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“The poesy of this young lord belongs to the class which neither gods nor men are said to permit. Indeed we do not recollect to have seen a quantity of verse with so few deviations in either direction for that exact standard. His effusions are spread over a dead flat, and can no more get above or below the level than if they were so much stagnant water. . . . We desire to counsel him that he forthwith abandon poetry and turn his talents, which are considerable, and his opportunities, which are great, to better account.*
So his profanity in the “Vision of Judgment,” was in answer to Southey's poem of that name, the introduction of which contained strictures against him. Accused of being Satanic, he replies with some profanity, and with that humour which he principally shows in such retorts
“ Saint Peter sat by the celestial gate,
“The angels all were singing out of tune,
And hoarse with having little else to do,
* Byron showed his love of humour even in some of these early effusions, speaking of his college he says: “Our choir would scarcely be excused,
Even as a band of raw beginners :
To such a set of croaking sinners.
Had heard these blockheads sing before him,
In furious mood, he would have tore 'em.”
Or curb a runaway young star or two,
The effect of Southey reading his “ Vision of Judgment” is thus given :“Those grand heroics acted as a spell,
The angels stopped their ears, and plied their pinions,
His poem on a lady who maligned him to his wife, seems to show that he did not well distinguish where the humorous ends and the ludicrous begins. He represents her
“ With a vile mask the Gorgon would disown
A cheek of parchment and an eye of stone,
As in a mirror of itself defined.” No one suffered more than Byron from his humour being misapprehended. His letters abound with jests and jeux d'esprit, which were often taken seriously as admissions of an immoral character. We gladly turn to something pleasanter—to some of the few humorous pieces he wrote in a genial tone
Lines to Mr. Hodgson (afterwards Provost of Eton) written on board the packet for Lisbon,
“Huzza ! Hodgson, we are going,
Here's a rascal
Come to task all,
Now our boatmen quit the mooring,
Thus are screaming
Men and women,
All are wrangling,
Fletcher! Murray! Bob! where are you ?
In Beppo there is much gay carnival merriment and some humour—a style well suited to Italian revelry. When Laura's husband, Beppo, returns, and is seen in a new guise at a ball, we read
“He was a Turk the colour of mahogany
And Laura saw him, and at first was glad,
On being assured that he is her husband, she
More than half the poem is taken up with digressions, more or less amusing, such as“Oh, mirth and innocence! Oh milk and water !
Ye happy mixtures of more happy days!
Abominable man no more allays
I love you both, and both shall have my praise !
Meantime I drink to your return in brandy." We may observe that there is humour in the rhymes in the above stanzas. He often used absurd terminations to his lines as
“ For bating Covent garden, I can hit on
No place that's called Piazza in Great Britain."
People going to Italy, are to take with them“ Ketchup, Soy, Chili-vinegar and Harvey,
Or, by the Lord! a Lent will well nigh starve ye.” We are here reminded of the endings of some of Butler's lines. Such rhymes were then regarded as poetical, but in our improved taste we only use them for humour. Lamb considered them to be a kind of punning, but in one case the same position, in the other the same signification is given to words of the same sound. The following couplet was written humorously by Swift for a dog's collar
“ Pray steal me not: I'm Mrs. Dingley's
Whose heart in this four-footed thing lies.” Pope has the well known lines, “Worth makes the man and want of it the fellow,
And all the rest is leather and prunella." Miss Sinclair also, in her description of the Queen's visit to Scotland, has adopted these irregular terminations with good effect“Our Queen looks far better in Scotland than England No sight's been like this since I once saw the King land. Edina! long thought by her neighbours in London A poor country cousin by poverty undone; The tailors with frantic speed, day and night cut on, While scolded to death if they misplace a button. And patties and truffles are better for Verrey's aid, And cream tarts like those which once almost killed