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Graduate Course




Compiled and Prepared by :

K. Ojha


5, Cavalry Lane, Delhi-110007
Session 2012-2013 (800 Copies)

For Limited Circulation Only

Published by Executive Director, School of Open Learning, 5 Cavalry Lane, Delhi Printed at:
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Section - 1
The Childe Harolds Pilgrimage
(Prescribed Text)


There sunk the greatest, nor the worst of men,
Whose Spirit, antithetically mixed,
One moment of the mightiest, and again
On little objects with like firmness fixed;
Extreme in all things! hadst thou been betwixt,
Thy throne had still been thine, or never been;
For Daring made thy rise as fall: thou seekst
Even now to re-assume the imperial mien.
And shake again the world, the Thunderer of the scene!
Conqueror and Captive of the Earth art thou!
She trembles at thee still, and thy wild name
Was neer more bruited in mens minds than now
That thou art nothing, save the jest of Fame,
Who wooed thee once, thy Vassal, and became
The flatterer of the fierceness-till thou wert
A God unto thyself; nor less the same
To the astounded kingdoms all inert,
Who deemed thee for a time whater thou didst assert.
Oh, more or less than manin high or low
Battling with nations, flying from the field;
Now making monarchs necks thy footstool, now
More than thy meanest soldier taught to yield;
An Empire thou couldst crush, command, rebuild.
But govern not thy pettiest passion, nor,
However deeply in mens spirits skilled,
Look through thine own, nor curb the lust of War,
Nor learn that tempted Fate will leave the loftiest Star.
Yet well thy soul hath brooked the turning tide
With that untaught innate philosophy,
Which, be it Wisdom, Coldness, or deep Pride,
Is gall and wormwood to an enemy.
When the whole host of hatred stood hard by,
To watch and mock thee shrinking, thou hast smiled
With a sedate and all-enduring eye;
When Fortune fled her spoiled and favourite child,
He stood unbowed beneath the ills upon him piled.
Sager than in thy fortunes; for in them
Ambition steeled thee on too far to show
That just habitual scorn, which could contemn
Men and their thoughts; twas wise to feel, not so
To wear it ever on thy lip and brow,
And spurn the instruments thou wert to use
Till they were turned unto thine overthrow:
Tis but a worthless world to win or lose;
So hath it proved to thee, and all such lot who choose.
If, like a tower upon a headlong rock,
Thou hadst been made to stand or fail alone,
Such scorn of man had helped to brave the shock;
But mens thoughts were the steps, which paved thy throne,
Their admiration thy best weapon shone;
The part of Philips son was thine-not then
(Unless aside thy purple had been thrown)
Like stern Diagenes to mock at men:
For sceptred Cynics Earth were far too wide a den.
But Quiet to quick bosoms is a Hell.
And there hath been thy bane: there is a fire
And motion of the Soul, which will not dwell
In its own narrow being, but aspire
Beyond the fitting medium of desire:
And, but once kindled, quenchless evermore.
Preys upon high adventure, nor can tire
Of aught but rest; a fever at the core.
Fatal to him who bears, to all who ever bore.
This makes the madmen who have made men mad
By their contagion; Conquerors and Kings,
Founders of sects and systems, to whom add
Sophists, Bards, Statesmen, all unquiet things
Which stir too strongly the souls secret springs,
And are themselves the fools to those they fool:
Envied, yet how unenviable! What stings
Are theirs! One breast laid open were a school
Which would unteach Mankind the lust to shine or rule:
Their breath is agitation, and their life
A storm whereon they ride, to sink at last.
And yet so nursed and bigoted to strife.
That should their days, surviving perils past,
Melt to calm twilight, they feel overcast
With sorrow and supineness, and so die;
Even as a flame unfed, which runs to waste
With its own flickering, or a sword laid by,
Which eats into itself, and rusts ingloriously
He who ascends to mountain tops, shall find
The loftiest peaks most wrapt in clouds and snow;
He who surpasses or subdues mankind,
Must look down on the hate of those below.
Though high above the Sun of Glory glow,
And far beneath the Earth and Ocean spread,
Round him are icy rocks, and loudly blow
Contending tempests on his naked head,
And thus reward the toils, which to those summits led.
Visto ho Toscana, Lombardia, Romagna,
Quel monte che divide, equal che serra
Italia, e un mare el altro, che la bagna.
Ariosto, Satira iv. Lines 59-61.

Venice, January 2.1818

My dear hobhouse,

After an interval of eight years between the composition of the first and last cantos of Childe
Harold, the conclusion of the poem is about to be submitted to the public. In parting with so old a friend,
it is not extraordinary that I should recur to one still older and better. to one who has beheld the birth
and death of the other, and to whom I am far more indebted for the social advantages of an enlightened
friendship, thanthough not ungratefulI can. or could be. to Childe Harold, for any public favour
reflected through the poem on the poet-to one, whom 1 have known long, and accompanied far, whom I
have found wakeful over my sickness and kind in my sorrow, glad in my prosperity and firm in my
adversity, true in counsel and trusty in peril-to a friend often tried and never found wanting-to yourself.
In so doing, I recur from fiction to truth and in dedicating to you in its complete, or at least
concluded state, a poetical work which is the longest, the most thoughtful and comprehensive of my
compositions, I wish to do honour to myself by the record of many years intimacy with a man of
learning, of talent, of steadiness and of honour. It is not for minds like ours to give or to receive flattey;
yet the praises of sincerity have ever been permitted to the voice of friendship; and it is not for you, nor
even for others, but to relieve a heart which has not elsewhere, or lady, been so much accustomed to the
encounter of good-will as to withstand the shock firmly, that I thus attempt to commemorate your good
qualities, or rather the advantages which I hr. e derived from their exertion. Even the recurrence of the
date of this letter, the anniversary of the most uutbcmns Me day of my past existence, but which cannot
poison my future while I retain the resources of vow friendship. and of my own faculties, will henceforth
have a more agreeable recollection for both, inasmuch it will remind us of this my attempt to thank you
for an indefatigable regard such a few men have experienced, and no one could experience without
thinking better of Ms species and of himself.
It has been our fortune to traverse together, at various periods, the countries of chivalry, history, and
fable-Spain., Greece, Asia Minor, and Italy: and what Athens; few years ago, Venice and Rome have
been more recently. The poem also, or the pilgrim, or both, have accompanied me form first to last: and
perhaps it may be a pardonable vanity which induces me to reflect with complacency on a composition
which in some degree connects me with the spot where it was produced, and the objects it would fain
describe: and however unworthy it may be deemed of the those magical and memorable abodes, however
short it may fall of our distance conceptions and immediate impressions, yet as a mark of respect for what
is venerable, and of feeling for what is glorious, it has been to me a source of pleasure in the production,
and I part with it with a regret, which I hardly suspected that events could have me for imaginary objects.
With regard to the conduct of the last canto, there will be found less of the pilgrim than in any of the
preceding, and that little slightly, if at all separated from the author speaking in his own person. The fact
is that 1 had become weary of drawing a line which every one seemed determined not to perceive: like the
Chinese in Goldsmiths Citizen of the World, whom nobody would believe to be a Chinese, it was in vain
that I asserted and imagined that I had drawn, a distinction between the author and the pilgrim; and the
very anxiety to preserve this difference, and disappointment at finding it unavailing, so far crushed my
efforts in the composition, that I determined to abandon it altogether-and have done so. The opinions
which have been, or may be, formed on that subject are now a matter of indifference: the work is to
depend on itself, and not on the writer; and the author, who has no resources in his own mind beyond the
reputation, transient or permanent, which is to arise from his literary efforts, deserves the fate of authors.,
In the course of the following canto it was intention, either in the test or in the notes, to have touched
upon the present state of Italian literature, and perhaps of manners. But the text within the limits I
proposed, 1 soon found hardly sufficient for the labyrinth of external objects, and the consequent
reflections: and for the whole of the notes, excepting a few of the shortest, I am indebted to yourself, and
these were necessarily limited to the elucidation of the text.
It is also a delicate and no very grateful task, to dissert upon the literature and manners of a nation so
dissimilar: and requires an attention and impartiality which induce us,though perhaps no inattentive
observers, nor ignorant of the language or customs of the people amongst whom we have recently abode-
to distrust, or at least defer out judgement, and more narrowly examine our information. The state of
literary as well as political party appears to run, or to have run, so high, that for a stranger to steer
impartially between them, is next to impossible. It may be enough, then at least for my purpose, to quote
from their own beautiful language-Mi pare che in un paese tutto poetico. che vanta la lingua la piu nobile
ed insieme la piu dolce, tutte tutte le vie diverse is possono tentare. e che sinche la patria di Alfieri e di
Monti non ha perdutol antico valore, in tutte essa doverbbe essere la prima. Italy has great names still-
Canova, Monti, Ugo Foscolo, Pindernonte, Visconti. Morelli, Cicognara, Albrizzi, Mezzofanti, Mai,
Mustoxidi, Aglietti, and Vacca,-will secure to the present generation an honourable place in most of the
departments of Art, Science and Belles Letters: and in some the very highest-Europe-the World-has but
one Canova.
It has been somewhere said by Alfieri, that La pianta uomo nacse piu robusta in Italia che in
qualunque altra terra-e che gli stessi atroci delitti che vi is commettono ne sono una prova. Without
subscribing to the latter part of his proposition, a dangerous doctrine, the truth of which may be disputed
on better grounds, namely, that the Italians are in no respect more ferocious than their neighbors, that man
must be willfully blind, or ignorantly heedless, who is not struck with the extraordinary capacity of this
people, or if such a word be admissible, their capabilities, the facility of their acquisitions, the rapidity of
their conceptions, the fire of their genius, their sense of beauty, and amidst all the disadvantages, of
repeated revolutions, the desolation of battles, and the despair of ages, their still unquenched longing
after immortality,-the immortality of independence. And when we ourelves. in riding round the walls of
Rome, heard the simple lament of the labourers chorus, Roma! Roma! Roma! Roma non e piu come era
prima! it was difficult not to contrast this melancholy dirge with the bacchanal roar of the songs of
exultation still yelled from the London taverns. Over the carnage of Mont St. Jean and the betrayal of
Genoa of Italy, of France, and of the World by men whose conduct you yourself have exposed in a work
worthy of the better days of our history, Forme,
Non movero mai corda
Ove la turba di sue ciance assorda.
What Italy has gained by the late transfer of nations, it were useless for Englishmen to enquire, till it
becomes ascertained that England has acquired something more than a permanent army and a suspended
Habeas Corpus; it is enough for them to look at home. For what they have done abroad, and especially in
the South, Verily they will have their reward, and at no very distant period.
Wishing you, my dear Hobhouse. a safe and agreeable return to that country whose real welfare can
be dearer to none than to yourself. I dedicate to you poem in its completed state; and repeat once more
how trulv I am ever.
Your obliged
And affectionate friend,
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods.
There is a rapture on the lonely shore.
There is society, where none intrudes.
By the deep Sea. and Music In its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be. or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can neer expressyet can not all conceal.
Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean-Roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruinhis control
Stops with the shore:upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
A shadow of mans ravage, save his own.
When, for a moment, like a drop of rain.
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan
Without a graveunknelled, uncoffmed, and unknown.
His steps are not upon thy paths,thy fields
Are not a spoil for himthou dost arise
And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields
For Earths destruction thou dost all despise,
Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies-
And sendst him, shivering in thy playful spray
And howling, to his Gods, where haply lies
His petty hope in some near port or bay,
And dashest him again to Earth-there let him lay.
The armaments which thunder strike the walls
Of rock-build cities, bidding nations quake,
And Monarchs tremble in their Capitals,
The oak Leviathans, whose huge ribs make
Their clay creator the vain title take
Of Lord of thee, and Arbiter of War
These are thy toys, and, as the snowy flake,
They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar
Alike the Armadas pride, or spoil of Trafalgar.
Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee
Assyria-Greece-Rome-Carthage-what are they?
Thy waters washed them power while they were free,
And many a tyrant since; their shores obey
The stranger, slave, or savage; their dacay
Has dried up realms to deserts:not so thou,
Unchangeable save to thy wild waves play:
Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow
Such as Creations dawn beheld, thou rollest now.
Thou glorious mirror, where the Almightys form
Glasses itself in tempests; in all time,
Calm or convulsedin breeze, or gale, or storm
Icing the Pole, or in the torrid clime
Dark-heavingboundless, endless, and sublime
The image of Eternitythe throne
Of the Invisible; even from out thy slime
The monsters of the deep are madeeach Zone
Obeys theethou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.
And I have loved thee, Ocean! And my joy
Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
Borne, like thy bubbles, onward: From a boy
I wantoned with thy breakers-thy to me
Were a delight; and if the freshening sea
Made them a terror-t was a pleasing fear,
For 1 was as it were a Child of thee,
And trusted to thy billows far and near,
And laid my hand upon thy name-as I do here.
My task is done-my song hath ceased-my theme
Has died into an echo; it is fit
The spell should break of this protracted dream
The torch shall be extinguished which hath lit
My midnight lamp-and what is writ, is writ.-
Would it were worthier! But I am not now
That which I have been-and my visions flit
Less palpably before me-and the glow
Which in my Spirit dwelt is fluttering, faint, and low.
Farewell! A word that must be, and hath been-
A sound which makes us linger:yet farewell
Ye! Who have traced the Pilgrim to the scene
Which is his lastif in your memories dwell
A thought which once was hisif on ye swell
A single recollectionnot in vain
He wore his sandal-shoon. and scallop-shell;
Farewell! With him alone may rest the pain
If such there were-with you. the Moral of his Strain.

