# The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 3/Poems of the Separation

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 The Works of Lord Byron by George Gordon Byron Poems of the Separation

POEMS OF THE SEPARATION

INTRODUCTION TO POEMS OF THE SEPARATION.

The two poems, Fare Thee Well (March 17) and A Sketch (March 29, 1816), which have hitherto been entitled Domestic Pieces, or Poems on His Own Circumstances, I have ventured to rename Poems of the Separation. Of secondary importance as poems or works of art, they stand out by themselves as marking and helping to make the critical epoch in the life and reputation of the poet. It is to be observed that there was an interval of twelve days between the date of Fare Thee Well and A Sketch; that the composition of the latter belongs to a later episode in the separation drama; and that for some reasons connected with the proceedings between the parties, a pathetic if not uncritical resignation had given place to the extremity of exasperation—to hatred and fury and revenge. It follows that either poem, in respect of composition and of publication, must be judged on its own merits. Contemporary critics, while they were all but unanimous in holding up A Sketch to unqualified reprobation, were divided with regard to the good taste and good faith of Fare Thee Well. Moore intimates that at first, and, indeed, for some years after the separation, he was strongly inclined to condemn the Fare Thee Well as a histrionic performance—"a showy effusion of sentiment; "but that on reading the account of all the circumstances in Byron's Memoranda, he was impressed by the reality of the "swell of tender recollections, under the influence of which, as he sat one night musing in his study, these stanzas were produced—the tears, as he said, falling fast over the paper as he wrote them" (Life, p. 302).

With whatever purpose, or under whatever emotion the lines were written, Byron did not keep them to himself. They were shown to Murray, and copies were sent to "the initiated." "I have just received," writes Murray, "the enclosed letter from Mrs. Maria Graham [1785-1842, née Dundas, authoress and traveller, afterwards Lady Callcott], to whom I had sent the verses. It will show you that you are thought of in the remotest corners, and furnishes me with an excuse for repeating that I shall not forget you. God bless your Lordship. Fare Thee Well" [MSS. M.].

But it does not appear that they were printed in their final shape (the proof of a first draft, consisting of thirteen stanzas, is dated March 18, 1816) till the second copy of verses were set up in type with a view to private distribution (see Letters, 1899, iii. 279). Even then there was no thought of publication on the part of Byron or of Murray, and, as a matter of fact, though Fare Thee Well was included in the "Poems" of 1816, it was not till both poems had appeared in over twenty pirated editions that A Sketch was allowed to appear in vol. iii. of the Collected Works of 1819. Unquestionably Byron intended that the "initiated," whether foes or sympathizers, should know that he had not taken his dismissal in silence; but it is far from certain that he connived at the appearance of either copy of verses in the public press. It is impossible to acquit him of the charge of appealing to a limited circle of specially chosen witnesses and advocates in a matter which lay between himself and his wife, but the aggravated offence of rushing into print may well be attributed to "the injudicious zeal of a friend," or the "malice prepense" of an enemy. If he had hoped that the verses would slip into a newspaper, as it were, malgré lui, he would surely have taken care that the seed fell on good ground under the favouring influence of Perry of the Morning Chronicle, or Leigh Hunt of the Examiner. As it turned out, the first paper which possessed or ventured to publish a copy of the "domestic pieces" was the Champion, a Tory paper, then under the editorship of John Scott (1783-1821), a man of talent and of probity, but, as Mr. Lang puts it (Life and Letters of John Gibson Lockhart, 1897, i. 256), "Scotch, and a professed moralist." The date of publication was Sunday, April 14, and it is to be noted that the Ode from the French ("We do not curse thee, Waterloo") had been published in the Morning Chronicle on March 15, and that on the preceding Sunday, April 7, the brilliant but unpatriotic apostrophe to the Star of the Legion of Honour had appeared in the Examiner. "We notice it [this strain of his Lordship's harp]," writes the editor, "because we think it would not be doing justice to the merits of such political tenets, if they were not coupled with their corresponding practice in regard to moral and domestic obligations. There is generally a due proportion kept in 'the music of men's lives.' ... Of many of the facts of this distressing case we are not ignorant; but God knows they are not for a newspaper. Fortunately they fall within very general knowledge, in London at least; if they had not they would never have found their way to us. But there is a respect due to certain wrongs and sufferings that would be outraged by uncovering them." It was all very mysterious, very terrible; but what wonder that the laureate of the ex-emperor, the contemner of the Bourbons, the pænist of the "star of the brave," "the rainbow of the free," should make good his political heresy by personal depravity—by unmanly vice, unmanly whining, unmanly vituperation?

