The Works of Lord Byron Volume III Part 73

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[320] ["All wept, but particularly Savary, and a Polish officer who had been exalted from the ranks by Buonaparte. He clung to his master's knees; wrote a letter to Lord Keith, entreating permission to accompany him, even in the most menial capacity, which could not be admitted."--_Private Letter from Brussels._]

[nr] {429} ----_that mute adieu_.--[MS.]

[ns] _Dear as they have seemed to me_.--[MS.]

[nt] _In the faith I pledged to thee_.--[MS.]


_Glory lightened from thy soul_.

_Never did I grieve till now_.--[MS.]

[321] ["At Waterloo one man was seen, whose left arm was shattered by a cannon-ball, to wrench it off with the other, and, throwing it up in the air, exclaimed to his comrades, 'Vive l'Empereur, jusqu'a la mort!'

There were many other instances of the like: this you may, however, depend on as true."--_Private Letter from Brussels._]

[nv] _When the hearts of coward foes_.--[MS.]

[nw] {430} ----_to Friendship's prayer_.--[MS.]


_'Twould not gather round his throne_ _Half the hearts that still are thine_.--[MS.]


_Let me but partake his doom_, _Be it exile or the grave_.

or, _All I ask is to abide_ _All the perils he must brave_, _All my hope was to divide_.--[MS.]

or, _Let me still partake his gloom_, _Late his soldier, now his slave_-- _Grant me but to share the gloom_ _Of his exile or his grave_.--[MS.]

[322] {431} [These lines "are said to have been done into English verse by R. S. ---- P. L. P. R., Master of the Royal Spanish Inqn., etc., etc."--_Morning Chronicle_, March 15, 1816. "The French have their _Poems_ and _Odes_ on the famous Battle of Waterloo, as well as ourselves. Nay, they seem to glory in the battle as the source of great events to come. We have received the following poetical version of a poem, the original of which is circulating in Paris, and which is ascribed (we know not with what justice) to the Muse of M. de Chateaubriand. If so, it may be inferred that in the poet's eye a new change is at hand, and he wishes to prove his secret indulgence of old principles by reference to this effusion."--Note, _ibid._]

[323] [Charles Angelique Francois Huchet, Comte de La Bedoyere, born 1786, was in the retreat from Moscow, and in 1813 distinguished himself at the battles of Lutzen and Bautzen. On the return of Napoleon from Elba he was the first to bring him a regiment. He was promoted, and raised to the peerage, but being found in Paris after its occupation by the Allied army, he was tried by a court-martial, and suffered death August 15, 1815.]

[324] {432} See _Rev._ Chap. viii. V. 7, etc., "The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood," etc. V. 8, "And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood,"

etc. V. 10, "And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters." V. 11, "And the name of the star is called _Wormwood_: and the third part of the waters became _wormwood_; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter."

[325] Murat's remains are said to have been torn from the grave and burnt. ["Poor dear Murat, what an end ...! His white plume used to be a rallying point in battle, like Henry the Fourth's. He refused a confessor and a bandage; so would neither suffer his soul or body to be bandaged."--Letter to Moore, November 4. 1815, _Letters_, 1899, iii.

245. See, too, for Joachim Murat (born 1771), proclaimed King of Naples and the Two Sicilies, August, 1808, _ibid_., note 1.]

[326] {434} ["Write, Britain, write the moral lesson down." Scott's _Field of Waterloo_, Conclusion, stanza vi. line 3.]

[327] {435} ["Talking of politics, as Caleb Quotem says, pray look at the conclusion of my 'Ode on Waterloo,' written in the year 1815, and comparing it with the Duke de Berri's catastrophe in 1820, tell me if I have not as good a right to the character of '_Vates_,' in both senses of the word, as Fitzgerald and Coleridge?--

'Crimson tears will follow yet;'

and have not they?"--Letter to Murray, April 24, 1820.

In the Preface to _The Tyrant's Downfall, etc_., 1814, W. L. Fitzgerald (see _English Bards, etc._, line 1, _Poetical Works_, 1898, i. 297, note 3) "begs leave to refer his reader to the dates of his Napoleonics ...

to prove his legitimate t.i.tle to the prophetical meaning of _Vates_"

(_Cent. Mag._, July, 1814, vol. lx.x.xiv. p. 58). Coleridge claimed to have foretold the restoration of the Bourbons (see _Biographia Literaria_, cap. x.).]

