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ADDITION TO THE PREFACE.
I have now waited till almost all our periodical journals have distributed their usual portion of criticism. To the justice of the generality of their criticisms I have nothing to object; it would ill become me to quarrel with their very slight degree of censure, when, perhaps, if they had been less kind they had been more candid. Returning, therefore, to all and each my best thanks for their liberality, on one point alone shall I venture an observation. Amongst the many objections justly urged to the very indifferent character of the “vagrant Childe, (whom, notwithstanding many hints to the contrary, I still maintain to be a fictitious personage), it has been stated, that, besides the anachronism, he is very unknightly, as the times of the Knights were times of love, honour, and so forth. Now it so happens that the good old times, when «l'amour du bon vieux tenis, l'amour antique » flourished, were the most profligate of all possible centuries. Those who have any doubts on this subject may consult St. Palaye, passiin, and more particularly vol. II. page 69. The vows of chivalry were no better kept than any other vows whatsoever; and the songs of the Troubadours were not more decent, and certainly were much less refined, than those of Ovid. The Cours d'amour, parlemens d'amour ou de courtesie et de gentilesse » had much more of love than of courtesy or gentleness. See Rolland on the same subject with St. Palaye. Whatever other objection may be urged to that most unamiable personage Childe Harold, he was so far perfectly knightly in his attributes — No waiter, but a knight tem
plar *).. By the by, I fear that Sir Tristram and Sir Lancelot were no better than they should be, although very poetical personages and true knights «sans peur, though not “sans reproche.» If the story of the institution of the “Garter be not a fable, the knights of that order have for several centuries borne the badge of a Countess of Salisbury, of indifferent memory. So much for chivalry. 'Burke need not have regretted that its days are over, though Maria Antoinette was quite as chaste as most of those in whose honours lan. ces were shivered, and knights unhorsed.
Before the days of Bayard, and down to those of Sir Joseph Banks (the most chaste and celebrated of ancient an modern times), few exceptions will be found to this statenient, and I fear a little investigation will teach us not to regret these monstrous mummeries of the middle ages.
I now leave “Childe Harold, to live his day. sach as he is; it had been more agreeable, and certainly more easy, to have drawn an amiable character. It had been easy to varnish over his faults, to make him do more and express less, but he never was intended as an example, further than to show that early perversion of mind and morals leads to satiety of past pleasures and dissapointment in new ones, and that even the beauties of nature, and the stimulus of travel (except ambi. tion, the most powerful of all excitements) are lost on a soul so constituted, or rather misdirected. Had I proceeded with the poem, this character would have deepened as he drew to the close; for the outline which I once meant to fill up for him was, with some exceptions, the sketch of a modern Timon, perhaps a poetical Zeluco.
Not in those climes where I have late been
straying, Thongh Beauty long hath there been matchless
deem'd; Not in those visions to the heart dise Forms which it sighs but to have only dream'd, Hate aught like thee in truth or fancy seem'd Nor, having seen thee, shall I vainly seek To paint those charms which varied as they
beam'd To such as see thee not my words were weak; To those who gaze on thee what language could
Ah! may'st thou ever be what now thou art,
Beholds the rainbow of her future rears,
Young Peri of the West !- 'tis well for me
To those whose admiration shall succeed, But mix'd with pangs to Love's even loveliest
Oh! let that eye, which wild as the Gazelle's,
To one so young my strain I would commend, But bid me with my wreath one matchless lily blend.
Such is thy name with this my verse entwined;
ship less require ?
h, thou! in Hellas deem'd of heavenly birth, Muse! form'd or fabled at the minstrel's will! Since shamed full oft by later lyres on earth, Mine dares not call thee from thy sacred hill : Yet there l've wander'd by thy vaunted rill; Yes! sigh'd o'er Delphi's long deserted shrine, ') Where, save that feeble fountain, all is still;
Nor mote my shell awake the weary Nine To grace so plain a tale-this lowly lay of mine.
11. Whilome in Albion's isle there dwelt a yo Who ne in virtue's ways did take delight: But spent his days in riot most uncouth, And vex'd with mirth the drowsy ear of Night. Ah, me! in sooth he was a shameless wight, Sore given to revel and ungodly glee; Few earthly things found favour in his sight
Save concubines and carnal companie, And flaunting wassailers of high and low degree.
111. Childe Harold was he hight: – but whence his
name And lineage long, it suits me not to say; Suffice it, that perchance they were of fame, And had been glorious in another day: But one sad losel soils a name for aye, However mighty in the olden time: Nor all that heralds rake from coffin'd clay,
Nor florid prose, nor honied lies of rhyme, Can blazon evil deeds, or consecrate a crime.