The Devil's Drive

The Devil's Drive (1812)

by Lord Byron

This on-line version of Lord Byron's The Devil's Drive (1812) was prepared as part of The Devil's Walk: A Hypertext Edition, edited by Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat. Our text is from Ernest Hartley Coleridge, ed. The Works of Lord Byron. London: John Murray, 1904. Volume VII, 21-34.

The Devil returned to Hell by two,
  And he stayed at home till five;
When he dined on some homicides done in ragošt,
  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 walked 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 followed my taste, indeed,
I should mount in a waggon of wounded men,
  And smile to see them bleed.
But these will be furnished 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 poached 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 the 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 stepped 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 hovered 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 perched 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 blushed like the waves of Hell!
Then loudly, and wildly, and long laughed he:
"Methinks they have little need here of me!"
Long he looked 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 the 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 turned aside and looked 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 laughed 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 drowned 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 looked to Heaven with that frenzied air
Which seemed to ask if a God were there!
And stretched by the wall of a ruined 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 looked in her glass, and to one that did pass,
   She said‚"pray are the rapes beginning?"
But the Devil has reached 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 Menof 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 cocked 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 pawned 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 stopped 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 passed Tommy Tyrwhitt, that standing jest,
   To princely wit a Martyr:
But the last joke of all was by far the best,
   When he sailed away with "the Garter"!
"And"‚quoth Satan‚"this Embassy's worthy my sight,
Should I see nothing else to amuse me to night.
With no one to bear it, but Thomas ý Tyrwhitt,
This ribband belongs to an 'Order of Merit'!"
He stopped at an Inn and stepped within
  The Bar and read the "Times;"
And never such a treat, as‚the epistle of one "Vetus,"
  Had he found save in downright crimes:
"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 lettered behind with his Nom de Guerre."
The Devil gat next to Westminster,
   And he turned 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 walked up the House so like one of his 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 shocked‚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 accomplished debaters
Appeared in the glory of hats, boots and gaiters‚
Some paid rather more‚but all worse dressed 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 remained till the Break of Day
  Blushed 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‚uttered‚looked‚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
  Conferred 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 popped his head in a royal Ball,
And saw all the Haram so hoary;
   And who there besides but Corinna de StaÎl!
  Turned Methodist and Tory!
"Aye‚Aye"‚quoth he‚"'tis 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 [sic] ‚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 waxed 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 swallowed down the bacon he wished 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 turned 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 marvelled what they were doing,
For they looked like little fiends in their own little hells,
  Damnation for others brewing‚
Though their paper seemed 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‚"meanshim  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"!

Other Romantic Devils