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may yet be seen," added he, "in his stone chamber, be- | pressed in to behold the actual interposition of Heaven, neath his storehouse."
"Sir Justiciar," exclaimed the old man, trembling with rage, "would that by trial by battle, I might prove on that man-sworn scatterling his utter falsehood; but I am past the age of challenge, and he is maimed."
This mode of appeal to Heaven had always been discountenanced by our Norman sovereigns and their law officers; but, perhaps for that very reason, the populace more determinately adhered to it. In this case, and among a people so wedded to their old customs as the ancient inhabitants of London, Richard de Lacy well knew that a refusal would only impede the course of justice, so he assented. By which ordeal will you be judged?" said he (for the accused had always this option) -"by the iron or the water?"
Galfrid of the Langbourne, darting a savage look at his accuser, paused a moment, when the cry of "The water ordeal the water," burst from the crowd.
The plunging the arm into boiling water was evidently a fairer test for an aged man than the snatching a redhot iron bar, three pounds in weight, off the fire, and bearing it nine feet-so the justiciar assented. "Choose twelve law-worthy men on each side," said he, "and let the trial take place forthwith in the church of St. Gregory yonder."
There was some disappointment expressed at this. One reason why our forefathers preferred the ordeal was the pomp thrown around it as a religious ceremony, and in the adjoining cathedral that pomp could be displayed to advantage, while in the little church of St. Gregory only the simplest forms could be observed; and, moreover, it would not contain a tenth of the vast crowd that now quite filled the wide open space around the cross. But so the chief justiciar had commanded; so the priests repaired to the church to prepare the vessel of boiling water -the constables selected the "law-worthy" jurors, or witnesses-while Galfrid of the Langbourne, on his knees, addressed himself to his devotions.
Very soon two men from each side were summoned to enter the church, to ascertain that the water was actually boiling; and then followed the remaining witnesses, each sprinkled with holy water as he entered the church, and presented with the Gospels, which he was to kiss. These were raised on either side of the nave, and between them, supported by a crook, over a clear charcoal fire, hung the vessel of boiling water, from which the accused was to snatch a bar of iron, or a stone, immersing his arm for the threefold ordeal, up to the elbow.
The precious ring, which he believed would effectually secure him from harm by iron, or steel, was still on the old man's finger; but as no ring would be allowed to remain, he snatched it off and concealed it in his bosom. "The vessel is iron, and the bar is iron," said he (for so they usually were); "so I am still secure ;" and, therefore, with a firm step he entered the church.
At the door he was met by the priest, who, duly asperging him with holy water, walked before him to the place of trial, reading the appointed collect, while many
on behalf of so good a man.
The accused had now advanced close to the fire, with eyes fixed on the ground, when, suddenly lifting them, he started back with a wild cry of alarm. "The vessel is brass !"' cried he, "it is brass! and I am s3cured but against iron and steel!''
"Where is security, save in the protection of Hea ven?" said the startled priest.
But the old man heeded him not-nay, heard him not-for he looked horror-struck into the hissing and bubbling cauldron, and saw, far below, not the bar of iron, but a large stone which he was to snatch out. "I cannot, I cannot, " said he, turning away.
"Galfrid, of the Langbourne," said the priest, "wherefore dost thou linger, come forward.”
"I dare not, I dare not," cried he, utterly thrown off his guard by his terrors: "the ring that Hakelot the Jew gave me secures from iron and steel, but not from brass!"'
Then arose a cry of rage and horror from the crowd, who now beheld in their late favourite but the friend of a hated Jew-but the bond-slave of Sathanas himself. "Take him to the Elms; away with him," was shouted; "he hath refused the ordeal."
"It now only remained for the chief justiciar to pass sentence. Galfrid, of the Langbourne, was dragged to the appointed place of execution, and there hanged; the ring, which was firmly believed to be the pledge of his compact with Sathanas, being flung into the fire.
