Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Burns and Byron

February 9, 1826 finds Walter Scott in a reflective mood.  He notes that his mind was at ease.  The latter part of his journal entry for that day contains comments on his friend Lord Byron, and Robert Burns:

'...Byron used to kick and frisk more contemptuously against the literary gravity and slang than any one I ever knew who had climbed so high. Then, it is true, I never knew any one climb so high; and before you despise the eminence, carrying people along with you, as convinced that you are not playing the fox and the grapes, you must be at the top. Moore told me some delightful stories of him. One was that while they stood at the window of Byron's Palazzo in Venice, looking at a beautiful sunset, Moore was naturally led to say something of its beauty, when Byron answered in a tone that I can easily conceive, "Oh! come, d—n me, Tom, don't be poetical." Another time, standing with Moore on the balcony of the same Palazzo, a gondola passed with two English gentlemen, who were easily distinguished by their appearance. They cast a careless look at the balcony and went on. Byron crossed his arms, and half stooping over the balcony said, "Ah! d—n ye, if ye had known what two fellows you were staring at, you would have taken a longer look at us." This was the man, quaint, capricious, and playful, with all his immense genius. He wrote from impulse, never from effort; and therefore I have always reckoned Burns and Byron the most genuine poetical geniuses of my time, and half a century before me. We have, however, many men of high poetical talent, but none, I think, of that ever-gushing and perennial fountain of natural water...'

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