I strove with those who sought to bar my way,
And then forgave them handsomely; or tried,
At least, to make my peace. And now my day
Is done I die—as I have lived—hog-tied
To the mast of Life, red wine to my lip:
What captain worth his salt deserts his ship?
Dying Speech Of An Old Philosopher
(Titled ‘Finis’ in some anthologies)
I strove with none for none was worth my strife:
Nature I loved, and next to Nature, Art:
I warmed both hands before the fire of Life;
It sinks; and I am ready to depart.
—Walter Savage Landor
Landor wrote this ‘Dying Speech’ 15 years before his death in 1864, which was typical of him. He was not a great poet in the usual sense, but established himself, in the words of The Poetry Foundation ‘a permanent minority reputation for the classicism of his epigrams and idylls.’ His writing was emulative (although some beautiful lines did emerge from his pen). Born well off and inheriting substantial estates, he was a patrician to his fingertips whose command of Latin far exceeded that of the English language. He was also a fantasist. The line ‘I strove with none for none was worth my strife’ was considered hilarious by his contemporaries because of his passion for litigation against perceived enemies. Charles Dickens caricatured him as Lawrence Boythorne in Bleak House, ‘firing off superlatives [and insults] like blank cannons’. While not unkind, this is a portrayal of a person one might not readily choose as a bosom buddy. But then, neither am I.