George Gordon Lord Byron, the sixth of the title has always fascinated biographers, though his
poetry has tended to be rather more neglected by the critics ........ There are, perhaps, three Byrons. There
is the Byron of the letters and journals, spirited, racy, energetic and full of warmth, wit and liveliness
(what he calls at one point his allegrezzd). There is the Byron of the poems most popular in his own time,
a handsome misanthropic, cursed and blighted being, doomed to destruction, and magnetically,
mysteriously attractive to all who met him. Then there is the Byron of the great poems, notably Don Juan,
a major satirist and a real poetic inventor writing uniquely compelling verse which serveys modern man
and his plight with an experienced, sardonic but compassionate eye. So this makes it difficult to start even
with the simple life and work opposites because each of three Byrons can appear in the same place
side by side and not feel uncomfortable. The work so closely follows and is modelled on the life that
many critics have been led to treat his poetry as autobiographical source material. Though there is a
danger in this, there is at least this important truth, Byron could write only from actual experience. He had
little faculty for fiction, though on the other hand, a good facility in reproducing actual incident and
emotional mood.
For a romantic poet Byron was often far too hard hearted and far too prosaic really to be counted
with the other English Romantic poets. For an artist he had surprisingly little sensitiveity towards or
understanding of the other arts, his knowledge of music was slim, though he liked rather trite and simple
ballads, his response to painting and sculpture was negligible, and so on. This will only be one of the
many paradoxes and contradictions the critic has calmly to swallow, there are many more calmly.
(Byron by Francis M. Dorothy)
2. A Brief Life-sketch
Byron, the poet, born on January 22, 1788 at 16 Holies Street in London, was the son of the former
Scottish heiress, Catherine Gordon of Gight, and the improvident and impecunious captain (Mad Jack)
Byron, Both families were startingly aristocratic, and were known for deeds of violence and their tangled
fortunes. At the age of twenty two in 1778 his father had created a scandal. He fell in love with Lady
Carmarthen, whose husband was to be the fifth Duke of Leeds. The sandal was followed by a divorce by
an Act of Parliament. Of the three children of that marriage only one survived-Angusta (born in 1783),
who became the future poets beloved half-sister.
Having squandered 23,000 of his second wife Catherine in no time, Captain Byron (the poets
father) led a wandering life, dodging creditors and later he left his wife and his son in financial hardship.
The boy Byron had been born with a conventional clubbed foot, the heel being turned up and the sole of
the foot being turned inwards. The mother and the son went to live in Aberdeen. There they lived with a
nurse, Agnes, on the mothers remaining annuaj 150.
Young Georges formal education was conventional and rudimentary, but he read whatever he could
lay his hands on-travels, histories, and novels and the Bible. He enjoyed reading the Testament, which he
read with his Calvinist nurse. This made him believe in predestination, the possibility of being doomed by
God to eternal punishment.
The dooming became an important part of Byrons future life and later this idea was reinforced by
his reading outside the Bible. Byron refers to Zeluco, on obscure novel by John Moore in his preface to
the first two cantos of Childe Harolds Pilgrimage: The outline which I once meant to fill up for him
(Harold) was, with some exceptions, the sketch of a modern Timon, perhaps a poetic Zeluco The novel
presents a misanthropic hero, a villain, doomed by fate beyond his control to do Byron was fascinated
with Shakespeares Macbeth and Shelleys poems. His hero-villain. Who does evil almost unwillingly
under pressures from outside himself was a favourite emblem of the poets own state of mind.
After the death of the grandson of the Wicked Lord Byron in the battle in Corsica on July 31,
1791, Byron became the heir presumptive to the barony. The wicked Lord left a tangled mass of legal
encumbrances, heavy debts, and ruinous estate for the new master. The mother and the son shifted to the
gloomy and romantic abbey.
Byrons life now expanded. He spent holidays in London with his lawyers family, the Hansons,
went to Harrow (April 18011 and stayed there until 1805. There he had to fight his way through taunts at
his lameness. He provoked his teachers, neglected his lesson and became the leader of a faction which
opposed the appointment of a new Head-master. His school friendships were passionate and remained
especially strong in memory.
He met his half-sister Augusta sometime in this period and wrote to her to unburden himself of his
growing and impassioned dislike of his mother. He played in the Eton and Harrow cricket match on
August 2, 1805 and was extremely proud of his ability to play the game despite his lameness and despite
his having to have a runner for the match.
In October. 1 X05 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge. He indulged himself, spent lavishly was
troubled by money lenders, and he invloved himself deeply with other men and generally amused himself.
A homesexua! tendency was exhibited through out his life. He was very close to John Edlestone who
died in 1 811. His death gave a sad blow to Byron and profoundly disturbed him and com iced him that he
was a doomed being bringing distaster to all who came close to him This violent (though pure) love and
passion are expressed in several verse items in Fugtive Pieces of December
Byrons activities could not be confined to Cambridge, he often visited London, lived on borrowed
money, formed friendship and liason with all manners of people-light and low. His Fugitive Pieces
appeared in November 1806. Byron recalled the edition and burned all the copies when Reverend Thomas
Decher objected to some of his erotic verses. Only four copies survived the flames.
Byron rewrote some of his poems, trying to charters them. Poems on various Occasions (Jan-1807)
contained some of the poems of the Fugitive. Later Byron even changed some twenty items for more
melancholic ones to republish the book as Hours of Idleness.
He settled in London, made friends, wrote verse and led a dissipated life. He desired to escape from
London for a view of the Peloponnesus and a voyage through the Archipelago.... (his letter to Dr.
Bathe). His Hours of Idleness was cut to atoms by the E (dinburgh) Review wrote Byron, it
completely demolished my little fabric of fame. This is rather scurvy treatment for a Whig review, but
politics and poetry are different things, and 1 am no adept in either. 1, therefore, submit in silence (Lord
Byrons Correspondence edited by John Murray 1992, his letter to Hobhouse of Feb.27)
Byron could not bear the insult calmly. He wrote a satire which formed the nucleus of the poem
published in 1809 as English Bard and Scotch Reviewers. By 1809 he had more enemies who became
part of the collection. The revised version of Hours of Idleness appeared as Poems Original and
Translated. The collection had five new poems heightening the nostalgic regret for the passing of
boyhood. This collection was adversely criticised by Heuson Clarke, a Cambridge man, in The Satirist.
Clarke had always been a vehement critic of Byrons verse and when in June appeared a poem. Lord B. to
his Bear (that summer Byron was receving his M.A. degree) Byron was enraged. He had indeed kept a
bear in the college and had taken it for its exercise on a lead, saying that it was sitting for a fellowship. He
was angry not merely at the ridicule that Clarke poured on him but also at his own failures, the lack of
achievement, because he had fallen in a deep depression and gloom at this time. The problem was
aggravated by his London excesses.
In September he was at Newstead, planning his projected journey, furnishing rooms and building up
a new satiric poem with the help of the Epistle of Peter Pindar and Baviad of Gifford, the editor of the
Tory Quarterly. In January 1809 he left for London, with the manuscript of the British Bards to get it
published and he also intended to enter the House of Lords. He decided to celebrate his guardian. Lord
Carlisle as a new Roscommon on whom Apollo deign, to smile, but hen his guardian cold-shouldered
him and did not formally introduce him to the House he was annoyed and later ridiculed Lord Carlisle in
his English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1808). The poem sold well. Although it did not bear the poets
name, people at once guessed it to be the work of Byron. The poet wanted to escape form London but
could not leave until June because he was hard pressed. He decided to publish the Bardss second edition
in which he would condemn both Jeffrey (who, he suspected attacked his work in the Edinburgh
Review*) and Hanson Clarke of the Satirist.
Byron spent almost two years abroad in Spain, Greece and the Near East. He was charmed by Spain
and stayed there nearly a month, he found Gibraltar-dirty and detestable. He visited Malta, where he met
Mrs. Spencer Smith, their attachment lasted for a month. He then travelled to Preveza (Greece) and
Jannina, the capital of AH Pasha.
Byron spent his Christmas in Athens and here he finished the first canto of Childe Harolds
Pilgrimage, which he had started on Oct. 31. He enjoyed his stay. He went to the farthest point of Attica,
and from there he had a clear sight of the isles of Greece a vision of such power and beauty that his
imagination was haunted by it all his life. Byron left Athens, its carnival, its friendly people and There as
Merci (who becomes The maid of Athens) and went to Turkey.
Or his journey he swam across the Hellspont on May 3, (the feat that legendary Leander achieved to
reach his beloved.), Byron was proud of his success. He celebrated it in a verse. The verse concludes thus:
But since he crossd the rapid ride.
According to the doubtful story.
To woo - andLord knows what beside,
And swam for Love, as 1 for glory,
Twere hard to say who fared the best.
Sad mortals! thus the gods still plague you
He lost hi s labour, I my jest
For he was drownd I ve the ague.
If we compare such a verse with the second canto of Childe Harolds Pilgrimage (finished in
March), we discover that the natural voice of the verse links it to Byrons letters and to the later Byron of
Don Juan. Byrons verses are characterised by his natural voice.
Byron was bored with the limited life in Turkey. In August he returned to Athens and settled at a
Capuchian monastery at the foot of Acropolis. He had a small library also. He spent his time in Mow life
studying Italian, writing Hints from Horace, a poem satirizing contemporary authors. He stayed in Malta
for a month, and was in a depressed mood. Mrs. Spencer Smiths presence made his life more miserable.
He suffered from poor health, fever, the oppressive heat, fear of creditors in London and the financial
He returned to England on July 11, a changed man, cosmopolitan, a man of varied experiences and
worldly wisdom, with sun in his bone. For Byron now the Mediterranean was the greatest island of his
imagination. England greeted him with bad news, Byron abandon Hints from Horace and concentrate on
Childe Harold. His mother had died, his friend Charles was drowned, and the close friend Edlestone had
also died.
With the publication of the first two cantos of Childe Harolds Pilgrimage Byron became a
prominent personality in England. Fame and notoriety were his all through his, life. He became the
paradoxical Childe Harold-half angel, half devil, and everyone wanted to meet him.
He led a dissipated life, had an affair with the passionate and ill-bread lady Caroline Lamp, later
married lady Annabella Milbanke. His marriage with Annabella was a disaster. Back in London he met
his half-sister Augusta and she altered his whole life, he was very intimate with her and hence forth his
mind was haunted by guilt and secret fears.
Meanwhile his work Oriental Talcs appeared, followed by Giaour (spring 1813'). then the Corsair.
Byrons marriage in June 1815 led to ill-temper and excessive drinking. He ill-treated his wife, was
sarcastic and humiliated her: his wife suspected his relationship with his half-sister and she often ridiculed
him. His domestic life in his London home was turbulent. As soon as the creditors learnt about his
marriage with an heiress, they pestered him. Bailiffs visited him frequently. Augusta came to stay with
him and this created more rift between Byron and his wife. Byron avoided going back home-took to late
hours, heavy drinking, involved himself in theatre, and theatrical affairs indulged with actresses. In
December his only child Augusta Ada was born. His wife with their daughter returned to her parents
home in Durham. Her parents forced her to take the medical opinion on Byron, the doctors declared that
he was sane though irrascible and violent. She was compelled to go for divorce and they got separated. By
this time Byron had become a living scandal and a social outcast in London. He left London on April 23
and sailed from England for the last time on April 25 to escape the bailiffs.
He went to Geneva, on his way he stopped at Waterloo. He was excited with traveling, and began to
write new verses. Enroute to Geneva, he met Shelley, Mary Godwin and her step-sister. Claire Clairmont.
The two poets enjoyed each others company. The Shelleys left on August 29 for England.
Byron wrote canto III of Childe Harolds Pilgrimage and The Prisoner of Chilian in the summer,
Byron and Hobhouse left for Milan in the autumn, went to Verona and then to Venice and observed its
decaying charm. He completed his drama Man/red, which was started in Switzerland. Byron by this time
was a melancholic personhe felt that life had no meaning. He continued to stay in Venice for quite
sometime enjoying himself, and then he left Rome on April 17, learnt from Mary Shelley about the birth
of his illegitimate child in January a girl, Clara Allegra, daughter of Claire (the step-sister of Mary).
Byron remained stubbornly silent.
The greatness of Rome fascinated Byron and he wrote about it. He devoted himself to the fourth
canto of Childe Harolds Pilgrimage. He once again returned to Venice and to his natives (an
abundance of women of the middle and lower classes). An anecdote by the husband of one of his
mistresses provided the nucleus of the mock-heroic poem Beppo.
Beppo and Canto IV of Childe Harold were published in the spring of 1818 and in the spring too the
illegitimate Clara Allegra arrived with the Shelleys for Byrons custody. In the summer he worked on the
first canto of Don Juan. In April 1819, he once again met Theresa, countess Guicciloi. She was then
nineteen and was married to a fifty-eight year old aristocrat. They fell in love. He was intimately
associated with Theresa, and her father, his friends and her husband. Byron with Theresas brother, Pietro
Gamba, plotted rebellion against the Austrians. He continued writing Don Juan and his political thinking
is reflected in his dramas-Marino Falieco and Sardana paluis Thoughts on sin, death and meaning of life
and his venture with Leigh Hunt, the founder of literary journal the Liberal are reflected in his work
Cain. His Vision of Judgement published in The Liberal (the journal did not last long) is a satire on
Shelleys death in 1821 disturbed Byron. To get over his gloom, he rapidly wrote three more cantos
of Don Juan. After a year at Genoa Byron left in July 1823 to help the Greeks in their struggle for
independence from Turkish rule. He died of a fever at Missolonghi, in western Greece, on April 19,
1824,his body was returned to England. Refused burial in West Minister Abbey, the remains were
deposited in the ancestral vault at Hucknall Torkard near Newstead Abbey.
3. George Byron-The poet
The name of Byron became in the nineteenth century, and remains today, a symbol for a mood, an
attitude of mind, and a view of life. Byronism was generally associated with a kind of haughty romantic
melancholy of a defiant and Satanic turn. This interpretation, popularly distilled from Childe Harold,
dominated the critical approach to the poet through the past century and is still current. But now the name
of Byron is becoming more and more frequently associated with a tough-minded realism and a trenchant
satire often hilarious but always grounded in a basic sanity and a knowledge of human nature.
Though he sometimes shocked them. Byron intrigued many of his contemporaries because he
expressed so well the mood of those whose romantic aspirations for the ideal had suffered the various
disillusionments that attended the Napoleonic and post-Napoleonic periods: the disappointment that came
with the failure of the French Revolution to usher in the brotherhood of man and to end the abuses in
government and in social and economic life: the disillusionment of those who, like certain followers of
Godwin, had hitched their wagons to the star of perfectibility and an idealized human nature and who
were forced to resign themselves at last to the sad spectacle of mans irrationality and imperfection.
