October 27 1815: Influence of Christabel

On October 27 1815, Lord  Byron, has just received copy of the poem Christabel, and writes to to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Byron writes that he has unintentionally echoed lines from  Christabel in his poem The Siege Corinth which reads:

Was it the wind, through some hollow stone,
Sent that soft and tender moan?
He lifted his head, and he looked on the sea,
But it was unrippled as glass may be;
He looked on the long grass – it waved not a blade;
How was that gentle sound conveyed?
He looked to the banners – each flag lay still,
So did the leaves on Cithæron’s hill,
And he felt not a breath come over his cheek;
What did that sudden sound bespeak?
He turned to the left – is he sure of sight?
There sate a lady, youthful and bright!

The lines from Christabel were:

The night is chill; the forest bare;
Is it the wind that moaneth bleak?
There is not wind enough in the air
To move away the ringlet curl
From the lovely lady’s cheek –
There is not wind enough to twirl
The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
That dances as often as dance it can,
Hanging so light, and hanging so high,
On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.
Hush, beating heart of Christabel!
Jesu, Maria, shield her well!
She folded her arms beneath her cloak,
And stole to the other side of the oak.
What sees she there?
There she sees a damsel bright,
Dressed in a silken robe of white,
That shadowy in the moonlight shone …

Dear Sir – I have “the Christabelle” safe – & am glad to see it in such progress – surely a little effort would complete the poem. – On your question with W Scott – I know not how to speak – he is a friend of mine – and though I cannot contradict your statement I must look to the most favourable part of it – all I have ever seen of him has been frank – fair & warm in regard towards you – and when he repeated this very production it was with such mention as it deserves and that could not be faint praise. – But I am partly in the same scrape myself as you will see by the enclosed extract from an unpublished poem173 which I assure you was written before (not seeing your “Christabelle” for that you know I never did till this day) but before I heard Mr. S repeat it – which he did in June last – and this thing was begun in January & more than half written before the Summer – the coincidence is only in this particular passage and if you will allow me – in publishing it (which I shall perhaps do quietly in Murray’s collected Edition of my rhymes – though not separately) I will give the extract from you – and state that the original thought & expression have been many years in the Christabelle. The stories – scenes – &c. are in general quite different – mine is the siege of Corinth in 1715 – when the Turks retook the Morea from the Venetians – – the Ground is quite familiar to me – for I have passed the Isthmus six – I think – eight times – in my way to & fro – – the hero – is a renegade – & the night before the storm of the City – he is supposed to have an apparition or wraith of his mistress – to warn him of his destiny – as he sits among the ruins of an old temple. – I write to you in the greatest hurry – – I know not what you may think of this: – if you like I will cut out the passage – & do as well as I can without – or what you please. ever yrs. BYRON

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