"Alas! although forbidden your house, I still was wont to linger about, though I knew Edeva no longer loved I could not bear to part from her, though she often bade me away; at length, on the night you were at Westminster, I refused to go without some token; and frightened—yes, frightened at the playmate of her girlhood, she gave me that chain. I sought my worthless companions; I boastfully displayed my prize; and when late we arose to depart, Eudo accompanied me to this very spot. There he accused me of having robbed your house, without calling them to share the plunder, and ho seized the chain. We fought I meant not to kill him; but, on the word of a dying man, he was killed in his own wrong."
The young man fell back exhausted. "Take him away, and take heed to him," said the chief justiciar to the attendants from the House of Cripples; 'we have promised him life and limb, though the boon, methinks, is of little value."
This strange story soon spread throughout London, and great was the marvelling. The house of Galfrid, of the Langbourne, was searched, and much stolen property found therein, which being restored to its owners, the dwelling was set fire to, that, if possible, all memorial of a man who had so disgraced, not only his native city, but the high office of carlderman, might perish. And so
anxious were the fathers of the city that this should be, that in talking of him, they would not even use his real name, but spoke of him as "Johan le Vieux." And thus was the story told to Benedict Abbas, that worthy chronicler, who has given the outline of it in his book, but calling him Johannes Sene.
man, who preached about in the northern parts of the kingdom, but who had lost his right hand. Some people said he had lost it by accident; others, and they were the most numerous, said he had lost it in fighting against the Saracens; but the lady Edeva de Baynham, having gone to hear him preach at the market cross of Northampton, was great
From that worthy chronicler we learn nought of Andrewly moved, for she recognised the playmate of her girlhood. Bucquint, whether he lived or died; but we find, that many, many years after, there was much fame of a holy
"O," said she, "well doth he recall to my mind the days of my youth, and the story of the Hand and the Ring.' "'
BY GEORGE GILFILLAN, AUTHOR OF "A GALLERY OF LITERARY PORTRAITS."
It is with diffidence that we approach the subject | disclosed, and, therefore, more effective in its inof the following sketch. It may seem that to attempt a new estimate of a character, so thoroughly scrutinized, and so widely appreciated as Byron's, is an attempt alike hopeless and presumptuous. And if we did approach it with the desire of finding or saying anything absolutely new, we should feel the full force of the objection. But this is far from being our ambition. We have decided to sketch Lord Byron's genius for the following reasons. In the first place, a very narrow is never a very wide, a very particular is seldom a very just scrutiny or estimate. In the second place, the criticism of single works pouring from the press, however acute and admirable, is not equivalent to a review of those works taken as a whole. A judgment pronounced upon the first, second, or third storeys of a building, as they successively arise, does not forestal the opinion of one who can overlook the completed structure. Of Byron's several writings we have every variety of separate critiques, good, bad, and indifferent of his genius, as animating his whole works, we have no criticism, either indifferent, bad, or good. In the third place, the tumult which all Byron's productions instantly excited, the space they cleared and burnt out for themselves, falling like bombshells among the crowd, the strong passions they awakened in their readers, through that intense personality which marked them all, rendered cool appreciation at the time impossible. They came upon the public like powerful sermons on an excited audience, sweeping criticism away before them, blotting out principles of art from the memory of the severest judges, whose hearts they stormed, whose passions they inflamed—at the same time, that they sometimes revolted their tastes, and sometimes insulted their understandings. At night there was intoxication-in the morning calm reflection came. But, in the meantime, the poet was away, his song had become immortal, and the threatened arrows were quietly returned to the quiver again. In the next place, Byron's life and story formed a running commentary upon his works, which tended at once to excite and to bewilder his readers. His works have now illustrated editions: they did not require this while he lived. Then, his romantic history, partially
