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Books / eXile Classic / November 2, 2009
By John Dolan

And like the simple, noble fighter he was, Byron stooped to use his genius for a wonderful demolition of “Bob Southey,” who had in the meantime been promoted to Poet Laureate, lack of talent proving no obstacle to the rise of one so Oprah-like in his devotion to “the well-being of Society.” Byron made Southey the object, not to say target, of his “Dedication.” Even if you hate poetry-and so do I, by the way-you should read this aloud to yourself. If you don’t love it, you’re a fool:


BOB SOUTHEY! You’re a poet-Poet-laureate,

And representative of all the race,

Although ‘t is true that you turn’d out a Tory at

Last,-yours has lately been a common case;

And now, my Epic Renegade! what are ye at?

With all the Lakers, in and out of place?

A nest of tuneful persons, to my eye

Like ‘four and twenty Blackbirds in a pye;’

‘Which pye being open’d they began to sing’

(This old song and new simile holds good),

‘A dainty dish to set before the King,’

Or Regent, who admires such kind of food;-

And Coleridge, too, has lately taken wing,

But like a hawk encumber’d with his hood,-

Explaining metaphysics to the nation-

I wish he would explain his Explanation.

You, Bob! are rather insolent, you know,

At being disappointed in your wish

To supersede all warblers here below,

And be the only Blackbird in the dish;

And then you overstrain yourself, or so,

And tumble downward like the flying fish

Gasping on deck, because you soar too high, Bob,

And fall, for lack of moisture, quite a-dry, Bob!

And Wordsworth, in a rather long Excursion

(I think the quarto holds five hundred pages),

Has given a sample from the vasty version

Of his new system to perplex the sages;

‘T is poetry-at least by his assertion,

And may appear so when the dog-star rages-

And he who understands it would be able

To add a story to the Tower of Babel.

You-Gentlemen! by dint of long seclusion

From better company, have kept your own

At Keswick, and, through still continued fusion

Of one another’s minds, at last have grown

To deem as a most logical conclusion,

That Poesy has wreaths for you alone:

There is a narrowness in such a notion,

Which makes me wish you’d change

your lakes for ocean.

Like all the truly great, like Ali sparring, Byron never seems to be trying very hard. In fact, he’s perfectly willing to make a fool of himself with rhymes like “laureate/Tory at.” He doesn’t have to keep his hands up like some club fighter because he’s bigger than they are, faster, louder and utterly unafraid. And when he’s done enough clowning, he can score the one-punch knockout with that final couplet, in which he sums up the whole opposition between himself and the vile Lakers with that geographical metonymy between their “lakes” and the “ocean” that he took, up and away from their nasty, moral north.

Southey replied the way his kind always does: with silence, the snub absolute. Byron kept moving south and east, and died making revolution among the Greeks, succumbing very rightly to the tropical disease malaria, having finally entered its hot zone. He was sufficiently aware of his own superiority to tease it out, writing his own martyrdom as doggerel…

When a man has no freedom to fight

for at home,

Let him go fight for that of his neighbors;

Let him think of the glory of Greece

and of Rome,

And get knocked on the head for his labours.

A good punchline, the dying bit, but he’s been lying there long enough. Time we brought him back into circulation, as vengeful deity of a Byronic proudly elitist and without piety or mercy. Drag that goat onto the tarp, gimme that knife, and stand back. The clubfoot is limping back, and you churchgoing creeps are gonna pop like microwaved grapes.

This article was first published in The eXile on March 7, 2006.

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  • 1. Jane  |  November 2nd, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Always inspiring, even the third or so time I’ve read this. I’d love to see Dolan do a bio of Byron, considering there’s never been a really good one.

  • 2. jimmy james  |  November 2nd, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    Hell, at this point I’d love to see Dolan do anything. Where ya been, J.D.?

  • 3. Bardamu  |  November 3rd, 2009 at 1:13 am

    I hope to see Dr. Dolan back soon, writing about anything. Like anyone with a first rate mind in the age of the mob, he is a rare brilliant whose subtle insights expose the moral savage for the brute it is.

  • 4. Tam  |  November 3rd, 2009 at 1:28 am

    speaking of patron saints for the Exile, you need to see this picture. Made me laugh anyway…

  • 5. M.B.  |  November 3rd, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Well done JD. Lots to like about Byron, and you didn’t even get to his fling with Armenia.

  • 6. spiffo massive  |  November 3rd, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    aaaaaah. got my dolan fix. man, this and the occasional (downright rare) warnerd article, are what keeps me coming back to the exiled page. by the way, for all you Byron fans out there, there is an awesome sci-fi book out there by Tim Powers that I read recently that features Byron in all his glory. It’s called the Anubis Gates and I highly recommend it. Grace us with your wisdom more often Dolan!

  • 7. klauposius  |  November 8th, 2009 at 12:59 am

    Don Juan. Great poem. A whip like mind. Eh. One point though. Ode To Napoleon by Byron is not a peon to the great one. Lord B ends up praising … George Washington.

    Lord Byron was many things you say he was but he was more complicated than you say he was.

    Ode To Napoleon was set to music by Schoenberg. Its a great thing to listen to. I wish I could find an old recording I had (long ago) which treated it with a sense of humour. That suits Byron ussually. A galloping, excoriating, triumphant wit, not suited to the grand pious vanity Schoenberg seems to inspire.

  • 8. A-Lex  |  November 8th, 2009 at 3:53 am

    Doctor Dolan, so good to find your new piece at The Exiled again.

  • 9. Mydick  |  November 8th, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Oh my god can you please shut up about the Irish famine? You bring it up in everything you write and it’s really fucking boring. It happened over 150 years ago and the English were douche bags. We get it. A lot of things have happened since then. What do you want, for them to sit around cutting themselves like the Germans?

  • 10. Ex-pat  |  November 10th, 2009 at 4:30 am

    “From the poetry of Lord Byron they drew a system of ethics, compounded of misanthropy and voluptuousness, a system in which the two great commandments were, to hate your neighbour, and to love your neighbour’s wife.”

    Said by Macaulay about whomever, but I think it makes for a great description of the eXile’s philosophy in their halcyon Moscow days.

  • 11. Irish Farmer  |  November 20th, 2009 at 4:35 am

    “What do you want, for them to sit around cutting themselves like the Germans?”

    Yes. Yes please.

  • 12. American Postulate  |  February 4th, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    Wonderful read, This Lord Byron has intrigued me. As well as your writing style Mister Dolan. Excellent peice my good man.

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