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MONODY ON SHERID.A.N. 473 #3ttolip ON THE DEATH OF THE IRIGIIT IION. R. B. SHERIDAN. İ
srox 2N AT 1, is U Ry-LANE T11zATRE. 2 when the last sunshine of expiring day But small that portion of the wondrous whole, In summer's twilight weeps itself away, These sparkling segments of that circling soul, Who hath not felt the softness of the hour Which all embraced — and lighten’d over all, Sink on the heart, as dew along the flower 7 To cheer — to pierce — to please—or to appal. With a pure feeling which absorbs and awes From the charm'd council to the festive board, While Nature makes that melancholy pause, Of human feelings the unbounded lord ; Her breathing moment on the bridge where Time In whose acclaim the loftiest voices vied, spride.
Of light and darkness forms an arch sublime,
Even as the tenderness that hour instils
1 (Mr. Sheridan died the 7th of July, 1816, and this monody was written at Diodati on the 17th, at the request of Mr. Douglas Kinnaird. “I did as well as I could," says flord Byron, “but where I have not my choice, I pretend to answer for nothing." A proof-sheet of the poem, with the words “ by request of a friend" in the titlepage, having reached him. – " I request you,” he says, “to expunge that same, unless you please to add, ‘by a person of o or or wit and humour.' It is sad trash, and must have been done to make it ridiculous."]
* [sheridan's own monody on Garrick was spoken from the same boards, by Mrs. Yates, in March, 1779. " One day.” says Lord Byron, " I onw him take it up. He lighted upon the dedication to the Dowager Lady Spencer. On seeing it, he flew into a rage and exclaimed, "...that it must be a forgery; as he had never dedicated any thing of his to such a d-d conting,’ &c. &c. – and so he went on for half an hour abusing his own dedication, or at least the object of it... If nil writers were equally sincere, it would be ludicrous."— Byron Diary, 1821.]
a [see Fox, murke, and Pitt's eulogy on Mr. Sheridan's speech on the charges exhibited against Mr. Hastings in the House of Commons. Mr. Pitt entreated the House to adjourn, to give time for a caliner consideration of the question than could then occur after the immediate effect of that oration. — * Before my departure from England..." says Gibbon, “...was present at the august spectacle of Mr. Hastings's trial in Westininster liall. It is not my province to absolve or condemn the governor of India ; but Mr. Sheridan's eloquence demanded my applause ; nor could I hear without emotion the personal compliment which he paid me in the presence of the British nation. This display of genius blazed four successive days,” &c. On being asked by a brother Whig. at the conclusion of the speech, how he came to coinplinent
The praised — the proud — who made his praise their
* [" Once I saw Sheridan cry, after a splendid dinner... I had the honour of sitting next him. The occasion of his tears was some observation or other upon the subject of the sturdiness of the Whigs in resisting office and keeping to their principles. Sheridan turned round:—“Sir, it is eas for my Lord G. or Earl G. or Marquis B. or Lord H., with thousands upon thousands a year, some of it either presently derived or inherited in sinecure or acquisitions from the public money, to boast of their patriotism and keep aloof from temptation: but they do not know from what temptation those have kept aloof who had equal pride, at least equal talents, and not unequal passions, and nevertheless knew not in the course of their lives what it was to have a shilling of their own.' And in saying this he wept. I have more than once heard him say, “that he never had a shilling of his own.” To be sure, he contrived to extract a good many of other people's. In 1815, I found him at my lawyer's. After mutual greetings, he retired. Before recurring to my own business, I could not help inquiring that of Sheridan. “Oh,' replied the attorney, the usual thing to stave off an action."— “Well," said I, and what do you mean to do?'—“Nothing at all for the go; said he would you have us proceed against old Sherry 2 what would be the use of it?' and here he began laughing, and going over Sheridan's good gifts of conversation. Such was Sheridan he could soften an attorncy! There has been nothing like it since the days of Orpheus.”— I'yron Diary, 1821.]
