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coveted. He was stricken with illness before he could take the field, and died at Missolonghi, April 19, 1824. In his delirium he imagined that he was leading his troops at Lepanto, and cried out, "Forward, forward, follow me!" At length, as the last lethargy settled down upon his untamable and restless spirit, he said quietly to his attendant, “Now I shall go to sleep." He did not speak again.
Byron's Work. — The life and work of Lord Byron were an immense force not only in the history of England, but throughout Europe. His generation hailed him as the voice of their aspirations and complaints. He uttered for them, in verse of an indomitable and masculine vigor, full of a somewhat declamatory but magnificent rhetoric, their despairs, their unbeliefs; and he shares in both their weakness and their strength. Probably no other English poet ever won such admiration from contemporary Europe; he gave English literature a larger place on the Continent, and "led the genius of Britain on a pilgrimage thoughout all Europe.” But while realizing the importance of Byron in the large movement of democracy as a social and political force, our primary question is rather as to the permanence and value of his contribution to literature. The world has moved rapidly away from the thoughts and tastes of Byron and of his day, but it is the distinction of the great poets to express not their own time merely, but that which is common to all times. Has Byron done this? Even when judged by the most liberal standards, it must be admitted that Byron's poetry does not possess in any great measure a high excellence of style. He is dashing, brilliant, unequal, effective, but careless of finish and detail even to an occasional slip in grammar. The movement of his verse is nervous, strong,
and free, but Shelley surpasses him in subtle lyrical quality, and in his inspired instinct for the aptest word. Yet we forget these shortcomings in his immense vitality and ease; and when fairly caught in the rapids of his eloquence, we are borne along by the power of the orator joined to the power of the poet. He has a feeling for large results; his descriptions are bold, broad, and telling, and the historic past of Europe lives in his swelling lines. He is the poet of the mountain-peak, the sea, and the tempest. A contempt for his fellow-men mingles curiously with his love of Nature and her solitudes. Unlike Wordsworth, he does not efface himself in her presence, but finds a congenial spirit in her moods of fierceness and of power.
His Egotism. — For the rest, Byron's life and work are the memorial of his imperious and colossal egotism. Napoleon would have made the world minister to his lust of power; Byron to his lust of pleasure. I myself would enjoy, yet I suffer: this is the sum of his arraignment of life. He could create but one type of hero, because he could not escape from the tyranny of his own personality. His heroes never learn of suffering; they stand solitary in the midst of the sufferings of the world, in the egotism of their own woes, sullen and defiant until the last. Moreover, there is in this attitude of Byron's at least a suspicion of insincerity. For Byron's romantic unhappiness and mad dissipations were more conducive to popularity than Wordsworth's placid contentment and sobriety.
His Conception of Liberty. -- Yet while we may be uncertain as to how much of Byron's demonstrative despair was "playing to the gallery," his devotion to liberty at least was genuine. His faith in freedom glows in his verse, and lends a parting and consecrating radi
ance to his unhappy life. But his conception of freedom is shallow and unregulated; he confuses it with the license to every man to do what shall seem good in his own eyes.
“I have simplified my politics,” he writes, “into an utter detestation of all existing governments.” His heroes are, for the most part, desperate men, in reckless revolt against the social and moral laws. Haughty, unyielding, self-centered, they are rather the foes to society than its saviors. Selim, in The Bride of Abydos, boasts of his love for freedom; but by freedom he means the unchecked license of the buccaneer, free to sail where he will, with a thousand swords ready to destroy at his command. Byron is without a real social faith; impatient to pull down, he is powerless to lay hold on any rational or helpful law of life for himself or for others.
Byron's poetry, however, has many enduring qualities. He had the inner and consuming fire of genius; the very strength and passion of his rebellion against authority, like that of the Titans of old, will make his struggle memorable. By many a poem, and still more by the superb vitality of many a brilliant passage, he has secured a lasting place among the poets of his country.
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY
Shelley stands with Byron as a poet of revolt; but his devotion to liberty is purer, his love for man readier to declare itself in deeds of help and sympathy, his whole life ennobled by loftier and more unselfish aims. . Byron's cry is, “I am unhappy;" Shelley's, “The world is unhappy, and I hope to brighten it." In Byron we may see the masculine element of revolt audaciously
questioning earth and heaven, wanting in reverence and in faith, instant to destroy; in Shelley rather a feminine unworldliness, erring through its incapacity to adjust itself to the ways of earth; we see in him a theorist and a dreamer, building in the air his shimmering palaces of clouds until he “falls upon the thorns of life.” A friend describes him as “blushing like a girl” at their first meeting, and speaks of his "flushed, feminine, and artless face." Strong yet slender in figure, with sensitive, almost girlish face, with deep-blue poet eyes, and a mass of wavy brown hair, early streaked with gray, Shelley in our imagination moves among other men as one apart. A daring independence of mind distinguished him from the first. It was his nature to accept nothing on the authority of others, but rather to question and prove all things for himself. He dreamed of what the world should be before life had taught him what it was, and in the fervor of his ideals of truth and righteousness, in his passion for reforming the world,” - young and confident, but too often hasty and mistaken, — he found himself misunderstood and at issue with the world. At Eton, where he was sent in 1804, he was solitary, shy, eccentric; he did not join in the cricket or football, and was commonly spoken of by the boys as “Mad Shelley." In his school days, in one of those sudden flashes of prophetic insight that sometimes illuminate the spirit in early youth, his ideal of life came to him with strange distinctness. He tells us how he then made this resolve, weeping:
“I will be wise,