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song of a Greek bard, he felt a noble longing to aid with his E money and his sword the Greek people in their struggle against the Turk. On the 4th of July, 1823, he sailed from Genoa to Greece, to join in an expedition against Lepanto. He was put in command of a division of troops, but did not live to lead it to I battle. The great poet died of a fever at Missolonghi, three months after having completed his thirty-sixth year. His last words, spoken in delirium, were true to his nature: "Forward, forward! Follow me. Do not be afraid." Thus died the poet whose pen was a sword, and whose sword was as brave as his pen.
Byron's political influence was considerable. Born just after the American Revolution, and just before the French, he breathed the quick atmosphere of his age. We may call him an aristocratic democrat. In theory he was one of the people. He admired : Washington and American institutions. "Give me a republic," he said when about to aid the Greek revolutionists. An English author calls him "the greatest modern preacher of 'liberty, equality, and fraternity.'"
But literature, not politics, was the realm in which his chief influence was exerted. Minto pronounces Byron "the greatest literary force of this century." Matthew Arnold, a cautious critic, says: His name is still great and brilliant. Wordsworth and Byron stand out by themselves." In France and Germany Byron is greatly admired. In the United States he has ever been appreciated. He wrote of Daniel Boone and the West, and was proud of his audience in the Ohio Valley. "This is the first tidings that has sounded to me like fame,—to be redde on the banks of the Ohio," he wrote in his diary in 1813.
Byron's poetry is by no means free from faults. It violates many rules of versification, and even of rhetoric and grammar.
Nevertheless it takes high rank. Byron's poetry is Byron, his life, his passions, an expression of superabundant energy, like his loves, his hatreds, his sports, his military enterprise. As fast as he lived he transmuted his life into written song. Every event gave rise to a lyric, a romance, or a drama. One critic thinks force and sincerity are the chief elements of Byron's poetry; another says the main constituents are passion and wit. As for his style, at the best, perhaps no one has described it more happily than Swinburne, who says it is "at once swift and supple, light and strong, various and radiant."
The selections in this book give a fair idea of Byron's genius and art. The first, "The Prisoner of Chillon," is an old favorite, not without cause. Though not in the author's usual vein, it shows his character in its gentlest and most serious mood. The piece was written at Ouchy, near Geneva, in two days, June 26, 27, 1816. It is one of the best of Byron's romantic "tales,"a species of poem made popular by Scott, who ceased to produce such because, as he said, "Byron beat me."
In the wild and exciting narrative, "Mazeppa," with its vivid descriptions, its rapid changes and reckless abandon, we see Byron's vigorous thought and imagination in full and free activity, and while we are swept along by the melodramatic charm of the flowing verse we are so well pleased with the general effect of the poem that we are reluctant to censure its defects as a work of literary fine art.
From "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" we give a part of Canto III. and the whole of Canto IV., the former relating to Belgium and the battle of Waterloo, the latter to Italy. The third canto was finished June 27, 1816, and went to press early in 1817. The
fourth was begun in June, 1817, completed in December of the same year, and published in 1818. Aside from their literary merit, these cantos possess high educational value, especially to the student of the classics, because they afford a delightful opportunity to review history and mythology and to impress important facts of topography, biography, literature, and art. Discussing the poetical worth of these cantos, Professor Nichol uses these strong words: "Cantos III. and IV. are separated from their predecessors, not by a stage, but by a gulf. Previous to their publication Byron had only shown how far the force of rhapsody could go; now he struck with his right hand and from the shoulder." A still subtler critic, Swinburne, after praising the concluding stanzas of the fourth canto, the apostrophe to the ocean, says discriminately: "No other passage in the fourth canto will bear to be torn out from the text; and this one suffers by extraction. The other three cantos are more loosely built and less compact of fabric; but in the first two there is little to remember or to praise."
The text followed in these selections is that of the Oxford edition from the Oxford University Press, which is based upon the standard Murray edition. The notes, it is hoped, will not seem too many to the teacher nor too few for the independent student. The editor has made use of the researches of H. F. Tozer (Clarendon Press Series), of H. G. Keene (Bell's Classics), and of the American scholar, W. J. Rolfe, by permission.
Only one pedagogical hint is here ventured, alike to teacher and to pupil: avoid, in teaching or learning English poetry, the danger pointed out by Byron in Stanzas LXXV.-LXXVII. of Canto IV., "Childe Harold." May the young reader both "comprehend" and "love" the verse.
LIST OF BYRON'S WORKS.
Hours of Idleness (72 titles); Occasional Pieces (82 titles); Hebrew Melodies (23 titles); Domestic Pieces (63 titles); – in all 240 poems, among which are many beautiful lyrics. SATIRES:
English Bards and Scotch Reviewers; Hints from Horace;
The Giaour; The Bride of Abydos; The Corsair; Lara;
Manfred; Marino Faliero; Sardanapalus; The Two Foscari; Cain; Heaven and Earth; Werner; The Deformed Transformed.
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage; Don Juan; The Lament of Tasso; The Prophecy of Dante; The Morgante Maggiore of Pulci; Francesca of Rimini.
Some of the best of the longer poems, regarded from a literary standpoint, are "The Giaour," "Manfred," "Cain," "The Vision of Judgment," "Beppo," and "Don Juan." Of course "The Prisoner of Chillon” and “Childe Harold" are considered masterpieces.
CHRONOLOGICAL OUTLINE OF BYRON'S LIFE.
1788, January 22. Byron was born in London.
1809 to 1811, July. Traveled in Spain, Greece, etc.
1812 to 1816. Was lionized in England.. 1815, January. Married Miss Milbanke. 1816, January. His wife separated from him
1816, April 25. Byron left England, never to return. 1816 to 1823, July. Resided in Switzerland and in Italy. 1823, July 4. Sailed from Genoa for Greece.
1824, April 19. Died at Missolonghi .