To other contemporaries, and to many of the Victorians, Byron seemed altogether dangerous and
immoral, not so much for his presentation of immoral action or skeptical sentiment as for his failure to
treat seriously the romantic ideal of dreaming true, of the mastery of mind over matter, of the ultimate
attainment of the ideal by force of mind and will.
And yet Byron exerted a powerful influence on the minds of many of the Victorians in their youth
(for they were all children of the Romantic Movement). Tennyson, at 15, wandered out disconsolate in
1824 and wrote on a rock: Byron is dead, Carlyle, courting Jane Welsh, encouraged her to read Byron,
and after the news arrived from Greece, she wrote to him: Byron is dead! I was told it all at once in a
roomful of people. My God, if they had said that the sun or the moon had gone out of the heavens, it
could not have struck me with the idea of a more awful and dreary blank in the creation. Carlyle replied
that Byrons was the noblest spirit in Europe; he felt as if he had lost a brother. John Ruskin, brought
up by puritanical parents, still was permitted to read Byron, and Brewings first poetry was inspired by
him. It is true that most of the Victorians later repudiated Byron and decried his influence for various
reasonsall however, probably springing from a common denominator of moral squeamish-ness or
reticence or from their passion for moral reform and their optimistic trust in material progress, a trust that
bey found Byron did not share.
Those who have tried to achieve critical detachment and a more balanced view of Byron have often
been baffled by the extremes of romance and realism in his personality and work. But the romantic and
realistic (or satiric) veins are not evidence that irreconcilable impulses directed his poetic productions nor
that there was any basic inconstancy in his character. They spring from
the same source: an imponderable longing for for an ideal and dissatisfaction with the reality whose
impact on his sensitive temperament always brought disillusionment.
The moods of both Childe Harold and of the later satires in which he fair face of reality is stripped
away and shown to be only a mask are present in Byrons first published poems. Though most of the
verses in Hours of Idleness are imitative and lacking in originality of content, a few rise to heights of
lyrical beauty and sincerity, particularly those which deal with evanescent young love-fascinating because
it was unattainable and because its pleasure rested in the imagination, and sad because even at that early
age he had known the disillusionment of satiety. Granted that they lack Shelleyan perfection, several of
his early lyrics such as The First Kiss of Love and When I Roved a Young Highlander, contrived as
they are, reveal a determination to deal with experience directly and a promise at least of that greater
felicity of phrasing which produced the finest stanzas of Chilile Harold and the most romantic flights in
Don Juan as well as the lyric grace of some of the Hebrew Melodies.
An even greater interest attaches to these early pieces, however because many of them reveal the
realistic and satiric spirit which moved Byron as early as his residence at Harrow and Cambridge, but
which did not gain full expression before the relaxation of his Italian exile. That fact is apparent to anyone
who has read Byrons letters, but so much stress has been put on the sentimental and melancholy aspects
of his early poems that the few of a different cast have been neglected. To a Knot of Ungenerous Critics
and Soliloquy of a Bard in the Country are in a sense forebears of English Bards and Scotch Reviewers,
while there is evident in Reply to some Verses of J, M. B. Pigot To the Sighing Strephon, The Girl
of Cadiz, and Queries of Casuists something akin to the satiric spirit of Don Juan, though they are of
course inferior to it in ease of manner and expression. The fact to bear in mind is that Byrons penchant
for mockery did not spring suddenly into life with Beppo but was a constant facet of his personality,
though mostly suppressed from his earlier publications.
More deeply wounded that he would admit in later years by the Edinburgh Reviews caustic critique
of his juvenile verses, Byron converted a. satiric poem he had begun on the writers of the day into English
Bards and Scotch Reviewers, lashing out in a manner of which he was soon ashamed at all of his
contemporaries except a few who followed the Popean pattern. The remarkable thing about the poem,
however, is not its cleverness in imitating the Dunciad, or its more immediate models the Maeviad and
Bavid of William Gifford, Byrons great idol, but rather the originality that often transcends the
limitations of the model. When working with material within his own observation and experience Byron
could never be entirely conventional or commonplace. The satire in its best passages bears the stamp of
Byrons personality. When he speaks of Wordsworth showing both by precept and example, That
prose is verse and verse is merely prose and when, he ridicules betty Foy, The idiot mother of an idiot
boy, he has already captured the rollicking mood of Don Juan.
The Byronic moods of disillusionment and melancholy stand out most clearly in Childe
Harold. In an attempt to make it appear that he was not as bad as he pictured himself, Thomas Moore and
other early biographers had fostered the view that Byron didnt mean what he said when he proclaimed
that he had lived through all experience at an early age and felt the fullness of satiety. But biographical
evidence recently made available points to the fact that Childe Harold is a pretty literal record of Byrons
sincerest feelings and moods if not the facts of his life. After the publication of the first two cantos in
1812, Byron wrote: I awoke one morning and found myself famous. The reason was not alone that the
world recognized in it a self-portrait despite Byrons protestations; not that it expressed so well the
disillusioned view of life congenial to the lost generation of the post-Revolutionary and Napoleonic
eras. The deeper reason was that, despite the mawkishness of overstrained emotion and the affectations of
an attempted Spenserian style (both discarded in later cantos), it displayed an honesty of self-revelation
that had been absent from English literature for many years and a sincere attempt to grapple with
problems of the ego that had previously been attacked only by indirection. He surprised people in their
innermost thoughts, and thereby disarmed even those v ho could not approve of his unconventional views.
Without being profound in the philosophic sense, he had faced squarely the central problem of romantic
egoism; the disparity between desire and fulfillment, the unbridgeable gap between the romantic ideal and
the world of reality.
To study Childe Harold properly (not the first two cantos alone, but all four) is to discover the very
essence of the honest romantic mind. Byrons melancholy sprang directly from his uncompromising
idealism (Complicated by the fatalism of the early Calvinistic training from which he never wholly
escaped). It is the record (poignant or sentimental as one chooses to view it) of the failure of things,
emotions, people, landscapes, historic places, even his own nature, to measure up to the rigid demands of
the ideal.
Its moods are those inspired by a constant and foredoomed search. The Satanic pose is with Byron
something more than a pose. It is recognition of the fact that human nature, including his own, does not
satisfy the romantic ideal. The lonely soul mood grew out of anguished yearnings for companionship
which could never be satisfied, for the demands of the ideal left too much to be desired in human beings,
male or female. He was most alone in crowds and he felt himself the most unfit/of men to herd with
Man. He would not yield dominion of his mind./ To spirits against whom his own rebelld. He found
an impermanent peace among the mountains, and the waves and other wild and boundless aspects of
nature symbolized his own unutterable thoughts and unattainable longings,
The far away and long ago, which could be clothed with the minds ideal conceptions, were
untrammeled by the gross realities of the here and now. The desire to travel and forget was
inspired by a haunting restlessness, a forion searching for something, though his experience had
already taught him to expect the failure of his quest. It is a characteristic of Childe Harold to find the
lands and cities of his travel picturesque at first view and then to see them fade into
something less than the light of common day, Lisbon from the Tagus was a thing of beauty where
fruits of fragrance blush on every tree. But the nearer view brings inevitable disappointment: the town
is dirty and the people ignorant and proud. So when he enters Spain and views the site of recent battles, he
dwells upon the splendor and the pageantry of the fighting, but he soon reflects
that honor is sophistry and the best, that it does is to feed the crow and fertilize the field, while
tyrants continue their sway.
The sic transit Gloria mundi theme, the vanity of ambition, is one of the most characteristic in
Childe Harold. Typical is the description of the field at Vaterloo preceded by the flashy dramatic stanza
beginning, There was a sound of revelry by nigh:. Byron does not fail to draw the obvious moral from
the career of Napoleon. So with his moralizing on the ruins of ancient grandeur and on historical sites.
The longing for the ideal in character, for something to match the minds finest images in deeds and
monuments is rudely shocked by contact with the real personalities and events. A couplet rounds out the
conclusion: One breast laid open were a school/Which would unteach mankind the lust to shine or rule.
Alternate longing for the ideal and disillusionment in the face of reality forms the pattern of
Childe Harold. From transcendental aspirations (probably inspired by Shelley with whom he was
associated while he was writing the third canto) he descends to world weariness or to cynicism and
worldly wisdom. And again the plaintive cry of the uncompromising idealist goes up to emptiness: Oh
Love! No habitant of earth thou art.. ./ But never yet hath seen, nor eer shall see/ The naked eye, thy
form, as it should be;.-The mind hath made thee, as it peopled heaven,/Even with its own desiring
phantasy. And still again; Where are the forms the sculpotors soul hath seized/ -An him alone. Can
Nature show so fair? Where are the charms and virtues which we dare/Conceive in boyhood and pursue
as men/The undetached Paradise of our despair.
Nowhere is Byrons self-revelation more patent or more eloquent than in his description of
Rousseau. Though he later made a point of denying that he bore any resemblance to the French
philosopher, the self-torturing sophist, wild Rousseau, Byron must have felt a sympathetic kinship
when he wrote of The apostle of affliction, he who threw/ Enchantment over passion, and from
woe/Wrung overwhelming eloquence. And again: he knew/How to make madness beautiful, and cast/
Oer erring deeds and thoughts a heavently hue/Of words, like sunbeams, dazzling as they past/The eyes,
which oer them shed tears feelingly and fast. Still more must Byron have seen himself in the portrait
when he continued: But his was not the love of living dame,/Nor of the dead who rise upon our
dreains./But of ideal beauty, which became/In him existence, and oerfiowing teems/Along his burning
page, distempered though it seems.
Occasionally, from the depths of disillusionment, Byron turns in sheer exhaustion to a kind of
tranquility beyond tragedy, but he is not tranquil for long and the whole agonized quest begins again, for
quiet to quick bosoms is a hell. Then the pleasant plateau of the picturesque, particularly in nature,
woos him once more, for still There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,/There is a rapture on the lonely
shore. But by this time his theme has died into an echo. And except for occasional short poems he
gave over the moods of Childe Harold after completing the fourth canto and found relief in mockery and
But before he had turned to irony and laughter he had gone even further than Childe Harold in his
arrangement of the universe. More experience at first strengthened Byrons fortitude and stoicism in the
face of what he felt to be the feted failure of the world of nature and of man to measure up to the romantic
ideal which he still longed for, though hopelessly, In the middle years, when he was writing Man/reel,
Darkness, The Dream, and the third canto of Childe Harold, his melancholy reached the lowest depths
precisely because he aspired more intensely and more vainly toward an unattainable ideal. Like Childe
Harold he recognized that there is a fire/And motion of the soul which will not dwell/In its narrow being,
bat aspire/Beyond the fitting medium of desire. And when in Manfred he complains that we are half
deity he has reached the ultimate of romantic revolt against reality. Nothing real in the human and
tangible world could ever satisfy one who aspired to the freedom of spirit and the omniscience and
omnipotence of deity. And later, in Cain, he went one step further. For when Lucifer had taken Cain on a
voyage through the spirit world and shown him things Beyond all power of my born faculties,/Although
inferior still to my desires/And my conceptions, he came to the bitter conclusion that even deities may
not be happy. All knowledge does not bring all happiness. And so he fell back on a kind of unhappy
stoicism-a reliance on his own unconquerable will and a fortitude born of recognition of the hopelessness
of all aspirations,
This was only the reverse side of the later satiric Byron whose poetic faculties and native wit
flowered into such exquisite exuberance in Beppo and The Vision of Judgment, His finally yielding to the
fact that the ideal was unattainable left him free to approach the world once more at its own level, and
though he found it still absurd, he gained more pleasure than pain from pricking the bubbles of its
pretensions. Irony replaced melancholy, and in an increasing proportion of his poetic productions he
turned his eyes (no less keen in their observation of the disparity between the real and the ideal) toward
the comedy rather than the tragedy of the earthly stage. Now mockery and good-natured raillery marked
his unmasking of the self-deceits of humanity in general and of his own contemporaries in particular. But
the old longings never died out in Byron. Even after he had found his true bent in the satire of Don Juan,
the melancholy contemplation of the fleeting ideal drove him to write the fourth canto of Childe Harold
and shortly before his death at Missolonghi he composed a poem on his thirty-sixth birthday that is filled
with the pathos of forlorn aspiration.
Byron is coming more and more to be valued as a letter writer as increasing numbers of his epistles
are published. The naturalness and wit of his letters is a delightful revelation to many who have known
him only through his heavier Weltschmerz poems. Some of his jeux d esprit in verse, mostly dashed off
in letters to his friends, share the informal spirit of his correspondence and are worthy of inclusion, at
least as leavening, in any volume of his poetry. Such lively pieces as the Lines to Mr. Hodgson, the
graceful So well go no more a roving, addressed to Tom Moore, and the roguish My dear Mr.
Murray, show that Byron was not always Childe Haorld.
Byron has been accused of being a poseur, and certainly he was conscious of dramatizing his own
feelings, particularly in the first two cantos of Childe Harold, but it is a mistake to suppose that the basic
personal, emotional, and intellectual problems which he faced were not real to him, or that he did not
meet them with an honesty and sincerity which should command our respect, however much he may have
overstrained the sentiments involved in the expression.
(Leslie A Marchand-his Introduction
to the Selected Poetry of Lord Byron
Modern Library College Edition.)
4. Childe Harolds Pilgrimage : A Romaunt: A Critical Study

(a) Cantos I & II

Byrons Childe Harolds Pilgrimage brought him both fame and public worship. In his earlier
verses Byron had used heroic couplet, but in his Childe Harold he used the Spensarian stanza. It is a
nine-line stanza of five stress lines, ending with six-stresses, and rhyming in three linked sounds, ab ab be
be c.. The Spensarian stanza, had been popular in the 18lh century. In his preface to the poem Byron
quotes Beattie and Thomson, who practised this stanza form because it admitted of every variety, Byron
adopted it because it suited his mobilite. His rapid shuttling from mood to mood making his writing able
to grow nearer and nearer to real life and real experiences.
