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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 5.djvu/624

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584
THE ISLAND.

shores, and, so it was believed, disappeared for good and all. Long afterwards it was known that they had landed on Pitcairn Island, broken up the Bounty, and founded a permanent settlement.

When Bligh returned to England (March 14, 1790), and acquainted the Government "with the atrocious act of piracy and mutiny" which had been committed on the high seas, the Pandora frigate, with Captain Edwards, was despatched to apprehend the mutineers, and bring them back to England for trial and punishment. The Pandora reached Tahiti March 23, 1791, set sail, with fourteen prisoners, May 8, and was wrecked on the "Great Barrier Reef" north-east of Queensland, August 29, 1791. Four of the prisoners, including George Stewart, who had been manacled, and were confined in "Pandora's box," perished in the wreck, and the remaining ten were brought back to England, and tried by court-martial. (See The Eventful History of the Mutiny, etc. (by Sir John Barrow), 1831, pp. 205-244.)

The story, which runs through the second, thirds and fourth cantos, may possibly owe some of its details to a vague recollection of incidents which happened, or were supposed to happen, at Tahiti, in the interval between the final departure of the Bounty, September 21, 1789, and the arrival of the Pandora, March 23, 1791; but, as a whole, it is a work of fiction.

With the exception of the fifteenth and sixteenth cantos of Don Juan, The Island was the last poem of any importance which Byron lived to write, and the question naturally suggests itself—Is the new song as good as the old? Byron answers the question himself. He tells Leigh Hunt (January 25, 1823) that he hopes the "poem will be a little above the ordinary run of periodical poesy," and that, though portions of the Toobonai (sic) islanders are "pamby," he intends "to scatter some uncommon places here and there nevertheless." On the whole, in point of conception and execution, The Island is weaker and less coherent than the Corsair; but it contains lines and passages (e.g. Canto I. lines 107-124, 133-140; Canto II. lines 272-297; Canto IV. lines 94-188) which display a finer feeling and a more "exalted wit" than the "purple patches" of The Turkish Tales.

The poetic faculty is somewhat exhausted, but the poetic vision has been purged and heightened by suffering and self-knowledge.

The Island was reviewed in the Monthly Review, July 1823, E.S., vol. 101, pp. 316-319; the New Monthly Magazine, N.S., 1823, vol. 8, pp. 136-141; the Atlantic Magazine, April, 1826, vol. 2, pp. 333-337; in the Literary Chronicle, June 21, 1823; and the Literary Gazette, June 21, 1823.