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How lovely are your forms! how every sense
Bows to your beauties, soften'd, but intense, 6°
Like to the flowers on Mataloco's steep,
Which fling their fragrance far athwart the deep!
We too will see Licoo; but—oh! my heart!
What do I say ?—to-morrow we depart!
ON THIS DAY I COMPLETE MY THIRTYSIXTH YEAR
Missolonghi, Jan. 32, 1824.
'Tis time this heart should be unmoved,
Since others it hath ceased to move:
My days are in the yellow leaf;
The flowers and fruits of love are gone;
The fire that on my bosom preys
Is lone as some volcanic isle; 10
The hope, the fear, the jealous care,
The exalted portion of the pain
But 'tis not thus—and 'tis not here—
Such thoughts should shake my soul, nor now,
Or binds his brow. so
The sword, the banner, and the field,
Awake! (not Greece—she is awake!)
Awake, my spirit! Think through whom Thy life-blood tracks its parent lake, And then strike home!
Tread those reviving passions down,
Unworthy manhood !—unto thee Indifferent should the smile or frown Of beauty be.
If thou regret'st thy youth, why live T
The land of honourable death
Seek out—less often sought than found—
A soldier's grave, for thee the best; Then look around, and choose thy ground, And take thy rest.
CHILDE HAROLD'S PILGRIMAGE
The first two cantos of 'Childe Harold,' it would seem, were written incidentally and their publication was almost by accident. On his return from his first journey abroad Byron brought home a poem, the 'Imitation of Horace,' with which he hoped to follow up the success of 'English, Bards and Scotch Reviewers.' It was quite with indifference that he informed his friend Dallas that he had written, while abroad, also "a great many stanzas in Spenser's measure, relative to the countries he had visited." These stanzas apparently he regarded as of little worth and had scarcely thought of publishing. Dallas, however, persuaded him to publish them; and so 'Childe Harold ' saw the light.
The poem thus composed and printed owed little, accordingly, save its stanza, to literary tradition, and seems to be wholly original and spontaneous in design. External unity it has none, save in the perfunctory presence and personality of the Childe himself. There is enough of narrative, however, to suggest the epic genre, pn^mrh ^description to suggest the didactic and idyllic poetry of the Eighteenth century, andenou^h of the movement and emotion of song to suggest the lyric. Indeed the reaTurnfyTjf the putin iit in the personality of the poet, and the poet here as elsewhere is constantly and passionately personal and subjective. So that 'Childe Harold ' is more of a lyrical poem (in this restricted and modern sense) than anything else. It seems, indeed, superficially to answer to the description of "a glorified guide-book " and "a rhythmical diorama," which has been applied to it. But the presence of a potent poetic personality throughout keeps it always in the domain of high poetry, and renders it interesting and com
plete as a whole. The poet's preface (quoted below) suggests only the superficial aim of the composition. Its essential and poetical aim, to record and communicate the reaction of picturesque and stirring scenes and events upon the sensitive and powerful genius of the poet, is of course left unstated, but is the real aim with which the reader is concerned.
As to the relation of the poet to the hero of the poem, Byron's disclaimer of identity in his preface must fairly be accepted. Obviously the poet speaks directly through the lips of Childe Harold, and invests him with circumstances drawn from his own experience, at least occasionally and when it suits his purpose. But generally the Childe is a creature of the imagination, and speaks the poet's thoughts idealized, objectified, and transformed, and not in their prosaic reality.
Chapters dealing with the period in his career covered by 'Childe Harold' from any standard life of Byron may profitably be read in connection with the poem. See, preferably, 'Byron's Works, the Letters and Journals,' edited by R. E. Prothero (London 1898) vol. I, ch. iv, vol. II, ch. v, vol. III, chs. xiii-xiv, and vol. IV, chs. xv-xvi. See also the appropriate chapters in the Lives by Moore, Nichol, Roden Noel, Elze, Jeaffreson, etc.
What distinguishes Byron's treatment of nature in this and other poems? Does he emphasize general features or details? What aspects does he characteristically present? Does he often practise "descriptive" poetry? Has he a discriminating eye and ear for color and for sounds? Does the treatment of nature in the several cantos differ? and in what respects? What is the prevailing tone of sentiment in each canto?
Other subjects connected with 'Childe Harold' which may be investigated with interest and profit are the following:
1. The poetic style of 'Childe Harold': use of contrast, antithesis, apostrophe, climax, transition, ellipsis, and the other figures of speech.
2. Its use of tropes: does it abound in simile and metaphor? Comparative amount of each; special qualities of; sources whence they are drawn; personification; poetical epithets,—favorite forms, and how may they be classified?
3. Grammatical irregularities.
4. Versification: Byron's handling of the Spenserian stanza;
use of rhyme; pauses; alliteration. Difference in the several cantos, and explanation thereof.
5. Analysis of the structure of the poem: subjects of the several parts of each canto.
The difference in style and tone between the first two and the last two cantos of the whole poem, separated as they are by six or seven years in date of composition, is noteworthy. In the contrast we study the development of the poet's mind and art. What (with reference to the modern characterization of Shakspere's several periods) should be named as the distinguishing traits of Byron's art and mind in their development in each of the periods given in the outline of his life, at pp. li-liv, above?
(Abridged, for Cantos I and II, from E. H. Coleridge's edition of Byron's Poems, 1899, vol. II.)
1809 Canto I.
July 2. Sails from Falmouth in Lisbon packet (stanza xii)."6. Arrives Lisbon (sts. xvi, xvii). Visits Cintra (sts. xviiiff).
"17. Leaving Lisbon, rides through Portugal and Spain to Seville (sts. xxx-xlii). Visits Albuera (st. xliii)."21. Arrives Seville (sts. xlv, xlvi).
"25. Leaving Seville, rides to Cadiz, across the Sierra Morena (st. li). Cadiz (lxxi ff).
1809 Canto II.
Aug. 17. Sails from Gibraltar in Malta packet (stanzas xviixxvii). Sept. 19-26. Sailing from Malta in brig-of-war Spider, passes between Cephalonia and Zante, and anchors off Petras. Sept. 27. In the channel between Ithaca and the mainland (sts. xxxix-xlii). "28. Anchors off Prevesa (st. xlv).