Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE DEVIL'S DRIVE, by GEORGE GORDON BYRON



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THE DEVIL'S DRIVE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The devil returned to hell by two
Last Line: How many must combine to form one incomprehensible!'
Alternate Author Name(s): Byron, Lord; Byron, 6th Baron
Subject(s): Devil


AN UNFINISHED RHAPSODY

THE Devil return'd to hell by two,
And he stay'd at home till five;
When he dined on some homicides done in ragout,
And a rebel or so in an Irish stew,
And sausages made of a self-slain Jew --
And bethought himself what next to do,
'And,' quoth he, 'I'll take a drive:
I walk'd in the morning, I'll ride to-night;
In darkness my children take most delight,
And I'll see how my favourites thrive.

'And what shall I ride in?' quoth Lucifer then --
'If I follow'd my taste, indeed,
I should mount in a waggon of wounded men,
And smile to see them bleed.
But these will be furnish'd again and again,
And at present my purpose is speed;
To see my manor as much as I may,
And watch that no souls shall be poach'd away.

'I have a state-coach at Carlton House,
A chariot in Seymour Place;
But they're lent to two friends, who make me amends
By driving my favourite pace;
And they handle their reins with such a grace,
I have something for both at the end of their race.

'So now for the earth to take my chance.'
Then up to the earth sprung he;
And making a jump from Moscow to France,
He stepp'd across the sea,
And rested his hoof on a turnpike road,
No very great way from a bishop's abode.

But first as he flew, I forgot to say,
That he hover'd a moment upon his way
To look upon Leipsic plain;
And so sweet to his eye was its sulphury glare,
And so soft to his ear was the cry of despair,
That he perch'd on a mountain of slain;
And he gazed with delight from its growing height,
Nor often on earth had he seen such a sight,
Nor his work done half as well:
For the field ran so red with the blood of the dead,
That it blush'd like the waves of hell!
Then loudly, and wildly, and long laugh'd he:
'Methinks they have here little need of me!'

Long he look'd down on the hosts of each clime,
While the warriors hand to hand were --
Gaul, Austrian and Muscovite heroes sublime,
And (Muse of Fitzgerald arise with a rhyme!)
A quantity of Landwehr!
Gladness was there,
For men of all might and the monarchs of earth,
There met for the wolf and the worm to make mirth,
And a feast for the fowls of the Air!

But he turn'd aside and look'd from the ridge
Of hills along the river,
And the best thing he saw was a broken bridge,
Which a Corporal chose to shiver;
Though an Emperor's taste was displeased with his haste,
The Devil he thought it clever;
And he laugh'd again in a lighter strain,
O'er the torrent swoln and rainy,
When he saw 'on a fiery steed' Prince Pon,
In taking care of Number One
Get drown'd with a great many!

But the softest note that soothed his ear
Was the sound of a widow sighing;
And the sweetest sight was the icy tear,
Which horror froze in the blue eye clear
Of a maid by her lover lying --
As round her fell her long fair hair;
And she look'd to heaven with that frenzied air
Which seem'd to ask if a God were there!
And, stretch'd by the wall of a ruin'd hut,
With its hollow cheek, and eyes half shut,
A child of Famine dying:
And the carnage begun, when resistance is done,
And the fall of the vainly flying!

Then he gazed on a town by besiegers taken,
Nor cared he who were winning;
But he saw an old maid, for years forsaken,
Get up and leave her spinning;
And she look'd in her glass, and to one that did pass,
She said -- 'pray are the rapes beginning?'

But the Devil has reach'd our cliffs so white,
And what did he there, I pray?
If his eyes were good, he but saw by night
What we see every day:
But he made a tour, and kept a journal
Of all the wondrous sights nocturnal,
And he sold it in shares to the Men of the Row,
Who bid pretty well -- but they cheated him, though!

The Devil first saw, as he thought, the Mail,
Its coachman and his coat;
So instead of a pistol he cock'd his tail,
And seized him by the throat:
'Aha!' quoth he, 'what have we here?
'T is a new barouche, and an ancient peer!'

So he sat him on his box again,
And bade him have no fear,
But be true to his club and staunch to his rein,
His brothel, and his beer;
'Next to seeing a lord at the council board,
I would rather see him here.'

Satan hired a horse and gig
With promises to pay;
And he pawn'd his horns for a spruce new wig,
To redeem as he came away:
And he whistled some tune, a waltz or a jig,
And drove off at the close of day.

The first place he stopp'd at -- he heard the Psalm
That rung from a Methodist Chapel:
''T is the best sound I've heard,' quoth he, 'since my palm
Presented Eve her apple!
When Faith is all, 't is an excellent sign,
That the Works and Workmen both are mine!'

He pass'd Tommy Tyrwhitt, that standing jest,
To princely wit a Martyr:
But the last joke of all was by far the best,
When he sail'd away with 'the Garter'!
'And' -- quoth Satan -- 'this Embassy's worthy my sight,
Should I see nothing else to amuse me tonight.
With no one to bear it, but Thomas a Tyrwhitt,
This ribband belongs to an "order of Merit"!'

