Open main menu

Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 4.djvu/72

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
43
POEMS OF JULY—SEPTEMBER, 1816.

DARKNESS.[1][2]

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.

The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars
  1. In the original MS. A Dream.
  2. [Sir Walter Scott (Quarterly Review, October, 1816, vol. xvi p. 204) did not take kindly to Darkness. He regarded the "framing of such phantasms" as "a dangerous employment for the exalted and teeming imagination of such a poet as Lord Byron. The waste of boundless space into which they lead the poet, the neglect of precision which such themes may render habitual, make them in respect to poetry what mysticism is to religion." Poetry of this kind, which recalled "the wild, unbridled, and fiery imagination of Coleridge," was a novel and untoward experiment on the part of an author whose "peculiar art" it was "to show the reader where his purpose tends." The resemblance to Coleridge is general rather than particular. It is improbable that Scott had ever read Limbo (first published in Sibylline Leaves, 1817), an attempt to depict the "mere horror of blank nought-at-all;" but it is possible that he had in his mind the following lines (384-390) from Religious Musings, in which "the final destruction is impersonated" (see Coleridge's note) in the "red-eyed Fiend:"—

    "For who of woman born may paint the hour,
    When seized in his mid course, the Sun shall wane,
    Making the noon ghastly! Who of woman born
    May image in the workings of his thought,
    How the black-visaged, red-eyed Fiend outstretched
    Beneath the unsteady feet of Nature groans
    In feverous slumbers?"

    Poetical Works, 1893, p. 60.

    Another and a less easily detected source of inspiration has been traced (see an article on Campbell's Last Man, in the London Magazine and Review, 1825, New Series, i. 588, 'seq.) to a forgotten but once popular novel entitled The Last Man, or Omegarus and Syderia, a Romance in Futurity (two vols. 1806). Kölbing (Prisoner of Chillon, etc., pp. 136-140) adduces numerous quotations in support of this contention. The following may serve as samples: "As soon as the earth had lost with the moon her guardian star, her decay became more rapid.... Some, in their madness, destroyed the instruments of husbandry, others in deep despair summoned death to their relief. Men began to look on each other with eyes of enmity" (i. 105). "The sun exhibited signs of decay, its surface turned pale, and its beams were frigid. The northern nations dreaded perishing by intense cold ... and fled to the torrid zone to court the sun's beneficial rays" (i. 120). "The reign of Time was over, ages of Eternity were going to begin; but at the same moment Hell shrieked with rage, and the sun and stars were extinguished. The gloomy night of chaos enveloped the world, plaintive sounds issued from