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The one was fire and fickleness, a child, Most mutable in wishes, but in mind
A wit as various, gay, grave, sage, or wild, — Historian, bard, philosopher, combined; He multiplied himself among mankind, The Proteus of their talents: But his own Breathed most in ridicule, which, as the wind, Blew where it listed, laying all things prone,— Now to o'erthrow a fool, and now to shake a throne.
The other, deep and slow, exhausting thought, And hiving wisdom with each studious year, In meditation dwelt, with learning wrought, And shaped his weapon with an edge severe, Sapping a solemn creed with solemn sneer; The lord of irony,- that master-spell, Which stung his foes to wrath, which grew from fear, And doom'd him to the zealot's ready Hell, Which answers to all doubts so eloquently well.
Yet, peace be with their ashes, - for by them,
It is not ours to judge, — far less condemn;
"If it be thus,
For Banquo's issue have I filed my mind."- MACBETH. It is said by Rochefoucault, that "there is always something in the misfortunes of men's best friends not displeasing to them."
3["It is not the temper and talents of the poet, but the use to which he puts them, on which his happiness or misery is grounded. Á powerful and unbridled imagination is the author and architect of its own disappointments. Its fascina. tions, its exaggerated pictures of good and evil, and the mental distress to which they give rise, are the natural and necessary evils attending on that quick susceptibility of feeling and fancy incident to the poetical temperament. But the Giver of all talents, while he has qualified them each with its separate and peculiar alloy, has endowed the owner with the power of purifying and refining them. But, as if to moderate the arrogance of genius, it is justly and wisely made requisite, that he must regulate and tame the fire of his fancy, and de. scend from the heights to which she exalts him, in order to obtain ease of mind and tranquillity. The materials of happiness, that is, of such degree of happiness as is consistent with our present state, lie around us in profusion. But the man of talents must stoop to gather them, otherwise they would be beyond the reach of the mass of society, for whose benefit, as well as for his, Providence has created them. There is no
Who glorify thy consecrated pages;
Thou wert the throne and grave of empires; still, The fount at which the panting mind assuages Her thirst of knowledge, quaffing there her fill, Flows from the eternal source of Rome's imperial hill.
Thus far have I proceeded in a theme Renew'd with no kind auspices: — to feel We are not what we have been, and to deem We are not what we should be,--and to steel The heart against itself; and to conceal, With a proud caution, love, or hate, or aught, Passion or feeling, purpose, grief, or zeal,Which is the tyrant spirit of our thought, Is a stern task of soul: -No matter,-it is taught.
And for these words, thus woven into song,
I stood and stand alone,-remember'd or forgot.
I have not loved the world, nor the world me ; I have not flatter'd its rank breath, nor bow'd To its idolatries a patient knee,Nor coin'd my cheek to smiles,—nor cried aloud In worship of an echo; in the crowd They could not deem me one of such; I stood Among them, but not of them; in a shroud [could, Of thoughts which were not their thoughts, and still Had I not filed my mind, which thus itself subdued.
I have not loved the world, nor the world me,-
And virtues which are merciful, nor weave Snares for the failing: I would also deem O'er others' griefs that some sincerely grieve; 2 That two, or one, are almost what they seem,That goodness is no name, and happiness no dream. 3
royal and no poetical path to contentment and heart's-ease: that by which they are attained is open to all classes of mankind, and lies within the most limited range of intellect. To narrow our wishes and desires within the scope of our powers of attainment; to consider our misfortunes, however peculiar in their character, as our inevitable share in the patrimony of Adam; to bridle those irritable feelings, which ungoverned are sure to become governors; to shun that intensity of galling and self-wounding reflection which our poet has so forcibly described in his own burning language:
Yet, though dull Hate as duty should be taught, I know that thou wilt love me; though my name Should be shut from thee, as a spell still fraught With desolation, and a broken claim: [same, Though the grave closed between us, 't were the I know that thou wilt love me; though to drain My blood from out thy being were an aim, And an attainment, -all would be in vain,Still thou would'st love me, still that more than life retain.
The child of love, though born in bitterness, And nurtured in convulsion. Of thy sire These were the elements, and thine no less. As yet such are around thee, but thy fire Shall be more temper'd, and thy hope far higher. Sweet be thy cradled slumbers! O'er the sea, And from the mountains where I now respire, Fain would I waft such blessing upon thee, [me!! As, with a sigh, I deem thou might'st have been to
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.
CANTO THE FOURTH.
Visto ho Toscana, Lombardia, Romagna, Quel Monte che divide, e quel che serra Italia, e un mare e l' altro, che la bagna. Ariosto, Satira iii.
