Lord Byron was one of the greatest poets of the Romantic Era of British literature. He was a rebel, a malcontent, and a traveler. While Byron was writing Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, he was himself traveling; he visited all of the places he described in the poem. When the first two cantos were published in 1812, he became an overnight sensation. The poem made Byron famous in Europe. It was favorably reviewed in the leading periodicals of the time and translated into many languages.
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage is a poetic journal, recording what Byron, as Harold, sees, learns, and feels as he travels. Immediacy is provided by the use of the present tense. The poem is subtitled A Romaunt, and it is a romance in the sense of a narrative of adventure. It was published in three sections, over a span of six years, and Byron wrote other works in between. Since the poem first appeared, critics have disagreed as to its meaning and whether it should be considered as two separate poems, or even three. The first two cantos (the equivalent of chapters in prose) were published together in 1812 and are as much a travelogue as they are the story of a pilgrimage. Byron interrupts his narrative regularly to make political and sociological comments about his own time. Canto 3 (pb. 1916) and Canto 4 (pb. 1918) are also travelogues with commentaries about Byron’s present. The cantos vary in length, ranging from 93 stanzas in the first to 186...
(The entire section is 1602 words.)
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