Saturday, June 04, 2005

Agent Trochee Presents: Tribute to the Snark of Lord Byron

George Gordon, better known to us as Lord Byron, self-published his first book, Hours of Idleness, in 1807, when he was 19 years old. This early collection was given a dismissive (some would say, savage) review in The Edinburgh Review (click here for an excerpt). The masterful snark penned anonymously by one Henry Brougham (who, in 1816, was the equivalent of Lady Byron's divorce lawyer) begins:

The poesy of this young lord belongs to a class which neither gods nor men
are said to permit. Indeed, we do not recollect to have seen a quantity of
verse with so few deviations in either direction from that exact standard.
His effusions are spread over a dead flat, and can no more get above or
below the level, than if they were so much stagnant water.

That is some good hearty snark.

Byron at the time was working on a satire entitled British Bards but the review got him hot and bothered - he renamed and reworked what was to become his first major poem, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. This spectacular example of [counter-]snark, with great force of wit and vituperation, takes shots at a large number of contemporary and past poets and critics including William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Alexander Pope (who was his poetic hero and model) and Robert Southey (whom he despised). Let me leave you with an excerpt from the poem:

Next comes the dull disciple of thy school,
That mild apostate from poetic rule,
The simple Wordsworth, framer of a lay
As soft as evening in his favourite May;
Who warns his friend "to shake off toil and trouble,
And quit his books, for fear of growing double";
Who, both by precept and example, shows
That prose is verse, and verse is merely prose,
Convincing all by demonstration plain,
Poetic souls delight in prose insane;
And Christmas stories tortured into rhyme,
Contain the essence of the true sublime:
Thus when he tells the tale of Betty Foy,
The idiot mother of "an Idiot Boy";
A moon-struck silly lad who lost his way,
And, like his Bard, confounded night with day,
So close on each pathetic part he dwells,
And each adventure so sublimely tells,
That all who view the "idiot in his glory,"
Conceive the Bard the hero of the story.


Anonymous Lord Byron said...

Agent Trochee: Mad, bad, and dangerous to be around.

2:14 AM, June 06, 2005  
Anonymous Byron York said...

Lord Byron: what a wanker.

2:15 AM, June 06, 2005  
Blogger R.C. Bald said...

Oh here, here, Byron, no more the recreant, unfledged attempts of your youth, but the full flame of ignominy! It makes me want to whip Billy Collins with the horse pizzle of Truth!

7:36 AM, June 06, 2005  
Blogger R.C. Bald said...

Friends at & of Poetry Snark, I must draw your attention to the fact that a forum has been constructed at the Academy's homepage,, in which the present topic of conversation is what makes a poet a poet. Such meaningless tripe! I have infiltrated & said my peace, but I encourage you all to do the same, for the sake of preserving the integrity of poetry itself! Save it from such circumlocutious onanism! Register & submit a note of dissent!

8:02 AM, June 06, 2005  
Anonymous lady byron said...

you don't know me

3:34 PM, June 06, 2005  
Blogger R.C. Bald said...

Poetry Snark, Agent Trochee, Bill Blood, Ginger Pennebaker & friends, I have found a new enemy, yes, in a member of named JFalleaf, to whom I have posted a rather vitriolic response on the forum of said page exploring that most useless & idiotic of questions, "what is it to be a poet?" This is a battle that I shall wage from this point forward, doing all I can to expose the man for the posturing ape that he is. Please join in, let us expand our empires! I believe, though uncertain yet, that there may be triumph ahead!

7:31 AM, June 07, 2005  
Anonymous renata said...

I've already made a hastry retreat from that mediocre forum after getting soaked in zombie juice

12:17 PM, June 07, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said... v. 2 only has 161 registered users and a core group of perhaps five people keeping the conversation afloat. Nevertheless, is a noble cause. Maybe they'll find the scratch to instigate a lawsuit against U. Georgia Press/Ramke/Wright/Truitt. (The charge is mail fraud?) Otherwise, perhaps the site has done its work albeit at a grassroots level.

2:20 PM, June 15, 2005  
Blogger Snark said...


That Falleaf character is a real tool, you're right. What a sanctimonious wanker. But I think we have bigger fish to fry.

4:08 PM, June 15, 2005  
Blogger R.C. Bald said...

Indeed, dear Snark, indeed.

9:03 AM, June 21, 2005  

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