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The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 7/E Nihilo Nihil

[E NIHILO NIHIL;

OR

An Epigram Bewitched.]

Of rhymes I printed seven volumes—[1]
The list concludes John Murray's columns:
Of these there have been few translations[2]
For Gallic or Italian nations;
And one or two perhaps in German—
But in this last I can't determine.
But then I only sung of passions
That do not suit with modern fashions;
Of Incest and such like diversions
Permitted only to the Persians,
Or Greeks to bring upon their stages—
But that was in the earlier ages
Besides my style is the romantic,
Which some call fine, and some call frantic;
While others are or would seem as sick
Of repetitions nicknamed Classic.
For my part all men must allow
Whatever I was, I'm classic now.
I saw and left my fault in time,
And chose a topic all sublime—
Wondrous as antient war or hero—
Then played and sung away like Nero,
Who sang of Rome, and I of Rizzo:
The subject has improved my wit so,
The first four lines the poet sees
Start forth in fourteen languages!
Though of seven volumes none before
Could ever reach the fame of four,
Henceforth I sacrifice all Glory
To the Rinaldo of my Story:
I've sung his health and appetite
(The last word 's not translated right—
He 's turned it, God knows how, to vigour)[3]
I'll sing them in a book that 's bigger.
Oh! Muse prepare for thy Ascension!
And generous Rizzo! thou my pension.

February, 1818.
[From an autograph MS. in the possession of Mr. Murray,
now for the first time printed.]

  1. [Byron must have added the Fourth Canto of Childe Harold to the complete edition of the Poetical Works in six volumes. See Murray's list, dated "Albemarle Street, London, January, 1818." The seventh volume of the Collected Works was not issued till 1819.]
  2. [A French translation of the Bride of Abydos appeared in 1816, an Italian translation of the Lament of Tasso in 1817. Goethe (see Letters, 1901, v. 503-521) translated fragments of Manfred in 1817, 1818, but the earliest German translation of the entire text of Manfred was issued in 1819.]
  3. [See the last line of the Italian translation of the quatrain.]