Lord Byron's Poems

Early Poems: Lines Addressed To the Rev. J.T. Becher, On His Advising the Author To Mix More With Society


Dear BECHER, you tell me to mix with mankind;

I cannot deny such a precept is wise;

But retirement accords with the tone of my mind:

I will not descend to a world I despise.


Did the Senate or Camp my exertions require,

Ambition might prompt me, at once, to go forth;

When Infancy's years of probation expire,

Perchance, I may strive to distinguish my birth.


The fire, in the cavern of Etna, conceal'd,

Still mantles unseen in its secret recess;

At length, in a volume terrific, reveal'd,

No torrent can quench it, no bounds can repress.


Oh! thus, the desire, in my bosom, for fame i

Bids me live, but to hope for Posterity's praise.

Could I soar with the Phoenix on pinions of flame,

With him I would wish to expire in the blaze.


For the life of a Fox, of a Chatham the death,

What censure, what danger, what woe would I brave!

Their lives did not end, when they yielded their breath,

Their glory illumines the gloom of their grave.ii


Yet why should I mingle in Fashion's full herd?

Why crouch to her leaders, or cringe to her rules?

Why bend to the proud, or applaud the absurd?

Why search for delight, in the friendship of fools?


I have tasted the sweets, and the bitters, of love,

In friendship I early was taught to believe;

My passion the matrons of prudence reprove,

I have found that a friend may profess, yet deceive.


To me what is wealth? - it may pass in an hour,

If Tyrants prevail, or if Fortune should frown:

To me what is title? - the phantom of power;

To me what is fashion? - I seek but renown.


Deceit is a stranger, as yet, to my soul;

I, still, am unpractised to varnish the truth:

Then, why should I live in a hateful controul?

Why waste, upon folly, the days of my youth?


Footnote 1: The Rev. John Thomas Becher (1770-1848) was Vicar of Rumpton and Midsomer Norton, Notts., and made the acquaintance of Byron when he was living at Southwell. To him was submitted an early copy of the 'Quarto', and on his remonstrance at the tone of some of the verses, the whole edition (save one or two copies) was burnt. Becher assisted in the revision of 'P. on V. Occasions', published in 1807. He was in 1818 appointed Prebendary of Southwell, and, all his life, took an active interest and prominent part in the administration of the poor laws and the welfare of the poor. (See Byron's letters to him of February 26 and March 28, 1808.)

Footnote i:

'To the Rev. J. T. Becher.'

'P. on V. Occasions'

Footnote ii:

'Oh! such the desire.'

'P. on V. Occasions'

Footnote iii:

' - the gloom of the grave.'

'P. on V. Occasions'.