15 September 1866, xxxix, 1028
Robert Buchanan, who, soon after their publication, was identified by Swinburne and his friends as the author of the following verses, inserted ‘August, 1866’ as the month in which Poems and Ballads appeared. The epigraph from Catullus (in F. W. Cornish’s translation, ‘Great gods, what an eloquent manikin!’) strikes a satirical note anticipating ‘the only event of the evening’. The verses were widely reprinted. Some assumed that they portrayed, not Swinburne’s part in a literary sensation, but an actual drunken Swinburne. In choosing his title, Buchanan may have remembered that Sir John Suckling had used the title ‘A Session of the Poets’.
THE SESSION OF THE POETS—AUGUST 1866
Dî magni, salaputium disertum!—CAT. LIB. LIII
AT the Session of Poets held lately in London,
The Bard of Freshwater1 was voted the chair:
With his tresses unbrush’d, and his shirt-collar undone,
He loll’d at his ease like a good-humour’d Bear;
‘Come, boys!’ he exclaimed, ‘we’ll be merry together!’
And lit up his pipe with a smile on his cheek;—
While with eye, like a skipper’s, cock’d up at the weather,
Sat the Vice-Chairman Browning, thinking in Greek.
The company gather’d embraced great and small bards,
Both strong bards and weak bards, funny and grave,
Fat bards and lean bards, little and tall bards,
Bards who wear whiskers, and others who shave.
1 Farringford, Tennyson’s home on the Isle of Wight, was not far from Freshwater.