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[IN a moment of dissatisfaction with himself, or during some melancholy mood, when his soul felt the worthlessness of fame and glory, Lord Byron told the world that his muse should, for a long season, shroud herself in solitude (see antè, Vol. X. p. 5.); and every true lover of genius lamented that her lofty music was to cease. But there was a tide in his spirit obeying the laws of its nature, and not to be controlled by any human will. When he said that he was to be silent, he looked, perhaps, into the inner regions of his soul, and saw there a dim, hard, and cheerless waste, like the sand of the sea-shore; but the ebbed waves of passion in due course returned, and the scene was restored to its former beauty and magnificence, -its foam, its splendours, and its thunder. The mind of a mighty poet cannot submit even to chains of its own imposing: when it feels most enslaved, even then, perhaps, is it about to become most free; and one sudden flash may raise it from the darkness of its despondency up to the pure air of untroubled confidence. It required, therefore, but small knowledge of human nature, to assure ourselves that the obligation under which Lord Byron had laid himself could not bind, and that the potent spirit within him would laugh to scorn whatever dared to curb the frenzy of its own inspirations.

It was not long, therefore, till he again came forth in his perfect strength, and exercised that dominion over our spirits which is truly a power too noble to be possessed without being wielded. Though all his heroes are of one family, yet are they a noble band of brothers, whose countenances and whose souls are strongly distinguished by peculiar characteristics. Each per sonage, as he advances before us, reminds us of some other being, whose looks, thoughts, words, and deeds had troubled us by their wild and perturbed grandeur. But though all the same, yet are they all strangely differ. ent. We hail each successive existence with a profounder sympathy; and we are lost in wonder, in fear, and in sorrow, at the infinitely varied struggles, the endless and agonising modifications of the human passions, as they drive along through every gate and avenue of the soul, darkening or brightening, elevating or laying prostrate.

From such agitating and terrific pictures, it is delightful to turn to those compositions in which Lord Byron has allowed his soul to sink down into gentler and more ordinary feelings. Many beautiful and pathetic strains have flowed from his heart, of which the tenderness is as touching as the grandeur of his nobler works is agitating and sublime. To those, indeed, who looked deeply into his poetry, there never was at any time a want of pathos; but it was a pathos so subduing and so profound, that even the poet himself seemed afraid of being delivered up unto it; nay, he seemed ashamed of being overcome by emotions, which the gloomy pride of his intellect often vainly strove to scorn; and he dashed the weakness from his heart, and the tear from his eyes, like a man suddenly assailed by feelings which he wished to hide, and which, though true to his nature, were inconsistent with the character, which that mysterious nature had been forced, as in self-defence, to assume.

. But there is one poem in which he has almost wholly laid aside all remembrance of the darker and stormier passions; in which the tone of his spirit and his voice at once is changed, and where he who seemed to care only for agonies, and remorse, and despair, and death, and insanity, in all their most appalling forms, shows that he has a heart that can feed on the purest sympathies of our nature, and deliver itself up to the sorrows, the sadness, and the melancholy of humbler souls. The "Prisoner of Chillon" is a poem over which Infancy has shed its first mysterious tears for sorrows so alien to its own happy innocence, -over which the gentle, pure, and pious soul of Woman has brooded with ineffable, and yearning, and bursting tenderness of affection,- and over which old Age, almost loosened from this world, has bowed his hoary head in delighted approbation of that fraternal love, whose beauty and simplicity fling a radiance over the earth he is about to leave, and exhibit our fallen nature in near approximation to the glories of its ultimate destiny. The "Lament" possesses much of the tenderness and pathos of the "Prisoner of Chillon." Lord Byron has not delivered himself unto any one wild and fearful vision of the imprisoned Tasso, he has not dared to allow himself to rush forward with headlong passion into the horrors of his dungeon, and to describe, as he could fearfully have done, the conflict and agony of his uttermost despair, but he shows us the poet sitting in his cell, and singing therea low, melancholy, wailing lament, sometimes, indeed, bordering on utter wretchedness, but oftener partaking of a settled grief, occasionally subdued into mournful resignation, cheered by delightful remembrances, and elevated by the confident hope of an immortal fame. His is the gathered grief of many years, over which his soul has brooded, till she has in some measure lost the power of misery; and this soliloquy is one which we can believe he might have uttered to himself any morning, or noon, or night of his solitude, as he seemed to be half communing with his own heart, and half addressing the ear of that human nature from which he was shut out, but of which he felt the continual and abiding presence within his imagination.-WILSON.]




