(Poem #1601) From Beppo
L. But to my tale of Laura, --- for I find Digression is a sin, that by degrees Becomes exceeding tedious to my mind, And, therefore, may the reader too displease --- The gentle reader, who may wax unkind, And caring little for the author's ease, Insist on knowing what he means, a hard And hapless situation for a bard. LI. Oh that I had the art of easy writing What should be easy reading! could I scale Parnassus, where the Muses sit inditing Those pretty poems never known to fail, How quickly would I print (the world delighting) A Grecian, Syrian, or Assyrian tale; And sell you, mix'd with western sentimentalism, Some samples of the finest Orientalism! LII. But I am but a nameless sort of person, (A broken Dandy lately on my travels) And take for rhyme, to hook my rambling verse on, The first that Walker's Lexicon unravels, And when I can't find that, I put a worse on, Not caring as I ought for critics' cavils; I've half a mind to tumble down to prose, But verse is more in fashion --- so here goes.
A reader recently complained (and quite rightly) that the Minstrels pendulum had swung too far in the direction of modern poetry, to the detriment of the tried and true. In the ensuing, and interesting exchange of email, it turned out that what he missed was poetry about "traditionally poetic" subjects, and that he was not too fond of what he felt was a modern tendency to poetize the mundane and trivial - I'm not too sure I *agree* with him, but I can definitely see his point. However, my thoughts ran in a different direction, and I realised that we've been running fewer poems where much of the delight lay in the verse itself. It is this imbalance that today's poem addresses. I know of few poets with Byron's easy facility for perfectly metrical and rhyming verse - the likes of Kipling and Gilbert, perhaps, but their verse looks more impressive than effortless. Byron definitely tends towards the effortless side, and that effortlessness (or the illusion thereof) extends itself to the reading. His extended works like Don Juan and Beppo need no conscious shift to a "poetry reading" mode; they flow along as easily and as entertainingly as the most straightforward of prose, but with the added bonuses of rhyme and metre. On top of that, I loved the self-referential aspect of today's excerpt - reminiscent, perhaps, of Chaucer's Franklin, who assured his audience that I never studied rhetoric, that's certain; That which I say, it must be bare and plain. I never slept on Mount Parnassus, no, Nor studied Marcus Tullius Cicero. but far more polished and entertaining. And I laughed out loud at the 'punchline' - the timing and delivery were just perfect. martin