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LONDON CRITICAL JOURNAL.
ART. I.-1. Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. Canto the Fourth. By Lord Byron. 8vo. pp. 257. Murray. London, 1818. 2. Historical Illustrations of the Fourth Canto of Childe Harold: containing Dissertations on the Ruins of Rome; and an Essay on Italian Literature. By John Hobhouse, Esq. of Trinity College, Cambridge, M. A. and F. R. S. 8vo. pp. 584. Murray. London, 1818.
THOSE who have perused our former examinations of Lord Byron's several poems, and have at the same time observed the identity of character and principle by which these poems are throughout distinguished, will wonder what we have yet to say upon this exhausted subject. In truth, the task to us is a melancholy one; and we should very gladly have declined a recurrence to it, if we did not think that not only literary but moral justice imposed upon us the duty of doing that which other journals have left undone, from what motives we presume not to conjecture.
We have now the poem of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage complete, with its four cantos; but complete in no other sense than this, that the bard informs us, that he intends not to prosecute the theme any further under this denomination. But it is quite evident, that such is the loose texture of his plan, that whenever the whim takes him, the poet may add to the poem stanzas, or cantos, in what part of it he pleases. His design has no limit but the geographical extent of his travels; and whatever may be the quarter of the globe which his restless spirit may still prompt him to visit, opportunities of injuriously comparing the
society; government, laws, and usages of our own country, with the rights, privileges, and immunities of other nations, licensed by ignorance or superstition to give a freer scope to the natural appetites, will be still occurring. It is but justice, however, to the noble author to admit, that in this fourth canto topics of a more manly nature, and something less of whining egotism and disappointed sensualism, accompany the pilgrimage of him he calls the Childe than were observable in the former parts of this rambling work. The characteristic affectation, however, of the sentimental parts of the poem is by no means abandoned. The heart is sick amidst all that administers to the voluptuousness of the imagination and to the pride of genius. A wrong and diseased and perverted view of life, its substantial felicities and its real obligations; an unholy and presumptuous consideration of spiritual objects, the purposes of our creation, and the conditions of futurity, disparage all the gifts of beneficent Nature in the composition of this truly poetical mind, and turn to abuse and disorder the means of rational delight and virtuous improvement.
It was impossible not to smile at the following observations which occur in the very discreditable performance which is prefixed to this canto by way of preface.
"With regard to the conduct of the last canto, there will be found less of the pilgrim than in any of the preceding, and that little slightly, if at all, separated from the author speaking in his own person. The fact is, that I had become weary of drawing a line which every one seemed determined not to perceive: like the Chinese in Goldsmith's Citizen of the World,' whom nobody would believe to be a Chinese, it was in vain that I asserted, and imagined, that I had drawn a distinction between the author and the pilgrim; and the very anxiety to preserve this difference, and disappointment at finding it unavailing, so far crushed my efforts in the composition, that I determined to abandon it altogether-and have done so." (P. vii, viii.)
Now this is altogether very childish and very ridiculous. To preserve the line of distinction clear between the pilgrim and the poet could not have been difficult. As the author has claimed for himself the privilege of speaking when it suited him in his own person, what could have been more easy than in his proper character to have interwoven a running commentary upon the sentiments ascribed to the hero of the poem, condemning in manly strains his egotism, his pride, his impertinence, his selfishness, his sensuality, and sottish infidelity? And what are we to think of this line of distinction asserted to be so anxiously maintained, and yet in fact so imperceptibly marked as to allow the poet still to carry on the plan and preserve the name of the poem in this concluding part, consistently with an explicit an