Isard is his fate on whom the public gaze
1 [This was not fiction. Only a few days before his death, Sheridan wrote thus to Mr. Rogers: – I am absolutely undone and broken-hearted. They are going to put the carpets out of window, and break into Mrs. S.'s room and take me : 1504. will remove all difficulty. For God's sake let me see you !” Mr. Moore was the immediate bearer of the required sum. This was written on the 15th of May. On the 14th of July, Sheridan's remains were deposited in Westminster Abbey, - his pall-bearers being the Duke of Bedford, the Earl of Lauderdale, Earl Mulgrave, the Lord Bishop of London, Lord Holland, and Earl Spencer.] * [“Abandon'd by the skies, whose beams have nurst Their very thunders, lighten—scorch—and buro J * Fox–Pitt–Burke. [“When Fox was asked, which he thought the best speech he had ever heard, he replied, “Sheridan's on the impeachment of Hastings in the House of Commons. When he made it. Fox advised him to speak it over again in Westminster Hall on the trial, as nothing better could be made of the subject: but Sheridan made his new speech as different as possible, and, according to the best judges, very inferior, notwithstanding the panegyric of Burke, who exclaimed during the delivery of some passages of it – “There, that is the true style—something between poetry and prose, and better than either.'"— Byron Diary, Jron Lord Holland,) 1821.] “ (“In society I have met Sheridan frequently. He was superb! I have seen him cut up. Whitbread, quiz Madame de Stael, annihilate Colman, and do little less by some others of good fame and ability. I have met him at all places and parties
Driven o'er the lowering atmosphere that nurst Thoughts which have turn'd to thunder—scorch— and burst. 2
But far from us and from our mimic scene Such things should be — if such have ever been ; Ours be the gentler wish, the kinder task, To give the tribute Glory need not ask, To mourn the vanish'd beam —and add our mite Of praise in payment of a long delight. Ye Orators whom yet our councils yield, Mourn for the veteran Hero of your field ! The worthy rival of the wondrous Three 13 Whose words were sparks of Immortality : Ye Bards ! to whom the Drama's Muse is dear, He was your Master— emulate him here ! Ye men of wit and social eloquence : * He was your brother—bear his ashes hence While Powers of mind almost of boundless range, * Complete in kind—as various in their change, While Eloquence—Wit— Poesy — and Mirth, That humbler Harmonist of care on Earth, Survive within our souls—while lives our sense Of pride in Merit's proud pre-eminence, Long shall we seek his likeness—long in vain, And turn to all of him which may remain, Sighing that Nature form'd but one such man, And broke the die — in moulding Sheridan.
Diodati, July 17. 1816.
They do divide our being; they become
—at Whitehall with the Melbournes, at the Marquis of Tavistock's, at Robins's the auctioneers, at Sir Humphry Davy's, at Sam Rogers's —in short, in most kinds of company, and to found him convivial and delightful.”— Byron Diary, 821.
* [“Lord Holland told me a curious piece of sentimentality in Sheridan. The other night we were all delivering our respective and various opinions upon him and other hommer marquans, and mine was this:– “Whatever Sheridan has done or chosen to do has been par crocilence always the best of its kind. He has written the best comedy (School for Scandal), the best drama (in my mind, far beyond that St. Giles's lampoon, the Beggars' Opera), the best farce (the Critic–it is only too g for a farce), and the best address (Monologue on Garrick), and, to crown all, delivered the very best oration (the famous Begum speech) ever conceived or heard in this country. Somebody told Sheridan this the next day, and, on hearing it, he burst into tears : Poor Brinsley if they were tears of pleasure, I would rather have said these few, but most sincere, words, than have written the Iliad, or made his own celebrated philippic. Nay, his own comedy never gratified me more than to hear that he had derived a moment's gratification from any praise of mine.”—Byron Diary, Dec. 17. 1813.)
