Poetry: Lord Byron - The Vision Of Judgment - Part 1 - Preface - Poem I to XX - Links to more Byron

Posted by Ricardo Marcenaro | Posted in | Posted on 6:09



Suggested by the Composition So Entitled
 By the Author of "Wat Tyler."


 "A Daniel come to judgment! yea, a Daniel!
 I thank thee, Jew, for teaching me that word."



It hath been wisely said, that "one fool makes many," and it hath been poetically observed,

      "That fools rush in where angels fear to tread." --  /Pope./

If Mr Southey had not rushed in where he had no business, and where he never was before, and never will be again, the following poem would not have been written.  It is not impossible that it may be as good as his own, seeing that it cannot, by any species of stupidity, natural or acquired, be /worse./  The gross flattery, the dull impudence, the renegado intolerance and impious cant, of the poem by the author of "Wat Tyler," are something so stupendous as to form the sublime of himself -- containing the quintessence of his own attributes.

So much for his poem -- a word on his preface.  In this preface it has pleased the magnanimous Laureate to draw the picture of a supposed "Satanic School," the which he doth recommend to the notice of the legislature; thereby adding to his other laurels the ambition of those of an informer.  If there exists anywhere, except in his imagination, such a school, is he not sufficiently armed against it by his own intense vanity?  The truth is, that there are certain writers whom Mr S. imagines, like Scrub, to have "talked of /him;/ for they laughed consumedly."

I think I know enough of most of the writers to whom he is supposed to allude, to assert, that they, in their individual capacities, have done more good, in the charities of life, to their fellow-creatures in any one year, than Mr Southey has done harm to himself by his absurdities in his whole life; and this is saying a great deal.  But I have a few questions to ask.

1stly, Is Mr Southey the author of "Wat Tyler?"

2dly, Was he not refused a remedy at law by the highest judge of his beloved England, because it was a blasphemous and seditious publication?

3dly, Was he not entitled by William Smith, in full Parliament, "a rancorous renegado?"

4thly, Is he not Poet Laureate, with his own lines on Martin the regicide staring him in the face?

And, 5thly, Putting the four preceding items together, with what conscience dare /he/ call the attention of the laws to the publications of others, be they what they may?

I say nothing of the cowardice of such a proceeding; its meanness speaks for itself; but I wish to touch upon the /motive,/ which is neither more nor less than that Mr S.  has been laughed at a little in some recent publications, as he was of yore in the "Anti-Jacobin" by his present patrons.  Hence all this "skimble-scamble stuff" about "Satanic," and so forth.  However, it is worthy of him -- /"qualis ab incepto."/

If there is anything obnoxious to the political opinions of a portion of the public in the following poem, they may thank Mr Southey.  He might have written hexameters, as he has written everything else, for aught that the writer cared -- had they been upon another subject.  But to attempt to canonise a monarch, who, whatever were his household virtues, was neither a successful nor a patriot king, -- inasmuch as several years of his reign passed in war with America and Ireland, to say nothing of the aggression upon France, -- like all other exaggerations, necessarily begets opposition.  In whatever manner he may be spoken of in this new "Vision," his /public/ career will not be more favourably transmitted by history.  Of his private virtues (although a little expensive to the nation) there can be no doubt.

With regard to the supernatural personages treated of, I can only say that I know as much about them, and (as an honest man) have a better right to talk of them, than Robert Southey.  I have also treated them more tolerantly.  The way in which that poor insane creature, the Laureate, deals about his judgments in the next world, is like his own judgment in this.  If it was not completely ludicrous, it would be something worse.  I don't think that there is much more to say at present.

                                QUEVEDO REDIVIVUS.

P.S. -- It is possible that some readers may object, in these objectionable times, to the freedom with which saints, angels, and spiritual persons discourse in this "Vision."  But, for precedents upon such points, I must refer them to Fielding's "Journey from this World to the Next," and to the Visions of myself, the said Quevedo, in Spanish or translated.  The reader is also requested to observe, that no doctrinal tenets are insisted upon or discussed; that the person of the Deity is carefully withheld from sight, which is more than can be said for the Laureate, who hath thought proper to make Him talk, not "like a school divine," but like the unscholar-like Mr Southey.  The whole action passes on the outside of heaven; and Chaucer's "Wife of Bath," Pulci's "Morgante Maggiore," Swift's "Tale of a Tub," and the other works above referred to, are cases in point of the freedom with which saints, &c., may be permitted to converse in works not intended to be serious. -- Q. R.

