Poetry Archives Bio

English Bard and Hodge-Podge Reviews

April 17, 2005

With gratitude, to Lee Johnson

Where to begin, Lord Byron, with thy verse,
Keen, witty, and yet, nonetheless, a curse,
Re-energised by hellish disposition.
Thou mockest all the lit'rary tradition,
Intoxicated by thine ego's shards
In Scotch Reviewers and in English Bards.
No condemnation of another's muses
Can let thy reader thee forgive abuses
And now, when thou thy published wrongs attained,
One single fool 's my theme. Satire, sing again!

Oh! Poets of the ages, do attest:
How long must gentle readerships digest
The ramblings of a man so mean and stiff,
Whose wicked quill—but "nature's noblest gift"—
Has damaged names of greater versifiers
With misdirected passion and with ire,
His will, indeed, obedient to his pen.
He was a graphomaniac of a man,
A slave to vacuous sophistication
(I wish he'd justify his education).

Why dost thou sternly so oppose "combined
Usurpers of the Throne of Taste"? Thy mind
Yields grand citations, outshining all—
All "imitations"—Milton, Juvenal.
Thy path (though surely fillèd not with thorns)
Is paved with many details, names, and notes,
But what a chore for readers of this date
Thine hurried censure to elucidate.
Which dost thou think is kinder 'membered still:
Thine angry blusters or the daffodil?

Oh, prophet-poet, sharpen thou thy sword,
Thine "epic," "elegy," are merely words.
"Just 'nough of learning to misquote," thou blame,
And yet, thine own self 's guilty of the same!
I might add - to the opposite degree—
The over-learnèd cause, thy pedigree.
And, thy creative argument—a bore!
"The path which Pope and Gifford trod before"
Is shunned and overgrown in all respects;
How would'st thou, Byron, thine own lines correct?

Thy quill's ineptness with thy reason joins,
(Thy reason lies within sleek Attic loins).
Thou should'st talk less of forms of "taste and reason"
And more of binding in tradition's prison.
Thou art remembered, Byron—not because
New forms of verse, but—crying with no cause.
The distant time "when yet the Muse was young"
Was gone before milk touched thy new-born tongue.
Homer still sweeps the lyre and Maro sings—
Not indolence or futile meanderings.

The Wordsworth, whom a simple man thou call,
Holds centuries of readers in his thrall.
He needn't be pedantic with his forms:
Good prose is verse and good verse is good prose.
And who here truly gains the "idiot's glory,"
Missing the crux of a most simple story?
While Wordsworth's universal language reigns,
In Lords' and idiots' and in poets' brains,
Lord Byron squanders his on petty quarrels
On each poetic style's decorum'd morals.

But Coleridge's gentle rimes and songs,
And visions mystical and spirits' throngs,
And the mad Blake and his unearthly wits
That drove hand to art, mind to opposites,
And Keats's soul-forge vale in thought stood next
To Shelley's vale of tears, resisted, vexed,
With substance stirred the audience for years.
These bicker'd not on details with their peers.
Thou shout "I am Lord Byron, King of Kings,"
One looks upon thy works, thy stature shrinks.

Of all the targets of thine unchecked libel,
Why can't a fellow quote straight from the Bible?
Must always poets' views on church oppose?
It mocks the common man - respond in verse!
Why do thine offers to teach poets well
Alway in scandal end: Who writes to sell,
Who an inept verse wrote, and quickly vanished,
Who wrote verse likewise, just as promptly published.
To thou, Lord Byron, let me lend advice:
Thou should attempt to write, not criticize.

Only an irksome, gaudy-coloured parrot
Can utter: "We've no living Bard of merit!"
Time and again, rejoicing in the cry
"If must, I shall feel Virtue's lash applied!"
Come now, dear master Byron, just and holy,
How can'st thou speak of "passing schoolboy follies"
When thine own self dost paler verses sing
Than "strainèd modern Bards, e'er on the wing"?
Thy perfect style and form are much more daint'er,
But where's the spark in "Nature's sternest painter"?

Thou conquered ages, Byron, now give pause,
Do not restore the Muse's tainted laws.
New nations always rose, new eras came,
Thou reigned, thou wrote, let others do the same.
Still, Athens, Rome, and Britain, all have failed,
And yet, the common poet has prevailed.
Do not, Lord Byron, mould the world again,
Do less with fifty stanzas, more with ten,
Allow what's worst to grow into what's best,
And now, Lord Byron, go thou to thy rest.