* [In the first draught of this poem, Lord Byron had entitled it “The Destiny.” Mr. Moore says, “it cost him many a tear in writing,” and justly characterises it as “the most mournful, as well as picturesque story of a wandering life." that ever came from the pen and heart of man.” It was composed at Diodati, in July 1816.)
Is not the past all shadow 7 What are they
II. I saw two beings in the hues of youth Standing upon a hill, a gentle hill, Green and of mild declivity, the last As 't were the cape of a long ridge of such, Save that there was no sea to lave its base, But a most living landscape, and the wave Of woods and cornfields, and the abodes of men Scatter'd at intervals, and wreathing smoke Arising from such rustic roofs; — the hill Was crown'd with a peculiar diadem Of trees, in circular array, so fix’d, Not by the sport of nature, but of man: These two, a maiden and a youth, were there Gazing — the one on all that was beneath Fair as herself—but the boy gazed on her; And both were young, and one was beautiful: And both were young—yet not alike in youth. As the sweet moon on the horizon's verge, The maid was on the eve of womanhood; The boy had fewer summers, but his heart Had far outgrown his years, and to his eye There was but one beloved face on earth, And that was shining on him ; he had look'd Upon it till it could not pass away; He had no breath, no being, but in hers: She was his voice; he did not speak to her, But trembled on her words: she was his sight, I For his eye follow'd hers, and saw with hers, Which colour'd all his objects : — he had ceased To live within himself; she was his life, The ocean to the river of his thoughts, Which terminated all ; upon a tone, A touch of hers, his blood would ebb and flow, And his cheek change tempestuously — his heart Unknowing of its cause of agony. But she in these fond feelings had no share: Her sighs were not for him ; to her he was Even as a brother—but no more; 't was much, For brotherless she was, save in the name Her infant friendship had bestow'd on him; Herself the solitary scion left Of a time-honour'd race. *— It was a name [why? Which pleased him, and yet pleased him not — and Time taught him a deep answer — when she loved Another ; even now she loved another, And on the summit of that hill she stood
“she was his sight, For never did he turn his glance until Her own had led by gazing on an object.”—MS.] * I See ante. p. 384. –“Our union,” said Lord Byron in 1821. “would have healed feuds in which blood had been shed by our fathers—it would have joined lands, broad and rich— it would have joined at least one heart and two persons not ill-matched in years (she is two years my elder)—and—and —and—what has been the result l”] 3. .." picture which Lord Byron has here drawn of his youthful love shows how genius and feeling can elevate the realities of this life, and give to the commonest events and objects an undying lustre. The old hall at Annesley, under the name of the “ antique oratory,” will long call up to fancy the “maiden and the youth " who once stood in it while the
Looking afar if yet her lover's steed
III. A change came o'er the spirit of my dream. There was an ancient mansion, and before Its walls there was a steed caparison'd : Within an antique Oratory stood The Boy of whom I spake; – he was alone, And pale, and pacing to and fro: anon He sate him down, and seized a pen, and traced Words which I could not guess of ; then he lean'd His bow'd head on his hands, and shook as 't were With a convulsion — then arose again, And with his teeth and quivering hands did tear What he had written, but he shed no tears. 3 And he did calm himself, and fix his brow Into a kind of quiet: as he paused, The Lady of his love re-enter'd there; She was serene and smiling then, and yet She knew she was by him beloved, – she knew, For quickly comes such knowledge, that his heart Was darken'd with her shadow, and she saw That he was wretched, but she saw not all. 4 He rose, and with a cold and gentle grasp He took her hand; a moment o'er his face A tablet of unutterable thoughts Was traced, and then it faded, as it came ; He dropp'd the hand he held, and with slow steps Retired, but not as bidding her adieu, For they did part with mutual smiles; he pass'd From out the massy gate of that old Hall, And mounting on his steed he went his way; And ne'er repass'd that hoary threshold more.