He stopp'd at an Inn and stepp'd within
The Bar and read the 'Times;'
And never such a treat, as -- the epistle of one 'Vetus,'
Had he found save in downright crime:
'Though I doubt if this drivelling encomiast of War
Ever saw a field fought, or felt a scar,
Yet his fame shall go farther than he can guess,
For I'll keep him a place in my hottest Press;
And his works shall be bound in Morocco d'Enfer,
And letter'd behind with his Nom de Guerre.'

The Devil gat next to Westminster,
And he turn'd to 'the room' of the Commons;
But he heard, as he purposed to enter in there,
That 'the Lords' had received a summons;
And he thought, as a 'quondam aristocrat,'
He might peep at the peers, though to hear them were flat;
And he walk'd up the house so like one of our own,
That they say that he stood pretty near the throne.

He saw the Lord Liverpool seemingly wise,
The Lord Westmoreland certainly silly,
And Jockey of Norfolk -- a man of some size --
And Chatham, so like his friend Billy;
And he saw the tears in Lord Eldon's eyes,
Because the Catholics would not rise,
In spite of his prayers and his prophecies:
And he heard -- which set Satan himself a staring --
A certain Chief Justice say something like swearing;
And the Devil was shock'd -- and quoth he, 'I must go,
For I find we have much better manners below:
If thus he harangues when he passes my border,
I shall hint to friend Moloch to call him to order.'

Then the Devil went down to the humbler House,
Where he readily found his way
As natural to him as its hole to a Mouse,
He had been there many a day;
And many a vote and soul and job he
Had bid for and carried away from the Lobby:
But there now was a 'call' and accomplish'd debaters
Appear'd in the glory of hats, boots and gaiters --
Some paid rather more -- but all worse dress'd than Waiters!

There was Canning for War, and Whitbread for peace,
And others as suited their fancies;
But all were agreed that our debts should increase
Excepting the Demagogue Francis.
That rogue! how could Westminster chuse him again
To leaven the virtue of these honest men!
But the Devil remain'd till the Break of Day
Blush'd upon Sleep and Lord Castlereagh:
Then up half the house got, and Satan got up
With the drowsy to snore -- or the hungry to sup: --
But so torpid the power of some speakers, 't is said,
That they sent even him to his brimstone bed.

He had seen George Rose -- but George was grown dumb,
And only lied in thought!
And the Devil has all the pleasure to come
Of hearing him talk as he ought.
With the falsest of tongues, the sincerest of men --
His veracity were but deceit --
And Nature must first have unmade him again,
Ere his breast or his face, or his tongue, or his pen,
Conceived -- utter'd -- look'd -- or wrote down letters ten,
Which Truth would acknowledge complete.

Satan next took the army list in hand,
Where he found a new 'Field Marshal;'
And when he saw this high command
Conferr'd on his Highness of Cumberland,
'Oh! were I prone to cavil -- or were I not the Devil,
I should say this was somewhat partial;
Since the only wounds that this Warrior gat,
Were from God knows whom -- and the Devil knows what!'

He then popp'd his head in a royal Ball,
And saw all the Haram so hoary;
And who there besides but Corinna de Stael!
Turn'd Methodist and Tory!
'Aye -- Aye' -- quoth he -- ''t is the way with them all,
When Wits grow tired of Glory:
But thanks to the weakness, that thus could pervert her,
Since the dearest of prizes to me 's a deserter:
Mem -- whenever a sudden conversion I want,
To send to the school of Philosopher Kant;
And whenever I need a critic who can gloss over
All faults -- to send for Mackintosh to write up the Philosopher.'

The Devil wax'd faint at the sight of this Saint,
And he thought himself of eating;
And began to cram from a plate of ham
Wherewith a Page was retreating --
Having nothing else to do (for 'the friends' each so near
Had sold all their souls long before),
As he swallow'd down the bacon he wish'd himself a Jew
For the sake of another crime more:
For Sinning itself is but half a recreation,
Unless it ensures most infallible Damnation.

But he turn'd him about, for he heard a sound
Which even his ear found faults in;
For whirling above -- underneath -- and around --
Were his fairest Disciples Waltzing!
And quoth he -- 'though this be -- the premier pas to me,
Against it I would warn all --
Should I introduce these revels among my younger devils,
They would all turn perfectly carnal:
And though fond of the flesh -- yet I never could bear it
Should quite in my kingdom get the upper hand of Spirit.'

The Devil (but 't was over) had been vastly glad
To see the new Drury Lane,
And yet he might have been rather mad
To see it rebuilt in vain;
And had he beheld their 'Nourjahad,'
Would never have gone again:
And Satan had taken it much amiss,
They should fasten such a piece on a friend of his --
Though he knew that his works were somewhat sad,
He never had found them quite so bad:
For this was 'the book' which, of yore, Job, sorely smitten,
Said, 'Oh that mine enemy, mine enemy had written!'

Then he found sixty scribblers in separate cells,
And marvell'd what they were doing,
For they look'd like little fiends in their own little hells,
Damnation for others brewing --
Though their paper seem'd to shrink, from the heat of their ink,
They were only coolly reviewing!
And as one of them wrote down the pronoun 'We,'
'That Plural' -- says Satan -- 'means him and me,
With the Editor added to make up the three
Of an Athanasian Trinity,
And render the believers in our "Articles" sensible,
How many must combine to form one Incomprehensible!'





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