And flashed the lightning by the latticed bar,
To him more genial than the Midnight Star:
Close to the glimmering grate he dragged his chain,1430
And hoped that peril might not prove in vain.
He rais'd his iron hand to Heaven, and prayed
One pitying flash to mar the form it made:
His steel and impious prayer attract alike—
The storm rolled onward, and disdained to strike;
Its peal waxed fainter—ceased—he felt alone,
As if some faithless friend had spurned his groan!
my thunder!' so do I exclaim, 'This is my lightning!' I allude to a speech of Ivan's, in the scene with Petrowna and the Empress, where the thought and almost expression are similar to Conrad's in the 3d canto of The Corsair. I, however, do not say this to accuse you, but to exempt myself from suspicion, as there is a priority of six months' publication, on my part, between the appearance of that composition and of your tragedies" (Letter to W. Sotheby, September 25, 1815, Letters, 1899, iii. 219). The following are the lines in question:—
"And I have leapt
In transport from my flinty couch, to welcome
The thunder as it burst upon my roof,
And beckon'd to the lightning, as it flash'd
And sparkled on these fetters."
Act iv. sc. 3 [Ivan, 1816, p. 64).
According to Moore, this passage in The Corsair, as Byron seemed to fear, was included by "some scribblers"—i.e. the "lumbering Goth" (see John Bull's Letter), A. A. Watts, in the Literary Gazette, February and March, 1821—among his supposed plagiarisms. Sotheby informed Moore that his lines had been written, though not published, before the appearance of the Corsair. The Confession, and Orestes, reappeared with three hitherto unpublished tragedies, Ivan, The Death of Darnley, and Zamorin and Zama, under the general title, Five Unpublished Tragedies, in 1814.
The story of the critic John Dennis (1657-1734) and the "thunder" is related in Cibber's Lives, iv. 234. Dennis was, or feigned to be, the inventor of a new method of producing stage-thunder, by troughs of wood and stops. Shortly after a play (Appius and Virginia) which he had put upon the stage had been withdrawn, he was present at a performance of Macbeth, at which the new "thunder" was inaugurated. "That is my thunder, by God!" exclaimed Dennis. "The villains will play my thunder, but not my plays."—Dict. Nat. Biog., art. "Dennis."]