote view to the stage”-and, at the contempt for those same Unities, ever since same time, testifies in behalf of the Unities, we read Dennis' Criticism on Cato in our as essential to the existence of the drama—-boyhood_except indeed the unity of action, according to what “was, till lately, the law which Lord Byron does not appear to set of literature throughout the world, and is still much store by: Dr. Johnson, we conceive, so, in the more civilised parts of it.” We has pretty well settled this question: and if do not think those opinions very consistent; Lord Byron chooses to grapple with him, he and we think that neither of them could pos- will find that it requires a stronger arm than sibly find favour with a person whose genius that with which he puts down our Laureates. had a truly dramatic character. We should We shall only add, that when the moderns as soon expect an orator to compose a speech tie themselves down to write tragedies of the altogether unfit to be spoken. A drama is same length, and on the same simple plan, in not merely a dialogue, but an action : and other respects, with those of Sophocles and necessarily supposes that something is 10 Æschylus, we shall not object to their adher. pass before the eyes of assembled spectators. ing to the Unities; for there can, in that case, Whatever is peculiar to its written part, be no sufficient inducement for violating them. should derive its peculiarity from this con- But, in the mean time, we hold that English sideration. Its style should be throughout dramatic poetry soars above the Unities, just as an accompaniment to action—and should be the imagination does. The only pretence for calculated to excite the emotions, and keep insisting on them is, that we suppose the alive the attention, of gazing multitudes. If stage itself to be, actually and really, the an author does not bear this continually in very spot on which a given action is peform his mind, and does not write in the ideal ed; and, if so, this space cannot be removed presence of an eager and diversified assem- to another. But the supposition is manifestly blage, he may be a poet perhaps, but as- quite contrary to truth and experience. The suredly he never will be a dramatist. If stage is considered merely as a place in which Lord Byron really does not wish to impreg- any given action ad libitum may be performnato his elaborate scenes with the living led; and accordingly may be shifted, and is sn in imagination, as often as the action re- / and he goes forth, from the banquet to the qu 'es it. That any writer should ever have battle, as to a dance or measure, attired by insisted on such an unity as this, must appear the Graces, and with youth, joy, and love for sufficiently preposterous; but, that the defence his guides. He dallies with Bellona as her of it should be taken up by an author whose bridegroom-for his sport and pastime; and plays are never to be acted at all, and which, the spear or fan, the shield or shining mirror, iherefore, have nothing more than a nominal become his hands equally well. He enjoys reference to any stage or locality whatever, life, in short, and triumphs over death; and must strike one as absolutely incredible. whether in prosperous or adverse circum
It so happens, however, that the disadvan- stances, his soul smiles out superior to evil. tage, and, in truth, absurdity of sacrificing The Epicurean philosophy of Sardanapalus higher objects to a formality of this kind, is gives him a fine opportunity, in his conferstrikingly displayed in one of these dramas—ences with his stern and confidential adviser, The Two Foscari. The whole interest here Salemenes, to contrast his own imputed and turns upon the younger of them having re- fatal vices of ease and love of pleasure with turned from banishment, in defiance of the the boasted virtues of his predecessors, War law and its consequences, from an unconquer- and Conquest; and we may as well begin able longing after his native country. Now, with a short specimen of this characteristic the only way to have made this sentiment discussion. Salemenes is brother to the nepalpable, the practicable foundation of stu- glected queen; and the controversy originates pendous sufferings, would have been, to have in the monarch's allusion to her. presented him to the audience wearing out his heart in exile-and forming his resolution
“ Sard. Thou think'st that I have wrong'd the to return, at a distance from his country, or queen : is't not so ? hovering, in excrựciating suspense,
within Sale. Think! Thou hast wrong'd her! sight of its borders. We might then have
Patience, prince, and hear me, caught some glimpse of the nature of his She has all power and splendour of her station, motives, and of so extraordinary a character. The homage and the appanage of sovereignty.
Respect, the lulelage of Assyria's heirs, But as this would have been contrary to one I married her, as monarchs wed—for state, of the Unities, we first meet with him led from And loved her, as most husbands love their wives. “the Question," and afterwards taken back If she or thou supposedst I could link me to it in the Ducal Palace, or clinging to the Like a Chaldean peasant to his mate, dungeon-walls of his native city, and expiring Ye knew nor me, nor monarchs, nor mankind.
