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The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 4/Lord Byron's Verses on Sam Rogers

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[LORD BYRON'S VERSES ON SAM ROGERS.][1]

QUESTION.

Nose and Chin that make a knocker,[2]
Wrinkles that would puzzle Cocker;
Mouth that marks the envious Scorner,
With a Scorpion in each corner
Curling up his tail to sting you,[3]
In the place that most may wring you;
Eyes of lead-like hue and gummy,
Carcase stolen from some mummy,
Bowels—(but they were forgotten,
Save the Liver, and that's rotten),10
Skin all sallow, flesh all sodden,
Form the Devil would frighten G—d in.
Is't a Corpse stuck up for show,[4]
Galvanized at times to go?
With the Scripture has't connection,[5]
New proof of the Resurrection?
Vampire, Ghost, or Goul (sic), what is it?
I would walk ten miles to miss it.


ANSWER.

Many passengers arrest one,
To demand the same free question.20
Shorter's my reply and franker,—
That's the Bard, and Beau, and Banker:
Yet, if you could bring about
Just to turn him inside out,
Satan's self would seem less sooty,
And his present aspect—Beauty.
Mark that (as he masks the bilious)
Air so softly supercilious,
Chastened bow, and mock humility,
Almost sickened to Servility:30
Hear his tone (which is to talking
That which creeping is to walking—
Now on all fours, now on tiptoe):
Hear the tales he lends his lip to—
Little hints of heavy scandals—
Every friend by turns he handles:
All that women or that men do
Glides forth in an inuendo (sic)—
Clothed in odds and ends of humour,
Herald of each paltry rumour—40
From divorces down to dresses,
Woman's frailties, Man's excesses:
All that life presents of evil
Make for him a constant revel.
You're his foe—for that he fears you,
And in absence blasts and sears you:
You're his friend—for that he hates you,
First obliges, and then baits you,
Darting on the opportunity
When to do it with impunity:50
You are neither—then he'll flatter,
Till he finds some trait for satire;
Hunts your weak point out, then shows it,
Where it injures, to expose it
In the mode that's most insidious,
Adding every trait that's hideous—
From the bile, whose blackening river
Rushes through his Stygian liver.


Then he thinks himself a lover—[6]
Why? I really can't discover,60
In his mind, age, face, or figure;
Viper broth might give him vigour:
Let him keep the cauldron steady,
He the venom has already.


For his faults—he has but one;
'Tis but Envy, when all's done:
He but pays the pain he suffers,
Clipping, like a pair of Snuffers,
Light that ought to burn the brighter
For this temporary blighter.70
He's the Cancer of his Species,
And will eat himself to pieces,—
Plague personified and Famine,—
Devil, whose delight is damning.[7]
For his merits—don't you know 'em?[8]
Once he wrote a pretty Poem.

1818.
[First published, Fraser's Magazine, January, 1833, vol. vii. pp. 82-84.]


  1. [Lady Blessington told Crabb Robinson (Diary, 1869, iii. 17) that the publication of the Question and Answer would "kill Rogers." The MS. is dated 1818, and it is probable that the lines were written in the early spring of that year. Moore or Murray had told Byron that Rogers was in doubt whether to praise or blame him in his poem on "Human Life" now approaching completion; and he had heard, from other sources, that it was Rogers who was the author or retailer of certain scandalous stories which were current in the "whispering-gallery of the world." He had reason to believe that everybody was talking about him, and it was a relief to be able to catch and punish so eminent a scandal-monger. It was in this spirit that he wrote to Murray (February 20, 1818), "What you tell me of Rogers ... is like him. He cannot say that I have not been a sincere and warm friend to him, till the black drop of his liver oozed through too palpably to be overlooked. Now if I once catch him at any of his jugglery with me or mine, let him look to it," etc., etc., and in all probability the "poem on Rogers" was then in existence, or was working in his brain. The lines once written, Byron swallowed his venom, and, when Rogers visited Italy in the autumn of 1821, he met him at Bologna, travelled with him across the Apennines to Florence, and invited him "to stay as long as he liked" at Pisa. Thither Rogers came, presumably, in November, 1821, and, if we may trust the Table Talk (1856, p. 238), remained at the Palazzo Lanfranchi for several days. Byron seems to have been more than usually provocative and cross-grained, and, on one occasion (see Medwin, Angler in Wales, 1834, i. 26, sq. ; and Records of Shelley, etc., by E. T. Trelawney, 1878, i. 53), when he was playing billiards, and Rogers was in the lobby outside, secretly incited his bull-dog, "Faithful Moretto," to bark and show his teeth; and, when Medwin had convoyed the terror-stricken bard into his presence, greeted him with effusion, but contrived that he should sit down on the very sofa which hid from view the MS. of "Question and Answer." Longa est injuria, longæ ambages; but the story rests on the evidence of independent witnesses. By far the best comment on satire and satirist is to be found in the noble lines in Italy, in which Rogers commemorates his last meeting with the "Youth who swam from Sestos to Abydos"—

    "If imagined wrongs
    Pursued thee, urging thee sometimes to do
    Things long regretted, oft, as many know,
    None more than I, thy gratitude would build
    On slight foundations; and, if in thy life
    Not happy, in thy death thou surely wert,
    Thy wish accomplished."

    Poems by Samuel Rogers, 1852. ii. 119.]

  2. —— would shame a knocker.—[Fraser's Magazine, 1833.]
  3. Turning its quick tail ——.—[Fraser's, etc.]
  4. ["'De mortuis nihil nisi bonum!' There is Sam Rogers [No. IV. of the Maclise Caricatures] a mortal likeness—painted to the very death!" A string of jests upon Rogers's corpse-like appearance accompanied the portrait. (Fraser's Magazine, vol. ii. p. 237).]
  5. With the Scripture in connexion.—[Fraser's, etc.]
  6. [Among other "bogus" notes affixed to the poem as printed in Fraser's Magazine (parodies of the notes in Murray's new edition of Byron's Works in seventeen volumes), is one signed Sir E. Brydges, which enumerates a string of heiresses, beauties, and blues, whom Rogers had wooed in vain. Among the number are Mrs. Apreece (Lady Davy), Mrs. Coutts, "beat by the Duke of St. Albans," and the Princess Olive of Cumberland. "We have heard," the note concludes, "that he proposed for the Duchess of Cleveland, and was cut out by Beau Fielding, but we think that must have been before his time a little."]
  7. ["If 'the person' had not by many little dirty sneaking traits provoked it, I should have been silent, though I had observed him. Here follows an alteration. Put—

    "Devil with such delight in damning
    That if at the resurrection
    Unto him the free selection
    Of his future could be given
    'Twould be rather Hell than Heaven.

    You have a discretionary power about showing."—Letter to Murray, November 9, 1820, Letters, 1901, v. 113.]

  8. —— would you know 'em?—[Fraser's, etc.]