[328] {436} ["The Friend who favoured us with the following lines, the poetical spirit of which wants no trumpet of ours, is aware that they imply more than an impartial observer of the late period might feel, and are written rather as by Frenchman than Englishman;--but certainly, neither he nor any lover of liberty can help feeling and regretting that in the latter time, at any rate, the symbol he speaks of was once more comparatively identified with the cause of Freedom."--_Examiner_. April 7, 1816.]

[329] {437} The tricolor.


"Guns, Trumpets, Blunderbusses, Drums and Thunder."

Pope, _Sat._ i. 26.[330]


In a note to the "Advertis.e.m.e.nt" to the _Siege of Corinth_ (_vide post_, p. 447), Byron puts it on record that during the years 1809-10 he had crossed the Isthmus of Corinth eight times, and in a letter to his mother, dated Patras, July 30, 1810, he alludes to a recent visit to the town of Corinth, in company with his friend Lord Sligo. (See, too, his letter to Coleridge, dated October 27, 1815, _Letters_, 1899, iii. 228.) It is probable that he revisited Corinth more than once in the autumn of 1810; and we may infer that, just as the place and its surroundings--the temple with its "two or three columns" (line 497), and the view across the bay from Acro-Corinth--are sketched from memory, so the story of the siege which took place in 1715 is based upon tales and legends which were preserved and repeated by the grandchildren of the besieged, and were taken down from their lips. There is point and meaning in the apparently insignificant line (stanza xxiv. line 765), "We have heard the hearers say" (see _variant_ i. p. 483), which is slipped into the description of the final catastrophe. It bears witness to the fact that the _Siege of Corinth_ is not a poetical expansion of a chapter in history, but a heightened reminiscence of local tradition.

History has, indeed, very little to say on the subject. The anonymous _Compleat History of the Turks_ (London, 1719), which Byron quotes as an authority, is meagre and inaccurate. Hammer-Purgstall (_Histoire de l'Empire Ottoman_, 1839, xiii. 269), who gives as his authorities Girolamo Ferrari and Raschid, dismisses the siege in a few lines; and it was not till the publication of Finlay's _History of Greece_ (vol. v., a.d. 1453-1821), in 1856, that the facts were known or reported.

Finlay's newly discovered authority was a then unpublished MS. of a journal kept by Benjamin Brue, a connection of Voltaire's, who accompanied the Grand Vizier, Ali c.u.murgi, as his interpreter, on the expedition into the Morea. According to Brue (_Journal de la Campagne ... en_ 1715 ... Paris, 1870, p. 18), the siege began on June 28, 1715.

A peremptory demand on the part of the Grand Vizier to surrender at discretion was answered by the Venetian proveditor-general, Giacomo Minetto, with calm but a.s.sured defiance ("Your menaces are useless, for we are prepared to resist all your attacks, and, with confidence in the a.s.sistance of G.o.d, we will preserve this fortress to the most serene Republic. G.o.d is with us"). Nevertheless, the Turks made good their threat, and on the 2nd of July the fortress capitulated. On the following day at noon, whilst a party of Janissaries, contrary to order, were looting and pillaging in all directions, the fortress was seen to be enveloped in smoke. How or why the explosion happened was never discovered, but the result was that some of the pillaging Janissaries perished, and that others, to avenge their death, which they attributed to Venetian treachery, put the garrison to the sword. It was believed at the time that Minetto was among the slain; but, as Brue afterwards discovered, he was secretly conveyed to Smyrna, and ultimately ransomed by the Dutch Consul.

The late Professor Kolbing (_Siege of Corinth_, 1893, p. xxvii.), in commenting on the sources of the poem, suggests, under reserve, that Byron may have derived the incident of Minetto's self-immolation from an historic source--the siege of Zsigetvar, in 1566, when a mult.i.tude of Turks perished from the explosion of a powder magazine which had been fired at the cost of his own life by the Hungarian commander Zrini.