A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
* [“I had long been in love with M. A. C., and never told it, though she had discovered it without. I recollect my sensations, but cannot describe them, and it is as well.”—Byron Diary, 1822.]
* [This is true keeping—an Eastern picture perfect in its foreground, and distance, and sky, and no part of which is so dwelt upon or laboured as to obscure the principal figure. It is often in the slight and almost imperceptible touches that the hand of the master is shown, and that a single spark,
struck from his fancy, lightens with a long train of illumination that of the reader. — Sin WALTER Scorr.]
V. A change came o'er the spirit of my dream. The Lady of his love was wed with One Who did not love her better : —in her home, A thousand leagues from his, – her native home, She dwelt, begirt with growing Infancy, Daughters and sons of Beauty, - but behold 1 Upon her face there was the tint of grief, The settled shadow of an inward, strife, And an unquiet drooping of the eye, As if its lid were charged with unshed tears. What could her grief be 2 – she had all she loved, And he who had so loved her was not there To trouble with bad hopes, or evil wish, Or ill-repress'd affliction, her pure thoughts. What could her grief be 2 — she had loved him not, Nor given him cause to deem himself beloved, Nor could he be a part of that which prey'd Upon her mind — a spectre of the past.
VI. A change came o'er the spirit of my dream. The Wanderer was return'd. — I saw him stand Before an Altar—with a gentle bride; Her face was fair, but was not that which made The Starlight of his Boyhood ; –as he stood Even at the altar, o'er his brow there came The selfsame aspect, and the quivering shock That in the antique Oratory shook His bosom in its solitude; and then — As in that hour—a moment o'er his face The tablet of unutterable thoughts Was traced—and then it faded as it came, And he stood calm and quiet, and he spoke The fitting vows, but heard not his own words, And all things reel'd around him ; he could see Not that which was, nor that which should have been— But the old mansion, and the accustom'd hall, And the remember'd chambers, and the place, The day, the hour, the sunshine, and the shade, All things pertaining to that place and hour, And her who was his destiny, came back And thrust themselves between him and the light: What business had they there at such a time * *
VII. A change came o'er the spirit of my dream. The Lady of his love ; – Oh she was changed, As by the sickness of the soul; her mind Had wander'd from its dwelling, and her eyes, They had not their own lustre, but the look Which is not of the earth ; she was become The queen of a fantastic realm ; her thoughts Were combinations of disjointed things; And forms impalpable and unperceived Of others' sight familiar were to hers. And this the world calls frenzy ; but the wise Have a far deeper madness, and the glance Of melancholy is a fearful gift; What is it but the telescope of truth 2 Which strips the distance of its fantasies, And brings life near in utter nakedncss, Making the cold reality too real | *
VIII. A change came o'er the spirit of my dream. The Wanderer was alone as heretofore, The beings which surrounded him were gone, Or were at war with him; he was a mark For blight and desolation, compass'd round With Hatred and Contention ; Pain was mix’d In all which was served up to him, until, Like to the Pontic monarch of old days, 3 He fed on poisons, and they had no power, But were a kind of nutriment; he lived Through that which had been death to many men, And made him friends of mountains: with the stars And the quick Spirit of the Universe He held his dialogues and they did teach To him the magic of their mysteries; To him the book of Night was open'd wide, And voices from the deep abyss reveal’d A marvel and a secret — Be it so.
IX. My dream was past; it had no further change. It was of a strange order, that the doom Of these two creatures should be thus traced out Almost like a reality — the one To end in madness — both in misery. 4
! [This touching picture agrees closely, in many of its circumstances, with, Lord Byron's own prose account of the wedding in his Memoranda ; in which he describes himself as waking, on the morning of his marriage, with the most melancholy reflections, on seeing his wedding-suit spread out before him. In the same mood, he wandered about the grounds alone, till he was summoned for the ceremony, and joined, for the first time, on that day, his bride and her family. He knelt down — he repeated the words after the clergyman ; but a mist was before his eyes – his thoughts were elsewhere ; and he was but awakened by the congratulations of the bystanders to find that he was — married. – Moone.]