Childe Harolds Pilgrimage recreates the poets tour of Europe. It is not simply a travelogue, it
does approach nearer and nearer to real life. When Byron began to write the poem, he was still an
amateur, so his earlier stanzas are full of archaisms and Spensarianism. despite the fact that Childe
Harolds situation, protagonists and experiences are contemporary. Anarchisms are thickest at the start
of the poem and as it progresses they get fewer and fewer. (Francis M. Dorothy)
Childe Harolds Pilgrimage also belongs to the tradition of the topographical poetry. Joseph Warton
writes in his Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope that the tradition of the topographical poetry was
a long and honourable tradition, which had been seen as a poetry.... throughout the descriptions of
places and images raised by the poet, are still tending to some hint, or leading into some reflection upon
moral life or political institution, much in the same manner as the real sight of such scenes and prospects
is apt to give the mind a composed turn, and incline it to thoughts and contemplation that have a relation
to the object........
Warton s statement is perhaps the standard eighteenth century view of this type of poetry but the
modern reader does not treat Byrons poem as mere topographical poem.
Byrons first two cantos of Childe Harolds Pilgrimage record Byrons Grand Tour and express his
radical views. Both the narrator and hero are very interesting. Childe the word suggests aristocratic
status of the hero, who is presented as a dissolute satiated and melancholy peer, a young man in need of
the spiritual refreshment a pilgrimage might provide (Stephen Coote-Byron, The Making of a Myth.)
Byron creates a new character, a new hero-villain; at the same time he tries to dissociate himself
from his creation. Childe Harold is the first of a long list of what have become familiar with Byrons
heroes, damned, satiated and suffering from hopeless love. He has run through sins long lahirynth and
with pleasure dntggd, he almost longdfor woe/And even for change of scene would seek the shadow
below (I.VI)
Childe Harold is a melodramatic character into whom the poet has projected part of his own
malaise, his own feelings and responses, when in a particular mood. In him Byron has truly represented
only a part of his own complex personality.
Byron in can to one presents Child Harold as two characters in harness and makes an effort to
dissociate himself (the poet Byron) from him. It is a non-dramatic poem. As the poem progresses the poet
seems to be least concerned about the reach on of the reader and. the identity of the hero. In this poem
Byron uses all his experiences, reflections and meditation on his tour of 1809-1811 and links them by
introducing an imaginary or fictitious character, who will give some connections to the piece.
The poets altitude of to his hero- child Harold is quite fluid. On other one hand he makes him an
interesting and new type of Gothic hero, on the other his hero is almost someone rather silly or at least
In the first two cantos Byron is perhaps confused about the use of the Spensarian stanza. He seems
to be uncertain about the validity of the final alexandrine (the line of twelve syllables that supplies the
cadence to each stanza). His alexandrine is at times a simple tag-line for instance in Canto 1 XIX the
alexandrine is a mere tag. In this stanza of impressionistic leaping form detail to detail of Cintra the
catalogue seems to end abruptly and the last line is so exhausted and fiat.
Cantos I and II are remarkable for their elegiac quality. The poet laments for the conventionally
lament-worth) objects. Some critics argue that Byron was more modern poet than Wordsworth because
in Childe Harolds Pilgrimage he writes about The ruins of civilization, he is ironic and disenchanted.
This view is challenged by other critics. They find in his poem a mixture of inconsistency and honesty,
pathos and flamboyantly extravagant sentimental gestures. The poem cannot be treated merely as
theatrical self-indulgence nor can be praised only for its honest reporting on situations, people, or
places, or its modernity.
According to Doherty Childe Harold s Pilgrimage (cantos RI1) is remarkable for its poetic
sincerity and the awkward rhythm and phrasing, in sheer verse, of some of the perhaps sincere
lamentations. (Canto i, xxii)..... One has. nevertheless, to offset this sort of insincerity and candy floss by
the honesty of Byrons reporting at times. In canto I Byron describes the Sierra Morena range which he
passed through in late July 1809 on his way to Serville, as his foot note tells the reader. His stanza pays
little attention to Spenser but is a selection of eye-witnessed details. (Canto 1). These details are not a
complete stanza or even a complete sentence... rather we have to wait for the next stanza for its
completion of sense with a verb for all those nouns in the stanza C Portend the deeds to come) of course,
there are poeticisms. which would never do for a newspaper report (rocky durance. but the facts of the
situations are not manipulated- they are merely given to the reader.
In the larger context. Byron dwells upon the theme of bravery and revolution against oppression and
tyranny. In the later part he deals with that Spain which will inevitably be crushed by Napoleon. This is
followed by a rhetorical And must they fall questioning passage and the introduction of the Spanish
heroine, the Maid of Saragosa. Byron says that the Spanish maids are not amazons, they are formd for
all witching arts of love. The therne of bravery and tyranny fades away gradually and is succeeded by
Love theme, which becomes important for a couple of stanzas, but it is rather knowing young traveller
who is pleased to condemn the paler dames from the North.
How poor their forms appear! How languid, wan and week.
This man has been a traveller and has seen many a land ani so he is now able to celebrate the ladies
of the south-both Spaniards and Turks. After this. Byron does not deal with any theme at all. As. in this
course of writing, the poet looks from his lodging in Greece (though the poem has got to Spam so far), he
cannot resist writing three stanzas on Parnassus. ( Oh. thou Parnassus!....wave her wing.)
Byron seems to be least concerned about the readers reaction-whether the reader is impressed by
the scene or whether it means as much to him as it does to the poet himself. He has used the poem for
various ends. It is not easy to pinpoint what Cantos ! and II are about.
Childe Harolds Pilgrimage (Cantos I+II) is a romantic travelogue, it traces the poets own journey
and experiences (for example the fascination and horror of bull-fight). It is also a diary and provides an
opportunity not only for the recording of personal thoughts but also for public speeches on various themes
of public interest, like Death, Decay, Civilization and so on. The reader is jostled along and not carefully
conducted to any goal or pilgrimage for there is none.
Byron is not able to present his hero convincingly. His damned Gothic, villain-hero is contrasted
with i who finds it in his heart to celebrate the ladies of Cadiz in Canto I ixv and exclaims. Ah, vice!. magic gaze? Childe Harold goes a step beyond the fascination and comes out on the other
side of satiety, Yet to the beauteous form.... Cains unresting doom. (I, Ixxxiii). This is the last we hear
of Childe Harold in Canto I after he has sung to Inez.
Canto II is more perplexing. It does not indicate clearly the situation and the characteristics of both
the protagonists. First there is a very long passage of meditation brought on by Calypsos isles and it
concerns with love, and ends with the introduction of Sweet Florence. This Sweet Florence is none
other than Mrs. Spenser Smith of Byrons Malta stay and the speaker regrets his wayward, loveless
heart which is not worthy of thy shrine. These are tender meditations, which the reader might not
expect from the disillusioned Harold, and yet Byron attributes them to him and tries to show him as
invulnerable to all Loves dates. If we accept that the sentimental and tender reflections are Harolds
(even though there are constant suggestions of his being uname dame) he is much more a savoury
character than the speaker. Poor Florence does not recognize the metal she is tempering with and perhaps
believes that she is dealing with a youth so raw, but not he. Despite appearance he is dangerous, though
he does not bother about it Little knew.... The Lovers whining crew (Canto II xxxiii).
When Byron (the speaker) uses base-pursuit, he is concerned with morals and will not allow
Harold to escape scot-free. The next two stanzas are cynical statements of a callous and calculating
attitude to women as prey or of a world-weary rejection of Love. The knowingness of the stanza
immediately following the spoilers art is striking, the speaker out of wisdom and experience offers
advice Disguise even tenderness.... Passions crowns thy hopes (II xxxiv)
We may expect this sort of thing from Harlod after what we have been led to believe of him, but this
is the other speaker, the narrator Byron. (By this time the narrators and Harolds character seem to
overlap, and that is why the reader is confused.) An incoherent morality, a cynicism and an unpleasant
knowingness lead into the reflection that the game is just not worth it anyway:
When ail is won...Passion! these!
Once again the poem switches swiftly and the reader is unable to sort out the attitudes in all of this.
Byron even changes roles and appears as Natures poet and conducts Harold more carefully through
Greece to Albania ..any attitude or mood that seems to fit the situation regardless of consistency or
dramatic continuity and credibility is the one that Byron will adopt for the moment.
Canto II describes Greece. It opens with a rhetorical address to the ancient deities of the country,
which is being tortured by the Turkish ruler. In the second stanza Byron moves away from the chain of
alliteration to a more rhythmically flowing style the warrior weapons....flits the shadow of power
(Canto II ii). This is a romantic situation, a fantasy situation loosely attached to reality, a verse which
tries to evoke our emotional sympathy by focusing our attention on the music and the sound, by
entangling us in assonance (dim-mist-flits, gray-shade). The image that supports the fantasy is clearly and
firmly stated, mouldering tower. Byron masterfully handles images and metaphor in stanza iv, a well-
known reflection on the skull with echoes of Hamlet as well as a prediction of Yeats in its last two lines.
Yes, this was once Ambition....refit? It is a dramatic verse. It keeps the metaphor moving easily along
and the final couplet stands back from the rest of the stanza and fixes the meditation in a context of
irretrievable and irredeemable. Its plot, its movement of thought is very like that of Shakespearean
sonnets and some of Shakespeares language is there too.
We discern an improvement in Byrons handling of verse in Canto II. He gets on so well that he has
almost forgotten Harold until stanza xvi: But where is Harold?..wave?. Harold is not required here
because there is nothing to fascinate him in Greece and Spain. Hard in his hean....crimes. He emerges
only in Sweet Florence passage (already discussed).
Byron at the outset of the Canto celebrates in set piece the energies and joys of a sea-voyage and the
poem is enkindled in this piece, Byron seems to spring into an immediacy, here-and-nowness, absent
from the earlier stanzas The moon is up.......expand (Canto II xxi)
John Gait, the novelist, who travelled with Byron in the Townshand Packet in 1809 from Gibraltar
to Malta writes about Byrons habits in the evenings.
When the lights were placed, he (Byron) made himself a mad forbid, took the station on the railing
between the pegs on which the sheets are belayed, and the shrouds, and there, for hours, sat in silence,
enamoured, it may be, of the moon.
There are many similarities between the experiences described in the poem and those described in
prose passages. Childe Harold undergoes the poets own experiences of being driven as hare at night on
an unknown part of the coast. Yet there is a difference. The prose version reveals the reality of the poets
fear and excitement but the verse is much more generalized and moralising.
In his letter to his mother (12 Nov. 1809) Byron describes in detail how he was lost in a Turkish ship
of war due to the ignorance of the captain and the crew although the storm was not violent, Everyone was
terrified, poeple prayed to God and Byron in this critical situation did not lose his patience rather he tried
to console his friend Fletcher. Finding Fletcher incorrigible he wrapped himself in a cloak and lay down
on the deck to wait the worst. I have learnt to philosophise in my travels...luckily the wind abated, and
only drove us on the coast of Suli. on the mainland, where we landed and proceeded, by the help of the
natives to Preveza again.
In Canto II Byron skillfully avoids the personal and dramatic and stresses the kindness and
humanity7 of the Suliotes who helped the benighted travellers. Such conduct least the bad.
Both in his letters and in his verse there is a lack of coherence or pattern to the incidents referred to,
though he tries to display them as meaningful in moral and philosophical terms. Some of the incidents
that impressed the poet are presented in the poem. The presentation of the wild energies of the Albanion
troops exposes the poets fascination for any display of energy. He enjoys describing the sight of their
fierce dancing and the sound of their singing in order to acquaint the Europeans with them. In sooth it
was no vulgar....... glee . The sight of these magnificent savage men enthralls
the spectators And as the flame.......half-screamed (Canto II & xxi) We have also a translation of a
rousing robber song, celebrating war, destruction and AH Pasha.
Childe Harolds Pilgrimage Canto II moves from attitude to attitude. Byron takes the reader to the
lost glory of ancient Greece and laments its loss and the miserable plight of the modern Greeks. He
attempts to arouse their (Greeks) dormant spirit, exhorts them to throw off the Turkish yoke. From here
he moves to another theme-we have a description of the Greek revels at Carnival of Istanbul. Once again
the description is there because Byron finds it interesting, it is another of the sensations which gave him
Stanzas xxx to Ixxxiii expect the reader to admire the sensibility of the creator of the setting for love, the
scene is theatrical enough with echo, measured oar, rippling waters, moonlight breeze, and sparkling
billows, and forms the black cloth for young love:
While many a languid eye,. s years of ill (Canto II Ixxxi)
These descriptions are an odd contrast with the admired war like energies of the Albion soldiers,
the shouts about the Greeks as slavish sufferers under Turkish domination, but also the thoughts about
women and love seen earlier with their cynicism and knowingness. Byron agrees that there are some
who...loathe the laughter....shroud and some feel ashamed at the modern degeneracy.
The feelings become more sentimental and melancholic at the sight of the old ruins where .......
strangers only not regardless pass..... ..A las. Melancholy envelops both the landscape and the human
Byron here emerges as a high class travel agent who presents the quality of experiences to be gained
by the sensitive pilgrimage. We enjoy the sensitive scene painting of Greece, a generalised scene, literary
in its demand on the readers love of the classics, and his respect for the golden age of Greek civilization.
Yet are they skies as blue..........still is fair (Canto II xxxvii).
The historical past recalls the personal past, and the loneliness of ruins and monumental memories
of the landscape are analogues of this traveller, his existence as a ruin left behind by those he loved, now
unhappily dead. All that remains for him now is Death. And on the melodramatic note Canto II ends.
Canto II (the poem) moves spirally; there is a slightness of material which is worked upon, and these
themes or materials are constantly returned to. The poem does not seem to evolve, it is meditative,
ruminative. It concentrates on my responses to Greece its past glory, its present slavery and the co-
existence of beauty and melancholy. These indicate the spiritual condition off whose past glory is love
and the present state (downfall) is the death of Love. The poem focuses on the observer and his
reflections. The reader must note the contrast or split between the calmly observant eye of the picturesque
traveller and the self-observant eye of the love-lorn T and also between those two and Childe Harold
himself, the man of ennui, the satiated and cynical traveller constantly twitching himself to be off and
away. It is not easy to distinguish the three, because they often run together and blur into one another in
this canto.
