"trying to ascertain whether Marmion or The Lady of the Lake were to be preferred, and how ranked the Giaour and The Bride of Abydos"

The epic Marmion (published 1808) and narrative poem The Lady of the Lake (published in 1810 and later given a musical voice by Franz Schubert, see below) were penned by Sir Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott
Public DomainSir Walter Scott - Credit: Sir Henry Raeburn

 Scott, who was an admirer of Austen's writing, was popular at the time Persuasion was conceived. A respected poet and novelist from Scotland, Scott's two poems, mentioned here, were well-received by readers (if not critics) and sold like proverbial hot-cakes. Austen's bookish characters display their awareness and appreciation of contemporary literature, as does Austen.

The Bride of Abydos and Gaiour (1813) were written by the far more controversial, if eminently fascinating, George Gordon, Lord Byron, a giant of the Romantic period. 

Lord Byron
Public DomainLord Byron - Credit: Thomas Phillips

Casting off convention and expectations, Byron mined the imagery of the exotic for his poetry, including a reference to vampires in Giaour. His more sensual poetry has outlasted Scott's in the taste of readers and critics, but, at the time, both poets were successful, if not consistently respected.

An excerpt from The Bride of Abydos:

Know ye the land where cypress and myrtle

Are emblems of deeds that are done in their clime,

Where the rage of the vulture, the love of the turtle,

Now melt into sorrow, now madden to crime?


Anne and Captain Benwick also discuss how Byron's Giaour was to be pronounced. Byron himself acknowledged the unpronounceability of the word, although he claimed in was said with a soft g, and rhymed with 'power': 'jower'. See here for details.

Online editions: Marmion, The Lady of the Lake, The Bride of Abydos.

Franz Schubert set The Lady of the Lake to music, by accident creating one of the most famous of Christian tunes.  Although his original song was a German translation of Scott's text, it began with the words "Ave Maria", leading to the idea of setting the Latin prayer Ave Maria to the same melody.

Listen on Spotify: the original Ellens Gesang III and the Latin prayer Ave Maria