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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 3.djvu/569

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INTRODUCTION TO POEMS OF THE SEPARATION.

The two poems, Fare Thee Well (March 17) and A Sketch (March 29, 1816), which have hitherto been entitled Domestic Pieces, or Poems on His Own Circumstances, I have ventured to rename Poems of the Separation. Of secondary importance as poems or works of art, they stand out by themselves as marking and helping to make the critical epoch in the life and reputation of the poet. It is to be observed that there was an interval of twelve days between the date of Fare Thee Well and A Sketch; that the composition of the latter belongs to a later episode in the separation drama; and that for some reasons connected with the proceedings between the parties, a pathetic if not uncritical resignation had given place to the extremity of exasperation—to hatred and fury and revenge. It follows that either poem, in respect of composition and of publication, must be judged on its own merits. Contemporary critics, while they were all but unanimous in holding up A Sketch to unqualified reprobation, were divided with regard to the good taste and good faith of Fare Thee Well. Moore intimates that at first, and, indeed, for some years after the separation, he was strongly inclined to condemn the Fare Thee Well as a histrionic performance—"a showy effusion of sentiment; "but that on reading the account of all the circumstances in Byron's Memoranda, he was impressed by the reality of the "swell of tender recollections, under the influence of which, as he sat one night musing in his study, these stanzas were produced—the tears, as he said, falling fast over the paper as he wrote them" (Life, p. 302).