TO JOHN HOBHOUSE, ESQ. A. M. F.R.S. &c. Venice, January 2. 1818.
MY DEAR HOBHOUSE, AFTER an interval of eight years between the composition of the first and last cantos of Childe Harold, the conclusion of the poem is about to be submitted to the public. In parting with so old a friend, it is
[Byron, July 4. 1816. Diodati."— MS.]
not extraordinary that I should recur to one still older and better, to one who has beheld the birth and death of the other, and to whom I am far more indebted for the social advantages of an enlightened friendship, than-though not ungrateful--I can, or could be, to Childe Harold, for any public favour reflected through the poem on the poet, to one, whom I have known long, and accompanied far, whom I have found wakeful over my sickness and kind in my sorrow, glad in my prosperity and firm in my adversity, true in counsel and trusty in peril, -to a friend often tried and never found wanting; -to yourself.
In so doing, I recur from fiction to truth; and in dedicating to you, in its complete or at least concluded state, a poetical work which is the longest, the most thoughtful and comprehensive of my compositions, I wish to do honour to myself by the record of many years' intimacy with a man of learning, of talent, of steadiness, and of honour. It is not for minds like ours to give or to receive flattery; yet the praises of sincerity have ever been permitted to the voice of friendship; and it is not for you, nor even for others, but to relieve a heart which has not elsewhere, or lately, been so much accustomed to the encounter of good-will as to withstand the shock firmly, that I thus attempt to commemorate your good qualities, or rather the advantages which I have derived from their exertion. Even the recurrence of the date of this letter, the anniversary of the most unfortunate day of my past existence, but which cannot poison my future while I retain the resource of your friendship, and of my own faculties, will henceforth have a more agreeable recollection for both, inasmuch as it will remind us of this my attempt to thank you for an indefatigable regard, such as few men have experienced, and -no- one could experience without thinking better of his species and of himself.
It has been our fortune to traverse together, at various periods, the countries of chivalry, history, and fable-Spain, Greece, Asia Minor, and Italy; and what Athens and Constantinople were to us a few years ago, Venice and Rome have been more recently. The poem also, or the pilgrim, or both, have accompanied me from first to last; and perhaps it may be a pardonable vanity which induces me to reflect with complacency on a composition which in some degree connects me with the spot where it was produced, and the objects it would fain describe; and however unworthy it may be deemed of those magical and memorable abodes, however short it may fall of our distant conceptions and immediate impressions, yet as a mark of respect for what is venerable, and of feeling for what is glorious, it has been to me a source of pleasure in the production, and I part with it with a kind of regret, which I hardly suspected that events could have left me for imaginary objects.
With regard to the conduct of the last canto, there will be found less of the pilgrim than in any of the preceding, and that little slightly, if at all, separated from the author speaking in his own person. The fact is, that I had become weary of drawing a line which every one seemed determined not to perceive: like the Chinese in Goldsmith's "Citizen of the World," whom nobody would believe to be a Chinese, it was in vain that I asserted, and imagined that I had drawn, a distinction between the author and the pilgrim; and the very anxiety to preserve this dif
ference, and disappointment at finding it unavailing, so far crushed my efforts in the composition, that I determined to abandon it altogether and have done So. The opinions which have been, or may be, formed on that subject, are now a matter of indifference; the work is to depend on itself, and not on the writer; and the author, who has no resources in his own mind beyond the reputation, transient or permanent, which is to arise from his literary efforts, deserves the fate of authors.
In the course of the following canto it was my intention, either in the text or in the notes, to have touched upon the present state of Italian literature, and perhaps of manners. But the text, within the limits I proposed, I soon found hardly sufficient for the labyrinth of external objects, and the consequent reflections; and for the whole of the notes, excepting a few of the shortest, I am indebted to yourself, and these were necessarily limited to the elucidation of the text.
It is also a delicate, and no very grateful task, to dissert upon the literature and manners of a nation so dissimilar; and requires an attention and impartiality which would induce us- -though perhaps no inattentive observers, nor ignorant of the language or customs of the people amongst whom we have recently abode to distrust, or at least defer our judgment, and more narrowly examine our information. The state of literary, as well as political party, appears to run, or to have run, so high, that for a stranger to steer impartially between them is next to impossible. It may be enough, then, at least for my purpose, to quote from their own beautiful language —“Mi pare che in un paese tutto poetico, che vanta la lingua la più nobile ed insieme la più dolce, tutte tutte le vie diverse si possono tentare, e che sinche la patria di Alfieri e di Monti non ha perduto l'antico valore, in tutte essa dovrebbe essere la prima." Italy has great names still-Canova, Monti, Ugo Foscolo, Pindemonte, Visconti, Morelli, Cicognara, Albrizzi, Mezzophanti, Mai, Mustoxidi, Aglietti, and Vacca, will secure to the present generation an honourable place in most of the departments of Art, Science, and Belles Lettres; and in some the very highestEurope-the World-has but one Canova.