Wordsworth, to whom Scott forwarded the Champion of April 14, "outdid" the journalist in virtuous fury: "Let me say only one word of Lord B. The man is insane. The verses on his private affairs excite in me less indignation than pity. The latter copy is the Billingsgate of Bedlam.... You yourself seem to labour under some delusion as to the merits of Lord B.'s poetry, and treat the wretched verses, the Fare Well, with far too much respect. They are disgusting in sentiment, and in execution contemptible. 'Though my many faults deface me,' etc. Can worse doggerel than such a stanza be written? One verse is commendable: 'All my madness none can know.'" The criticism, as criticism, confutes itself, and is worth quoting solely because it displays the feeling of a sane and honourable man towards a member of the "opposition," who had tripped and fallen, and now lay within reach of his lash (see Life of William Wordsworth, 1889, ii. 267, etc.).

It was not only, as Macaulay put it, that Byron was "singled out as an expiatory sacrifice" by the British public in a periodical fit of morality, but, as the extent and the limitations of the attack reveal, occasion was taken by political adversaries to inflict punishment for an outrage on popular sentiment.

The testimony of the press is instructive from two points of view. In the first place, it tends to show that the controversy was conducted on party lines; and, secondly, that the editor of the Champion was in some degree responsible for the wide diffusion and lasting publicity of the scandal. The separation of Lord and Lady Byron must, in any case, have been more than a nine days' wonder, but if the circulation of the "pamphlet" had been strictly confined to the "initiated," the excitement and interest of the general public would have smouldered and died out for lack of material.

In his second letter on Bowles, dated March 25, 1821 (Observations upon Observations, Life, 1892, p. 705), Byron alludes to the publication of these poems in the Champion, and comments on the behaviour of the editor, who had recently (February 16, 1821) been killed in a duel. He does not minimize the wrong, but he pays a fine and generous tribute to the courage and worth of his assailant. "Poor Scott is now no more ... he died like a brave man, and he lived an able one," etc. It may be added that Byron was an anonymous subscriber to a fund raised by Sir James Mackintosh, Murray, and others, for "the helpless family of a man of virtue and ability." (London Magazine, April, 1821, vol. iii. p. 359).

For chronological reasons, and in accordance with the precedent of the edition of 1832, a third poem, Stanzas to Augusta, has been included in this group.

POEMS OF THE SEPARATION

FARE THEE WELL.[1]

 "Alas! they had been friends in youth; But whispering tongues can poison truth: And Constancy lives in realms above; And Life is thorny; and youth is vain: And to be wroth with one we love, Doth work like madness in the brain; * * * * * But never either found another To free the hollow heart from paining— They stood aloof, the scars remaining, Like cliffs which had been rent asunder; A dreary sea now flows between, But neither heat, nor frost, nor thunder, Shall wholly do away, I ween, The marks of that which once hath been." Coleridge's Christabd.[2]
 Fare thee well! and if for ever,  Still for ever, fare thee well: Even though unforgiving, never  'Gainst thee shall my heart rebel. Would that breast were bared before thee[3]  Where thy head so oft hath lain, While that placid sleep came o'er thee[4]  Which thou ne'er canst know again: Would that breast, by thee glanced over,  Every inmost thought could show! 10 Then thou would'st at last discover  'Twas not well to spurn it so. Though the world for this commend thee—[5]  Though it smile upon the blow, Even its praises must offend thee,  Founded on another's woe: Though my many faults defaced me,  Could no other arm be found, Than the one which once embraced me,  To inflict a cureless wound? 20 Yet, oh yet, thyself deceive not—  Love may sink by slow decay, But by sudden wrench, believe not  Hearts can thus be torn away: Still thine own its life retaineth—  Still must mine, though bleeding, beat;[6] And the undying thought which paineth[7]  Is—that we no more may meet. These are words of deeper sorrow[8]  Than the wail above the dead; 30 Both shall live—but every morrow[9]  Wake us from a widowed bed. And when thou would'st solace gather—  When our child's first accents flow— Wilt thou teach her to say "Father!"  Though his care she must forego? When her little hands shall press thee—  When her lip to thine is pressed— Think of him whose prayer shall bless thee—  Think of him thy love had blessed! 40 Should her lineaments resemble  Those thou never more may'st see, Then thy heart will softly tremble[10]  With a pulse yet true to me. All my faults perchance thou knowest—  All my madness—none can know;[11] All my hopes—where'er thou goest—  Wither—yet with thee they go. Every feeling hath been shaken;  Pride—which not a world could bow—[12] 50 Bows to thee—by thee forsaken,[13]  Even my soul forsakes me now. But 'tis done—all words are idle—  Words from me are vainer still;[14] But the thoughts we cannot bridle  Force their way without the will. Fare thee well! thus disunited—[15]  Torn from every nearer tie— Seared in heart—and lone—and blighted—  More than this I scarce can die. 60 [First draft, March 18, 1816. First printed as published, April 4, 1816.]

