LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 3: Poetry

Vol. I. Front Matter
Ch. 1: Introductory
Ch. 2: Childhood
Ch. 3: Boyhood
Ch. 4: London
Ch. 5: Companions
Ch. 6: The Cypher
Ch. 7: Edinburgh
Ch. 8: Edinburgh
Ch. 9: Excursion
Ch. 10: Naval Services
Ch. 11: Periodical Press
Ch. 12: Periodical Press
Ch. 13: Past Times
Ch. 14: Past Times
Ch. 15: Literary
Ch. 16: War & Jubilees
Ch. 17: The Criminal
Ch. 18: Mr. Perceval
Ch. 19: Poets
Ch. 20: The Sun
Ch. 21: Sun Anecdotes
Ch. 22: Paris in 1814
Ch. 23: Paris in 1814
Ch. 24: Byron
Vol. I. Appendices
Scott Anecdote
Burns Anecdote
Life of Thomson
John Stuart Jerdan
Scottish Lawyers
Sleepless Woman
Canning Anecdote
Southey in The Sun
Hood’s Lamia
Murder of Perceval
Vol. II. Front Matter
Ch. 1: Literary
Ch. 2: Mr. Canning
Ch. 3: The Sun
Ch. 4: Amusements
Ch. 5: Misfortune
Ch. 6: Shreds & Patches
Ch. 7: A Character
Ch. 8: Varieties
Ch. 9: Ingratitude
Ch. 10: Robert Burns
Ch. 11: Canning
Ch. 12: Litigation
Ch. 13: The Sun
Ch. 14: Literary Gazette
Ch. 15: Literary Gazette
Ch. 16: John Trotter
Ch. 17: Contributors
Ch. 18: Poets
Ch 19: Peter Pindar
Ch 20: Lord Munster
Ch 21: My Writings
Vol. II. Appendices
The Satirist.
Authors and Artists.
The Treasury
Morning Chronicle
Chevalier Taylor
Foreign Journals
Vol. III. Front Matter
Ch. 1: Literary Pursuits
Ch. 2: Literary Labour
‣ Ch. 3: Poetry
Ch. 4: Coleridge
Ch 5: Criticisms
Ch. 6: Wm Gifford
Ch. 7: W. H. Pyne
Ch. 8: Bernard Barton
Ch. 9: Insanity
Ch. 10: The R.S.L.
Ch. 11: The R.S.L.
Ch. 12: L.E.L.
Ch. 13: L.E.L.
Ch. 14: The Past
Ch. 15: Literati
Ch. 16: A. Conway
Ch. 17: Wellesleys
Ch. 18: Literary Gazette
Ch. 19: James Perry
Ch. 20: Personal Affairs
Vol. III. Appendices
Literary Poverty
Ismael Fitzadam
Mr. Tompkisson
Mrs. Hemans
A New Review
Debrett’s Peerage
Procter’s Poems
Poems by Others
Poems by Jerdan
Vol. IV. Front Matter
Ch. 1: Critical Glances
Ch. 2: Personal Notes
Ch. 3: Fresh Start
Ch. 4: Thomas Hunt
Ch. 5: On Life
Ch. 6: Periodical Press
Ch. 7: Quarterly Review
Ch. 8: My Own Life
Ch. 9: Mr. Canning
Ch. 10: Anecdotes
Ch. 11: Bulwer-Lytton
Ch. 12: G. P. R. James
Ch. 13: Finance
Ch. 14: Private Life
Ch. 15: Learned Societies
Ch. 16: British Association
Ch. 17: Literary Characters
Ch. 18: Literary List
Ch. 19: Club Law
Ch. 20: Conclusion
Vol. IV. Appendix
Gerald Griffin
W. H. Ainsworth
James Weddell
The Last Bottle
N. T. Carrington
The Literary Fund
Letter from L.E.L.
Geographical Society
Baby, a Memoir
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“Poetry is the music of language, expressing the music of the mind. Whenever any object takes such a hold on the mind as to make us dwell on it, and brood over it, melting the heart in love, or kindling it to a sentiment of admiration; whenever a movement of imagination or passion is impressed on the mind, by which it seeks to prolong and repeat the emotion, to bring all other objects into accord with it, and to give the same movement of harmony, retained and continuous, to the sounds that express it,—this is poetry.”—Croly.

“Thoughts that voluntary move
Harmonious numbers.”