As already mentioned Byron uses his own experiences in this Canto of spiralling and digressive
nature. His actual experiences are described both in the poem and in the prose form in letters, even
reflections on these events are recorded. Sometimes we have contemporary reflections on the past events.
I is found at various places, T in the here-and-now situation, experiences this and remembers that
simultaneously. This complex way of writing matures in Byrons ominum gatherum poem Don Juan-
one is made to wonder about the central figure, who is actually not a hero. The hero in the poem is a peg
on whom Byron hangs his reflections, and he uses moral pronouncements at times to tap off some of his
moods, and responses. At times the reader is baffled, who is speaking what.
Why was Byrons Childe Harolds Pilgrimage Cantos I and II acclaimed? According to a critic
......there is something here for everyone: sensibility for the sensibitous and fashionable, courage-
inspiring reflection for the man-at-ease, love expressed in a noveiistic way, that is hands/hearts/ bosoms
but innocent of actual sex, and a ravaged heart (asking for pity and soothing) with classics thrown in for
the classic-bred.
(b) Canto III
In 1816 Byron once again left England, and also left behind him his estranged wife and his daughter,
his beloved half-sister Augusta, his four years of great fame and his contempt for English society and
English hypocrisy. He carried with him a personal agony and the realization that poetry is an idealising
medium, is a-heavenly hue of words, like sunbeams.
He took up Childe Harolds Pilgrimage once again, and openly expressed his agony and
disillusionment in his writing. In these Cantos III and IV Childe Harold is replaced by Byron himself. in
the sense that Childe Harold fades into the author very perceptively. Byron seems to be speaking more
and more in his own voice about his own situation and experiences.
He looks back on the Tale, written earlier, and feels that it is all sterile and belonged to a far
distant past which is related to the present and this relationship is a continuing and increasing aridity. His
syntax is very often unclear and he writes that Tale I find.
The furrows of long thought, and dried up tears,
Which, ebbing leave a sterile track behind,
Oer which all heavily the journeying years
Plod the last sands of life,....where not a flower appears. (Canto III, iii)
The act of writing becomes partly therapeutic, for it will wean me from the selfish dream of
selfish grief or sadness, and partly it is a way of increasing the spent life of the writers. Stanza vi is a
memorable statement of this particular view of literature.
T is to create, and in creating live
A being more intense that we endow
With form our fancy, gaining as we give
The life we image, even as I do now-
What am I? Nothing: but not so art thou.*
Soul of my thought! With whom I traverse earth
Invisible but gazing, as I glow
Mixed with thy spirit, blended with thy birth.
And feeling still with thee in my crushed feelings, earth. (Canto III, vi,)
It is apparent that the Childe has changed, though he is still recognizably Harold and more
recognizably Byron. What has he done? He has tempered some of his gloom but increased his despair.
Read Canto III, xvi, with naught of hope......assume.
The description of Waterloo too is one of the finest set-pieces of Byron. In cantos I and II we find a
high-toned meditation or reflection on the Childe Harolds theme of vanitas vanitatum and sic transit
Gloria mundi, here in Canto III Byron dramatically recreates the eve of the Battle of Waterloo. The battle
has a romantic setting-the ball-room with its glamour and romance, beauty and youth, all these are an
integral part of this fitting setting. Ironically it is an ideal setting for slaughter. Rhythms and tones are
skillfully managed and the poet has successfully brought out a poignancy and a bitter-sweetness from the
situation. There is normal contemplation. The scene begins with a reflection on the battlefield.
* thou refers to Harold
Ambitions life and labours all were vain
He wears the shattered links of the worlds broken chain. (Canto 111, xviii).
Byron is moved by the sufferings of the young men and women who are torn assunder by the
brutality and senselessness of wars, and his heart goes out to the brave soldiers who die the inevitable
death. He praises the Scottish contingent in stanza xxvi, they are, like others, doomed. Here Byrons
melancholy has far more resonance and force compared with the triviality of the laments of the Hours
of Idleness volume.
And Ardennes waves above them her green leaves,
Dewy with natures tear drops, as they pass
Grieving, if aught inanimate eevr grieves.
Over the unreturning brave,-alas!
Ere evening to be trodden like the grass
Which now beneath them, but above shall grow
In its next verdure, when this fiery mass
Of living valour, roiling on the foe
And burning with high Hope, shall moulder cold and low.(Canto III, xxvii)
From lament for the dead he moves to a meditation on the broken survival of life, the heart shattered
like a mirror the survivor of disaster withering on.......till all without is old. This is followed by an
analysis of Napoleon, an obvious analogue for Byron himself, a man whose fame -and potential were of
the highest, now at his lowest. If we carefully read between the lines, it appears that both men meet
fortunes turn with an aristocratic aloofness.
Yet well thy soul hath brooked the turning tide
With that untaught innate philosophy.
Which, be it Wisdom, coldness, or deep Pride,
Is gall and wormwood to an enemy.
Here is Napolean, a typical Byronic hero, who faces his luck with equanimity. He is another of the
series of heroes whom me often encounter in oriental tales.
.........there is afire
And motion of the Soul which will not dwell
In its own narrow being, but aspire
Beyond the fitting medium of desire.
And but once kindled, quenchless evermore,
Preys upon high adventure, nor can tire
Of aught but rest; a fever at the core
Fatal to him who bears, to all who ever bore. (Canto III xlii)
Napolean and other aspirants who reach the unconquered heights face hatred of those below, they
are surrounded by icy rocks, missing the sun of Glory and the beauty of the Earth and ocean. The poet
now moves to True wisdom which is either an ideal state or presented through Nature. As Harold stands
on the banks of the majestic Rhine, he
......gazes on a work divine
A blending of all beauties, streams and dells,
Fruits, foliage, crag, wood cornfield, mountain, vine,
And chiefless castles breathing stern farewells,
From gray but leafy walls, where Ruin greenly dwells (Canto II, xlvi)
*Mistake lot knell, the tolling sound of a bell.
Byron-Harold observes that Nature (the Rhine) still maintains its beauty even in the present inspite
of the thousand battles which have been fought on its banks. Though this cannot obliterate the memories
of the past events, yet it is beautiful and Harold-Byron is simply charmed by the simple beauty. Harold-
Byron with exausted passion and dead heart is replaced by one soft breast
Which up to his was bound by stronger ties
Than the church links withal; and-though unwed,
That love was pure-, and, far above disguise,
Had stood the test of mortal enmities
Still undivided, and cemented more
By peril, dreaded most in female eyes;..........(Canto III, Lv)
The biographies of Harold and Byron are very close in their particulars. Four interpolated stanzas on
the Rhine are like a tribute to and private gift to the loved one left behind. Augusta (though her name is no
where mentioned). In the Rhine passages we find memories of Freedoms champion the French
Marcean, of the siege of resisting fortress of Enrenbreitstein, and the final reflection that
.......could the ceaseless vultures cease to prey
On self condemning bosoms, it were here
Where Nature, nor too sombre nor too gay,
Wild but not rude, awful yet not austere,
Is to the mellow Earth as Autumn to the year. (Canto III, lix)
The poet oscillates between the description of the private grief (made public) and the celebration of
the scenery in narrative forms. The oscillation continues and we have reflection on war and the levelled
pride of human hands, the wreck of years, and deeds which should not pass away until we reach Lake
Leman and Geneva. Byron here meditates on Byronic loneliness. This stage of loneliness comes after,
the wretched interchange of wrong for wrong Midst a contentious world, striving where none are strong,
and the fatal penitence, which ensues from this. Byrons exclamations about being alone remind us of
Shelley and Wordsworth (Canto III, Ixxi-Ixxv). We find echoes of Words woths vocabulary and attitudes
in Ixxii
I live not in myself, but I become
Portion of that around me; and to me
High mountains are a feeling, but the hum
Of human cities torture : I can see
Nothing to loathe in Nature, save to be
A link reluctant in a fleshy chain,
Classed among creatures, when the soul can flee,
And with the sky-the peak-the heaving pain
Of Ocean, or the stars, mingle-and not in vain. (Canto III Ixii)
The lines do echo Wordsworths view on man and Nature relationship but they do not copy his
Tintern Abbey. Moore writes in Momoirs III, 161 .......the who canto of Childe Harold founded on
his style and sentiments the feeling of natural objects which is there expressed, not caught by Byron from
nature herself, but from him (Wordsworth), and spoiled in the transmission Tintern Abbey, the source of
it all.........
Byrons conversation with Medwin reveal that it was Shelley who dozed Byron, who was in
Switzerland then, with Wordsworth physic to nausea...... (Medwin II, 40). It is obvious that Shelley
influenced the works of Byron, when he stayed in Geneva. Byrons response to nature is much more
idealistic than ever before, it is partly because of his proximity with Rousseau. Rousseau is the apostle of
affliction, he who threw/Enchantment over passion and an idealist artist:
But his was not the love of living dame,
Nor of the dead who rise upon our dreams,
But of ideal Beauty, which became
In him existence, and overflowing teems
Along his burning page, distempered though it seems. (Canto II, Lxxviii)
Rousseau is seen laying the foundation of a new world which has not yet come to pass, the
Revolution failed, but there is hope that the time will come.
As the Canto progresses we see Passion, Rousseau and Byron submerge in a night-piece, by the
calm lake, whose tranquility warns against the wild world distraction and the roar of the ocean. In the
description of the natural scene at night, we find a change in the style of the poet. Byron emerges as a
nature poet who hears the voice of the lake sounding sweet as if a sisters voice reproved. Sir Walter
Scott was impressed by this passage [review of the poem in the Quarterly Review, 1816.]
The poem proceeds to describe in a tone of great beauty and feeling a night-scene witnessed on the
lake of Geneva; and each natural object from the evening grass-hopper to the stars, the poetry of heaven
suggests the contemplation of the connection between the creator and his works.
Byron starts in his voice with:
......From the high host
Of stars, to the lulled lake and mountain coast,
All is concentrated in a life intense
Where not a beam, nor air, nor leaf is lost,
But hath a part of Being, and a sense
Of that which is of all Creator and Defence. (Canto III, Lxxxxix)
The lines do echo Wordworths Tintern Abbey, but Byron does not hold on to anyones idealism
for very long, whether it is Shelleys or Wordsworths. We have a different sort of description of Nature
in the following stanza, which deals with a storm in an impressive country side of mountains and the
swift Rhine. Though the energy of the storm excites him and it calls to him, he is neither a part of it nor
he is of it. The natural exists in its own right, it may seem to be an analogue of the human mind, the
human heart. Here we have an old fashioned, un-Wordsworthian view of nature. The poet addresses sky,
mountains, river, winds, lightning, and exclaims.
........the far roll
O your departing voices, is the knoll*
Of what in me is sleepless-if I rest,
But where of ye, O Tempests! is the goal?
Are ye like those within the human breast?
Or do ye find, at length, like eagles, some high nest? (Canto III, xcvi)
With the storm over, the poem gradually comes down to earth and Byron himself. Once again we
have a meditation on Clarnes as the abode of love, consecrated by Rousseau, and Lausanne and Fenny,
places associated with Voltaire and Gibbon. The meditation is written in a manner suitable to the loco-
descriptive tradition, which Byron has continuously used in the poem. The poet looks out of his page as
he writes (This page, which from my reveries I feed/Until it seems prolonging without end.) The
meditation lacks the moral fervour associated with the older loco-descriptive poetry. The poet adopts a
new approach from that of the traditional meditative poem. The poet allows his mind to rest on this and
that object in the landscape in order to avoid thinking about himself. He reflects on Italy, which he can
see in the distance, and then moves on to confessional and explains the reason for writing. He writes to
steel/The heart against itself Once more he appears as the aloof crowd-hunting aristocrat [some one like
Macbeth Had I not filed my mind, which thus itself subdued!] ands then ends with an address to his
infant daughter. Harold is thus abandoned and the address exposes Byrons hope that the child will,
despite all efforts to breed hate for him in her, come to love him and hear his voice through poetry. Here
is Byrons very self and voice speaking with accents of love and mingled bitterness. He controls all
sentimentality and his urbanity is quite disarming. For example, after the detailed description of the
closeness of parent and child, which is denied him, there appears the rueful shrug.
This it would seem, was not reserved for me,
Yet this was in my nature, as it is
I know not what is there yet something like to this.
(Canto III, Cxvi)
Canto III ends thus. Byrons poetry has matured and here we have the best of travelogue manner,
there are a variety of attitudes and responses, managed with a flexibility of vocal tones and accents, a fine
dramatic voice, We come across personal reflections, genuine pathos, melodramatic gestures, idealism,
disabusement, gentleness and anger. It is a powerful performance and many of the responses are mutually
contradictory. It is Byron himself who is writing passionately and for the moment taking the reader with
him. Sir Walter Scott observed differences between canto III and its predecessors and yet he praised this
The Third Canto of Childe Harold exhibits, in all its strength and all its pecularity, the wild.
powerful and original vein of poetry which in the preceding cantos, first fixed the public
attention upon the author. If there is any difference, the former seems to us to have been rather
more sedulously corrected, and revised for publication and the present work to have been
dashed from the authors pen with less regard to the subordinate point of experssion and
versification. Yet such is the deep and powerful strain of passion, such the original tone and
colouring of description, that the want of polish in some of its minute parts rather adds to, than
deprives the poem of, its energy (Contemporary Reviews of Romantic Poetry. Edited by John
Canto IV
Almost eight years intervened between the composition of the first and last cantos. In his long
dedicatory letter to Hobhouse Byron refers to Childc-Harold as the longest, the most thoughtful and
comprehensive of my compositions. later he dismisses Childe Harold from the poem officially. With
regard to the conduct of the last canto, he writes, there will be found less of the pilgrim than in any of
the preceding, and the little slightly, if at all, separated from the author speaking in his own person.
