Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 2.djvu/74

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[CANTO I.
CHILDE HAROLD’S PILGRIMAGE.

Here Folly dashed to earth the victor's plume,

And Policy regained what arms had lost:

    Stern Cobbett,[1] who for one whole week forbore
    To question aught, once more with transport leapt,
    And bit his devilish quill agen, and swore
    With foes such treaty never should be kept,
    While roared the blatant Beast[2] and roared, and raged, and—slept!!

    Thus unto Heaven appealed the people: Heaven
    Which loves the lieges of our gracious King,
    Decreed that ere our Generals were forgiven,
    Enquiry should be held about the thing.
    But Mercy cloaked the babes beneath her wing;
    And as they spared our foes so spared we them;
    (Where was the pity of our Sires for Byng?)[3]
    Yet knaves, not idiots should the law condemn;
    Then live ye gallant Knights! and bless your Judges' phlegm!}}
    ^  1. [Sir Hew Dalrymple's despatch on the so-called Convention of Cintra is dated September 3, and was published in the London Gazette Extraordinary, September 16, 1808. The question is not alluded to in the Weekly Political Register of September 17, but on the 24th Cobbett opened fire with a long article (pp. 481-502) headed, "Conventions in Portugal," which was followed up by articles on the same subject in the four succeeding issues. Articles iii., iv., v., vi., of the "Definitive Convention" provided for the restoration of the French troops and their safe convoy to France, with their artillery, equipments, and cavalry. "Did the men," asks Cobbett (September 24), "who made this promise beat the Duke d'Abrantés [Junot], or were they like curs, who, having felt the bite of the mastiff, lose all confidence in their number, and, though they bark victory, suffer him to retire in quiet, carrying off his bone to be disposed of at his leisure? No, not so; for they complaisantly carry the bone for him." The rest of the article is written in a similar strain.]
    ^  2. "'Blatant beast.'[•] A figure for the mob. I think first used by Smollett, in his Adventures of an Atom.[†] Horace has the 'bellua multorum capitum.'[‡] In England, fortunately enough, the illustrious mobility has not even one."—[MS.]
    ^  3. "By this query it is not meant that our foolish generals should have been shot, but that Byng [Admiral John Byng, born 1704, was executed March 14, 1757] might have been spared; though the one suffered and the others escaped, probably for Candide's reason 'pour encourager les autres.'"[°]—[MS.]


    ^  • [Spenser (Faërie Queene, bk. vi. cantos iii. 24; xii. 27, sq.) personifies the vox populi, with its thousand tongues, as the "blatant beast."
    ^  † [In The History and Adventures of an Atom (Smollett's Works, 1872, vi. 385), Foksi-Roku (Henry Fox, the first Lord Holland) passes judgment on the populace. "The multitude, my lords, is a many-headed monster, it is a Cerberus that must have a sop; it is a wild beast, so ravenous that nothing but blood will appease its appetite; it is a whale, that must have a barrel for its amusement; it is a demon, to which we must offer human sacrifice.... Bihn-Goh must be the victim—happy if the sacrifice of his single life can appease the commotions of his country." Foksi-Roku's advice is taken, and Bihn-Goh (Byng) "is crucified for cowardice."]
    ^  ‡ [Horace, Odes, II. xiii. 34: "Bellua centiceps."]
    ^  ° ["Dans ce pays-ci il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres."—Candide, xxii.]