One of the ablest and most friendly critics of my first volume has complained that the second is more barren of events, and advises me to stick more of these plums into my pudding. But it is surely inconsistent to require a rapid succession of events in a literary life, and in a work which must necessarily be chiefly composed of literary reminiscences, and notices of literary productions and literary contemporaries. I am not able, were I desirous, to invent them, and take my old friend Braham’s advice, as it was given on another occasion, and celebrated in epigram:—
Says Rossini to Braham, I’ll tell you von ting,
When you’ve lost all your teeth, Mister Brem, how to sing!”
“Tell your secret,” cried Braham: “Ah mio diletto,
You must do like your master, and sing in falsetto!”—
which, as I cannot do, I must just hum on, in the even tenor of my way.

And my first measure will be, to make it manifest that the “Literary Gazette” was, in fact, a realisation, and not a mere symbol of Heaven upon Earth. For, if marriages are made in Heaven, it follows that the Journal in which marriages are made is in like manner heavenly; and the instance I am about to narrate will not only prove the claim of the “Gazette” to this worshipful distinction, but that it had also the elements to insure the union being, adequately sung by a celestial choir or chorus. Among its fair contributors was one adorned with many captivating qualities, to speak the truth of which, her poetic compositions, though tender and graceful, were by no means the most attractive. Yet, one pretty little poem, in my 77th number, did strike the fancy of a bard—himself of no small renown, and having, through the obliging friendship of the Editor, met the sweet writer, the most favourable impression was more than confirmed. In No. 82, lines were, in consequence, anonymously addressed “To the Author of the beautiful lines, signed ‘Helen,’ in the ‘Literary Gazette,’”—rich, manly, and fervent, as if indeed from the heart of

a silent one
Who loved her as she loved the flower,*
With passion to himself unknown;
And hover’d round her hour by hour;
And saw her but a lovely child,
Nor woke till all his soul was wild.

A few weeks elapsed after the imaginary departure for a distant land, and the “Farewell” in the production I have just quoted, when, as I may say, I was made the medium of what I might have called a bit of poetic flirtation, or, in

* The subject of her verses.

humbler phrase, “courting.”
Helen wrote some verses, in which Friendship was extolled at the expense of Love; but it was answered under a female signature—“Julia.”

Yes, Friendship’s is a sacred flame,
But yet more sacred that of Love;
Even she who libels Cupid’s name,
Even she, this truth may one day prove.
But ’tis a love that few must know,
The gifted,—chosen few alone,—
Not passion’s wild and transient glow,
Like summer lightning—seen and gone.
It is a feeling deep—sublime:
A Paradise creating here,
That blooms through chance and change of time
Like vision of a higher sphere.
It is not lighted by the eye,
It is not foster’d by the tongue—
It seeks not pomp nor brilliancy,
Nor dwells the busy crowd among.
’Tis founded on the charm of mind—
A charm that knows not of decay;
A charm that powerful still doth bind
Though every other fade away.

* * * * *
As shines the flame on depths of night,
More vivid than mid sunny gleams;
So perfect love still burns more bright
In sorrow’s shode, than pleasure’s beams.
Even to the tomb—beyond the tomb
Those lights of love their influence shed;
Illuminate the death-bed gloom,
And gild the memory of the dead.

Alas, in this instance, it must do so now! But I must on with my interesting example of poetry, purity, and elevation of sentiment, that adorned and hallowed a union which,
according to all human probability, would never have taken place but for the accident, or, let me call it the providence, of the “
Literary Gazette.” The poet has said that “the course of true love never did run smooth;” but both the poetry and love in the “Gazette” proved the contrary, though a temporary absence left the stream, like the Mole at Dorking, to run for a while unseen under the ground. Two remarkable poems followed. My fair friend indited some charming verse, to “The Joys of Meeting.”

Oh, I have seen the pitiless snow
Descend, and lay the young flow’ret low;
And yet that tender and shrinking flower
Shall bloom again in the sunny hour.
So have I seen some susceptible heart
Wither’d and torn when compell’d to part.
Cold is that heart which was warm before,
Yet there is a smile which could peace restore,
And when that smile shall cheer it once more,
It shall boast the power of the sunny ray
Which melted the chilling snow away—
And the Mourner who droop’d in the hour of pain,
Shall venture to lift his [her] head again!

