Insults - Poetical and Otherwise
One of the greatest insults of all time is Byron's seventeen stanza introduction to his verse novel Don Juan. He does a piss take of all the Romantic poets. He called them the 'Lake poets', mocking their fondness for writing about natural scenes:
... all the Lakers, in and out of place,
A nest of tuneful persons, to my eye,
Like "four and twenty Blackbirds in a pie".
He lays into philosopher-poet Samuel Taylor-Coleridge:
... Coleridge, too, has lately taken wing,
But like a hawk encumbered with his hood,
Explaining Metaphysics to the --
I wish he would explain his Explanation.
William Wordsworth is next:
'Tis poetry - at least by his assertion,
And may appear so when the dog-star rages --
And he who understands it would be able
To add a story to the Tower of Babel.
Byron goes on to make a complicated reference to Mount Parnassus: in classical mythology, it was the 'seat of the Muses'. He mixes it up with the scenery preferred by the Lake poets:
You're shabby fellows -- true -- but poets still,
And duly seated on the Immortal Hill.
He's not above mocking their appearance, either:
Your bays may hide the baldness of your brows ...
This was true, at least for Wordsworth.
There's also a lot of topical commentary in there, too. I like particularly his line about 'The intellectual eunuch Castlereagh', a 'Cold-blooded, smooth-faced placid miscreant' but I'm not sure what this is referring to. It's great stuff, nonetheless.
But I think we can all agree with Byron when he says:
I say -- the future is a serious matter,
And so -- for God's sake -- hock and soda water!