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English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (excerpt)

George Gordon Lord Byron 1788 (London) – 1824 (Missolonghi, Aetolia)

Time was, ere yet in these degenerate days
  Ignoble themes obtain'd mistaken praise,
  When sense and wit with poesy allied,
  No fabl'd graces, flourish'd side by side;
  From the same fount their inspiration drew,
  And, rear'd by taste, bloom'd fairer as they grew.
  Then, in this happy isle, a Pope's pure strain
  Sought the rapt soul to charm, nor sought in vain;
  A polish'd nation's praise aspir'd to claim,
  And rais'd the people's, as the poet's fame.
  Like him great Dryden pour'd the tide of song,
  In stream less smooth, indeed, yet doubly strong.
  Then Congreve's scenes could cheer, or Otway's melt--
  For nature then an English audience felt.
  But why these names, or greater still, retrace,
  When all to feebler bards resign their place?
  Yet to such times our lingering looks are cast,
  When taste and reason with those times are past.
  Now look around, and turn each trifling page,
  Survey the precious works that please the age;
  This truth at least let satire's self allow,
  No dearth of bards can be complain'd of now.
  The loaded press beneath her labour groans,
  And printers' devils shake their weary bones;
  While Southey's epics cram the creaking shelves,
  And Little's lyrics shine in hot-press'd twelves.
  Thus saith the Preacher: "Nought beneath the sun
  Is new"; yet still from change to change we run:
  What varied wonders tempt us as they pass!
  The cow-pox, tractors, galvanism and gas,
  In turns appear, to make the vulgar stare,
  Till the swoln bubble bursts--and all is air!
  Nor less new schools of Poetry arise,
  Where dull pretenders grapple for the prize:
  O'er taste awhile these pseudo-bards prevail;
  Each country book-club bows the knee to Baal,
  And, hurling lawful genius from the throne,
  Erects a shrine and idol of its own;
  Some leaden calf--but whom it matters not,
  From soaring Southey down to grovelling Stott.

  Behold! in various throngs the scribbling crew,
  For notice eager, pass in long review:
  Each spurs his jaded Pegasus apace,
  And rhyme and blank maintain an equal race;
  Sonnets on sonnets crowd, and ode on ode;
  And tales of terror jostle on the road;
  Immeasurable measures move along;
  For simpering folly loves a varied song,
  To strange mysterious dulness still the friend,
  Admires the strain she cannot comprehend.
  Thus Lays of Minstrels--may they be the last!--
  On half-strung harps whine mournful to the blast.
  While mountain spirits prate to river sprites,
  That dames may listen to the sound at nights;
  And goblin brats, of Gilpin Horner's brood,
  Decoy young border-nobles through the wood,
  And skip at every step, Lord knows how high,
  And frighten foolish babes, the Lord knows why;
  While high-born ladies in their magic cell,
  Forbidding knights to read who cannot spell,
  Despatch a courier to a wizard's grave,
  And fight with honest men to shield a knave.

  Next view in state, proud prancing on his roan,
  The golden-crested haughty Marmion,
  Now forging scrolls, now foremost in the fight,
  Not quite a felon, yet but half a knight,
  The gibbet or the field prepar'd to grace;
  A mighty mixture of the great and base.
  And think'st thou, Scott! by vain conceit perchance,
  On public taste to foist thy stale romance,
  Though Murray with his Miller may combine
  To yield thy muse just half-a-crown per line?
  No! when the sons of song descend to trade,
  Their bays are sear, their former laurels fade.
  Let such forego the poet's sacred name,
  Who rack their brains for lucre, not for fame:
  Still for stern Mammon may they toil in vain!
  And sadly gaze on gold they cannot gain!
  Such be their meed, such still the just reward
  Of prostituted muse and hireling bard!
 For this we spurn Apollo's venal son,
  And bid a long "good night to Marmion."

  These are the themes that claim our plaudits now;
  These are the bards to whom the muse must bow;
  While Milton, Dryden, Pope, alike forgot,
  Resign their hallow'd bays to Walter Scott.

  The time has been, when yet the muse was young,
  When Homer swept the lyre, and Maro sung,
  An epic scarce ten centuries could claim,
  While awe-struck nations hail'd the magic name;
  The work of each immortal bard appears
  The single wonder of a thousand years.
  Empires have moulder'd from the face of earth,
  Tongues have expir'd with those who gave them birth, <
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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George Gordon Lord Byron

George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, known simply as Lord Byron, was an English poet, peer and politician who became a revolutionary in the Greek War of Independence, and is considered one of the leading figures of the Romantic movement. He is regarded as one of the greatest English poets and remains widely read and influential. Among his best-known works are the lengthy narrative poems Don Juan and Childe Harold's Pilgrimage; many of his shorter lyrics in Hebrew Melodies also became popular. He travelled extensively across Europe, especially in Italy, where he lived for seven years in the cities of Venice, Ravenna, and Pisa. During his stay in Italy he frequently visited his friend and fellow poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Later in life Byron joined the Greek War of Independence fighting the Ottoman Empire and died of disease leading a campaign during that war, for which Greeks revere him as a national hero. He died in 1824 at the age of 36 from a fever contracted after the First and Second Siege of Missolonghi. His only legitimate child, Ada Lovelace, is regarded as a foundational figure in the field of computer programming based on her notes for Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine. Byron's illegitimate children include Allegra Byron, who died in childhood, and possibly Elizabeth Medora Leigh.  more…

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    "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (excerpt)" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 17 May 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/15074/english-bards-and-scotch-reviewers-(excerpt)>.

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