An ingenious apocryphal dramatic scene, immediately after this, appeared as an extract from an unpublished tragedy. The interlocutors are, a certain Father Francis, and Doria, who confides to him the secret of his love. I seemed to stand somewhat in the position of the holy confessor in this case; and in that character (certainly not in my own) declaimed intensely against love, which antipathy even the following vivid portrait, by Doria, could not mollify:—

Sir—You’re stern to me—your gentle heart
Has here been scarr’d, and lost its natural touch.
But if there’s truth in woman’s whitest breast,
In eyes of crystal tears, that on it fall,
Like rain-drops on the bosom of the swan;
If beauty’s colours, chasing o’er the cheek,
That turns away, ashamed of its own blush,
Till the red rose has left the pale one there;
If words half utter’d, smiles, dissolving swift
As sunbeams broken in a summer stream;
If sighs involuntary, trembling hand,
That shrink from my least touch as if ’twere fire;
If these and more, ten thousand little signs
Words were not made to tell, can give the beat
Of the true golden harmony of love,
The maiden loves me!

The eloquence of this passage requires no comment. A touching episode ensued, on the death of a richly-gifted friend, and by her family a proposition was made that the admired object of all our affections should proceed to join a married sister in India. This gave rise to three beautiful poems on the epigraph “When shall we three meet again?” the third part being taken by a mutual friend, and now one of our immortal children of song. These compositions appeared together in No. 123 of the “Literary Gazette;” and little could its readers surmise how much of truth and reality was couched under the apparent fiction. For it was a trying moment; but, as Lover sings, “It is always the darkest the hour before day;” and so it happened here. Under my auspices there was no voyage to India; and there were frequent meetings, without any occasion to invoke the muse like Macbeth’s Witches. A livelier mood succeeded, and I find myself and my good offices almost quizzed, at last, in a playful imitation of Crabbe.
Look at yon house,*—the gravel plot before,
The scraggy tree, the crazed and paintless door,
The huge stone globe, that, lopping on the wall,
For ever threats to crush you with its fall:
Who sallies from that door, as due as eve,
Lets out her sons of beggary to thieve!†
Yet no thief he;—let me describe the man:

* My Brompton abode at the time. † A vile comparison.

The brush’d black coat, spruce gloves, the pet rattan,
The beaver new, the boots of bright japan:*
Long,languid, silent, simple,—Ah, ye fair
Look to your hearts, I only say, Beware!
The rest, an excellent continuation in the manner of
Crabbe, describes my visit to the home of the writer’s beloved one, the house, the parlour, the tea-table, the inmates, and the conversation; but I will only quote the closing lines as a hint how matters were now understood—
The sofa by the window—Ah, whose eyes
Does slumber on that sofa’s back surprise?
Here the faint poet drops the trembling pen—
Before such women, poets are but men!
But round the polish’d central table still
Are open eyes, in kindness meant to kill;
And sweet low voices, breathing solemn words,
The weighty news the village day affords.
What stage-coach pass’d—how many in the top,—
The last new ribbon in the last new shop;
The last night’s fright—the morning’s curious dream,
From which the teller waken’d with a scream;
Then blushing at its memory, o’er her brow
Draws the black curls, like ebony on snow;
Then tries to chat, to net the endless purse,
Thinks of the words, “For better or for worse;”
Feels on her eye-lash the unconscious tear,
Sighs as if heard by none, or but one ear,
Then, with her beating forehead on her hand,
Dreams all her dream again.

I need not pursue the theme much farther. I had the pleasure, when, with a changed name, to find my sweet young poetess still breathing her gentle and grateful feelings through the poetic columns of the “Gazette.” “The Bride” sang (and the delighted Groom consigned to me by the hands of her mother)—
When I gaze on these green fields, and smile at the sight,
And then on the vast spreading azure above,
I feel, I acknowledge with grateful delight,
That each object gives pleasure with that whom we love.

* I cannot recognise my own picture now.

When we wander with one to all others preferr’d,
Oh, is it not sweet to attend to each call,
To watch every look, every thought, every word,
And try to return, and anticipate all?
And at a later period—
Oh, ’tis sweet to retire from the world and its wiles,
And renounce all life’s idle inducements to roam;
To fly from its tumults, to court not its smiles,
And centre our joys in the circle at borne.

If I set out with this chapter in a somewhat careless tone about marriages being made in heaven, it is a heartfelt gratification to me to reflect that the union, the singular poetic process to which I have depicted, was as blessed as if Heaven itself had ordained the incidents out of which it sprung. It was my happy office to act as her father, and give the blooming and accomplished girl at the altar to a husband every way worthy of her, and with whom for more than thirty years she lived in the enjoyment of every rational good that the world can yield; more realising the aspirations of a valued mutual friend in whose appended epithalamium my readers may recognise the warm feeling and sweet peculiar verse of Barry Cornwall.