A SKETCH.[16][17]

 "Honest—honest Iago! If that thou be'st a devil, I cannot kill thee." Shakespeare.

STANZAS TO AUGUSTA.[39]

 When all around grew drear and dark,[40]  And reason half withheld her ray— The Hon. Augusta Leigh from a drawing by Sir George Hayter. And Hope but shed a dying spark  Which more misled my lonely way; In that deep midnight of the mind,  And that internal strife of heart, When dreading to be deemed too kind,  The weak despair—the cold depart; When Fortune changed—and Love fled far,[41]  And Hatred's shafts flew thick and fast, 10 Thou wert the solitary star[42]  Which rose and set not to the last.[43] Oh! blest be thine unbroken light!  That watched me as a Seraph's eye, And stood between me and the night,  For ever shining sweetly nigh. And when the cloud upon us came,[44]  Which strove to blacken o'er thy ray—[45] Then purer spread its gentle flame,[46]  And dashed the darkness all away. 20 Still may thy Spirit dwell on mine,[47]  And teach it what to brave or brook— There's more in one soft word of thine  Than in the world's defied rebuke. Thou stood'st, as stands a lovely tree,[48]  That still unbroke, though gently bent, Still waves with fond fidelity  Its boughs above a monument. The winds might rend—the skies might pour,  But there thou wert—and still wouldst be 30 Devoted in the stormiest hour  To shed thy weeping leaves o'er me. But thou and thine shall know no blight,  Whatever fate on me may fall; For Heaven in sunshine will requite  The kind—and thee the most of all. Then let the ties of baffled love  Be broken—thine will never break; Thy heart can feel—but will not move;  Thy soul, though soft, will never shake. 40 And these, when all was lost beside,  Were found and still are fixed in thee;— And bearing still a breast so tried,  Earth is no desert—ev'n to me. [First published, Poems, 1816.]

END OF VOL. III.

PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED,
LONDON AND BECCLES.

1. ["He there (Byron, in his Memoranda) described, and in a manner whose sincerity there was no doubting, the swell of tender recollections, under the influence of which, as he sat one night musing in the study, these stanzas were produced,—the tears, as he said, falling fast over the paper as he wrote them."—Life, p. 302. It must have been a fair and complete copy that Moore saw (see Life, p. 302, note 3). There are no tear-marks on this (the first draft, sold at Sotheby's, April 11, 1885) draft, which must be the first, for it is incomplete, and every line (almost) tortured with alterations. "Fare Thee Well!" was printed in Leigh Hunt's Examiner, April 21, 1816, at the end of an article (by L. H.) entitled "Distressing Circumstances in High Life." The text there has two readings different from that of the pamphlet, viz.—
 Examiner: "Than the soft one which embraced me." Pamphlet: "Than the one which once embraced me." Examiner: "Yet the thoughts we cannot bridle." Pamphlet: "But," etc.

MS. Notes taken by the late J. Dykes Campbell at Sotheby's, April l8, 1890, and re-transcribed for Mr. Murray, June 15, 1894.

A final proof, dated April 7, 1816, was endorsed by Murray, "Correct 50 copies as early as you can to-morrow."]