terest-his early, hapless love-his first unfortunate publication-his Grecian travels-his resistless rush into fame-his miserable marriage —his amours-the glorious backgrounds which he chose for his tragic attitudes, Switzerland and Italy-his personal beauty—his very lameness—~ the odd and yet unludicrous compound which he formed of Vulcan and Venus, of Apollo and Satyr-favourite and football of destiny-the mysterious spectacle he presented of a most miserable man, composed of all the materials which make others happy-the quaint mixture of all opposites in his character, irreconcilable till in the ruin of death-the elaborate and cunning counteraction of every noble gift and accomplishment by some one fatal defect-the cloak of mystery which he now carefully threw over, and now pettishly withdrew from his own characterthe impossibility of either thoroughly hating, or loving, or laughing at him—the unique and manysided puzzle which he thus made, had the effect of maddening the public, and of mystifying his critics. Hal is charged by Falstaff with giving him medicines to make him love him. Byron gave men medicines to educe toward himself a mixture of all possible feelings-anger, envy, admiration, love, pity, blame, horror, and, above all, wonder as to what could be the conceivable issue of a life so high and so low-so earthly and so unearthly-so spiritual and so sensual-so melancholy and so mirthful, as he was notoriously leading. This was the perpetual stimulus to the readers of his works-this the eternal face and figure, filling the margins of all his pages. This now is over. That strange life is lived-that knot, too hard and twisted for man, is away elsewhere to be solved-that heart, so differently reported of by different operators, has undergone the stern analysis of death. His works have now emerged from that fluctuating and lurid shadow of himself, which seemed to haunt and guard them all; and we can now judge of them, though not apart from his personal history, yet undistracted by its perpetual protrusion. In the next place, Byron was the victim of two opposite currents in the public feeling-one unduly exalting, and the other unduly depressing his name—both of which have now so far subsided, that we can judge of
him out of the immediate or overbearing influence | concluding that neither has there been any oracle. of either. And in the last place, as intimated "Oracles speak:" oracles should also shine. already, no attempt has been made since his Now, in Byron's case, we have a man coming death, either to collect the scattered flowers of forward to utter speeches to administer reproofs former fugitive criticism, to be bound in one to smite the public on both cheeks-in the chaplet round his pale and noble brow, or to wreathe for it fresh and independent laurels. Moore's life is a long apology for his memory, such as a partial friend might be expected to make to a public then partial, and unwilling to be convicted of misplaced idolatry. Macaulay's Critique is an elegant fasciculus of all the fine things which, it had occurred to him, might be said on such a theme-exhibits, besides, the coarse current of Byron's life caught in crystal and tinged with couleur de rose, like a foul winter stream shining in ice and evening sunshine-and has many beautiful remarks about his poems; but neither abounds in original views, nor gives, what its author could so admirably have given, a collection of common opinions on his entire genius and works, forming a full-length portrait, ideally like, vigorously distinct, and set, in his own unequalled imagery and language, as in a frame of gold.
attitude of an accuser, impeaching man—of a blasphemer, attacking God-of a prophet, expressing himself, moreover, with the clearness and the certainty of profound and dogmatic conviction; and we have thus, more than a threefold right to inquire, what is your drift, what would you have us to believe, or what to do? Now here, precisely, we think, is Byron's fatal defect. He has no such clear, distinct, and overpowering object, as were worthy of, or as has secured the complete concentration of his splendid powers. His object! What is it? Not to preach the duty of universal despair; or to inculcate the propriety of an "act of universal, simultaneous suicide;" else, why did he not, in the first place, set the example himself, and from "Leucadia's rock," or Etna's crater, precipitate himself, as a signal for the species to follow; and why, in the second place, did he profess such trust in schemes of political amelioration, and die in the act of leading on a Revolutionary war? Not to teach, nor yet to impugn any system of religion: for if one thing be more certain about him than another, it is, that he had no settled
beginning to entertain a desire toward forming them when the great teacher, Death, arrived. Nor was his purpose merely to display his own powers and passions in imposing aspects: although much of this desire mingled with his ambition, still he was not altogether a vain attitudinizer. There is sterling truth in his taste and style of writing-there is sincerity in his anguish-and his little pieces, particularly, are the mere wring
Our humble endeavour at present is to make some small contribution towards a future likeness of the poet Byron. And whatever may be the effect of our remarks upon the public, and how-convictions on such subjects at all—and was only ever they may or may not fail in starting from slumber the "Coming Man" who shall criticise Byron as Thomas Carlyle has criticised Jean Paul, and Wilson, Burns: this, at least, shall be ours-we shall have expressed our honest convictions-uttered an idea that has long lain upon our minds and repaid, in part, a debt of gratitude which we owe to Byron, as men owe to some terrible teacher, who has at once roused and tortured their minds; as men owe to the thunder-ings of his heart! Who can doubt that his brow, peal which has awakened them, sweltering, at the hour when it behoved them to start on some journey of life and death.