LONG years!-It tries the thrilling frame to bear
And eagle-spirit of a Child of Song

Long years of outrage, calumny, and wrong;
Imputed madness, prison'd solitude, (1)
And the mind's canker in its savage mood,
When the impatient thirst of light and air

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(1) [Tasso's biographer, the Abate Serassi, has left it without doubt, that the first cause of the poet's punishment was his desire to be occasionally, or altogether, free from his servitude at the court of Alfonso. In 1575, Tasso resolved to visit Rome, and enjoy the indulgence of the jubilee;" and this error," says the Abate, 'increasing the suspicion already entertained, that he was in search of another service, was the origin of his misfortunes. On his return to Ferrara, the Duke refused to admit him to an audience, and he was repulsed from the houses of all the dependants of the court; and not one of the promises which the Cardinal Albano had obtained for him were carried into effect. Then it was that Tasso after having suffered these hardships for some time, seeing himself constantly discountenanced by the Duke and the Princesses, abandoned by his friends, and derided by his enemies - could no longer contain himself within the bounds of moderation, but, giving vent to his choler, publicly broke forth into the most injurious expressions imaginable, both against the Duke and all the house of Este, cursing his past service, and retracting all the praises he had ever given in his verses to those princes, or to any individual connected with them, declaring that they were all a gang of poltroons, ingrates, and scoundrels (poltroni, ingrati, e ribaldi). For this offence he was arrested, conducted to the hospital of St. Anna, and confined in a solitary cell as a madman."— SERASSI, Vita del Tasso.]

Parches the heart; and the abhorred grate,
Marring the sunbeams with its hideous shade,
Works through the throbbing eyeball to the brain
With a hot sense of heaviness and pain;
And bare, at once, Captivity display'd

Stands scoffing through the never-open'd gate,

Which nothing through its bars admits, save day, And tasteless food, which I have eat alone

Till its unsocial bitternes is gone;

And I can banquet like a beast of prey,
Sullen and lonely, couching in the cave

Which is my lair, and-it may be-my grave.(1)
All this hath somewhat worn me, and may wear,
But must be borne. I stoop not to despair;
For I have battled with mine agony,
And made me wings wherewith to overfly
The narrow circus of my dungeon wall,
And freed the Holy Sepulchre from thrall;

(1) [In the hospital of St. Anna, at Ferrara, they show a cell, over the door of which is the following inscription :-"Rispettate, O posteri, la celebrità di questa stanza, dove Torquato Tasso, infermo più di tristezza che delirio, ditenuto dimorò anni vii. mesi ii., scrisse verse e prose, e fù rimesso in libertà ad instanza della città di Bergamo, nel giorno vi. Luglio, 1586."-The dungeon is below the ground floor of the hospital, and the light penetrates through its grated window from a small yard, which seems to have been common to other cells. It is nine paces long, between five and six wide, and about seven feet high. The bedstead, so they tell, has been carried off piecemeal, and the door half cut away by the devotion of those whom "the verse and prose" of the prisoner have brought to Ferrara. The poet was confined in this room from the middle of March 1579 to December 1580, when he was removed to a contiguous apartment much larger, in which, to use his own expressions, he could "philosophise and walk about." The inscription is incorrect as to the immediate cause of his enlargement, which was promised to the city of Bergamo, but was carried into effect at the intercession of Don Vincenzo Gonzaga, Prince of Mantua. HOBHOUSE.]

And revell'd among men and things divine,
And pour'd my spirit over Palestine,

In honour of the sacred war for Him,

The God who was on earth and is in heaven,
For he hath strengthen'd me in heart and limb.
That through this sufferance I might be forgiven,
I have employ'd my penance to record

How Salem's shrine was won, and how adored.


But this is o'er-my pleasant task is done :-(1) My long-sustaining friend of many years!

from me none.

If I do blot thy final page with tears,
Know, that my sorrows have wrung
But thou, my young creation! my soul's child!
Which ever playing round me came and smiled,
And woo'd me from myself with thy sweet sight,
Thou too art gone—and so is my delight:
And therefore do I weep and inly bleed
With this last bruise upon a broken reed.
Thou too art ended-what is left me now?
For I have anguish yet to bear—and how?
I know not that-but in the innate force
Of my own spirit shall be found resource.
I have not sunk, for I had no remorse,

(1) [The opening lines bring the poet before us at once, as if the door of the dungeon was thrown open. From this bitter complaint, how nobly the unconquered bard rises into calm, and serene, and dignified exultation over the beauty of "that young creation, his soul's child," the Gierusalemme Liberata. The exultation of conscious genius then dies away, and we behold him," bound between distraction and disease," no longer in an inspired mood, but sunk into the lowest prostration of human misery. There is something terrible in this transition from divine rapture to degraded agony.-WILSON.]

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