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Canto IV. Oct. 8? Starts for Italy, passing through Martigny, Milan, and
Verona, and arriving in Venice by the eleventh of
November. Life in Venice (stanzas i-xix). 1817 April 16? Leaves Venice for Rome, visiting Arquà and Ferrara
(xxx-xxxix), Florence (xlviii-Ixi), Lake Thrasimene
Cantos I AND II. Begun at Janina, in Albania, October 31, 1809; finished, except for certain stanzas of later composition, at Smyrna, March 28, 1810. Stanzas i, xliii, and xc of Canto I, and stanzas ix, xci, xcii, xcv, xcvi of Canto II were added before printing, while others were revised or recast. The two cantos were published March 10, 1812. In the seventh edition, in 1814, appeared for the first time the Dedication and ten additional stanzas near the end of Canto II.
The following are the motto and the original preface which Byron prefixed to this poem:
“L'univers est une espèce de livre, dont on n'a lu que la première page quand on n'a vu que son pays. J'en ai feuilleté un assez grand nombre, que j'ai trouvé également mauvaises. Cet examen ne m'a point été infructueux. Je haissais ma patrie. Toutes les impertinences des peuples divers, parmi lesquels j'ai vécu, m'ont réconcilié avec elle. Quand je n'aurais tiré d'autre bénéfice de mes voyages que celui-là, je n'en regretterais ni les frais ni les fatigues.”—LE CosMOPOLITE [by M. de Montbron, ‘Londres,' 1753).
PREFACE TO THE FIRST AND SECOND CANTOS.
The following poem was written, for the most part, amidst the scenes which it attempts to describe. It was begun in Albania ; and the parts relative to Spain and Portugal were composed from the author's observations in those countries. This much it may be necessary to state for the correctness of the descriptions. The scenes attempted
to be sketched are in Spain, Portugal, Epirus, Acarnania, and Greece. There, for the present, the poem stops: its reception will determine whether the author may venture to conduct his readers to the capital of the East, through lonia and Phrygia: these two cantos are merely experimental.
A fictitious character is introduced for the sake of giving some connection to the piece ; which, however, makes no pretensions to regularity. It has been suggested to me by friends, on whose opinions I set a high value, that in this fictitious character, “Childe Harold,” I may incur the suspicion of having intended some real personage; this I beg leave, once for all, to disclaim-Harold is a child of imagination, for the purpose I have stated. In some very trivial particulars, and those merely local, there might be grounds for such a notion ; but in the main points, I should hope, none whatever.
It is almost superfluous to mention that the appellation “Childe," as “Childe Waters,” “ Childe Childers," etc., is used as more consonant with the old structure of versification which I have adopted. 1 The “Good Night," in the beginning of the first canto, was suggested by “Lord Maxwell's Good Night,” in the “ Border Minstrelsy,” edited by Mr. Scott.
With the different poems which have been published on Spanish subjects, there may be found some slight coincidence in the first part which treats of the Peninsula; but it can only be casual, as, with the exception of a few concluding stanzas, the whole of this poem was written in the Levant.
The stanza of Spenser, according to one of our most successful poets, admits of every variety. Dr. Beattie makes the following observation: “Not long ago, I began a poem in the style and stanza of Spenser, in which I propose to give full scope to my inclination, and be either droll or pathetic, descriptive or sentimental, tender or satirical, as the humor strikes me ; for, if I mistake not, the measure which I have adopted admits equally of all these kinds of composition.” Strengthened in my opinion by such authority, and by the example of some in the highest order of Italian poets, I shall make no apology for attempts at similar variations in the following composition ; satisfied that, if they are unsuccessful, their failure must be in the execution rather than in the design, sanctioned by the practice of Ariosto, Thomson and Beattie.2
LONDON, February, 1812.
1 In older English the term usually signifies a youth of gentle birth awaiting knighthood. Spenser frequently applies it to Prince Arthur in the 'Faerie Queene.' Cf. Browning's Childe Roland. [Ed.
2 Cf. Ariosto, Orlando Furioso '; Thomson, 'Castle of Indolence'; Beattie, 'The Minstrel.' (Ed.
I: Stanzas to lanthe : This dedication to Ianthe was written in the autumn of 1812, and first appeared in the seventh issue of the first two cantos of Childe Harold, February 1, 1814. Ianthe was Lady Charlotte Harley (born 1801), daughter of Byron's friend, Lady Oxford.
2 ; V, I. Such is thy name. Ianthe, as if from ľov (= violet or narcissus, sometimes, as leukó-iov, identified with the lily), and äv6os, a flower.
3:i. A more or less conventional invocation, after the tradition of epical poetry, composec, not, like most of the stanzas that follow, on the spot, but after Byron's return to England. The visit to the sacred hill of Parnassus, the vaunted "rill ” of Cas. taly, and Apollo's shrine at Telphi, occurred Dec. 16, 1809, several months after the visit to the scenes described in the opening stanzas. Cf. st. LX.