We propose to methodise our paper under the following outlines. We would, in the first place, inquire into Byron's purpose. Secondly, into the relation in which he has stood to his age, and the influence he has exerted over it. Thirdly, into the leading features of his artistic execution. Fourthly, speak of the materials on which his genius fed. Fifthly, glance at the more characteristic of his works. And, sixthly, try to settle his rank as a Poet. We would first ask at Byron the simple question, "What do you mean?" A simple question truly, but significant as well, and not always very easy to answer. It is always, however, our duty to ask it; and we have, in general, a right, surely, to expect a reply. If a man come and make us a speech, we are entitled to understand his language as well as to see his object. If a man administer to us a reproof, or salute us with a sudden blow, we have a double right to turn round and ask "What's that for?" Nay, if a man come professing to utter an oracular deliverance, even in this case, we expect some glimmer of definite meaning and object; and if glimmer there be none, we are justified in
the index of the soul, darkened as he wrote that
simplicity, and quiet deep sincerity, was awanting | hind it; nor did he move with equal and measured in Byron's character. And this greatly accounts for the wreck which he became; and for that miserya misery which was wonderful, passing the woe of man-which sat down upon his spirit. Many accounts have been given of his grief. Macaulay says that he was a spoiled child. Another in verse declares→→→
"The thought that he was greater than his kind Had struck, methought, his eagle spirit blind By gazing at its own exceeding light." But the plain prose and English of it lies in his union of intensity of power with the want of intensity of purpose. He was neither one thing, nor yet another. Life with him was neither, on the one hand, an earnest single-eyed effort, nor was it, could it be, a mere display. He believed, and trembled as he believed, that it was a serious thing to die; but did not sufficiently, if at all feel, that it was as serious a thing to live. He would not struggle: he must shine; but could not be content with mere shining without struggle. And hence ill at ease with himself, aimless and hopeless, "like the Cyclops-mad with blindness," he turned to bay against society-manand the Maker. And hence, amid all that he has said to the world—and said so eloquently, and said so mournfully, and said amid such wide, and silent, and profound attention-he has told it little save his own sad story.