*** Mr Southey, being, as he says, a good Christian and vindictive, threatens, I understand, a reply to this our answer.  It is to be hoped that his visionary faculties will in the meantime have acquired a little more judgment, properly so called: otherwise he will get himself into new dilemmas.  These apostate Jacobins furnish rich rejoinders.  Let him take a specimen.  Mr Southey laudeth grievously "one Mr Landor," who cultivates much private renown in the shape of Latin verses; and not long ago, the Poet Laureate dedicated to him, it appeareth, one of his fugitive lyrics upon the strength of a poem called /Gebir./  Who could suppose, that in this same /Gebir/ the aforesaid Savage Landor (for such is his grim cognomen) putteth into the infernal regions no less a person that the hero of his friend Mr Southey's heaven, -- yea, even George the Third!  See also how personal Savage becometh, when he hath a mind.  The following is his portrait of our late gracious sovereign:

(Prince Gebir having descended into the infernal regions, the shades of his royal ancestors are, at his request, called up to his view; and he exclaims to his ghostly guide) --

"Aroar, what wretch that nearest us? what wretch
Is that with eyebrows white and slanting brow?
Listen! him yonder, who, bound down supine,
Shrinks yelling from that sword there, engine-hung!
He too amongst my ancestors?  I hate
The despot, but the dastard I despise.
Was he our countryman?"

                                             "Alas, O king"
Iberia bore him, but the breed accursed
Inclement winds blew blighting from the north-east."
"He was a warrior, then, nor fear'd the gods?"
"Gebir, he fear'd the demons, not the gods,
Though them indeed his daily face adored;
And was no warrior, yet the thousand lives
Squander'd, as stones to exercise a sling,
And the tame cruelty and cold caprice --
Oh, madness of mankind! address'd, adored!" --

                                                     /Gebir,/ p.28.

I omit noticing some edifying Ithyphallics of Savagius, wishing to keep the proper veil over them, if his grave but somewhat indiscreet worshipper will suffer it; but certainly these teachers of "great moral lessons" are apt to be found in strange company.



Saint Peter sat by the celestial gate:
 His keys were rusty, and the lock was dull,
So little trouble had been given of late;
 Not that the place by any means was full,
But since the Gallic era "eighty-eight,"
 The devils had ta'en a longer, stronger pull
And "a pull altogether," as they say
At sea -- which drew most souls another way.


The angels all were singing out of tune,
 And hoarse with having little else to do,
Excepting to wind up the sun and moon,
 Or curb a runaway young star or two,
Or wild colt of a comet, which too soon
 Broke out of bounds o'er the ethereal blue,
Splitting some planet with its playful tail,
As boats are sometimes by a wanton whale.


The guardian seraphs had retired on high,
 Finding their charges past all care below;
Terrestrial business fill'd nought in the sky
 Save the recording angel's black bureau;
Who found, indeed, the facts to multiply
 With such rapidity of vice and woe,
That he had stripp'd off both his wings in quills,
And yet was in arrear of human ills.


His business so augmented of late years,
 That he was forced, against his will no doubt,
(Just like those cherubs, earthly ministers,)
 For some resource to turn himself about,
And claim the help of his celestial peers,
 To aid him ere he should be quite worn out,
By the increased demand for his remarks;
Six angels and twelve saints were named his clerks.


This was a handsome board -- at least for heaven;
 And yet they had even then enough to do,
So many conquerors' cars were daily driven,
 So many kingdoms fitted up anew;
Each day too slew its thousands six or seven,
 Till at the crowning carnage, Waterloo,
They threw their pens down in divine disgust --
The page was so besmear'd with blood and dust.


This by the way! 'tis not mine to record
 What angels shrink from: even the very devil
On this occasion his own work abhorr'd,
 So surfeited with the infernal revel:
Though he himself had sharpen'd every sword,
 It almost quench'd his innate thirst of evil.
(Here Satan's sole good work deserves insertion --
'Tis, that he has both generals in reversion.)


Let's skip a few short years of hollow peace,
 Which peopled earth no better, hell as wont,
And heaven none -- they form the tyrant's lease,
 With nothing but new names inscribed upon't:
'Twill one day finish: meantime they increase,
 "With seven heads and ten horns," and all in front,
Like Saint John's foretold beast; but ours are born
Less formidable in the head than horn.