2 [“. For it becomes the telescope of truth,
And shows us all things naked as they arc.” – MS.] * Mithrillates of Pontus.
Pastor Fido, with letters of Tasso, one from Titian to Ariosto, and the inkstand and chair, the tomb and the house, of the latter. But, as misfortune has a greater interest for posterity, and little or none for
4. o poem is written with great beauty and genius – but is extremely painful. We cannot maintain our accurstomed tone of levity, or even speak like calm literary judges, in the midst of these agonising traces of a wounded and distempered spirit. Even our admiration is swallowed up in a most painful feeling of pity and of wonder. It is impossible to mistake these for fictitious sorrows, conjured up for the purpose of poetical effect. There is a dreadful tone of sincerity, and an energy that cannot be counterfeited, in the expression of wretchedness, and alienation from human-kund, which occurs in every line of this poem. – Jeff REY.]
* [In a moment of dissatisfaction with himself, or during some melancholy mood, when his soul felt the worthlessness of fame and glory, Lord Byron told the world that his shti-e should, for a long season, shroud herself in solitude (see ante, p. 460.); and every true lover of genius launcated that
her lofty music was to cease. But there was a tide in his spirit obeying the laws of its nature, and not to be controlled by any human will. When he said that he was to be silent, he looked, perhaps, into the inner regions of his soul, and saw there a dim, hard, and cheerless waste, like the sand of the sca-shore; but the ebbed waves of passion in due course returned, and the scene was restored to its former beauty and magnificence, — its foam, its splendours, and its thunder. The mind of a mighty poet cannot submit even to chains of its own imposing: when it feels most enslaved, even then, perhaps, is it about to become most free ; and one sudden ilash inay raise it from the darkness of its despondency up to the pure air of untroubled confidence. It required, therefore, but small knowledge of human nature, to assure ourselves that the obligation under which Lord Byron had laid himself could not bind, and that the potent spirit within him would laugh to scorn whatever dared to curb the frenzy of its own inspirations. It was not long, therefore, till he again came forth in his perfect strength, and exercised that dominion over our spirits which is truly a power too noble to be possessed without being wielded. ough all his heroes are of one family, yet are they a noble band of brothers, whose countenances and whose souls are strongly distinguished by peculiar characteristics. Each personage, as he advances before us, reminds us of some other being, whose looks, thoughts, words, and deeds had troubled us by their wild and Poio grandeur. But though all the same, yet are they all strangely different. We hail each successive existence with a profounder sympathy; and we are lost in wonder, in fear, and in sorrow, at the infinitely varied struggles, the endless and agonising modifications of the human passions, as they drive along through every gate and avenue of the soul, darkening or brightening, elevating or laying prostrate. From such agitating and terrific pictures, it is delightsul to turn to those compositions in which Lord Byron has allowed his soul to sink down into gentler and more ordinary feelings. Many beautiful and pathetic strains have flowed from his heart, of which the tenderness is as touching as the grandeur of his nobler works is agitating and sublime. To those, indeed, who looked deeply into i. poetry, there never was at any time a want of pathos; but it was a pathos so subduing and so profound, that even the poet himself seemed afraid of being delivered up unto it : nay, he seemed ashamed of being overcome by emotions, which the gloomy pride of his intellect often vainly strove to scorn; and he dashed the weakness from his heart, and the tear from, his eyes, like a man suddenly assailed by feelings which he wished to hide, and which, though true to his nature, were inconsistent with the character which that mysterious nature had been forced, as in self-defence, to assume. ISut there is one poem in which he has almost wholly laid aside all remembrance of the darker and stormier passions : in which the tone of his spirit and his voice at once is changed, and where he who seemed to care only for agonies, and remorse, and despair, and death, and insanity, in all their most appalling forms, shows that he has a heart that can feed on the purest sympathies of our nature, and deliver itself up to the sorrows, the sadness, and the melancholy of humbler souls. The “Prisoner of Chillon” is a poem over which Infancy has shed its first mysterious tears, for sorrows so alien to its own happy innocence, — over which the gentle, pure, and pious soul of Woman has brooded with ineffable, and yearning, and bursting tenderness of affection, – and over which old Age, almost loosened from this world, has bowed his hoary head in deliglated approbation of that fra
Long years of outrage, calumny, and wrong;
ternal love, whose beauty and simplicity fling a radiance over the earth he is about to leave, and exhibit our fallirm nature in near approximation to the glories of its ultimate destiny. The “Lament "possesses much of the tenderness and pathos of the “Prisoner of Chillon.” Lord Byron has not delivered himself unto any one wild and fearful vision of the imprisoned Tasso, - he has not dared to allow himself to rush forward with headlong passion into the horrors of his dungeon, and to describe, as he could fearfully have done, the conflict and agony of his uttermost despair, – but he shows us the poet sitting in his cell, and singing there — a low, melancholy, wailing Lament, sometimes, indeed, bordering on utter wretchedness, but oftener o of a settled grief, occasionally subdued into mournful resignation, cheered by delightful remembrances, and elevated by the confident hope of an immortal fame. His is the gathered grief of many years, over which his soul has brooded, till she has in some measure lost the power of misery ; and this soliloquy is one which we can believe he might have uttered to himself any morning, or noon, or night of his solitude, as he seemed to be half communing with his own heart, and half addressing the ear of that human nature from which he was shut out, but of which he felt the continual and abiding presence within his imagination. — Professor Wilson.]
1 [The original MS., of this poem is dated, “The Apennines, April 20, 1817.” It was written in consequence of Lord Byron having visited Ferrara, for a single day, on his way to Florence. In a letter from Rome, he says – “ The “Lament of Tasso,” which I sent from Florence, has, I trust, arrived. I look upon it as a ‘These be good rhymes as Pope's papa said to him when he was a boy.”]
2 (Tasso's biographer, the Abate Serassi, has left it without doubt, that the first cause of the poet's punishment was his desire to be occasionally, or altogether, free from his servitude at the court of Alfonso. In 1575, Tasso resolved to visit Rome, and enjoy the indulgence of the jubilee : “ and this error,” sug's the Abate, “increasing the suspicion already entertained, that he was in search of another service, was the origin of his misfortunes. On his return to Ferrara, the Duke refused to admit him to an audience, and he was repulsed from the houses of all the dependants of the court ; and not one of the promises which the Cardinal Albano had obtained for him were carried into effect. Then it was that Tasso–after having suffered these hardships for some time, seeing himseif constantly discountenanced by the Duke and the Princesses. abandoned by his friends, and derided by his enemies — could no longer contain himself within the bounds of moderation, but, giving vent to his choler, publicly broke forth into the most injurious expressions imaginable, both against the Duke and all the house of Este, cursing his past service, and retracting all the praises he had ever given in his verses to those princes, or to any individual connected with them, declaring that they were all a gang of poltrooms, ingrates, and scoundrels (poltroni, ingrati, e ribaldi). For this offence he was arrested, conducted to the hospital of St. Anna, and confined in a solitary cell as a madman.”—SERAssi, Potta del Tasso.]
* [In the Hospital of St. Anna, at Ferrara, they show a cell. over the door of which is the following inscription : — “Rispettate, O posteri, la celebrità di questa stanza, dove Torquato Tasso, infermo più, di tristezza che delirio, ditenuto dimoro anni vii. mcsi ii., serisse verse e prose, e fil rinesso in libertà ad instanza della città di Bergamo, nel giorno vi. Luglio, 1586."—The dungeon is below the ground