Byron clarifies his intention of writing this canto. He intended to have touched upon the present state of
Italian literature, and perhaps of manner. Byron also expresses Ms concern over the divided Italy and the
insular attitude of Engalnd, the supposed mother of freedom, demonstrating himself even more as a
citizen of the world, not an Englishman, Byrons concern for Italy is genuine since he was happy in Italy
and had fallen in love with a very pretty woman, Marianne Segati, whose marriage was no impediment
to the incontinent continental system.
Canto IV begins with a celebration of Venice, a city which fits the over all theme of the poern-the
theme of spoil, time and faded glory, the conquest of men and their works by the time
* Mistake for knell, the tolling sound of a bell.
and their own folly, the sadness of decay But it was Rome which kindled Byrons imagination and was
the inspiration and origin of the final canto. Rome maddened him into the fourth canto. The last canto in
fact is more serene (though without less of the agony of heart of the Canto III), and its tone is deep,
showing a certain resignation in the fate of human life. Sir Walter Scott in his review of the Canto in the
Quarterly Review in April 1818 observes:
There is less of passion, more of deep thought and sentiments at once collected and general. The
stream which in its earlier course bounds over cataracts, and rages through narrow and rocky
defiles, deepens, expands, and becomes less turbid as it rolls on, losing the aspect of terror and
gaining that of sublimity. Eight years have passed between the appearance of the first volume
and the present which concludes the work, a lapse of time, which, joined with other
circumstances, may have contributed somewhat to moderate tone of Childe Harolds quarrel
with the world, and if not to reconcile him to his lot, to give him at least, the firmness which
endures it without loud complaint.
This is what Scott thought but on a close examination of canto IV, we observe a new note in the
opening stanza; there is a development of some of the thoughts of canto III. The notion of memory is
presented as the sky to the survival of glory, and the need of the imagination in order to live adequately in
this world.
The Beings of the Mind are not of clay:
Essentially unmortal, they create
And multiply in us a brighter ray
Ana more beloved existences: that which Fate
Prohibits to dull life in this our state
Of mortal bondage, by these Spirits supplied
First exiles, then replaces what we hate.
Watering the heart whose early flowers have died,
And with a fresher growth replishing the void.
(Canto IV ,V)
In Canto III the author presents Harold to himself as a new sources of life, in Canto IV, we see the
expansion of the imaginative faculty and its role. Cantos I and II present the dead heart while in Canto III
we encounter a curious situation where gloom diminishes with an unnamed loved one but in Canto IV we
have the heart whose early flowers are dead no doubt, but there is a hope of a second crop, a
regeneration, a resurrection. It is in this mood of hope-optimism-that Byron returns all through this canto
to one thing that has survived the fall &f empires, the neglect of living poets, the vanity of personal
ambitions, the agony of any individual or nation and that is literature. Although the ancient Italian
civilization has almost died, but its. ruins have survived and the voices of its long dead poets are still alive
to the contemporary poets and their readers. Venice and its ancient glory survive in the place (verse) with
its accumulate weights of monuments-it is the Venice of the imagination of the poet. Byron says of
himself in stanza ix:
...........I twine
My hopes of being remembered in my line
with my Lands Language
He believes that fame in literature outlives time. He is here perhaps thinking of Horaces famous
statements about being a monument in Language is more lasting than the bronze. Byron says of Venice in
stanza xviii
I loved her from my boyhood-she to me
Was a fairy city of the heart,
Rising like water-columns from the sea
Of joy the sojourn, and of wealth the mart.
And Otway, Radliffe, Schiller, Shakespears art,
Had stamped her image in me, And even so,
Although I found her thus, we did not part
Perchance even dearer in her day of woe,
Than when she was a boast, a marvel and a show.
In this frame of mind, being confronted with his green isle of imagination he can think of a stoic
forbearance, a gritting of teeth as he says Existence may be borne. He thinks less of his anguish as he
journeys from Venice to Rome. On his way he passes the places associated with great and famous Italian
poets. Arqua with Petrarch, Ferrara with Tasso, with Dante and Ariosto, He celebrates these poets who
were ill-treated in one way or the other, while they were alone and are now the glory of those cities. It is
not clear whether Byron was thinking of his own fate when he described these poets. But when we read
stanza Cxxxvi, we at once realize Byron is writing about himself-how he was maltreated by the world,
From mighty wrongs to petty perfidy
Have I not seen what human things could do?
From the loud roar of foaming calumny
To the small whisper of the as paltry few
An subtler venom of the reptile crew,
The Janus glance of whose significant eye,
Learning to lie with silence, would seem true
And without utterance, save the shrug or sign.
Deal round to happy fools its speechless obloquy
The whole country perhaps reminds him of Sic transit Gloria munch, the unvarying theme, and
Byron seems to take a melancholic pleasure in thinking that both Servius Sulpicius, Cicero were friends,
and Byron himself had travelled the same journey in the Aegean. Byron is seeing, what Services Sulpicius
had seen in these cities and now he is also seeing the ruins of Sulpicius in Rome:
.........All that was
Of then destruction is; and now, alas!
Rome-Rome imperial, bows her to the storm,
In the same dust and blackness, and we pass
The skeleton of her Titanic form,
Wrecks of another world, whose ashes still are warm.
(Canto IV, xlvi)
Byron is not interested in ruins, sculpture or painting. What captures his imagination is the idea of
destruction and the irony of finding a link between the ancient writers and-himself-how time changes. He
does describe the Venus de Medici, but is more concerned with its effect on himself than with it as a piece
of art
He could not be like his connoisseurship and understand
The graceful bend, and the voluptuous smell:
Let these describe the undescribable:
I would not their vile breath should crisp the stream
Where in that Image shall for ever dwell
The unruffled mirror of the loveliest dream
That ever left the sky on the deep soul to beam.
(Canto IV, liii)
He is more happy with Nature rather in the fields/Than art in galleries
In Canto IV Byrons meditations are an intimate blending of the personal experience of the unique
individual Byron and the external world. This is in contradistinction to the loco-descriptive meditation
where any man has the meditation, the poet is present as a spokesman of culture, a civilization. It is in
opposition too to some of the more satanic responses we find in this poem. For instance note the way
Byron responds to the Italian Apennines. He does not celebrate them as homes of famous men or deities,
they are seen as mountains which remind him of those more impressive mountains of Greece or the Swiss
and Austrain Alps.
But I have seen the soaring Jungfrau rear.
Her never-trodden snow, and seen the hoar.
Glaciers of bleak Mont Blanc, both far and near
And in Chimari heard the Thunder-Hills of fear
(Canto IV, XXIVII)
And on Parnassus seen the Eagles fly
Like Spirits of the spot, as twere for fame,
For still they soared unutterably high:
Ive looked on Ida with a Trojans eye.
These hills seem things of lesser dignity
All, save the lone Socrates height, displayed.
Not now is snow, which asks the lyric Ravans aid.
(Canto IV. Ixxiv)
Horaces famous snow-covered Socrate of Odes 1,9 starts a private reflection on Byrons memory of
being forced to construe Horace at school, and this has destroyed Horace for him as poet. is a curse
To understand, not feel thy lyric flow
To comprehend, but never love thy verse:
Apart from Horace, Byron celebrates Rome in a verse, which is his masterpiece. Rome is the fount
of our civilisation, the Niobe of nations:
Oh Rome! my Country! City of the Soul!
The orphans of the heart must turn to thee,
Lone-mother of dead Empires! and control
In their shut breasts their petty misery.
What are our woes and sufferance? Come and see
The cypress-hear the owl-and plod your way
Oer steps of broken thrones and temples-ye!
Whose agonies are evils of a day-
A world is at our feet as fragile as our clay.
(Canto IV Ixxviii)
Ceasars, the ruined city, the ironical title the eternal city-They all give the poet enoguh space to
develop his favorite theme, summed up in stanzas cvii and cix.
There is the moral of all human tales;
Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First freedom and then Glory-when that fails.
Wealth-Vice-Corruption-Barbarish all last:-
And History, with all her volumes vast,
Hath but one page/ tis better written here,
Where gorgeous Tyranny hath thus amassed,
All treasures, all delights, that Eye or Ear,
Heart Soul could seek-Tongue ask-Away with words draw near.
(Canto IV, cviii)
The fountain of Egeria and its legend of love between an immortal and a man inspire Byron to
describe love as an ideal which is unattainable but which haunts the unquenchd soul-parchd, wearied,
wrung and riven The twin demons of the phantom are the counterparts to this Romantic notion. They lure
the man on to destruction, to death, the sable smoke where vanishes the flame, and to the damnation
which lies at the heart of life, a doomed and fallen world.
Our life is a false nature- tis not in
The harmony of things,-this hard decree,
This ineradicable taint of Sin,
This boundless upas, this all-blasting tree,
Whose root is Earth-whose leaves and branches be,
The skies which rain their plagues on men like dew
Disease, Death bondage-all the woes we see,
And worse, the woes we see not-which throb through
The immedicable soul, with heart-aches ever new.
(Canto IV, Cxxvi)
Thus the superlatives and the disappointment of frustration are chief characteristics of the Romantic
anguish but the poet resigns himself to the reality, and decides not to abandon reason, his last and only
place of refuge, and to accept Time as the comforter and restorer and also to respect Nemesis, fate. He
curses his enemies, curses them with Forgiveness and ends on a note of haughty pride, well-known and
But I have lived.......remorse of love
(Canto IV, cxxxvii)
Byron recreates the theatrical death of a Gladiator in the Coliseum. Gladiator was one of the
daughters of Circus genial laws nd the imperial pleasure. He is one of Byrons best analogues-he is
exiled and separated from his wife and child and dying with his heart far over the sea in his native land.
The analogy is felt by the reader also. It is an example of the doctrine of the imagination implied in
Cantos III and IV.
We move from St. Peters and the Vetican and we meet Harold, the Pilgrim (Stanza clxiv), and then
Harold is dismissed. We come to Nemi and Albano by the sea. Here Byron appears in his own person.
The sea has always been a fascination to Byron and in Canto III the roar of the seas is one of the turbulent
items dismissed for the new transcedent view of nature (Cantos III Ixxxv). The force and energy of the
seas rouse Byron-and now its independence of Time and Times ruins engage him as a resolution of the
theme-all through the poem the poet has shown the conquest of all things by Time. And here he
establishes The image of eternity, the throne of the Invisible-as one permanent, changeless,
unconquerable element, Shelley considered Byrons address of the sea as one of that peaks of his poetic
achievement-it is a splendid example of the Byronic rhetoric and eloquence with a boom and inevitability:
Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean-roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain
Man marks the earth with ruins-his control
Stops with the shore :-upon the watery plane
The wrecks are all the deed,: nor doth remain
A shadow of mans ravage, save his own,
When, for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan
Without a grime-unknelled, unconfined, and unknown
And with the return to sea. the personal memories of the boyhood delight and terror in sea, and the
resolution of the major themes of the poem. Byron concludes on a note of the poets uncertainty about the
whole thing, the feeling that it has all been a protracted dream
If we consider Childe Harolds Pilgrimages as a narration we are disappointed. It is not a fictional
life of Childe Harold. It is a poem in which Byron is the main speaker. He may be identified with Childe
Harold at times, with the speaker himself or with I, yet he is none of these, he is Byron whospeaks out on
a variety of topics in a changing physical situation.
We do witness both the failure of Byrons attempt at Romantic travelogue and the success of finding
his own voice. To some critics much verse is illsuited to the Spensarian stanza, But at its best. Byron
makes of ift a good and variable medium for a kaleidoscope of literary effects. In the Cantos III and IV
Byron sounds out himself the archetypal Romantic hero, lonely in person and responding to the miseries
of the world.
(Adapted from Byron by Francis M. Doherty).
Section - 2

Stephen Coote in his Byron: The Making of a Myth writes:
The first two cantos of Childe Harolds Pilgrimage are the records of Byrons Grand
Tour. They express Byrons radical views and their narrator and hero are emotionally
very interesting. The word childe suggests his aristocratic status. Childe Harold-the
character-is a dissolute, satiated and melancholy peer, a young man in need of the
spiritual refreshment a pilgrimage might provide. Byrons deliberately archaic language
derives from the 16th century poet Spenser whose nine line stanza he adopted.
In the first two cantos Byron has tried to project and develop the character of Childe Harold and the
narrator (I) and through their experiences he has described his own experiences during the Grand Tour.
Sometimes it is difficult to separate the narrator, the poet and Childe Harold as individual characters since
there is so much of similarities in their character.
By temperament Byron was a rebel, was born for opposition. Consequently he had joined the Whigs
party while he was in London; in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 the Whigs had defended the rights of
the people (in reality their own aristocratic oligarchy) against the might of the Crown. But by 1790 the
Whigs were in decline. The French Revolution led to a war in Europe and the Torys in England firmly
kept Napoleon at bay. The Whigs-being in opposition-projected themselves as the guardians of Liberty
and true patriots. Byron was impressed by them, because the Whigs, as men of education and property,
tried to befriend the people. To them the ideals of the French Revolution were still a powerful force.
Apart from being a radical, Byron was also interested in the warfare going on in Europe particularly
in the Spain of the Peninsular war, he became a political poet, who depicted the horrors of war
Stanzas 36 to 45
Byrons reactions to the Napoleonic war are recorded in his Childe Harolds Pilgrimage and Don
Juan,. Byron as a young boy admired Napoleon. Like other lovers of liberty and peoples freedom he
believed that Napoleon would destroy tyranny or despotism from Europe. People may live in peace and
breathe in a free atmosphere. But as he matured in age. he began to suspect the intentions of Napoleon.
Byron became aware of Napoleons plan to control Western Europe as he (Napolean) had given the
throne of Europe to Joseph Bonaparte. But when the Spaniards took the initiative themselves, and
developed the concept of guerilla warfare, the French had to leave Sarogossa to its rightful inhabitants.
Byron was pleased with the popular revolution and national independence.
Byron did not approve of Wellington, whom the Whigs tacitly supported, becoming the saviour of
Europe. He condemned Wellington in the ninth canto of Don Juan.
