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INTRODUCTION TO THE HEBREW MELODIES.
THE "Hebrew Melodies" were written in London in the autumn of 1814. The immense difficulty of sacred poetry is apparent from the many men of genius who have attempted it with only moderate success. The sublime and affecting ideas involved in the theme being already expressed in Scripture with unrivalled power, and familiar to us from childhood, it is neither easy to call up thoughts which have the semblance of originality, nor to clothe them in language which will bear to be tried by the lofty standard of inspired song. Lord Byron wisely resolved not to walk in the confined and trodden circle of devotional strains. He had the whole Jewish history open to his choice, and his text is in general those martial, patriotic, and domestic circumstances which allow the imagination its freest range. In spite of the judgment with which he selected his subjects, some of Lord Byron's acquaintances thought the "Hebrew Melodies" below his reputation, pretending, with jesting exaggeration, to prefer Sternhold and Hopkins; nor were they received very favourably by the public, in part, perhaps, from their expecting in songs the stirring power of his longer compositions. The poet himself did not look back upon them with much complacency. "Sunburn Nathan !" he broke out, when Moore ridiculed the manner in which the "Melodies" were set to Music-"why do you always twit me with his vile Ebrew nasalities? Have I not told you it was all Kinnaird's doing, and my own exquisite facility of temper?" Subsequently Jeffrey stated in the Edinburgh Review that though obviously inferior to Lord Byron's other works, they displayed a skill in versification, and a mastery in diction which would have raised an inferior artist to the summit of distinction,-a judgment most gratifying to the poet, who said it was very kind in his critic to like them. A second admirer of the "Hebrew Melodies". Mrs. Grant, the author of the "Letters from the Mountains"-on reading the exquisitely pathetic piece, "Oh weep for those that wept by Babel's stream,' was unable to resist the literal fulfilment of the poet's invocation. The most plaintive and poetic passages, indeed, are those which relate to the wanderings of the Jews, and the third stanza of "The Wild Gazelle" is another mournful note struck on the same string which might no less "ope the sacred source of sympathetic tears." Had all been equal to what is best, the "Hebrew Melodies" must soon have excited universal admiration, but the majority of them are somewhat tame in sentiment, and one or two, like "Jephtha's Daughter," are not far removed from the school of Sternhold.
SHE WALKS IN BEAUTY.
SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
One shade the more, one ray the less,
And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
[These stanzas were written by Lord Byron, on returning from a ball where Lady Wilmot Horton had appeared in mourning, with numerous spangles on her dress.]
THE HARP THE MONARCH MINSTREL SWEPT.
THE harp the monarch minstrel swept,
O'er tones her heart of hearts had given,
gave them virtues not their own;
No ear so dull, no soul so cold,
That felt not, fired not to the tone,
Till David's lyre grew mightier than his throne!
It told the triumphs of our King,
The cedars bow, the mountains nod;
Its sound aspired to heaven and there abode !*
Still bid the bursting spirit soar
To sounds that seem as from above,
In dreams that day's broad light can not remove.
IF THAT HIGH WORLD.
Ir that high world, which lies beyond
The eye the same, except in tears
["When Lord Byron put the manuscript into my hand, it terminated with this line. As this, however, did not complete the verse, I asked him to help out the melody. He replied, 'Why, I have sent you to heaven-it would be difficult to go further!' My attention for a few minutes was called to some other person, and his Lordship, whom I had hardly missed, exclaimed, 'Here, Nathan, I have brought you down again;' and immediately presented me the beautiful lines which conclude the melody."-NATHAN.]
How welcome those untrodden spheres!
It must be so: 'tis not for self
Yet cling to Being's severing link.
To hold each heart the heart that shares,
THE WILD GAZELLE.
THE wild gazelle on Judah's hills
A step as fleet, an eye more bright,
The cedars wave on Lebanon,
But Judah's statelier maids are gone!
More blest each palm that shades those plains
Than Israel's scatter'd race;
For, taking root, it there remains
In solitary grace:
It cannot quit its place of birth,
But we must wander witheringly,
And where our fathers' ashes be,
OH! WEEP FOR THOSE.
OH! weep for those that wept by Babel's stream,
And where shall Israel lave her bleeding feet?
Tribes of the wandering foot and weary breast,
ON JORDAN'S BANKS.
ON Jordan's banks the Arab's camels stray,
Yet there even there-Oh God! thy thunders sleep: