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AN EXILED WANDERER.
Byron's marriage with Miss Milbanke took place in 1815. Almost from the beginning there were disagreements, and in a twelvemonth the union was dissolved. One daughter, Ada, to whom are addressed the touching lines which open the third canto of “Childe Harold,” reminded the unhappy parents of what their home might have been.
Having produced The Siege of Corinth and Parisina amid the miseries of his last months in London, where he was abused in the papers and hissed in the streets for his conduct to his wife, he left England in disgust in the spring of 1816, and never saw his native land again. Restless and miserable years they were that filled up the allotted span of poor Byron's life. He passed—a lonely wanderer, with many a poisoned arrow rankling in his memory and heart--over the blood-stained ground of Waterloo, amid the snowy summits of the Jura echoing with frequent thunder, into the beautiful Italian land, to find in the faded palaces of Venice and the mouldering columns of Rome fit emblems of his own ruined life,—but, alas! not to read these lessons of the dead past with a softening and repentant soul. At Venice, at Ravenna, at Pisa, and at Rome, he lived a wicked and most irregular life, writing many poems, for which he received many thousand pounds, but descending, as he sank morally, into a fitful and frequently morbid style, too often poisoned with reckless blasphemy and unconcealed licentiousness.
His greatest work, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage,* was finished in 1818. The third canto was written at Geneva; the fourth and last, chiefly at Venice. The Spenserian 1818 stanza takes a noble music in the skilful hand of Byron. The view of modern Rome, the starlight vision of the bleeding Gladiator, and the address to the Ocean, which no familiarity can ever rob of its sublime effect, are the finest passages of the closing poem.
Of course Byron tried his pen at dramatic writing. Almost every poet does. But the author of “Childe Harold” and the
* Childe is an old English word, signifying a knight. Byron at first intended to give an antique cast to the diction of the poem.
“Corsair” had not the power of going out of himself, which a success. ful dramatist must possess. That dark and morbidly romantic figure, of whom we have spoken before, haunts us through all the Mysteries and Tragedies which this unhappy genius produced in the later years of his shadowed life. Cain and Manfred are the most powerful of these works; but they afford, especially the former, a terrible view into the workings of a mind steeped in rebellious pride and misanthropy. Marino Faliero, The Two Foscari, Sardanapalus, Werner, Heaven and Earth, and the Deformed Transformed, are the principal remaining dramas from Byron's pen.
His last great literary effort was the composition of his most dangerous work, Don Juan. Dangerous, we say, because it is draped and garlanded with passages of exceeding beauty and sweetness. It stands, a fragment of unfinished toil, a sad memento of lofty genius debased to the foulest use.
Never were shining gold and black mire so industriously heaped together. It seems as if the unhappy bard, tired of hating his fellow-mortals, had turned with fierce mockery upon himself, to degrade and trample on that very genius upon which was based his only claim to admiration, and which alone can save from ridicule his scornful isolation of himself.
Byron's last enterprise flings a somewhat pathetic light upon his closing days. The Greece whose ancient glories and whose lovely shores had formed a chief theme of his earlier
had risen at length from her ignoble bondage. The War of Independence had begun. Sailing from Leghorn in 1823, Byron landed in Cephalonia, and soon passed to Missolonghi. With money, with advice, with encouragement, and with bodily service, he began to work eagerly in the cause of his adopted land. Difficulties were thick around him; for wild lawlessness was everywhere, and fierce quarrels occurred in the Greek army every day. In a few months he did much to overcome these troubles, and was looking forward with eagerness to leading an attack on Lepanto, when fever, rising from the marshes of Missolonghi, seized in its deadly gripe his enervated and toil-worn frame.
SPECIMEN OF BYRON'S VERSE.
He died on the 19th of April 1824; and three days later, his turbulent Suliotes gathered, pale and tearful, round his coffin, to hear the funeral service read. The body of 1824 the poet was carried to England, and interred in the family vault at Hucknall, near Newstead.
The Prisoner of Chillon, a sweetly mournful sketch written at Geneva; The Lament of Tasso; The Prophecy of Dante; Beppo, a light tale of Venetian iic, Mazeppa; and the terrible Vision of Judgment, written in mockery of a like-titled poem by Southey, with whom he had a deadly feud, complete the list of Byron's more important works.
ADDRESS TO THE OCEAN.
(FROM "CHILDE HAROLD.")
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan-
His steps are not upon thy paths—thy fields
His petty hope in some near port or bay,
The armaments, which thunder-strike the walls
They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar
SPECIMEN OF BYRON'S VERSE.
Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee.
Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow-
Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty's form
The monsters of the deep are made; each zone
And I have loved thee, Ocean ! and my joy
And trusted to thy billows far and near,
“ NATURE'S sternest painter, yet the best,” wrote Lord Byron of the poet Crabbe. It was a just and generous compliment, deriving additional value from the brilliance of the pen that traced the words.
Well might George Crabbe be a painter of stern and gloomy scenes, for with these he had been familiar from earliest childhood. His first recollections were of a flat and ugly coast, bordered with slimy rock-pools, washed by discoloured waves, and tenanted only by a race of wild, amphibious, weather-beaten men, who, for the most part, added to their lawful calling as fishermen the yet more hazardous occupation of the smuggler. Such was the scenery, and such were the people round Aldborough in Suffolk, where in 1754 he was born. His father, the salt-master or collector of salt duties in that little town, treated his 1754 son George, as he seems to have treated everybody else, with considerable harshness. But the boy had early found a consolation for the passing griefs of childhood. He used to cut out for his private reading the occasional verses of a periodical, for which his father subscribed. Over and over again the treasured scraps were conned, until the happy owner began to imitate their simple music.
The life of Crabbe, before settling down into the quietude of a rural parish, presents pleasant and painful scenes.
The boy of fourteen, who had already got some grounding in classics and mathematics, was apprenticed to a surgeon at Wickham Brook,