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INTRODUCTION TO CANTOS I. AND II.
The first Canto of Childe Harold was commenced in Albania, on the 31st of October, 1809, and the second was finished at Smyrna in the following March. Unconscious of the splendour of his performance, Lord Byron wrote to his mother in 1811, that he was content to have convinced the critics that he was more than they took him for, and would not hazard his fame by another publication. A month afterwards he completed at Athens the “ Hints from Horace," and to this effusion of the satirist, and not to the magnificent musings of the Pilgrim, he looked for the extension of his name. If the eagles which he saw above Parnassus were a type of Childe Harold, the vultures, as Hobhouse called them, were not an unfit emblem of the Hints. The sunny skies of Spain and Greece had warned into life the latent poetry of Byron's nature, and he undervalued the inspired products of his Muse, just because they were more spontaneous than his imitative strains. Ilis friends convinced him of his mistake, and the two Cantos were published in the March of 1812. The copyright was presented by Lord Byron to Mr. Dallas, and sold to Mr. Murray for 6002. For more than a century, said Sir Walter Scott, no work had produced a greater effect. I awoke one morning, said Lord Byron, and found myself famous. The plan of the poem was entirely novel. He had put the spirit of his travels into verse, and avoiding cold descriptions, dwelt solely on the scenes which were striking in themselves, or memorable from their associations. To these vivid pictures, with their commentary of sentiments, gloomy or glowing, was added the interest from the character of the Pilgrim, who, in spite of his disclaimer, was universally believed to be Lord Byron himself. He had, indeed, called him in the MS. Childe Búrun (the Norman name of the Byron family,) and every attribute assigned to the hero belonged equally to the author. The mixture of frankness and mystery, roused and piqued curiosity. With all the evil he had done, and snffered, he hinted at further deeds and woes too dark to be disclosed. This wounded, and worn out spirit, breathing a proud disdain of the world, and boldly arowing obnoxious opinions, gave character to a poem, which even otherwise was full of life and passion. Lord Byron's hatred of hypocrisy, and his ambition to astonish, made him, like the Regent Orleans," un fanfaron de crimes.” He darkened every shadow of his self-portraiture, and instead of putting upon vice the gloss of virtue, covered native beauties with a mask of deformity. In a poem of which the topics, and, in general, the language, were entirely modern, the antique plırases were out of place, and the jesting passage on the London Sunday is still less in keeping with the ardent tenor of the surrounding verse. But these trivial defects did not diminish the conviction that the star of song, which shone dimly at its rising, was bursting forth with unrivalled brilliancy as it advanced to its height.