« AnteriorContinuar »
He determined to join the revolutionists, crossed over to Greece, and threw himself unreservedly into the labors of the campaign they were waging. The effort, however, was more than his broken constitution could bear; he contracted a swamp fever; and died at Missolonghi March 19, 1824, perishing, as he himself said, not martially but marshally. On his last birthday, January 22, 1824, he had written and handed to Captain Stanhope some verses which sum up not ignobly his tragic career:
“ 'Tis time this heart should be unmoved,
Since others it has ceased to move;
Still let me love.
“My days are in the yellow leaf;
The flowers and fruits of love are gone;
Are mine alone!
Seek out-less often sought than found
A soldier's grave, for thee the best;
And take thy rest.”
Byron's fame has undergone several fluctuations. In his own day and generation he was adored by most, execrated by some, and read by all. Among his admirers were Sir Walter Scott, Thomas Moore, and Thomas Campbell. Robert Southey regarded him as the principle of evil incarnate. Over the young and the susceptible he exercised a peculiarly powerful and baneful influence. From the poetry of the noble lord, to quote Macaulay's words, these enthusiasts drew a system of morals compounded of misanthropy and voluptuousness, a system in which the two chief commandments were to hate your neighbor and to love your neighbor's wife. Gradually he lost his popularity. A generation grew up to whom his poetry seemed only vigorous rhetoric. Little by little it was perceived that Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, and Shelley were all greater poets. Nevertheless, at the present time it is generally acknowledged that, in spite of his literary faults, there is much of his verse that is destined to live as long as any English poetry. On the continent of Europe, where his peculiar ethics do not shock and where his eloquent championship of liberty shines in contrast with real tyranny, he has never lost favor. Goethe, the greatest of German poets, regarded Byron as the greatest English poet.
QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES 1. What do you know of Byron's parents and ancestors ? 2. Tell of Byron's temperament and career at school and college. 3. What was the motive for writing English Bards and Scotch
Reviewers”? 4. What had Byron been doing the two years immediately preceding the
publication of “ Childe Harold's Pilgrimage”? 5. Describe his career immediately following the publication of this poem ? 6. Discuss the lines :
“He who surpasses or subdues mankind
Must look down on the hate of those below.” 7. What are the great qualities in “Don Juan"? In what period of the
author's life was it written? 8. Discuss in a composition of two hundred words the thought and stimulus
you have derived from this poet. 9. Whom do you consider the greater poet, Scott or Byron; Wordsworth
or Byron? 10. What are the qualities in Byron, the man, that you like?
Suggested Readings.—The third Canto of “Childe Harold," Isles of Greece,” “Manfred,” “Ode to Napoleon,” and “She Walks in Beauty” will give you some conception of this poet's strength and beauty. Roden Noel's “Life of Byron” is an excellent little work; Edward John Trelawney's “Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron" offers a most interesting intimate acquaintance with the two poets.
Born in FieldPlace
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY (1792–1822) “The best and least selfish man I ever knew."--Byron.
Shelley, beautiful and ineffectual angel, beating in the void his luminous wings in vain.”—Matthew Arnold.
BORN August 2, 1792, Shelley was descended from an ancient and honorable family. He entered Eton 1804 and Oxford 1810. Next year he was expelled because of the publication of an anonymous pamphlet called “The Necessity of Atheism," an action which certainly was not justifiable on the ground of its damage to religion but perhaps pardonable on the score of its badness as a composition. He was twice married, in 1811 and 1816. His first wife, a silly girl, committed suicide; his second, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (17971851), was a woman of genius.
In 1817 the Shelleys met Byron in Geneva, where they amused themselves by reading German ghost stories and imitating them. In consequence Mrs. Shelley wrote her romance of “Frankenstein,” in which she tells, with a power akin to Poe's or Stevenson's, how a German student, after dabbling in magic and chemistry, constructs a monster eight feet high, which, being given the breath of life after revolting experiments, becomes the bane of his life and finally drives him to the Arctic regions and suicide.
During the remainder of his life Shelley lived in Italy, writing exquisite letters, composing immortal poetry, and reading until he became so stooped that he could not swim. In spite of the latter fact, on July 4, 1822, he went out in the Mediterranean in a yacht which, against the advice of his friend Trelawney, had been built on a defective model. On July 19, the poet's body was found on the beach.
Morally, Shelley was one of the best of men. Poetically, he belongs in the same class with Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Keats. The delicacy of his nature led Arnold to describe him with felicity as “Shelley, beautiful and ineffectual angel, beating in the void his luminous wings in vain.” The truth of this characterization at once becomes
apparent to anybody who studies his longer poems. The first of these, “Queen Mab," is a work of impassioned reasoning and passionate rhetoric. The second, “ Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude," reveals him as a master artist. The third,“ The Revolt of Islam," says Swin
burne, shows how Spenserian stanzas should be written as surely as “ Childe Harold ” shows how they should not.“ Julian and Maddalo” contains the finest portrait of Lord Byron and the finest picture of Venice in existence. The song of the delivered earth and the final During this period he also wrote “ The Waltz,” a savage attack on that dance, then newly imported from Germany; an “Ode to Napoleon," who had just fallen; and “Hebrew Melodies.” The “Ode" contains a tribute to Washington, whom Byron calls the Cincinnatus of the West. Among the" Melodies "are several still familiar pieces, “She Walks in Beauty," “ The Harp the Monarch Minstrel Swept," “ The Wild Gazelle on Judah's Hills,” “Oh! Snatched Away in Beauty's Bloom,” and “The Assyrian came down like a Wolf on the Fold.” As a result of his poetry, he met the Prince Regent, narrowly escaped being appointed poet-laureate, and became fast friends with Walter Scott. As a result of his poetry plus his peerage and his beauty, he was besieged by women. To escape them he married Miss Milbanke January 2, 1815. She endured his society just a year, when she left him for reasons which the world does not yet know. He was accused of every possible and impossible vice, being compared to Sardanapalus, Nero, Tiberius, the Duke of Orleans, Heliogabalus, and Satan. Feeling that, if what was said of him was true, he was unfit for England, if false England was unfit for him, he left it forever.
He journeyed by way of Brussels and the Rhine to Switzerland. Here, in the congenial company of Percy Bysshe Shelley, he sought in fresh poetic enterprises to forget his troubles. Among other things he wrote in Switzerland the “ Prisoner of Chillon " and the third canto of“ Childe Harold.” Finally he crossed the Alps, and settled November, 1816, in Italy, where he lived until 1824. During these eight years he completed the fourth and last canto of “Childe Harold ”; wrote three more narrative poems,
Beppo," "Mazeppa," and the "Island "; produced a series of misanthropic and undramatic tragedies, of which “ Cain ” is the best artistically and the worst morally; wrote“ Darkness,” the most terrible, and “ The Vision of Judgment,” the funniest of his poems; and put together “ Don Juan,” a narrative poem in sixteen cantos, which is richer in humor and more accurate in description than any of his other works.
The third and fourth cantos of “ Childe Harold,” which appeared 1818, revealed Byron's real power. In the third he takes his readers to Brussels; and paints a picture of the ball given by the Duke of Wellington the night before the battle of Waterloo. There was a