2. The motto was prefixed in Poems, 1816.
3. Thou my breast laid bare before thee.—[MS. erased.]
4. Not a thought is pondering on thee.—[MS. erased.]
5. [Lines 13-20 do not appear in an early copy dated March 18, l816. They were added on the margin of a proof dated April 4, 1816.]
6. Net result of many alterations.
7. And the lasting thought ——.—[MS. erased.]
8. —— of deadlier sorrow.—[MS. erased.]
9. Every future night and morrow.—[MS. erased.]
10. Still thy heart ——.—[MS. erased.]
11. All my follies ——.—[MS. erased.]
12. —— which not the world could bow.—[MS.]
13. Falls at once ——.—[MS. erased.]
14. Tears and sighs are idler still.—[MS. erased.]
15. Fare thee well—thus lone and blighted.—[MS. erased.]
16. A Sketch from Life.—[MS. M.]
17. ["I send you my last night's dream, and request to have 50 copies (for private distribution) struck off. I wish Mr. Gifford to look at them; they are from life."—Letter to Murray, March 30, 1816. "The original MS. of Lord Byron's Satire, 'A Sketch from Private Life,' written by his Lordship, 30th March, 1816. Given by his Lordship to me on going abroad after his separation from Lady Byron, John Hanson. To be carefully preserved." (This MS. omits lines 19-20, 35-36, 55-56, 65-70, 77-78, 85-92.) A copy entitled, "A sketch from private Life," dated March 30, 1816, is in Mrs. Leigh's handwriting. The corrections and additions are in Byron's handwriting. A proof dated April 2, 1816, is endorsed by Murray, "Correct with most particular care and print off 50 copies, and keep standing."]
18. Promoted thence to comb ——.—[MS. M. erased.]
19. —— early governess.—[MS. M.]
20. —— but that pure spirit saved her heart.—[MS. M. erased.]
21. Vain was each effort ——.—[MS. M.]
22.  Much Learning madden—when with scarce a peer She soared through science with a bright career— Nor talents swell ——.—[MS. M.]
23. —— bigotry provoke.—[MS. M. erased.]
24. Serenely purest of the things that live.—[MS. M.]
25. The trusty burthen of my honest song.—[MS. M.]
26. At times the highest ——.—[MS. M.]
27. —— of her evil will.—[MS. M.]
28. What marvel that this mistress demon works

 Eternal evil $\scriptstyle{ \left\{ \begin{matrix} \ \end{matrix} \right. }$ wheresoe'er she lurks.—[MS. M.] when she latent works.—[Copy.]
29. A gloss of candour of a web of wiles.—[MS. M.]
30. Lines 65-66 were added April 2, 1816.
31. The parenthesis was added April 2, 1816.
32. Look on her body ——.—[MS. M.]
33. [See Hamlet, act iii. sc. 2, line 31.]
34. Where all that gaze upon her droop or die.—[MS. altered April 2, 1816.]
35. [Lines 85-91 were added April 2, 1816, on a page endorsed, "Quick—quick—quick—quick."]
36. —— in thy poisoned clay.—[MS. M. erased.]
37. ["I doubt about 'weltering' but the dictionary should decide—look at it. We say 'weltering in blood'—but do they not also use 'weltering in the wind' 'weltering on a gibbet'?—there is no dictionary, so look or ask. In the meantime, I have put 'festering,' which perhaps in any case is the best word of the two.—P.S. Be quick. Shakespeare has it often and I do not think it too strong for the figure in this thing."—Letter to Murray, April 2.]
38. And weltering in the infamy of years.—[MS. M.]
39. [His sister, the Honourable Mrs. Leigh.—These stanzas—the parting tribute to her whose tenderness had been his sole consolation in the crisis of domestic misery—were, we believe, the last verses written by Lord Byron in England. In a note to Mr. Rogers, dated April 16 [1816], he says, "My sister is now with me, and leaves town to-morrow; we shall not meet again for some time at all events—if ever! and under these circumstances I trust to stand excused to you and Mr. Sheridan, for being unable to wait upon him this evening."—Note to Edition of 1832, x. 193. A fair copy, broken up into stanzas, is endorsed by Murray, "Given to me (and I believe composed by Ld. B.), Friday, April 12, 1816."]
40. —— grew waste and dark.—[MS. M.]
41. When Friendship shook ——.—[MS. M.]
42. Thine was the solitary star.—[MS. M.]
43. Which rose above me to the last.—[MS. M.]
44. And when the cloud between us came.—[MS. M.]
And when the cloud upon me came.—[Copy C. H.]
45. Which would have closed on that last ray.—[MS. M.]
46. Then stiller stood the gentle Flame.—[MS. M.]
47. Still may thy Spirit sit on mine.[MS. M.]
48.  And thou wast as a lovely Tree Whose branch unbroke but gently bent Still waved with fond Fidelity.—[Copy C. H.]