It has been somewhere said by Alfieri, that " La pianta uomo nasce più robusta in Italia che in qualunque altra terra-e che gli stessi atroci delitti che vi si commettono ne sono una prova." Without subscribing to the latter part of his proposition, a dangerous doctrine, the truth of which may be disputed on better grounds, namely, that the Italians are in no respect more ferocious than their neighbours, that man must be wilfully blind, or ignorantly heedless, who is not struck with the extraordinary capacity of this people, or, if such a word be admissible, their capabilities, the facility of their acquisitions, the rapidity of their conceptions, the fire of their genius, their sense of beauty, and, amidst all the disadvantages of repeated revolutions, the desolation of battles, and the despair of ages, their still unquenched "longing after immortality," the immortality of independence. And when we ourselves, in riding round the walls of Rome, heard the simple lament of the
1 See Appendix, "Historical Notes," No. 1.
* Sabellicus, describing the appearance of Venice, has made use of the above image, which would not be poctical were it not true. Quo fit ut qui superne urbem contempletur,
labourers' chorus, "Roma! Roma! Roma! Roma non è più come era prima," it was difficult not to contrast this melancholy dirge with the bacchanal roar of the songs of exultation still yelled from the London taverns, over the carnage of Mont St. Jean, and the betrayal of Genoa, of Italy, of France, and of the world, by men whose conduct you yourseif have exposed in a work worthy of the better days of our history. For me,—
"Non movero mai corda
Ove la turba di sue ciance assorda."
What Italy has gained by the late transfer of nations, it were useless for Englishmen to inquire, till it becomes ascertained that England has acquired something more than a permanent army and a suspended Habeas Corpus; it is enough for them to look at home. For what they have done abroad, and espeIcially in the South, "Verily they will have their reward," and at no very distant period.
Wishing you, my dear Hobhouse, a safe and agreeable return to that country whose real welfare can be dearer to none than to yourself, I dedicate to you this poem in its completed state; and repeat once more how truly I am ever,
When Athens' armies fell at Syracuse,
Starts from its belt- he rends his captive's chains, And bids him thank the bard for freedom and his strains.
Thus, Venice, if no stronger claim were thine, Were all thy proud historic deeds forgot, Thy choral memory of the Bard divine, Thy love of Tasso, should have cut the knot Which ties thee to thy tyrants; and thy lot Is shameful to the nations, -most of all, Albion to thee: the Ocean queen should not Abandon Ocean's children; in the fall Of Venice think of thine, despite thy watery wall.
I loved her from my boyhood-she to me Was as a fairy city of the heart, Rising like water-columns from the sea, Of joy the sojourn, and of wealth the mart; And Otway, Radcliffe, Schiller, Shakspeare's art, 2 Had stamp'd her image in me, and even so, Although I found her thus, we did not part, Perchance even dearer in her day of woe, Than when she was a boast, a marvel, and a show.
I can repeople with the past—and of
The present there is still for eye and thought, And meditation chasten'd down, enough; And more, it may be, than I hoped or sought; And of the happiest moments which were wrought Within the web of my existence, some From thee, fair Venice! have their colours caught: There are some feelings Time can not benumb, Nor Torture shake, or mine would now be cold and dumb.
But from their nature will the tannen grow 3 Loftiest on loftiest and least shelter'd rocks, Rooted in barrenness, where nought below Of soil supports them 'gainst the Alpine shocks Of eddying storms; yet springs the trunk, and mocks The howling tempest, till its height and frame Are worthy of the mountains from whose blocks Of bleak, gray granite, into life it came, And grew a giant tree; - the mind may grow the same.
Existence may be borne, and the deep root
The story is told in Plutarch's Life of Nicias.
? Venice Preserved; Mysteries of Udolpho; the GhostSecr, or Armenian; the Merchant of Venice; Othello.
3 Tannen is the plural of tanne, a species of fir peculiar to the Alps, which only thrives in very rocky parts, where scarcely soil sufficient for its nourishment can be found. On these spots it grows to a greater height than any other
[The whole of this canto is rich in description of Nature. The love of Nature now appears as a distinct passion in Lord Byron's mind. It is a love that does not rest in beholding, nor is satisfied with describing, what is before him. It has a power and being, blending itself with the poet's very life. Though Lord Byron had, with his real eyes, perhaps, seen more of Nature than ever was before permitted to any great poet, yet he never before seemed to open his whole heart to