Editorial glosses and textual notes are available in a pop-up window. Line numbering reflects the structure of the 1911.
When DGR learned in mid-October 1871 that Buchanan was the author of the pseudonymous
attack on his 1870
Poems, he wrote
his brother that he would “not deny myself the fun of a printed
Letter to the Skunk.” (see
). Swinburne wrote back the same day urging DGR to carry on with the reply. (For further commentary on DGR's response to Buchanan see the discussion of
“The Stealthy School of Criticism”).
This poem was originally written in late October to form part of DGR's prose reply to Buchanan, and it was in fact set in type in November with the long pamphlet version of DGR's essay. After he was persuaded against publishing this document, however, he dropped this poem from his essay as well.
The “brothers” of the title is an ironical reference to Buchanan's
pseudonym “Maitland”—Buchanan as a two-faced creature. The subtitle of course
references Byron's famous satire English
Bards and Scotch Reviewers.
DGR wrote two different versions of his parodic ballad. The version first published by
WMR in 1911 is composed in sexains and distinctly recalls DGR's own “Sister Helen”. A holograph manuscript survives of this version of the poem. The other version is the one set in type in November 1871 as part of DGR (eventually rejected) longer version of his reply to Buchanan. It consists of tercet stanzas.