Byron started writing the third canto of Child Harolds Pilgrimage, when he left England in a state
of despondency. His marriage had failed and his name and fame were at its lowest because of this
marriage and his own weaknesses .
His changed attitude to Napolean is perceptible in Stanza 36-^-5 of the third canto of Child Harolds
Pilgrimage. Byron travelled across Europe in his leather-bound travelling coach, modelled on Napoleon,
it was filled out with a day-bed, a library and a plate-chest but he was disheartened to find a Europe which
the defeat of Napoleon had profoundly changed.
In the third canto a newly bitter Childe Harold emerges, defiant and sorrowful. He talks about his
pains and fate and comments on the sorrow of Europe, he is a spokesman of liberty. His words are like
lightning. He reflects on the fate of Napoleon. The Childe Harold is the poet himself.
Byrons evocation of Napoleon (Stanza 36-45) reveals his ambiguous feelings about his college
days hero. He admires Napoleon as the greatest genius of the age, but dislikes him for his egotism and
cruelty. According to Coote Napoleon is a supreme example of the Byronic hero a-man vast in many of
his passions, a giant of conflicting and tuinultous emotions which drive him to the edges of the world,
By the time these lines were written Napoleon was defeated, captured and imprisoned in St. Helena.
In these stanzas Byron describes Napoleons essential greatness with manifest reference to his own
personality, career, and attributes his final downfall to the peculiar constitution of his genius and temper.
In Stanza XXXVI (36) Byron pays homage to Napoleon. He considers him the greatest man who
has fallen and has been arrested. Napoleons character or spirit combined in itself two diametrically
opposing traits. He was the greatest man, for he fought for the liberation of people from cruel rulers,
defeated many nations (monarchs) and tried to bring liberty to the common suffering oppressed human
beings. But he was also the worst of man because he was over-ambitious and a tyrant. Extremes
combined in his personality. He was the mightiest-the most powerful for a moment, and at the other he
indulged in evils. Both goodness and evil were firmly fixed in him. It is because of these extremes he
had to fall, to sink.
If Napoleon had been a moderate in his views and action, he would not have been defeated and
captured by the despotic monarchs. He would have retained his throne or position and the world would
have praised and admired him forever.
Napoleon was bold and courageous, he was mighty and adventurous, he feared nothing. He could
rise because of his daring and his downfall is also the result of this extreme daring. He created more
enemies and less friends. Byron says that even after his defeat and arrest, people (nations and rulers) are
scared of him because he has not yet yielded and still he would like to re-assume
The imperial mien
And shake the world
The indomitable spirit of Napoleon is both admired and detested. Byron describes him as the
Thunderer of the Scene.
The scene described (there) is that of Waterloo where Napoleon was defeated on 18-6-1815
The stanza reveals that Byrons own experiences had quickened his insight and he had realised that
greatness and genius possess no charm against littleness and commonness and that the glory of the
terrestial meets with its own reward (EHC).
When Byron writes Even now to re-assume the imperial mien, he is perhaps alluding to the
complaints made by Napoleon that the British authorities did not pay him the imperial honours which
were paid to him by his own suite. He expected to be treated with dignity.
Although Napoleon had been defeated by the Duke of Wellington at the battle of Waterloo and was
put under the guardianship of Admiral Sir George Cockburn, Napoleon remained a threat to the world.
His spirit was still free and daring and was the Thunderer of the scene (Waterloo).
Why does Byron use the metaphor the Thurderer of the scene for Napoleon? Byron stresses the
might of Napoleon, like a thunder he defeated, crushed and tried to destroy tyrannical rulers and went
on conquering nations after nations, creating havoc and chaos.
The oxymoron continues in the next stanza, where Napoleon is both a conqueror and the captive of
the earth. The earth symbolises nations and the universe also. The earth shakes with fear even now when
Napoleon is no more a free person. People have not forgotten how he had defeated and subdued most of
Europe in the Revolutionary wars. Napoleons wild name still terrorizes nations. It is imprinted in their
mind. They are apprehensive, one day he might break free as he had done from Elba and ravage the world
as he is the Thunderer of the scene. Note the use of the metaphor-. Thunder of the scene
People remember him all the more and ridicule him for this wild man (bold and unconqurable man)
has been imprisoned by the very forces whom he had once crushed ruthlessly What a paradox!
What a predicament!,
Byrons lines remind us of Popes Essay on Man: Thou art nothing, save the jest of fame.
Fame seems to mock Napoleon. Fame is personified. Once Fame had wooed him, had become his
slave (Vassal), flattered his ego and boosted his courage. He himself became the master of all that he
surveyed, cared for and listened to none. He considered himself a God, he defeated nations and kingdoms
which completely surrendered to him and people readily accepted him as their liberator or emperor. The
nations, which combined together and brought about his downfall, were once under his absolute control.
He was their God. But now fame has deserted him. And the man who was once a conqueror is now a
captive. Such is the game of fortune.
Byron is astounded at the complex personality of Napoleon. Is he more or less than man that is the
dilemma. He fought nations everywhere on heights, in valleys, and on plains, sometimes he had to retreat
also, but he never yielded.. The relentless battles continued. The bigger as well as smaller nations were
conquered. He showed no respect for the defeated monarchs or people, he ill-treated them. He was brutish
in his behaviour, made monarchs necks thy footstool. Byron condemns Napoleon for his meanness and
This powerful monarch (Napoleon) became the most detestable person. He could crush empires,
command and rebuild nations, but he could not control his own passions. What a paradox it was. The
most powerful Commander of the world could not control his passions. He, who believed that he could
understand human nature, could not understand himself. He failed to curb his lust for war, lust for power.
He did not realise that fate might be a flatterer or a vassal only for a short duration of time. Try to tempt
Fate, it will take you to great heights, and then all of a sudden it will forsake you. The truth is that the
tempted Fate will leave the loftiest star.
Byron is bitter about Napoleons overwhelming ambition to become an emperor of the world and his
lust for power and war which made him a mean and cruel man. Napoleon who emerged as a Liberator of
suffering humanity turned out to be a Despot.
Byron appreciates the stoicism of Napoleon in Stanza 39. The soul of Napoleon readily accepted the
turning tide-the change of fate or Fortune. His innate philosophy has perhaps enabled him to calmly
endure the adverse times. Byron is perhaps thinking of his own fate. Once he had become a famous poet
as well as a well-known personality in England and then he had to suffer separation from his wife and
daughter and his reputation was lost.
The forbearance of Napoleon at the face of adversity is being praised. He is able to endure every
thing because of his inborn philosophy. His calm, which may be a product of wisdom, coldness or deep
prides, is gall and wormwood to his enemies. His calmness in the face of defeat and ridicule perplexes
and frightens his enemies. They are unable to penetrate his mind and thought. Is his calmness a forerunner
of the approaching thunder?
When nations not only watched with contempt and jealousy the imprisoned Napoleon, but also they
showered curses and abuses on him, and expressed their elation at his fall, Napoleon showed no signs of
unhappiness or anger, rather, he smiled with a sedate and all enduring eye. Even when Fortune, who
had once loved and nourished him so tenderly, deserted him, he was left alone, unprotected, he patiently
bore all the insults, humiliations and remained unbowed.
The change of fortune and Fate made him a sager man. When he was riding the crust of success
and fortune favourably smiled on him, he was a blind man-he could not see his own weaknesses, and
became an egoist, and a tyrant. Now when Fortune has forsaken him, he has become a sager person.
Ambition had steeled his heart-humane feelings were completely crushed. And he did not realise that
contempt for people recoils on the hater-it contaminates human beings, and their thoughts. Even if
Napoleon had just (right; proper) contempt for some persons or nations, he ought not to have exhibited
his feelings in words and actions. He should have spurned the weapons which enabled him to defeat
nations and crush people. He should not have forgotten the maxim You get back what you do to others,
or As you saw, so shall you reap.
The weapons, which helped him to fulfil his ambition, were ultimately used against him. The
monarchs, who he had once defeated, later joined hands, and have captivated him now.
Byron exhorts Napoleon-this world is not worth conquering-it is a useless world. In this world it
hardly matters if he wins or loses. This truth was realised by those who in the past like Napoleon had tried
to vanquish nations and people and become monarchs of the universe. Even Napoelon has learnt this
bitter lesson.
Byron continues to address Napoleon in the next stanza. If today Napoleon has been completely
alienated from his supporters and has been compelled to stand or fall like a tower on a headlong rock, he
himself is responsible for his predicament. He had been contemptuous of people who had once admired
him and had great expectations from him. He betrayed those people who craved for liberty and
worshipped him as a liberator. It is these fighters for freedom, whose respect, admiration and thoughts
had paved his way to success and brought fame to him.
Napoleon is compared with Alexander the great-the son of Philip of Macedon-Alexander was very
ambitious. He conquered Asia. Since Napoleon like Alexander, had become a king and was on a
conquering streak, he could not afford to mock at all men. It is unfortune that those who wear the purple
gown or sceptre are so much enamoured of power that they stop caring for the other human beings and
want to conquer the whole universe. They are so crazy for power that to them the whole earth is a den.
They become cruel and avaricous and treat others with contempt.
So long as a man wears the royal dress, he cant mock at all men-that is he cannot realise that
winning or losing has no meaning. Only when he gives up all ambition and authority he can, like
Diogenes, distrust human pretensions to nobility and honesty.
According to Byron the great error of Napoleon, if we have writ our annals true, was a continued
obtrusion on mankind of his want of all community feeling for or with them; perhaps more offensive to
human vanity than the active cruelty of more trembling and suspicious tyranny.
In this stanza Byron condemns Napoleon, for being over ambitious and ruthless. The cause of his
rise and fall was his lust for power and contempt for humanity but this contempt was not that of stern
philospher Diogenes who ridiculed human pretensions to nobility or honesty. Napoleon was a pretentious
monarch and so he stood all alone like a tower on a headlong rock and fell down, could not brave the
shock-the hatred of people and nations.
Note the use of oxymoron here. Quietness, which Diogenes hinted at is not always good. Calmness-
peace-is at times counter productive-the human beings who are ambitious, who have fire within, can not
live peacefully for to them peace is a hell-like existence-it is stifling, it is death.
Note, Quiet is opposed to Hell but here quiet is also associated with quick bosom. Byron links quiet
with quick (calmness and living force) and thus associates it with life-me oxymoronic relationship has
been highlighted. Since quietness to a living soul is hellish and so it is a poisons also. Napoleon could
not live peacefully because-his was a quick bosomand so quietness was a poison for him-death for him.
Napoleon possessed power of energetic life-a fire lived in his soul, it was a moving fire. According
to Byron this living fire-can not be controlled in a narrow cage-it aspires, comes out in the form of
ambition. Once the ambition or desire is aroused, the fire is kindled, it goes on spreading, it cant be
controlled or extinguished. The ambitious man moves from one adventure to another, unstopped,
continually, does not get tired or exhausted in the sense that he is aways restless. And the desire or
ambition is also like a fever which is fatal to the ambitious and adventurous being, in the past also
ambitious people had seen their fall, and now Napoleon is its victim.
The quick bosom is consumed by the fire of his desire and consequently he is associated with
disease referred to as preys, fever and fated.
Napoleon is presented as a diseased person, burning with the fire of ambitious desire, preying upon
high adventure and suffering from fever at the core Fatal to him. Metaphorically the fire (of ambition)
consumes the ambitious person ultimately. In the, next stanza he is declared to be a mad man. The quick
bosom is one to whom quietness is hell and bane. Those who have burning ambitions which impel than to
prey upon others, and who continuously and feverishly work to achieve their goals and can not rest, are
mad men. They have cantageous influence on all those who come in contact with them. Others are incited
and excited by them and they madly follow these mad men. But ironically it is these mad men with
ambitious fire who are conquerors kings, founders of sects and systems (including Sophists. Bards,
statemen etc.). All these human beings are the unquiet things which can not rest or relax or be quiet,
rather the unquietness stirs the souls secret springs. The unquiet bosoms change the face of the earth-they
have followers, who blindly believe them. Byron is critical of all sects, beliefs and all ambitious beings
who force others to accept and believe them. They try to befool their followers but later they are paid in
their own coin. They are ultimately duped by those who they had befooled. Such persons are envied by
others since others cant reach their height and yet these successful people are unenviable. They deserve
their positions for they have worked hard for it. How do they breast others-how do they hurt and harm
others? They are crazy for power. It would have been a blessing if one honest (person-who would have
been on open school) could have taught human beings not to lust to shine or rule. If one honest soul had
been able to unteach human beings the lust for fame or authority, the world would have become a better
place to live in. ;
Byron is not condemning the men of fire for these men have also contributed to the happiness of
mankind. Napoleon may be a mad man who makes others mad but the mad men of fire have a brighter
side also-they not only cause contagion but also stir (inspire, stimulte) the souls secret springs.
Byron like Shelley was a radical and a believer in Prometheus who he considered the creator of the
world, man and civilization. In stanzas 42 to 45 he is talking about Prometheus-like quick bosoms, who
can reform the world.
It is noteworthy that in these stanzas the tiresome rest (42st) of life leads to madness (43st) and
becomes an agitation (44st.). The life of these Prometheuses is a storm and their breath is an agitation.
Here we are reminded of Shelleys Ode to the West Wind. The storm in Shelleys poem is a symbol of
revolutionary changes leading to a Utopia. Like Prometheus these quick bosoms create agitation with
their breath and their life is stormy. Like a storm they rise, causing destruction of the unwanted, and
ultimately they peter away like a storm, they sink. Byron has skilfully used mataphors and similes in
these stanzas.
These souls are nourished and nursed by strife and are so much rebellious that if they are able to
survive perils and if calmness dawns upon them like a twilight, they can not feel happy They feel
overcast/With sorrow and supiness, and so die. Calmness kills them. The Promethean fire is described
as a flame unfed-when this fire, in their soul does not get an outlet to spread, it remains unfed and
runs to waste/With its own flickeririgs. The ambitious dreamers and persons are like the unfed fire
and also like a sword which rusts if it is not used. The Prometheus-like beings cannot rest-they must
remain agitated and stormy, if they are not able to prey on others, enlighten others and reach the Pinnacle
of success, they are wasted like an unfed fire and an unused sword. The Promethean man is not a free
man-he is ruled by his quick bosom.
