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INTRODUCTION TO HOURS OF IDLENESS.
EARLY in the year 1806 Lord Byron was sitting with Miss Pigot at Southwell, listening to the poems of Burns, when he told the fair reciter that he too was a poet, and wrote down the lines "In thee, I fondly hoped to clasp." Then it was that the idea occurred to him of printing his manuscripts for private circulation, and he immediately set about revising old and composing new pieces. The volume was completed in November, and a copy sent to his friend Mr. Beecher, who returned a remonstrance in verse against some licentious stanzas. Lord Byron acknowledged the justice of the rebuke, and the same evening burnt the whole edition, with the exception of a copy retained by Mr. Beecher, and another which had been forwarded to Mr. Pigot, at Edinburgh. In January, 1807, he had a second private and enlarged edition of a hundred copies ready for distribution. His favoured correspondents commended the contents, and he was encouraged to prepare an edition for sale, which was published in the course of the summer by Mr. Ridge, a bookseller of Newark, the printer of the previous private volumes. Twenty poems equal, in Moore's opinion, if not superior to those retained, were now omitted, and others inserted. A second public impression, with further curtailments and additions, came out in the spring of 1808, almost simultaneously with the famous article in the Edinburgh Review. Hitherto the notices of his book had been mostly favourable, and the contemptuous reversal in the high court of criticism of the decision pronounced by inferior judges was gall and wormwood to the author. He affected indifference at the time, and pretended that, "as he had been lucky enough on the whole, his repose and appetite were not discomposed." Afterwards, when the mortification had been swallowed up in victory, he acknowledged how his spirit had fired at the blow. "It knocked me down," he said, "but I got up again. The effect upon me was rage and resistance; but not despondency nor despair. I was bent on falsifying their raven predictions, and determined to show them, croak as they would, that it was not the last time they should hear from me." He refreshed his spirits with three bottles of claret, and on that very day commenced "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers." After the first twenty lines he felt considerably better,-a sense of the smart he was about to inflict operating like a charm upon the wound he had received. He affirmed at the time that the Edinburgh reviewers had not performed
their task well, but later in life he called the critique "a master-piece of low wit." The injustice of the article was not, as is often alleged, in the insensibility it showed to poetic genius, for those who could see the germs of "Childe Harold " in the "Hours of Idleness," might detect the oak in an acorn. Nine pieces out of ten are rather vapid imitations of preceding writers, and though the acute and benignant eye of Walter Scott had already distinguished "passages of noble promise," which led him to expostulate with the editor of the Edinburgh Review upon the bitterness of the critique, yet he frankly confessed that they raised no expectation of even the dawning power which was displayed the two st Cantos of the Pilgrimage. Many buds of better promise have never blown. But the unpretending volume of a school-boy-clever for the age at which it was produced-might have been passed in silence, or treated with respect. There was nothing to warrant scornful jeering, and, indeed, zeal for politics, more than for poetry, is said to have inspired the article, which was dictated by the desire to humble a Peer. The Peer soon taught his critics that they had not set their foot upon a worm, but upon a snake that could sting, and Jeffrey then endeavoured to extenuate the wantonness of the attack by calling insulting ridicule "innocent pleasantry and moderate castigation."
HOURS OF IDLENESS.
ON THE DEATH OF A YOUNG LADY!
Cousin to the Author, and very dear to him.
HUSH'D are the winds, and still the evening gloom,
Within this narrow cell reclines her clay,
That clay, where once such animation beam'd; The King of Terrors seized her as his prey, Not worth, nor beauty, have her life redeem'd.
Oh! could that King of Terrors pity feel,
Or Heaven reverse the dread decrees of fate, Not here the mourner would his grief reveal,
Not here the muse her virtues would relate.
But wherefore weep? Her matchless spirit soars
Beyond where splendid shines the orb of day; And weeping angels lead her to those bowers,
Where endless pleasures virtue's deeds repay.
And shall presumptuous mortals Heaven arraign,
Yet is remembrance of those virtues dear,
Yet fresh the memory of that beauteous face; Still they call forth my warm affection's tear, Still in my heart retain their wonted place.
LET Folly smile, to view the names
Of thee and me in friendship twined; Yet Virtue will have greater claims
To love, than rank with vice combined.
And though unequal is thy fate,
Since title deck'd my higher birth! Yet envy not this gaudy state;
Thine is the pride of modest worth.
Our souls at least congenial meet,
Nor can thy lot my rank disgrace; Our intercourse is not less sweet,
Since worth of rank supplies the place.
In thee, I fondly hoped to clasp
A friend, whom death alone could sever; Till envy, with malignant grasp,
Detach'd thee from my breast for ever.
True, she has forced thee from my breast,
Yet, in my heart thou keep'st thy seat; There, there thine image still must rest,
Until that heart shall cease to beat.
And, when the grave restores her dead,
Without thee, where would be my heaven?
EPITAPH ON A FRIEND.
“*Αστὴς τρὶ μὲν ἔλαμπες ἑνὶ ζωοῖσιν ἑῷος.”—LAERTIUS.
Он, Friend! for ever loved, for ever dear!
The spot where now thy mouldering ashes lie,
WHEN, to their airy hall, my fathers' voice