“Ye stars! which are the poetry of heaven! If in your bright leaves we would read the fate Of men and empires,—‘tis to be forgiven, That in our aspirations to be great, Our destinies...

“Ye stars! which are the poetry of heaven!

If in your bright leaves we would read the fate

Of men and empires,—‘tis to be forgiven,

That in our aspirations to be great,

Our destinies o’erleap their mortal state,

And claim a kindred with you; for ye are

A beauty and a mystery, and create

In us such love and reverence from afar,

That fortune, fame, power, life, have named themselves a star.”

This selection is canto 88 of Canto III of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.  How are these lines typical of Byron’s portrayal of the natural world?  How does Byron’s portrayal of the natural world contrast with the portrayal one typically finds among First-Generation Romantic poets?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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When we talk about the First and Second generation Romantic poets we are mainly speaking in terms of time frames rather than style. This is because the six most important poets of these periods were entirely different from one another. The first three, Blake, Coleridge and Wordsworth (and some include Southey) began the period, while Byron, Keats and Shelley are thought of as the younger generation that propelled it forward.

This being said, The First and Second Generation poets alike would have dealt with the theme of nature similarly, however, the general consensus is that the Second generation moved away further from the realistic aspects of nature and included more emotion infused with deep thought and, overall, more compassionate and heart-felt details. 

Take a look at Wordsworth's The Stars are Mansions Built by Nature's Hands

The stars are mansions built by Nature's hand,
And, haply, there the spirits of the blest
Dwell, clothed in radiance, their immortal vest;
Huge Ocean shows, within his yellow strand,
A habitation marvellously planned,
For life to occupy in love and rest;
All that we see--is dome, or vault, or nest,
Or fortress, reared at Nature's sage command.

Here we see realism through the eyes of the Romantic; explaining more than merely sensing and adding a degree of human logic to the theme, combined with myth and fantasy. 

While Byron also uses similar stylistic devices, notice how we see a degree of less description and more focus on the emotional side of the poet.

Ye stars! which are the poetry of heaven!

If in your bright leaves we would read the fate

Of men and empires,—‘tis to be forgiven,

... for ye are

A beauty and a mystery, and create

In us such love and reverence from afar,

That fortune, fame, power, life, have named themselves a star.”

You can almost notice how Byron lets himself go entirely in an emotional ode to a star without much justification than the fact that stars are like poetry to him, and they should be admired as such. In contrast, you could say that Wordsworth was more explanatory and closer to reality than Byron, however, that is entirely up to how you interpret the piece. 

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