Summary and Analysis
Robert Southey and William Wordsworth, who have both sold themselves to the king, would like to be considered the greatest poets of the age. Posterity will decide whether they or Walter Scott, Samuel Rogers, Thomas Campbell, Thomas Moore, and George Crabbe will enjoy the largest share of fame. 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 1818, was withheld from publication, on the insistence of John Murray, Byron's publisher, until after Byron's death. Byron kept up a running quarrel with the poet laureate, Robert Southey, for years, for poetical, political, and personal reasons, and finally demolished him in his superb "The Vision of Judgment."
The savage attack on Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, Foreign Secretary in the reactionary Tory government from 1812 to his suicide in 1822, was motivated by Byron's political liberalism, which tended to be extremist. Castlereagh, an able cabinet minister who did much to make possible Wellington's victory over Napoleon and to save England from defeat, was an unselfish patriot but no sympathizer with self-rule or democracy.