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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 4.djvu/62

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In stanxa vii. he records and analyzes the "sickness of the soul," the so-called "phrenzy" which had overtaken and changed the "Lady of his Love;" and, finally (stanza viii.), he lays bare the desolation of his heart, depicting himself as at enmity with mankind, but submissive to Nature, the "Spirit of the Universe," if, haply, there may be "reserved a blessing" even for him, the rejected and the outlaw.

Moore says (Life, p. 321) that The Dream cost its author "many a tear in writing"—being, indeed, the most mournful as well as picturesque "story of a wandering life" that ever came from the pen and heart of man." In his Real Lord Byron (i. 284) Mr. Cordy Jeaffreson maintains that The Dream "has no autobiographical value.... A dream it was, as false as dreams usually are." The character of the poet, as well as the poem itself, suggests another criticism. Byron suffered or enjoyed vivid dreams, and, as poets will, shaped his dreams, consciously and of set purpose, to the furtherance of his art, but nothing concerning himself interested him or awoke the slumbering chord which was not based on actual fact. If the meeting on the "cape crowned with a peculiar diadem," and the final interview in the "antique oratory" had never happened or happened otherwise; if he had not "quivered" during the wedding service at Seaham; if a vision of Annesley and Mary Chaworth had not flashed into his soul,—he would have taken no pleasure in devising these incidents and details, and weaving them into a fictitious narrative. He took himself too seriously to invent and dwell lovingly on the acts and sufferings of an imaginary Byron. The Dream is "picturesque" because the accidents of the scenes are dealt with not historically, but artistically, are omitted or supplied according to poetical licence; but the record is neither false, nor imaginary, nor unverifiable. On the other hand, the composition and publication of the poem must be set down, if not to malice and revenge, at least to the preoccupancy of chagrin and remorse, which compelled him to take the world into his confidence, cost what it might to his own self-respect, or the peace of mind and happiness of others.

For an elaborate description of Annesley Hall and Park, written with a view to illustrate The Dream, see "A Byronian Ramble," Part II., the Athenæum, August 30, 1834. See, too, an interesting quotation from Sir Richard Phillips' unfinished Personal Tour through the United Kingdom, published in the Mirror, 1828, vol. xii. p. 286; Abbotsford and Newstead Abbey, by Washington Irving, 1835, p. 191, seq.; The House and Grave of Byron, 1855; and an article in Lippincott's Magazine, 1876, vol. xviii. pp. 637, seq.