Posted by ricardo marcenaro | Posted in Poetry: Lord Byron - The Vision Of Judgment - Part 6 - Poem XC. to CVI. - Links to more Byron | Posted on 9:54
Now the bard, glad to get an audience, which
By no means often was his case below,
Began to cough, and hawk, and hem, and pitch
His voice into that awful note of woe
To all unhappy hearers within reach
Of poets when the tide of rhyme's in flow;
But stuck fast with his first hexameter,
Not one of all whose gouty feet would stir.
But ere the spavin'd dactyls could be spurr'd
Into recitative, in great dismay,
Both cherubim and seraphim were heard
To murmur loudly through their long array;
And Michael rose ere he could get a word
Of all his founder'd verses under way,
And cried, "For God's sake stop, my friend; 'twere best --
/Non Di, non homines/ -- you know the rest."
A general bustle spread throughout the throng,
Which seem'd to hold all verse in detestation;
The angels had of course enough of song
When upon service; and the generation
Of ghosts had heard too much in life, not long
Before, to profit by a new occasion:
The monarch, mute till then, exclaim'd, "What! what!
/Pye/ come again? No more -- no more of that!"
The tumult grew; an universal cough
Convulsed the skies, as during a debate,
When Castlereagh has been up long enough
(Before he was first minister of state.
I mean -- the /slaves hear now/); some cried, "Off! off!"
As at a farce; till, grown quite desperate,
The bard Saint Peter pray'd to interpose
(Himself an author) only for his prose.
The varlet was not an ill-favour'd knave;
A good deal like a vulture in the face,
With a hook nose and a hawk's eye, which gave
A smart and sharper-looking sort of grace
To his whole aspect, which, though rather grave,
Was by no means so ugly as his case;
But that indeed was hopeless as can be,
Quite a poetic felony /"de se."/
Then Michael blew his trump, and still'd the noise
With one still greater, as is yet the mode
On earth besides; except some grumbling voice,
Which now and then will make a slight inroad
Upon decorous silence, few will twice
Lift up their lungs when fairly overcrow'd;
And now the bard could plead his own bad cause,
With all the attitudes of self-applause.
He said -- (I only give the heads) -- he said,
He meant no harm in scribbling; 'twas his way
Upon all topics; 'twas, besides, his bread,
Of which he butter'd both sides; 'twould delay
Too long the assembly (he was pleased to dead),
And take up rather more time than a day,
To name his works -- he would but cite a few --
"Wat Tyler" -- "Rhymes on Blenheim" -- "Waterloo."
He had written praises of a regicide;
He had written praises of all kings whatever;
He had written for republics far and wide,
And then against them bitterer than ever;
For pantisocracy he once had cried
Aloud, a scheme less moral than 'twas clever;
Then grew a hearty anti-jacobin --
Had turn'd his coat -- and would have turn'd his skin.
He had sung against all battles, and again
In their high praise and glory; he had call'd
Reviewing "the ungentle craft," and then **
Become as base a critic as e'er crawl'd --
Fed, paid, and pamper'd by the very men
By whom his muse and morals had been maul'd;
He had written much blank verse, and blanker prose,
And more of both than anybody knows.
He had written Wesley's life; -- here turning round
To Satan, "Sir, I'm ready to write yours,
In two octavo volumes, nicely bound,
With notes and preface, all that most allures
The pious purchaser; and there's no ground
For fear, for I can choose my own reviewers:
So let me have the proper documents,
That I may add you to the other saints,"
Satan bow'd, and was silent. "Well, if you,
With amiable modesty decline
My offer, what says Michael? There are few
Whose memoirs could be render'd more divine.
Mine is a pen of all work: not so new
As it once was, but I would make you shine
Like your own trumpet. By the way, my own
Has more of brass in it, and is as well blown.
"But talking about trumpets, here's my vision!
Now you shall judge, all people; yes, you shall
Judge with my judgment, and by my decision
Be guided who shall enter heaven or fall.
I settle all these things by intuition,
Times present, past, to come, heaven, hell, and all,
Like king Alfonso. When I thus see double, ***
I save the Deity some worlds of trouble."
He ceased, and drew forth an MS.; and no
Persuasion on the part of devils, or saints,
Or angels, now could stop the torrent; so
He read the first three lines of the contents;
But at the fourth, the whole spiritual show
Had vanish'd, with variety of scents,
Ambrosial and sulphureous, as they sprang,
Like lightning, off from his "melodious twang." ****
Those grand heroics acted as a spell;
The angels stopp'd their ears and plied their pinions;
The devils ran howling, deafen'd, down to hell;
The ghosts fled, gibbering, for their own dominions --
(For 'tis not yet decided where they dwell,
And I leave every man to his opinions);
Michael took refuge in his trump -- but, lo!
His teeth were set on edge, he could not blow!
Saint Peter, who has hitherto been known
For an impetuous saint, upraised his keys,
And at the fifth line knock'd the poet down;
Who fell like Phaeton, but more at ease,
Into his lake, for there he did not drown;
A different web being by the Destinies
Woven for the Laureate's final wreath, whene'er
Reform shall happen either here or there.
He first sank to the bottom -- like his works,
But soon rose to the surface -- like himself;
For all corrupted things are buoy'd like corks, *****
By their own rottenness, light as an elf,
Or wisp that flits o'er a morass; he lurks,
It may be, still, like dull books on a shelf,
In his own den, to scrawl some "Life" or "Vision,"
As Wellborn says -- "the devil turn'd precision."
As for the rest, to come to the conclusion
Of this true dream, the telescope is gone
Which kept my optics free from all delusion,
And shew'd me what I in my turn have shewn;
All I saw further, in the last confusion,
Was, that King George slipp'd into heaven for one;
And when the tumult dwindled to calm,
I left him practising the hundredth psalm.
* "No saint in the course of his religious warfare was more sensible of the unhappy failure of pious resolves than Dr Johnson: he said one day, talking to an acquaintance on this subject: 'Sir, hell is paved with good intentions.'"
** See "Life of Henry Kirke White."
*** Alfonso, speaking of the Ptolomean system, said, that "had he been consulted at the creation of the world, he would have spared the Maker some absurdities."
**** See Aubrey's account of the apparition which disappeared "with a curious perfume and a /most melodious twang;/ or see the /Antiquary,/ vol. i. p. 225.
***** A drowned body lies at the bottom till rotten; it then floats, as most people know.
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