Sale. I pray thee, change the theme; my blood from his dread of leaving them; and ihere
disdains fore feel more wonder than sympathy, when Complaint, and Salemenes' sister seeks not we are told in a Jeremiad of wilful lamenta- Reluctant love, even from Assyria's lord ! tions, that these agonising consequences have Nor would she deign to accept divided passion resulted, not from guilt or disaster, but merely with foreign strumpets and lonian slaves. from the intensity of his love for his country.
The queen is silent.
And why not her brother? But we must now look at the other Trage- Sale. I only echo thee the voice of empires, dies; and on turning again to SardaNAPALUS, Which he who long neglects not long will govern. we are half inclined to repent of the severity Sard. The ungrateful and ungracious slaves! of some of our preceding remarks, or to own
they murmur at least that they are not strictly applicable Because I have not shed their blood, nor led them to this performance. It is a work beyond all or whiten with their bones the banks of Ganges ; question of great beauty and power; and Nor decimated them with savage laws, though the heroine has many traits in com- Nor sweated them to build up pyramids, mon with the Medoras and Gulnares of Lord Or Babylonian walls. Byron's undramatic poetry, the hero must be
Yet these are trophies allowed to be a new character in his hands. More worthy of a people and their prince
Than songs, and lutes, and feasts, and concubines, He has, indeed, the scorn of war, and glory, And lavish'd treasures, and contemned virtues. and priestcraft, and regular morality, which Sard. Oh ! for my trophies I have founded cities; distinguishes the rest of his Lordship's favour. There's Tarsus and Anchialus, both built ites; but he has no misanthropy, and very In one day-what could that blood-loving be:dame, little pride--and may be regarded, on the My martial grandam, chaste Semiramis, whole, as one of the most truly good-hu
Do more-except destroy them?
Tis most ue ; moured, amiable, and respectable voluptuaries I own thy merit in those founded cities, to whom we have ever been presented. In Built for a whim, recorded with a verse this conception of his character, the author which shames both them and thee to coming ages. has very wisely followed nature and fancy Sard. Shame me! By Baal, the cities, thoug's rather than history. His Sardanapalus is not
well built, an effeminate, worn-out debauchee, with shat- Are not more goodly than the verse!. Say wha:
Thou wilt against the truth of that brie record, tered nerves and exhausted senses, the slave Why, those few lines contain the history, of indolence and vicious habits; but a san. Of all things human; hear-'Sardanapalus guine votary of pleasure, a princely epicure, The king, and Son of Anacyndaraxes, indulging, revelling in boundless luxury while in one day built Anchialus and Tarsus. he can, but with a soul so inured to volup- Eat, drink, and love! the rest's not worth a fillip. tuousness, so saturated with delights, that For a king to put up before his subjects ! pain and danger, when they come uncalled Sard. Oh, ihou wouldst have me doubtless ast for, give hina neither concern nor dread;
Obey the king.--contribute to his treasure
Myr. Fear!- I'm a Greek, and how should I Recruit his phalanx-spill your blood at bidding
fear death? Fall down and worship, or get up and toil.' A slave, and wherefore should I dread my freedom ? Or thus—Sardanapalus on this spot
Surd. Then wherefore dost thou turn so pale ? Slew filiy thousand of his enemies.
I love--These are their sepulchres, and this his trophy.' Sard. And do not I? I love thee far-far more I leave such things to conquerors ; enough
Than either the brief life or the wide realm, For me, if I can make my subjecis feel
Which, it may be, are menaced: yet I blanch noi. The weight of human misery less, and glide Nyr.
When he who is their ruler Ungroaning to the tomb; I iake no licence Forgets himself, will they remember him? Which I deny to them. We all are men.
Sard. Myrrha ! Sale. Thy 'sires have been revered as gods- Myr. Frown not upon me: you have smiled Sard.
In dust | Too often on me, not to make ihose frowns And death-where they are neither gods nor men. Bitterer to bear than any punishment Talk not of such to me! the worms are gods; Which they may augur. -King, I am your subject ! At least they banquered upon your gods,
Master, I am your slave! Man, I have loved you ! And died for lack of farther nutriment.
