Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 4.djvu/581

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539
QUESTION AND ANSWER.

Mouth that marks the envious Scorner,
With a Scorpion in each corner
Curling up his tail to sting you,[1]
In the place that most may wring you;
Eyes of lead-like hue and gummy,
Carcase stolen from some mummy,
Bowels—(but they were forgotten,

Save the Liver, and that's rotten),10

    MS. is dated 1818, and it is probable that the lines were written in the early spring of that year. Moore or Murray had told Byron that Rogers was in doubt whether to praise or blame him in his poem on "Human Life" now approaching completion; and he had heard, from other sources, that it was Rogers who was the author or retailer of certain scandalous stories which were current in the "whispering-gallery of the world." He had reason to believe that everybody was talking about him, and it was a relief to be able to catch and punish so eminent a scandal-monger. It was in this spirit that he wrote to Murray (February 20, 1818), "What you tell me of Rogers ... is like him. He cannot say that I have not been a sincere and warm friend to him, till the black drop of his liver oozed through too palpably to be overlooked. Now if I once catch him at any of his jugglery with me or mine, let him look to it," etc., etc., and in all probability the "poem on Rogers" was then in existence, or was working in his brain. The lines once written, Byron swallowed his venom, and, when Rogers visited Italy in the autumn of 1821, he met him at Bologna, travelled with him across the Apennines to Florence, and invited him "to stay as long as he liked" at Pisa. Thither Rogers came, presumably, in November, 1821, and, if we may trust the Table Talk (1856, p. 238), remained at the Palazzo Lanfranchi for several days. Byron seems to have been more than usually provocative and cross-grained, and, on one occasion (see Medwin, Angler in Wales, 1834, i. 26, sq. ; and Records of Shelley, etc., by E. T. Trelawney, 1878, i. 53), when he was playing billiards, and Rogers was in the lobby outside, secretly incited his bull-dog, "Faithful Moretto," to bark and show his teeth; and, when Medwin had convoyed the terror-stricken bard into his presence, greeted him with effusion, but contrived that he should sit down on the very sofa which hid from view the MS. of "Question and Answer." Longa est injuria, longæ ambages; but the story rests on the evidence of independent witnesses. By far the best comment on satire and satirist is to be found in the noble lines in Italy, in which Rogers commemorates his last meeting with the "Youth who swam from Sestos to Abydos"—

    "If imagined wrongs
    Pursued thee, urging thee sometimes to do
    Things long regretted, oft, as many know,
    None more than I, thy gratitude would build
    On slight foundations; and, if in thy life
    Not happy, in thy death thou surely wert,
    Thy wish accomplished."

    Poems by Samuel Rogers, 1852. ii. 119.]

  1. Turning its quick tail ——.—[Fraser's, etc.]