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The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 1/Granta. A Medley


Ἀργυρέαις λόγχαισι μάχου καὶ πάντα κρατήσεις.[1]

[Reply of the Pythian Oracle to Philip of Macedon.]


Oh! could Le Sage's[2] demon's gift
Be realis'd at my desire,
This night my trembling form he'd lift
To place it on St. Mary's spire.[3]


Then would, unroof'd, old Granta's halls,
Pedantic inmates full display;
Fellows who dream on lawn or stalls,
The price of venal votes to pay.[4]


Then would I view each rival wight,
Petty and Palmerston survey;
Who canvass there, with all their might,[5]
Against the next elective day.[6]


Lo! candidates and voters lie[7]
All lull'd in sleep, a goodly number!
A race renown'd for piety,
Whose conscience won't disturb their slumber.


Lord H——,[8] indeed, may not demur;
Fellows are sage, reflecting men:
They know preferment can occur,
But very seldom,—now and then.


They know the Chancellor has got
Some pretty livings in disposal:
Each hopes that one may be his lot,
And, therefore, smiles on his proposal.[9]


Now from the soporific scene[10]
I'll turn mine eye, as night grows later,
To view, unheeded and unseen,[11]
The studious sons of Alma Mater.


There, in apartments small and damp,
The candidate for college prizes,
Sits poring by the midnight lamp;
Goes late to bed, yet early rises.[12]


He surely well deserves to gain them,
With all the honours of his college,[13]
Who, striving hardly to obtain them,
Thus seeks unprofitable knowledge:


Who sacrifices hours of rest,
To scan precisely metres Attic;
Or agitates his anxious breast,[14]
In solving problems mathematic:


Who reads false quantities in Seale,[15]
Or puzzles o'er the deep triangle;
Depriv'd of many a wholesome meal;[16]
In barbarous Latin[17] doom'd to wrangle:


Renouncing every pleasing page,
From authors of historic use;
Preferring to the letter'd sage,
The square of the hypothenuse.[18]


Still, harmless are these occupations,[19]
That hurt none but the hapless student,
Compar'd with other recreations,
Which bring together the imprudent;


Whose daring revels shock the sight,
When vice and infamy combine,
When Drunkenness and dice invite,[20]
As every sense is steep'd in wine.


Not so the methodistic crew,
Who plans of reformation lay:
In humble attitude they sue,
And for the sins of others pray:


Forgetting that their pride of spirit,
Their exultation in their trial,[21]
Detracts most largely from the merit
Of all their boasted self-denial.


'Tis morn:—from these I turn my sight:
What scene is this which meets the eye?
A numerous crowd array'd in white,[22]
Across the green in numbers fly.


Loud rings in air the chapel bell;
'Tis hush'd:—what sounds are these I hear?
The organ's soft celestial swell
Rolls deeply on the listening ear.


To this is join'd the sacred song,
The royal minstrel's hallow'd strain;
Though he who hears the music long,[23]
Will never wish to hear again.


Our choir would scarcely be excus'd,
E'en as a band of raw beginners;
All mercy, now, must be refus'd[24]
To such a set of croaking sinners.


If David, when his toils were ended,
Had heard these blockheads sing before him,
To us his psalms had ne'er descended,—
In furious mood he would have tore 'em.


The luckless Israelites, when taken
By some inhuman tyrant's order,
Were ask'd to sing, by joy forsaken,
On Babylonian river's border.


Oh! had they sung in notes like these[25]
by stratagem or fear,
They might have set their hearts at ease,
The devil a soul had stay'd to hear.


But if I scribble longer now,[26]
The deuce a soul will stay to read;
My pen is blunt, my ink is low;
'Tis almost time to stop, indeed.


Therefore, farewell, old Granta's spires!
No more, like Cleofas, I fly;
No more thy theme my Muse inspires:
The reader's tir'd, and so am I.

October 28, 1806.

  1. [The motto was prefixed in Hours of Idleness. ("Fight with silver spears" (i.e. with bribes), "and thou shalt prevail in all things.")]
  2. The Diable Boiteux of Le Sage, where Asmodeus, the demon, places Don Cleofas on an elevated situation, and unroofs the houses for inspection. [Don Cleofas, clinging to the cloak of Asmodeus, is carried through the air to the summit of S. Salvador.]
  3. And place it.—[4to]
  4. The price of hireling.—[4to]
  5. Who canvass now.—[4to]
  6. [On the death of Pitt, in January, 1806, Lord Henry Petty beat Lord Palmerston in the contest for the representation of the University of Cambridge in Parliament.]
  7. One on his power and place depends,
    The other on—the Lord knows what!
    Each to some eloquence pretends,
    But neither will convince by that.

    The first, indeed, may not demur;
    Fellows are sage reflecting men, etc.
    And know.—[4to. P. on V. Occasions.]
  8. [Probably Lord Henry Petty. See variant iii.]
  9. And therefore smiles at his.—[4to. P. on V. Occasions.]
  10. Now from Corruption's shameless scene.—[4to. P. on V. Occasions.]
  11. And view unseen.—[4to]
  12. —— and early rises.—[4to]
  13. And all the.—[4to]
  14. And agitates.—[4to]
  15. Seale's publication on Greek Metres displays considerable talent and ingenuity, but, as might be expected in so difficult a work, is not remarkable for accuracy. [An Analysis of the Greek Metres; for the use of students at the University of Cambridge. By John Barlow Seale (1764), 8vo. A fifth edition was issued in 1807.]
  16. And robs himself of many a meal.—[4to]
  17. The Latin of the schools is of the canine species, and not very intelligible.
  18. The discovery of Pythagoras, that the square of the hypothenuse is equal to the squares of the other two sides of a right-angled triangle.
  19. But harmless are these occupations
  20. When Drunkenness and dice unite.
    And every sense.—[4to. P. on V. Occasions.]
  21. And exultation.—[4to]
  22. On a saint's day the students wear surplices in chapel.
  23. But he.—[4to]
  24. But mercy.—[4to]
  25. But had they sung.—[4to]
  26. But if I write much longer now.—[4to. P. on V. Occasions.]