What is the ultimate fate of Prometheus. Because of his unquenchable energy he is able to ascend
the mountain tops (reach the highest position) and is able to perceive or realise that the top most peaks are
surrounded by clouds and snow. It is again this energy which enables him to surpass or subdue mankind-
once he is able to conqueror them, reach the highest position (emperor) he realises, when he looks down
on others, how deeply he is hated. The man on the top of a mountain/ position has Clouds and snow as
his friends, and Contempt of humanity as his subjects. The sun of glory may shine up on his head but
below him are spread the earth and ocean; he himself is in a sad predicament-round him are icy rocks
and loudly blowing contending tempests-there is no crown on his head- he is a lonely being who has to
face the hatred of his enemies and contempt of human beings. This is the reward of ambitious beings
toils-they reach the summit but they remain lonely.
These stanzas discuss the achievements and failures of Napoleon, but in the last four or five stanzas
Byron seems to deviate from his basic theme and to contemplate on the fate of a Promethean character in
general. Prometheus the mythical character was a source of inspiration to the radicals like Shelley and
A close reading of these stanzas reveals that when Byron refers to Napoleon he seems to be
indulging in self analysis. Napoleon breathed agitation, he incited people to fight, and led a stormy life,
he was nursed by strife, that is. he was trained to be always in war which would ultimately lead to his
ruin, to his death. He was also bigotted by strife, implying that he was a thoughtless killer.
Byron has shown the consequences of ruthlessness in stanza 45.
The lines are remarkable for they present the paradoxical situation in the life of Napoleon. Byron is
not merely assessing the character and achievements of Napoleon, he is also contemplating on the lot of
ambitious, quick-bosomed human beings, who cannot live peacefully. They are thunderers madmen,
burning with the fire of ambition and consequently they cannot control the fire and once this fire gets
ventilation they go on conquering nations, bringing about changes in the universe and ultimately they are
consumed by the bare of audition.
Their agitated breath breathes in new life in people, they simply follow them blindly, accept what
they are taught. But when these ambitious beings become blind to their own follies, and are flattered by
Fate or/and become gods -then their doom approaches them. They stand like a tower headlong on a
steep mountain top, completely cut off from humanity and beauties of nature, they are faced with their
steep downfall. They themselves are responsible for their fall. But then the truth is that very often these
quick bosomed-men create a new work! of joy.
Napoleon fell from a height of glory and success because his character was a combination of
extremes. Had he been able to see his weaknesse-lust for power and lust for war-he may not have lost the
love and admiration of people. Byron does not confound Napoleon, he also appreciates his stoicism
shown at the time of defeat not to yield to humiliation. These stanzas emphasise the paradoxical existence
of greatmen, who reach the top of mountain because of their ruthless ambition and then they meet
their end-fall headlong down the pinnacle of success.
B. Canto IV
1. Introduction:
In the Dedication to John Hobhouse (Canto IV of Childe Harolds Pilgrimage) Byron says that
Canto IV is the longest, the most thoughtful and comprehensive of my compositions. There is less of
the Pilgrim. The author speaks in his own voice. The Canto touches upon the present state of Italy,
Italian literature and perhaps of manners.
Byron concludes his Childe Harold with stanzas describing Nature and the Ocean. In stanza 177
Byron yearns for the Desert which would be his dwelling place and in the prescibed stanzas his loneliness
is highlighted with the description of the Power, lonelines and changefulness of the Ocean. The stanzas
also hints at a change in the life of Byron-he was now a different person, no more haunted by the bitter
memories of his personal life.
2. Textual study
The speaker derives immenge pleasure in meandering through the pathless woods (not inhabited or
trampled by man) and is filled with ecstatic joy in the lonely shore. In the first four lines Byron very
deftly establishes the loneliness and quietness of the sea-shore and surrounding woods with the use of the
words Pathless woods, lonely shore, where none intrudes. In this lonely, uninhabited and natural
surrounding, the speaker is filled with great pleasure and rapture. The lonely shore, the pathless woods
and the deep sea excite him and his personal loneliness is completely forgotten for the deep sea is his
society, he can hear music in its roar. The Ocean is a friend, a companion to him. The lines remind us of
Wordsworths Tintern Abbey and Arnolds Dover Beach. Wordsworth hears the still music of humanity
in nature, Arnold finds a melancholic note in the music of the waves flinging pebbles at the rocky beach
and makes him think of the sad plight of human beings. Byron does not associate mans unhappy lot with
the rhythmic music of the sea. He makes it clear that he does not emphasise the solitude of the natural
surrounding because he dislikes the company of man. He loves Man but he loves Nature more. This is a
very unusual sentiment for Byron who was fond of human company.
He often retires to this secluded place to get away from the interviews of human beings and to
have communion with nature, particular!} with the sea, and to listen to its music. He loves lonelines in
Nature for it makes him forget himself and his bitter experiences and provides him an opportunity to
mingle with the universe. The lines remind us of his Epistle to Augusta where he expresses his desire to
mingle with the quiet of the sky. He. wants to have a rapport with nature and the pleasure which he will
have with this mingling with nature cannot be concealed and yet it can not be described. The immense
pleasure can be felt and experienced but can not be expressed in words.
The speaker addresses the ocean and exhorts it to roll on. It is a deep and dark blue ocean. The
rolling of the ocean makes the speaker reflect on the cruelty of man. He contrasts nature with man.
Although ten thousand fleets (war ships) move over the ocean-float on the ocean-sweep over it but the
waves continue to move-roll on-without any hesitation or obstruction. Man is not able to control or rule
the movement of the ocean water. He is unable to make any dent in it. Man conquers or occupies the land
and marks it with ruins, destroys the beauty of the earth and covers it with all sorts of constructions,
which the speaker refers to as ruins. Mans control stops with the shore, the Ocean is unconquerable. The
wrecks found in the water are caused by the Ocean itself. No remains of mans destructiveness are to be
found. If any ruin is there, it is of man himselfwhen a man is drowned he drops in the water of the
Ocean like a drop of rain, he sinks into the deep sea covered with bubbling groan of its water. He remains
without a grave (tomb), no bells ring for him, he is not wrapped in a coffin and remains unknown and
unsung. Such a man remains unwept. Man can not make way in the Ocean-he cannot walk on its waves
nor can he destroy the fields of the Ocean. In no way he can possess it.
Byron during his journey to the European countries obsened the destruction caused by wars (in those
days man} European countries were engaged in war. In the prescribed starza he has beautifully presented
mans predicament. Man uses all his power to capture land on the Earth. In this process of conquering
The World (nations or pieces of land) he goes on ruining life on Earth is, transforming the shape and
face of the natural surroundings. The landscape is doited with the ruins caused by mans lust for power.
But what happens when man tries to subdue the mighty ocean ? Is he able to establish his superiority over
it ? Man fails to step on the waters of the Ocean (Land is static but the Ocean is mobile, has its power)
Man can neither pave roads in the Ocean, nor can he spot its fields. The Ocean detests mans evil
destructive power. When he tries to conquer if the waves of the Ocean contemptuous Ty left him up from
its bosom, toss him up in the sky (like a ball or toy). He shivers with fear and screams loudly to him gods
for protection and yearns to reach safely in some near by port or bay. The vain man is dashed back to
earth, on the shares of a bay and there he lies, shorn off all his might and dignity. His identity and entity
are completely annihilated. Man cannot possess the Ocean.
Note Byron has asked lay for Tie to rhyme with bay. There is no deliberate grammatical error.
All through the stanzas the poet has addressed the Ocean as thy, thou. The has is used personification.
If has already been mentioned that Byron ridicules man for his vanity (line 2 stanza 179)-the fleets
which move on the waters of the Ocean are easily destroyed. Man is filled with the pride to sail warships-
he believes that he has conquered nature that is the Ocean but Byron exhibits the vanity of man in stanza
180. The battleships are used to conquer nations. Camions are shot at cities and buildings from these
ships. These cannons strike the walls of the rockbuilt cities (cities built on the rocks or surrounded by the
rocks or made of rocks or it may mean very strong palaces and powerful states) like thunder and their
thunderous sound shake nations (common people) as well as monarchs with fear. The monarchs living in
their capitals are terrified. The huge battle-ships are made of oak. (very strong wood) Byron describes
them as the oak Laviathans (seas beasts or monsters)these huge ships with their wooden planks (huge
ribs) empower the caption of the fleet. He is designated as the Lord of the Oceans and Arbiter of Man.
(Clay creator, a Biblical reference that man is made of clay). He navigates them and thus thinks that he is
the Lord of the Seas Oceans. But the captain and the crew and the fleets of ships are mere toys of the
Oceans Byron is satirical here. The huge powerful ships are made by man who himself is made of clay,
created by god. The irony is that this clay-created being prides himself thinking thank he is all powerful
and can conquer everything. With the help of a navy a nation may capture another nation. But naval
officer and his men are powerless before the might of the ocean. In seconds all these (the fleet with the
crew) are destroyed by the tempestuous Ocean. Like the snowy flake they are completely destroyed and
melt into the yeast of waves, (the Spanish Armada attacking England in 1588 and the French Navy of
Trafalgar in 1805 were both severely damaged by storms before they could engage in battle.)
Byron takes us back to the past history of Europe. He raises a question what has happened to the
ancient Empires such as Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage situated on the shores of the ocean. The waters
of the ocean once washed these powerful empires, when were free. Remember Byron is addressing the
Mediterranean sea in these stanza, on its shores were situated the great empires of the world-(the Assyrian
the Persian, the Grecian and the Roman). Later these empires were ruled by tyrants/enemies of liberty.
Now these countries are occupied by strangers, slaves or savages-the old civilizations have disappeared-
the empires have decayed, and they have lost all their glory and have become deserts. But the Ocean/sea
is still unchanged. The sea is both unconquerrable and unchangeable-it looks different only when the
waves play the stormy game. During the tempests the sea looks frightening and unusual.
Time brings about changes in the whole created world. Old age overpowers man. But no change
(wrinkles) occurs on the blue (azure) brow of the ocean. The Ocean remains young or youthful for ever.
Since the creation it has been continuously roiling on.
The ocean is the glorious mirror, it reflects the divine glory. The Almightys form or shape is
reflected or is present in the Ocean, where we can find the presence of the Eternity.
The sight of the Ocean soothes the agitated poet, makes him forget his bitter experiences and thrills
him. It also reminds him of the greed and vanity of man. Man who claims to be the master of all that he
surveys and who tries to dominate nature and the earth is ultimately defeated by the mighty Ocean.
The Ocean is the glorious mirror which reflects the Almightys absolute power. This power is
visible in its multi-splendoured form-in breeze (gentle and calm), gale (convulsing) or storm. It freezes
the poles (poles are covered with snow). The Almightys presence can be felt in the torrid climate-where
the sky and the ocean appear dark, the waves heave with force-the ocean seems limitless and sublime.
The ocean is the image of Eternity. It is boundless, endless and sublime-it has no beginning and no end,
has no limits-it is all pervasive. In fact to Byron it is the throne of the invisible power (God) In the slimy
surface of the ocean live great monsters-the impact of the ocean is felt all around, in all directions-each
zone is compelled to obey this all powerful, ever present and all pervasive Ocean-the incarnation of
Divinity. It is frightening, and fathomless and it exerts its authority effortlessly.
In the next stanza Byron/the speaker talks about himself. He is in a nostalgic mood. He has been in
love with ocean since his childhood. Often as a young boy Byron used to swim in the ocean-he played on
the L breast of the sea-and allo wed the waves to cany him like the bubbles in any direction. As a boy he
played with its waves. And he was delighted to be with the sea. In these stanzas the ocean has been
personified. At that stage of his life the poet had complete trust in the ocean. Sometimes he was terrified
(perhaps when there was a tempest) and yet he was confident that he would be protected and saved. His
was a pieasing fear. Note how Byron juxtaposes opposite ideas here. He thought that he were a child of
thee-there was a complete faith in ocean (God). Perhaps there is a reference to Christ and his father God.
As a young boy Byron enjoyed swimming in the sea and completely surrendered himself to the waves.
Once again the speaker surrenders to the ocean-the Mediterranean sea. Remember Byron is not talking
about one particular sea or ocean. He is referring to the ocean (as one unit), ocean is a God, an image of
Eternity and the throne of the Almighty.
The ocean provides him contentment. He is able to forget all the bitter experiences of life and accept
the authority of the Almighty.
Then Byron concludes his work (the poem). The poet says that Childe Harold has attained his goal,
his. (The poets) task is done he has reached the Pilgrimage. After braving the storm of life, the pilgrim
has reached his God-has got enlightenment. And so the song has stopped. The song has been like a
dream-he was spelled by it-now he is awake. The dream is gone. He has worked hard to describe this
dream-to describe his pilgrimage-Childe Harolds Pilgrimdge-jovimey of life. So there is no need to burn
midnight light. What ever has been written has been written. None can change it whether lifes journey
could have been worthier, none can say. Byron believed in fate-what is decided, cannot be changed.
Life is like .a lamp-it burns and then gradually the light is gone. There is an end. The speaker has
described his lifes journey-not merely his sea voyage but also his experiences in life, his faults, his
achievements, his visions etc. Now the lamp is dying. He has acquired a new light. And the vision, he has
described in this work is fleeting away. And the glow which guided and enlightened his spirit is
fluttering, is growing faint and low. Ami the pilgrimage is over.
The description of the ocean is significant. Byron not merely describes a real ocean, but also gives it a
symbolic meaning. The ocean becomes an image of Eternity and before this Almighty the mighty force of
man is nothing. The mightiest souls (human beings) are easily crushed and destroyed. If you surrender
yourself to this Force, you will be happy and protected but if you wish to go against the currents, you are
complete!} destroyed.
Nature remains unchanged only man is changeable. Man is mortal. Time and Divine laws are
The Ocean is also a symbol of the eternal time and of eternal law of nature and God. Whatever
happens to any human being is something destined. One must accept the dictates of fate. Idealism is a-
dream one must reciprocate to reality.
K. Ojha