I pass, secondly, to speak of the relation in which he stood to his age. The relations in which a man stands to his age are perhaps threefold. He is either before it or behind it, or exactly on a level with it. He is either its forerunner; or he is dragged as a captive at its chariot wheels; or he walks calmly, and step for step, along with it. We behold in Milton the man before his age-not, indeed, in point of moral grandeur or mental power; for remember, his age was the age of the Puritans, the age of Hampden, Selden, Howe, Vane, and of Cromwell, who was a greater writer than Milton himself-only, it was with the sword that he wrote and whose deeds were quite commensurate with Milton's words. But in point of liberality of sentiment and width of view, the Poet strode across entire centuries, and went, indeed, so far before his contemporaries that he seemed, to many of them, to dwindle in the distance. We see in Southey the man behind his age, who, indeed, in his youth, took a rash and rapid race in advance, but returned like a beaten dog, cowed, abashed, with downcast head, and tail between his legs, and remained, for the rest of his life, aloof from the great movements of society. We behold in Brougham one whom once the age was proud to claim as its child and champion, the express image of its bustling, restless, versatile, and onward character, and of whom we still at least say, with a sigh, he might have been the Man of his time. In which of these relations, is it asked, did Byron stand to his age? We are forced to answer, in none of them. He was not before his age in anything, in opinion, or in feeling. He was not, in all or many things, disgracefully be
steps in its procession. He stood to the age in a most awkward and uncertain attitude. He sneered at its advancement, and he lent money, and ultimately lost his life, in attempting to promote it. He spoke with uniform contempt, and imitated with as uniform emulation, the masterpieces of its literature. He abused Wordsworth in public, and in private "rolled him as a sweet morsel under his tongue;" or rather, if you believe himself, took him as a drastic dose, to purify his bilious and unhappy nature, by the strongest contrasted element that he could find. He often reviled and ridiculed revealed religion, and yet read the Bible more faithfully and statedly than most professed Christians-made up in superstition what he wanted in faith-had a devout horror at beginning his poems, undertaking his journeys, or paring his nails on a Friday-and had he lived, would probably have ended, like his own Giaour, as "Brother Byron," with hair shirt, and ironspiked girdle, in some Achaian or Armenian convent. He habitually trampled on, and seems sometimes to have really despised, the opinion of the public; and yet, in some points, felt it so keenly, that, says Ebenezer Elliot," he would have almost gone into hysterics had a tailor laughed at him." And although, when the Edinburgh Review sought to crush him like a worm, he rose from the heel, a fiery, flying dragon; yet, to the assaults of the meaner creatures of the press, he was pervious all over, and allowed minnikin arrows, which were beneath his laughter, to rouse his rage. Absurd and ludicrous the spectacle that of this Laocoon, covered from head to foot with the snakes of supernal vengeance, bearing their burden with deep agonized silence, starting and shrieking upon the application of a thorn, which the hand of some puny passing malignant had thrust into his foot. In one respect we grant that Byron was the spirit of the age; he was the representative of its wants, its weakness, its discontents, its dark unrest— but not of its aspirations, its widening charity, and its hopeful tendencies. His voice was the deep vague moan of the world's dream-his writhing anguish, the last struggle of its troubled slumber it has since awaked, or is awakening, and, "as a dream when one awakeneth," it is despising, too much despising, his image. He was a beaten man, standing high yet helpless between the Old and the New, and all the helpless and the hopeless, rallied round him, to proclaim him the one-eyed monarch of the blind; say rather to constitute him first magistrate over a city in flames-supreme ruler in a blasted and ruined realm. In one thing he was certainly a prophet; namely, a prophet of evil. As misery was the secret sting of all his inspiration, it became the invariable matter of all his song. In some of his poems, you have Misery contemplating; in others, Misery weeping aloud; in others, Misery revolving and reproducing the past; in others, Misery bursting the confines of the world, as if in search of a wider hell than that in which it felt itself environed: in others, Misery stopping
personal passion, seem the main elements of Byron's poetical power. He sees clearly, he selects judiciously for effect from among the points he does see, and he paints them with a pencil dipped in his own fiery heart. He was the last representative of the English character of mind. His lordly independence and high-spirited
to turn and rend its real or imaginary foes; and in others, Misery breaking out into hollow, hopeless, and heartless laughter. ( (What a terrible thing is the laugh of the unhappy! It is the very "echo to the seat where sorrow is throned.") But in all, you have Misery; and whether he returns the old thunder in a voice of hundred power and majesty, or sings an evening song withness; his fearless avowal of his prejudices however the grasshopper at his feet-smiles the smile of bitterness, or sheds the burning tears of angerhis voice still speaks of desolation, mourning, and woe; the vocabulary of grief labours under the demands of his melancholy genius; and never, never more, till this scene of tears and sighs be ended, shall we meet with a more authentic and profound expounder of the wretchedness of man. And as such we deem him to have done good service; first, because he who approaches toward the bottom of human woe, proves that it is not altogether bottomless, however deep; because, if human grief spring from human greatness, in unveiling the grief he is illustrating the grandeur of man; and, because, the writings of Byron have saved us, in this country, what in France has been so pernicious, "the literature of desperation:" they are a literature of desperation in themselves; they condense, into one volume, what in France has been diluted throughout many, and, consequently, our country has drained off at one gulp, and survived the experiment, the poison which our neighbours have been sipping for years to their deadly harm.