Loved you, I know not by what fatal weakness, Those gods were merely men; look to their issue-Although a Greek, and born a foe to monarchsI feel a thousand morial things about me,
A slave, and having fettersman Ionian, But nothing godlike-unless it may be
And, therefore, when I love a stranger, more The thing which you condemn, a disposition Degraded by that passion than by chains ! To love and to be merciful; to pardon
Still I have loved you. If that love were strong The follies of my species, and (i hat's human) Enough to overcome all former nature, To be indulgent to my own.”—pp. 18—21. Shall it not claim the privilege to save you! But the chief charm and vivifying angel of And what I seek of thee is love-not safety.
Sard. Save me, my beauty! Thou art very fair, the piece is Myrrha, the Greek' slave of Sar
Myr. And without love where dwells security ? danapalus-a beautiful, heroic, devoted, and Sard. I speak of woman's love. ethereal being-in love with the generous Myr.
The very first and infatuated monarch-ashamed of loving Your first small words are taught you from her lips,
of human life must spring from woman's breast; a barbarian—and using all her influence over Your first tears quench'd by her, and your last him to ennoble as well as to adorn his exist
sighs ence, and to arm him against the terrors of Too often breathed out in a woman's hearing, its close. Her voluptuousness is that of the When men have shrunk from the ignoble care heart-her heroism of the affections. If the Of watching the last hour of him who led them. part she takes in the dialogue be sometimes The very chorus of the tragic
Sard. My eloquent Ionian! thou speak'st music! too subdued and submissive for the lofty I have heard thee talk of as the favourite pastime daring of her character, it is still such as of thy far father-land. Nay, weep not calm thee. might become a Greek slave-a lovely Ionian Myr. I weep not-But I pray thee, do not speak girl, in whom the love of liberty and the About my fathers, or their land!
Yet oft scorn of death, was tempered by the consciousness of what she regarded asa degrading
Thou speakest of them.
True-true! constant thought passion, and an inward sense of fitness and will overflow in words unconsciously; decorum with reference to her condition. The But when another speaks of Greece, il vounds me. development of this character and its con- Sard. Well, then, how wouldst thou save me, as
thou saidst ?
(founders. sequences form so material a part of the play, that most of the citations with which we shall
Myr. Look to the annals of thine empire's
Sard. They are so blotted over with blood, I illustrate our abstract of it will be found to
(ed. bear upon it.
But what wouldst have? the empire has been found. Salemenes, in the interview to which we 1 cannot go on multiplying empires. have just alluded, had driven “ the Ionian Myr. Preserve thine own. minion” from the royal presence by his re
At least I will enjoy it. proaches. After his departure, the Monarch Come, Myrrha, let us on to the Euphrates; again recalls his favourite, and reports to her And the pavilion, deck'd for our return, the warning he had received. Her answer In fit adornment for the evening banquet, lets us at once into the nobleness and delicacy Shall blaze with beauty and with lighi, until of her character.
It seems unto the stars which are above us
Itself an opposite star; and we will sit " Myr. He did well.
Crown'd with fresh flowers like-
Victims. Thou whom he spurn'd so harshly, and now dared Sard.
No, like sovereigns, Drive from our presence with his savage jeers,
The shepherd kings of patriarchal times, And made thee weep and blush ?
Who knew no brighter gems than summer wreaths. Myr.
I should do bolh And none but tearless triumphs. Let us on.". More frequently! and he did well to call me
pp. 31–36. Back io my duty. But thou spakest of perilPeril to thee
The second act, which contains the details Sard. Ay, from dark plots and snares From Medes--and discontented troops and nations. the vigilance of Salamenes
, and the too rash
of the conspiracy of Arbaces, its detection by I know not whai-a labyrinth of thingsA maze of mutter'd threats and mysteries : and hasty forgiveness of the rebels by the Thou know'st the man-it is his usual custom. King, is, on the whole, heavy and uninterestBut he is honest. Come, we'll think no more on't-ing. Early in the third act, the royal ban.. But of the midnight festival.
quet is disturbed by sudden tidings of trea Myr.
son and revolt; and then the reveller blazer To think of aught save festivals. Thou hast not Spurn'd his sage cautions ?
out into the hero, and the Greek blood of Sand.
What ?--and dost thou fear ? Myrrha mounts to its proper office! The