Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Byron's Birthday

Happy Birthday, Lord Byron. After Napoleon, the most famous man in Europe in his time. Patron saint of the scandalous celebrity; forefather of the limousine liberal; revered for all the wrong virtues; reviled for all the wrong vices. His inclusion in modern poetry anthologies is, I suspect, a matter of some embarrassment to the anthologists. But romantic bombast wasn't his best skill in verse:

'T is pity learned virgins ever wed
With persons of no sort of education,
Or gentlemen, who, though well born and bred,
Grow tired of scientific conversation:
I don't choose to say much upon this head,
I 'm a plain man, and in a single station,
But -- Oh! ye lords of ladies intellectual,
Inform us truly, have they not hen-peck'd you all?

And so on for sixteen cantos. Light of step and comical in an Ogden Nash way, in a very tight formal dinner jacket of a rhyme scheme.