In the first year of freedom's second dawn
 Died George the Third; although no tyrant, one
Who shielded tyrants, till each sense withdrawn
 Left him nor mental nor external sun:
A better farmer ne'er brush'd dew from lawn,
 A worse king never left a realm undone!
He died -- but left his subjects still behind,
One half as mad -- and t'other no less blind.


He died! -- his death made no great stir on earth;
 His burial made some pomp; there was profusion
Of velvet, gilding, brass, and no great dearth
 Of aught but tears -- save those shed by collusion.
For these things may be bought at their true worth;
 Of elegy there was the due infusion --
Bought also; and the torches, cloaks, and banners,
Heralds, and relics of old Gothic manners,


Form'd a sepulchral melodrame.  Of all
 The fools who flock'd to swell or see the show,
Who cared about the corpse?  The funeral
 Made the attraction, and the black the woe.
There throbb'd not there a thought which pierced the pall;
 And when the gorgeous coffin was laid low,
It seem'd the mockery of hell to fold
The rottenness of eighty years in gold.


So mix his body with the dust!  It might
 Return to what it /must/ far sooner, were
The natural compound left alone to fight
 Its way back into earth, and fire, and air;
But the unnatural balsams merely blight
 What nature made him at his birth, as bare
As the mere million's base unmummied clay --
Yet all his spices but prolong decay.


He's dead -- and upper earth with him has done;
 He's buried; save the undertaker's bill,
Or lapidary scrawl, the world is gone
 For him, unless he left a German will;
But where's the proctor who will ask his son?
 In whom his qualities are reigning still,
Except that household virtue, most uncommon,
Of constancy to a bad, ugly woman.


"God save the king!"  It is a large economy
 In God to save the like; but if He will
Be saving, all the better; for not one am I
 Of those who think damnation better still:
I hardly know too if not quite alone am I
 In this small hope of bettering future ill
By circumscribing, with some slight restriction,
The eternity of hell's hot jurisdiction.


I know this is unpopular; I know
 'Tis blasphemous; I know one may be damn'd
For hoping no one else may e'er be so;
 I know my catechism; I know we are cramm'd
With the best doctrines till we quite o'erflow;
 I know that all save England's church have shamm'd;
And that the other twice two hundred churches
And synagogues have made a /damn'd/ bad purchase.


God help us all!  God help me too!  I am,
 God knows, as helpless as the devil can wish,
And not a whit more difficult to damn,
 Than is to bring to land a late-hook'd fish.
Or to the butcher to purvey the lamb;
 Not that I'm fit for such a noble dish,
As one day will be that immortal fry
Of almost every body born to die.


Saint Peter sat by the celestial gate,
 And nodded o'er his keys; when lo! there came
A wondrous noise he had not heard of late --
 A rushing sound of wind, and stream, and flame;
In short a roar of things extremely great,
 Which would have made aught save a saint exclaim;
But he, with first a start, and then a wink,
Said, "There's another star gone out, I think!"


But ere he could return to his repose,
 A cherub flapp'd his right wing o'er his eyes --
At which Saint Peter yawn'd, and rubb'd his nose:
 "Saint porter," said the Angel, "prithee rise!"
Waving a goodly wing, which glow'd, as glows
 An earthly peacock's tail, with heavenly dyes;
To which the Saint replied, "Well, what's the matter?
Is Lucifer come back with all this clatter?"


"No," quoth the cherub; "George the Third is dead."
 "And who /is/ George the Third?" replied the apostle.
/"What George? what Third?"/  "The king of England," said
 The angel.  "Well! he won't find kings to jostle
Him on his way; but does he wear his head?
 Because the last we saw here had a tustle,
And ne'er would have got into heaven's good graces,
Had he not flung his head in all our faces.


"He was, if I remember, king of France;
 That head of his, which could not keep a crown
On earth, yet ventured in my face to advance
 A claim to those of martyrs -- like my own:
If I had had my sword, as I had once
 When I cut ears off, I had cut him down;
But having but my /keys,/ and not my brand,
I only knock'd his head from out his hand.


"And then he set up such a headless howl,
 That all the saints came out and took him in,
And there he sits by St Paul, cheek by jowl;
 That fellow Paul -- the parvenu!  The skin
Of Saint Bartholomew, which makes his cowl
 In heaven, and upon earth redeem'd his sin,
So as to make a martyr, never sped
Better than did this weak and wooden head.

Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Hebrew Melodies


Heaven and Earth:

Poetry: Lord Byron - The Vision Of Judgment - Part 1 - Preface - Poem I to XX - Links to more Byron

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