3:ii. This stanza is autc biographical, but exaggerated. By. ron's youth was marred by much excess, but he was not quite the figure here painted. He always delights in bravado and in shocking the unco' guid (" Ah me! in sooth he was a shameless wight"). Note what Byron says in his preface, above, on the idealization of the character of his hero.
3 : ii, 4. Vexed ... the drowsy ear seems to be a half echo of the lines in Shakspere's King John III, iv :
“Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale,
Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man." Cf. also III, iii, 39: “the drowsy race of night,” emended by some editors into “the drowsy ear of night."
Byron abounds in such literary echoes, allusions, and halfquotations. It is part of his style, and he expects his reader to feel them.
3 : iii, 1. Childe Harold. “Childe Burun" in Byron's original manuscript; and so for some distance onward in the poem : a further proof of the essentially autobiographical (although poetically autobiographical) intention of the poem.
1. hight = was called (A.-S. hatan), properly a passive vesh in itself, and so not requiring the auxiliary was, as frequently in Spenser and earlier poets. The form with the auxil. iary, however, is justified by long usage.
4 : iv, 7. Byron was sated at the end and ready to lay down his life, but this is a romantic satiety; doubtless sincere enough as a passing mood, but there was abundance of life and enjoyment still before him, as this poem alone sufficiently testifies. Shelley, too, although in a different tone, utters the complaint of satiety: “Thou lovest; but ne'er knew love's sad satiety."
(“To a Skylark '). It is a note of the current romanticism. Alfred de Musset (“* Byron and eau sucrée") in France echoes it.
4 : v, 3. The allusion is to Mary Chaworth, the heiress of an estate adjoining Newstead, and somewhat older than Byron, for whom in 1803 he conceived a hopeless passion, "his first real love," which he refers to in several of his minor poems.
5 : vii, 1. Newstead Abbey, in Nottinghamshire, the heredi. tary seat of the Byrons.
7: xiii, 9. See Byron's Preface, above p. 309. The first stanza of Lord Maxwell's “Good Night" (in Scott's “Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border,' 1810, vol. I, p. 297) is as follows:
Adieu, madame, my mother dear,
But and my sisters three !
My heart is wae for thee.
The primrose fair to see:
For I may not stay with thee. 8: xiv. From this point Byron drops most of the affectation of archaism introduced in the earlier stanzas, and assumes more of his own free, vigorous utterance and rhythm. Striking is the skill with which, as in this stanza, the poet combines the impression of narrative flow and vivacity with richness and interest of picturesque description.
8 : xv, 9. The French under Napoleon, who invaded Portugal in 1807.
9 : xviii, 8. The reference is to Dante's " Paradiso.” 10 : xix-xxii. Compare this, as a specimen of poetical de. scription, with that of the Rhine in canto III, stanzas lx-lxi. Notice how in successive line-long phrases in stanza xix the pic. ture is put together, how well the details are selected, and with what effective epithets they are brought out. By what devices does the poet emphasize the human interest of his picture ?
10 : xx, 4. “Since the publication of this poem I have been informed of the misapprehension of the term Nossa Señora de Pena. It was owing to the want of the tilde, or mark over the ñ, which alters the signification of the word : with it Peña signifies a rock; without it, Pena has the sense I adopted. I do not think it necessary to alter the passage; as, though the common acceptation affixed to it is Our Lady of the Rock,' I may well assume the other sense from the severities practised there ” [Byron's note, in Second Edition.
11 : xxii, 6. William Beckford (1760-1844), author of · Vathek,' lived for three years (1794-1796) near Cintra. Byron greatly admired “Vathek,' the romance.
12 : xxxii, 1. Lusitania and her Sister, i.e., Portugal and Spain.
12 : xxxiv, 4. Ancient roundelays. The Spanish ballads. See • The Spanish Ballads,'translated by J. G. Lockhart, e.g. The Bull-Fight of Gazul.'
13 : XXXV, 2. Pelagio, or Pelayo, the Spanish hero and king who rallied the Christian arms in northern Spain and first made head against the Moors, 718 A.D. His standard, a wooden cross, is still preserved at Oviedo.
3. Cava's traitor-sire. Count Julian, liegeman of Roderick the Goth, whose daughter Cava Roderick had violated, and who in revenge allied himself with the Moors, calling them into Spain in 711. Roderick was defeated and slain, and the Moorish occupation of Spain ensued. Cf. Southey's Roderick,' and Sir Walter Scott's Vision of Don Roderick.'
7. The Moors were finally expelled in 1492.
8. In Christian symbolism the cross is often red. So Spenser's Red-Cross Knight:
“And on his brest a bloudie crosse he bore,
The deare remembrance of his dying Lord.” Similarly the crescent, representing the moon, is usually silver gilt in Moslem lands,