Monody On The Death Of The Right Hon. R. B. Sheridan, Spoken At Drury-Lane Theatre, London.

A poem by Lord George Gordon Byron

When the last sunshine of expiring Day
In Summer's twilight weeps itself away,
Who hath not felt the softness of the hour
Sink on the heart, as dew along the flower?
With a pure feeling which absorbs and awes
While Nature makes that melancholy pause -
Her breathing moment on the bridge where Time
Of light and darkness forms an arch sublime -
Who hath not shared that calm, so still and deep,
The voiceless thought which would not speak but weep,
A holy concord, and a bright regret,
A glorious sympathy with suns that set?[98]
'Tis not harsh sorrow, but a tenderer woe,
Nameless, but dear to gentle hearts below,
Felt without bitterness - but full and clear,
A sweet dejection - a transparent tear,
Unmixed with worldly grief or selfish stain -
Shed without shame, and secret without pain.
Even as the tenderness that hour instils
When Summer's day declines along the hills,
So feels the fulness of our heart and eyes
When all of Genius which can perish dies.
A mighty Spirit is eclipsed - a Power
Hath passed from day to darkness - to whose hour
Of light no likeness is bequeathed - no name,
Focus at once of all the rays of Fame!
The flash of Wit - the bright Intelligence,
The beam of Song - the blaze of Eloquence,
Set with their Sun, but still have left behind
The enduring produce of immortal Mind;
Fruits of a genial morn, and glorious noon,
A deathless part of him who died too soon.
But small that portion of the wondrous whole,
These sparkling segments of that circling Soul,
Which all embraced, and lightened over all,
To cheer - to pierce - to please - or to appal.
From the charmed council to the festive board,
Of human feelings the unbounded lord;
In whose acclaim the loftiest voices vied,
The praised - the proud - who made his praise their pride.
When the loud cry of trampled Hindostan
Arose to Heaven in her appeal from Man,
His was the thunder - his the avenging rod,
The wrath - the delegated voice of God!
Which shook the nations through his lips, and blazed
Till vanquished senates trembled as they praised.[99]

And here, oh! here, where yet all young and warm,
The gay creations of his spirit charm,[100]
The matchless dialogue - the deathless wit,
Which knew not what it was to intermit;
The glowing portraits, fresh from life, that bring
Home to our hearts the truth from which they spring;
These wondrous beings of his fancy, wrought
To fulness by the fiat of his thought,
Here in their first abode you still may meet,
Bright with the hues of his Promethean heat;
A Halo of the light of other days,
Which still the splendour of its orb betrays.
But should there be to whom the fatal blight
Of failing Wisdom yields a base delight,
Men who exult when minds of heavenly tone
Jar in the music which was born their own,
Still let them pause - ah! little do they know
That what to them seemed Vice might be but Woe.
Hard is his fate on whom the public gaze
Is fixed for ever to detract or praise;
Repose denies her requiem to his name,
And Folly loves the martyrdom of Fame.
The secret Enemy whose sleepless eye
Stands sentinel - accuser - judge - and spy.
The foe, the fool, the jealous, and the vain,
The envious who but breathe in other's pain -
Behold the host! delighting to deprave,
Who track the steps of Glory to the grave,
Watch every fault that daring Genius owes
Half to the ardour which its birth bestows,
Distort the truth, accumulate the lie,
And pile the Pyramid of Calumny!
These are his portion - but if joined to these
Gaunt Poverty should league with deep Disease,
If the high Spirit must forget to soar,
And stoop to strive with Misery at the door,[101]
To soothe Indignity - and face to face
Meet sordid Rage, and wrestle with Disgrace,
To find in Hope but the renewed caress,
The serpent-fold of further Faithlessness: -
If such may be the Ills which men assail,
What marvel if at last the mightiest fail?
Breasts to whom all the strength of feeling given
Bear hearts electric-charged with fire from Heaven,
Black with the rude collision, inly torn,
By clouds surrounded, and on whirlwinds borne,
Driven o'er the lowering atmosphere that nurst
Thoughts which have turned to thunder - scorch, and burst.[ao]

But far from us and from our mimic scene
Such things should be - if such have ever been;
Ours be the gentler wish, the kinder task,
To give the tribute Glory need not ask,
To mourn the vanished beam, and add our mite
Of praise in payment of a long delight.
Ye Orators! whom yet our councils yield,
Mourn for the veteran Hero of your field!
The worthy rival of the wondrous Three![102]
Whose words were sparks of Immortality!
Ye Bards! to whom the Drama's Muse is dear,
He was your Master - emulate him here!
Ye men of wit and social eloquence![103]
He was your brother - bear his ashes hence!
While Powers of mind almost of boundless range,[104]
Complete in kind, as various in their change,
While Eloquence - Wit - Poesy - and Mirth,
That humbler Harmonist of care on Earth,
Survive within our souls - while lives our sense
Of pride in Merit's proud pre-eminence,
Long shall we seek his likeness - long in vain,
And turn to all of him which may remain,
Sighing that Nature formed but one such man,
And broke the die - in moulding Sheridan![105]

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