The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 1/To the Earl of Clare
TO THE EARL OF CLARE.
Tu semper amoris
Sis memor, et cari comitis ne abscedat imago.
Val. Flac. Argonaut, iv. 36.
Friend of my youth! when young we rov'd,
Like striplings, mutually belov'd,
With Friendship's purest glow;
The bliss, which wing'd those rosy hours,
Was such as Pleasure seldom showers
On mortals here below.
The recollection seems, alone,
Dearer than all the joys I've known,
When distant far from you:
Though pain, 'tis still a pleasing pain,
To trace those days and hours again,
And sigh again, adieu!
My pensive mem'ry lingers o'er,
Those scenes to be enjoy'd no more,
Those scenes regretted ever;
The measure of our youth is full,
Life's evening dream is dark and dull,
And we may meet—ah! never!
As when one parent spring supplies
Two streams, which from one fountain rise,
Together join'd in vain;
How soon, diverging from their source,
Each, murmuring, seeks another course,
Till mingled in the Main!
Our vital streams of weal or woe,
Though near, alas! distinctly flow,
Nor mingle as before:
Now swift or slow, now black or clear,
Till Death's unfathom'd gulph appear,
And both shall quit the shore.
Our souls, my Friend! which once supplied
One wish, nor breathed a thought beside,
Now flow in different channels:
Disdaining humbler rural sports,
'Tis yours to mix in polish'd courts,
And shine in Fashion's annals;
'Tis mine to waste on love my time,
Or vent my reveries in rhyme,
Without the aid of Reason;
For Sense and Reason (critics know it)
Have quitted every amorous Poet,
Nor left a thought to seize on.
Poor Little! sweet, melodious bard!
Of late esteem'd it monstrous hard
That he, who sang before all;
He who the lore of love expanded,
By dire Reviewers should be branded,
As void of wit and moral.
And yet, while Beauty's praise is thine,
Harmonious favourite of the Nine!
Repine not at thy lot.
Thy soothing lays may still be read,
When Persecution's arm is dead,
And critics are forgot.
Still I must yield those worthies merit
Who chasten, with unsparing spirit,
Bad rhymes, and those who write them:
And though myself may be the next
By critic sarcasm to be vext,
I really will not fight them.
Perhaps they would do quite as well
To break the rudely sounding shell
Of such a young beginner:
He who offends at pert nineteen,
Ere thirty may become, I ween,
A very harden'd sinner.
Now, Clare, I must return to you;
And, sure, apologies are due:
Accept, then, my concession.
In truth, dear Clare, in Fancy's flight
I soar along from left to right;
My Muse admires digression.
I think I said 'twould be your fate
To add one star to royal state;—
May regal smiles attend you!
And should a noble Monarch reign,
You will not seek his smiles in vain,
If worth can recommend you.
Yet since in danger courts abound,
Where specious rivals glitter round,
From snares may Saints preserve you;
And grant your love or friendship ne'er
From any claim a kindred care,
But those who best deserve you!
Not for a moment may you stray
From Truth's secure, unerring way!
May no delights decoy!
O'er roses may your footsteps move,
Your smiles be ever smiles of love,
Your tears be tears of joy!
Oh! if you wish that happiness
Your coming days and years may bless,
And virtues crown your brow;
Be still as you were wont to be,
Spotless as you've been known to me,—
Be still as you are now.
And though some trifling share of praise,
To cheer my last declining days,
To me were doubly dear;
Whilst blessing your beloved name,
I'd waive at once a Poet's fame,
To prove a Prophet here.
- To the Earl of ——.—[Poems O. and T.]
- These stanzas were written soon after the appearance of a severe critique in a northern review, on a new publication of the British Anacreon. [Byron refers to the article in the Edinburgh Review, of July, 1807, on "Epistles, Odes, and other Poems, by Thomas Little, Esq."]
- A bard [Moore] (Horresco referens) defied his reviewer [Jeffrey] to mortal combat. If this example becomes prevalent, our Periodical Censors must be dipped in the river Styx: for what else can secure them from the numerous host of their enraged assailants? [Cf. English Bards, l. 466, note.]
- Now —— I must.—[Poems O. and T.]
- In truth dear —— in fancy's flight.—[Poems O. and T.]
- ["Of all I have ever known, Clare has always been the least altered in everything from the excellent qualities and kind affections which attached me to him so strongly at school. I should hardly have thought it possible for society (or the world, as it is called) to leave a being with so little of the leaven of bad passions. I do not speak from personal experience only, but from all I have ever heard of him from others, during absence and distance."—Detached Thoughts, Nov. 5, 1821; Life, p. 540.]