narrow, and passions however coarse; his constant clearness and decision of tone and of style; his manly vigour and directness; his strong unreasoning instinctive sense; his abhorrence of mysticism; and his frequent caprices-all savoured of that literature which had reared Dryden, Pope, and Johnson; and every peculiarity of the English school seems to have clustered in and around him, as its last splendid specimen. Since then our higher literature is rapidly charging with the German element. Byron was ultimus Romanorum-the last, and, with the exceptions of Shakspeare and Milton, the greatest purely English poet. His manner had generally all the clearness and precision of sculpture; indeed his clearness serves often to disguise his depth. As obscurity sometimes gives an air of mystic profundity and solemn grandeur to a shallow puddle, so, on the other hand, we have seen pools among the mountains, whose pellucidity made them appear less profound, and where every small shining pebble was a bright liar as to the real depth of the waters, such pools are many of the poems of Byron, and, we may add, of Campbell.
His dominion over the darker passions is one of the most obvious features in his poetic charater. He rode in a chariot drawn, if we may use the figure, by those horses described in the visions of the Apocalypse, "whose heads were as the heads of lions, and out of their mouths issued fire, and smoke, and brimstone." And supreme is his management of these dreadful coursers. Whatever is fiercest and gloomiest in human nature— whatever furnace-bosoms have been heated seven times hotter by the unrestrained passions and the torrid suns of the east and the south-wherever man verges toward the animal or the fiendwherever misanthropes have folded their arms, and taken their desperate attitude wherever stands "the bed of sin delirious with its dread"
Thus, on the whole, we regard Byron neither as, in any sense, a creator, nor, wholly, as a creature of his period; but rather, as a stranger entangled in the passing stream of its crowd, imperfectly adjusted to its customs, indifferently reconciled to its laws-among men, but not of them—a man of the world, but not a man of the age; and who has rather fallen furiously through it-"a wild diver" spurning the heights, and seeking the depths-than left on it any deep or definite impression. Some men are buried and straightway forgotten-shovelled out of memory as soon as shovelled into the tomb. Others are buried, and from their graves, through the hands of ministering love, arise fragrant flowers and verdant branches, and thus are they, in a subordinate sense, "raised in glory." Others, again, lie down in the dust, and though no blossom or bough marks the spot, and though the timid shun it at evening-tides, as a spot unbless-country, he finds it in the mansions of all unhappy ed-yet, forgotten it can never be, for there lies the record of a great guilty life extinct, and the crown of crime sits silent and shadowy on the tombstone. This is Byron's memorial in the age. But, as even on Nero's tomb "some hand unseen strewed flowers," and as "nothing dies but some-dissipation, who indulge in any delicious dream— thing mourns," let us lay a frail garland upon the sepulchre of a ruin-itself a desolation-and say Requiescat in pace, as we hurry on.
I come, thirdly, to speak of the leading features of his artistic execution, and the materials which his genius used. And here there are less mingled feelings to embarrass the critical contemplator. Strong, direct intellect, descriptive force, and
wherever devours "the worm that cannot sleep, and never dies"-there the melancholy muse of Byron finds a haunt. Driven from a home in his
hearts, which open gloomily, and admit him as their tenant and their bard. To escape from one's-self is the desire of many, of all the miserable-the desire of the drunkard, of the opiumeater, of those who plunge into the vortex of any
but it is the singularity of Byron that he uniformly escapes from himself into something worse and more miserable. His being transmigrates into a darker and more demoniac shape; he becomes an epicure even in wretchedness; he has supped full of common miseries, and must create and exhaust imaginary horrors. What infinite pity that a being so gifted, and that might have