Open main menu

Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 3.djvu/538

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

bastard son for his father's wife. "It was too disgusting to be rendered pleasing by any display of genius" (European Magazine); "The story of Parisina includes adultery not to be named" (Literary Panorama); while the Eclectic, on grounds of taste rather than of morals, gave judgment that "the subject of the tale was purely unpleasing"—"the impression left simply painful."

Byron, no doubt, for better or worse, was in advance of his age, in the pursuit of art for art's sake, and in his indifference, not to morality—the dénouement of the story is severely moral—but to the moral edification of his readers. The tale was chosen because it is a tale of love and guilt and woe, and the poet, unconcerned with any other issue, sets the tale to an enchanting melody. It does not occur to him to condone or to reprobate the loves of Hugo and Parisina, and in detailing the issue leaves the actors to their fate. It was this aloofness from ethical considerations which perturbed and irritated the "canters," as Byron called them—the children and champions of the anti-revolution. The modern reader, without being attracted or repelled by the motif of the story, will take pleasure in the sustained energy and sure beauty of the poetic strain. Byron may have gone to the "nakedness of history" for his facts, but he clothed them in singing robes of a delicate and shining texture.