It is, at least, equally probable that local patriotism was, in the first instance, responsible for the poetic colouring, and that Byron supplemented the meagre and uninteresting historic details which were at his disposal by "intimate knowledge" of the Corinthian version of the siege. (See _Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Right Hon. Lord Byron_, London, 1822, p. 222; and _Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Lord Byron_, by George Clinton, London, 1825, p. 284.)

It has been generally held that the _Siege of Corinth_ was written in the second half of 1815 (Kolbing's _Siege of Corinth_, p. vii.). "It appears," says John Wright (_Works_, 1832, x. 100), "by the original MS., to have been begun in July, 1815;" and Moore (_Life_, p. 307), who probably relied on the same authority, speaks of "both the _Siege of Corinth_ and _Parisina_ having been produced but a short time before the Separation" (i.e. spring, 1816). Some words which Medwin (_Conversations_, 1824, p. 55) puts into Byron's mouth point to the same conclusion. Byron's own testimony, which is completely borne out by the MS. itself (dated J^y [i.e. January, not July] 31, 1815), is in direct conflict with these statements. In a note to stanza xix. lines 521-532 (_vide post_, pp. 471-473) he affirms that it "was not till after these lines were written" that he heard "that wild and singularly original and beautiful poem [_Christabel_] recited;" and in a letter to S. T.

Coleridge, dated October 27, 1815 (_Letters_, 1899, iii. 228), he is careful to explain that "the enclosed extract from an unpublished poem (i.e. stanza xix. lines 521-532) ... was written before (not seeing your _Christabelle_ [sic], for that you know I never did till this day), but before I heard Mr. S[cott] repeat it, which he did in June last, and this thing was begun in January, and more than half written before the Summer." The question of plagiarism will be discussed in an addendum to Byron's note on the lines in question; but, subject to the correction that it was, probably, at the end of May (see Lockhart's _Memoir of the Life of Sir W. Scott_, 1871, pp. 311-313), not in June, that Scott recited _Christabel_ for Byron's benefit, the date of the composition of the poem must be determined by the evidence of the author himself.

The copy of the MS. of the _Siege of Corinth_ was sent to Murray at the beginning (probably on the 2nd, the date of the copy) of November, and was placed in Gifford's hands about the same time (see letter to Murray, November 4, 1815, _Letters_, 1899, iii. 245; and Murray's undated letter on Gifford's "great delight" in the poem, and his "three critical remarks," _Memoir of John Murray_, 1891, i. 356). As with _Lara_, Byron began by insisting that the _Siege_ should not be published separately, but slipped into a fourth volume of the collected works, and once again (possibly when he had at last made up his mind to accept a thousand guineas for his own requirements, and not for other beneficiaries--G.o.dwin, Coleridge, or Maturin) yielded to his publisher's wishes and representations. At any rate, the _Siege of Corinth_ and _Parisina_, which, says Moore, "during the month of January and part of February were in the hands of the printers" (_Life_, p. 300), were published in a single volume on February 7, 1816. The greater reviews were silent, but notices appeared in numerous periodicals; e.g. the _Monthly Review_, February, 1816, vol. lxxix. p. 196; the _Eclectic Review_, March, 1816, N.S. vol. v. p. 269; the _European_, May, 1816, vol. lxxix. p. 427; the _Literary Panorama_, June, 1816, N.S. vol. iv.

p. 418; etc. Many of these reviews took occasion to pick out and hold up to ridicule the illogical sentences, the grammatical solecisms, and general imperfections of _technique_ which marked and disfigured the _Siege of Corinth_. A pa.s.sage in a letter which John Murray wrote to his brother-publisher, William Blackwood (_Annals of a Publishing House_, 1897, i. 53), refers to these cavillings, and suggests both an apology and a retaliation--

"Many who by 'numbers judge a poet's song' are so stupid as not to see the powerful effect of the poems, which is the great object of poetry, because they can pick out fifty careless or even bad lines.

The words may be carelessly put together; but this is secondary.

Many can write polished lines who will never reach the name of poet. You see it is all poetically conceived in Lord B.'s mind."

In such wise did Murray bear testimony to Byron's "splendid and imperishable excellence, which covers all his offences and outweighs all his defects--the excellence of sincerity and strength."



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