And shall this thy bridal day,
Friend and Poet! pass away
Like a poor and vulgar hour!
Rather let my careless pen
Turn, though yet of little power,
To its pleasant task again.
This verse to thee I consecrate,
May thy days be fair and long,
And may it be thy after fate
To stand immortalised in song,
Like that high and laurell’d man,
Who chose, like one exiled, to roam,
And found a solitary home
By the blue waves Venetian.
And may thy Helen, bridal queen,
At thy side be ever seen,
With as sweet and calm a brow,
And with eyes as bright—as now;
And—but why repeat the prayer
That the priest pronounced on thee,
And the maid that tremblingly
Bow’d her at the altar’s base,
With that humble feeling, grace,
That best becomes a woman there.

The last stanza alludes to the Sister Bridesmaids, and gracefully closes—
May the day when they shall wed
Be ever after honoured
By those, round whom they bind a chain
Of flowers, that none may break again.

I had the pleasure of receiving the friends, whose happiness I had been so instrumental in procuring, at Hastings on their post-nuptial excursion to Paris,* where another estimable poetic friend, Mr. Read, the author of the “Hill of Caves,” and of many beautiful-pieces in the “Literary Gazette,” joined the chorus just illustrated and from Versailles, thus congenially welcomed the happy pair:

Ill speed the lyre, whose chords withhold
An echo to the minstrel’s joy;
Ill speed the minstrel, sordid, cold,
Who feels no touch of sympathy,
When those his heart should prize most high,
By fortune’s boon are brightly starr’d,
For recreant to his fame is he
Who glows not with a brother bard.
And though my lute be rude and weak,
An idler’s lute, his shame and pride,
That speaks not as the soul would speak,
It shall not slumber by my side.
Then, joy to thee and thy young bride,
And rapture endless as the ring
That join’d you, heart to heart allied,
Pure perfect, and imperishing.

* See “Lines on the Waves,” in vol. ii.

Some wander in the Indian clime,
And some the vaulting billow stem,
For dear-bought gold consume their prime,
And then what is their gold to them?
Their stars to exile these condemn,
Whilst thou hast found, without their care,
At home a purer, dearer, gem
Than merchants win, or monarchs wear.
Two spirits left their haunts above
To twine you wreaths—though seldom twined,
Flame-pinion’d genius, holy love—
And crown’d you when the wreaths were twined.
Her hyacinthine braids they wind,
With rose and myrtle waving free,
Thy brow with deathless bay they bind,
And few on earth as blest like thee.
Yes, Heaven for once has smiled upon
A poet’s love, a poet’s fame,
It might be deem’d enough for one
To build a temple to his name,
In which his high and quenchless flame
Shall burn when he lies breathless there,
Like that, whose never dying beam
Illumines Mecca’s sepulchre.
But more than this, to thee is doom’d,
For wanting love, can glory bless?
Even Eden, till sweet woman bloom’d,
Even Eden was a wilderness!
And she who shares thy fond caress,
Hath brought thee more than thrones could see,
Truth, talent, love, and loveliness—
Then joy to thy young bride and thee.

I can readily anticipate that this history will find greater favour in the sight of my young, than of any of my more elderly, readers, who have forgotten sentiment in the busy scenes of life, hardly can recall to their sense that there was an absorbing passion called love, and will not consent to acknowledge poetry as its natural and most appropriate exponent. But I took so deep an interest in this matter, that the many years which have since elapsed have only
slightly effaced the impression; and, besides, the part I acted in it has ever shone as a bright halo through the darkest clays of my chequered existence. The correspondence now on my table recalls to my memory the gratifying fact that but for my interference and influence, in the most delicate of human negotiations, a cloud would probably have prevented the union so replete with the happiest consequences to every being connected with its realisation. And I beg to add, for the satisfaction of my elderly readers alluded to, that although the poetry of the heart was actively waked on this occasion, the judgment of the head was not neglected; and every needful worldly arrangement was made in due and binding form, my co-trustee being a worthy old chancery lawyer.

It was by dispelling the cloud, in preventing an Indian voyage, and in adopting measures (and some of them poetical), to develope a mutual understanding of thoughts and feelings which circumstances conspired for a while to obscure, that I contributed to accomplish this most desirable object; and I look back on very few acts and events in my life which can afford me such unmitigated pleasure. Unmitigated did I say? Yes, till death loosed the tie I took such delight in my efforts to fasten, and at last threw a melancholy shade over the glow of that auspicious period.—Valé.

Closed are those beauteous eyes in endless night.
Those beauteous eyes where, beaming, used to shine
Reason’s pure light, and virtue’s spark divine.

No more—

Can she be found:
In all the wide-sketch’d prospect’s ample bound
No more the mournful eye
Can aught of her espy,
But the sad sacred earth where her dear relics lie.—Lyttelton.