Robert Southey and William Wordsworth, who have both sold themselves to the king, would like to be considered the greatest poets of the age. As for Byron, he is not competing with them, for he does not consider himself a poet in the sense that they are. His muse is a pedestrian one. Would Milton, if he were alive, obey the "intellectual eunuch" Castlereagh, as Southey and Wordsworth do? Castlereagh is a tongue-tied oppressor, a tool of tyranny, and a bungler. The poet dedicates Don Juan to Robert Southey, who sings the praises of tyrants and who is an apostate from political liberalism. The Dedication, written in , was withheld from publication, on the insistence of John Murray, Byron's publisher, until after Byron's death.
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Everybody is reconciled in an after state. For example, George III meets George Washington in the next world where they regret any little misunderstandings they may have had in life and they hug, becoming the best of chums. Unforgivably, Southey even makes John Milton a monarchist in Heaven. Some have argued that the poem is ultimately sympathetic to the person of George III, and that Vision of Judgment cannot count as a republican poem. On the contrary, the poem indulges the best kind of republican sympathy for the prisoner of the hollow crown, and is all the more effectively republican for launching a systemic rather than a personal attack on monarchy. The problem with George III is not that he was an especially cruel or rapacious ruler, but that he stuck doggedly to a definition of royal prerogative that has long since passed its sell-by date.
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It was written in response to the Poet Laureate Robert Southey 's A Vision of Judgement , which had imagined the soul of king George triumphantly entering Heaven to receive his due. Byron was provoked by the High Tory point of view from which the poem was written, and he took personally Southey's preface which had attacked those "Men of diseased hearts and depraved imaginations" who had set up a " Satanic school " of poetry, "characterized by a Satanic spirit of pride and audacious impiety". He responded in the preface to his own Vision of Judgment with an attack on "The gross flattery, the dull impudence, the renegado intolerance, and impious cant, of the poem", and mischievously referred to Southey as "the author of Wat Tyler ", an anti-royalist work from Southey's firebrand revolutionary youth.
The school which they have set up may properly be called the Satanic school; for though their productions breathe the spirit of Belial in their lascivious parts, and the spirit of Moloch in those loathsome images of atrocities and horrors which they delight to represent, they are more especially characterised by a Satanic spirit of pride and audacious impiety, which still betrays the wretched feeling of hopelessness wherewith it is allied. Southey had not rushed in where he had no business, and where he never was before, and never will be again, the following poem would not have been written. It is not impossible that it may be as good as his own, seeing that it cannot, by any species of stupidity, natural or acquired, be worse.