Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
Byron was already an established writer by 1812, but with this work he replaced Sir Walter Scott as England’s most popular poet. His audience was eager for material dealing with the Near East, and this he supplied. Of particular interest were his vivid descriptions of Albania, which Byron was one of the first Englishmen to visit.
The poem also created the popular Byronic hero--proud, brilliant, and attractive, but also bored, gloomy, lonely, disillusioned, and isolated from the rest of humanity. This figure, who narrates the poem, provides much of whatever unity the wide-ranging poem possesses.
This hero offers moral and personal reflections as he travels, thus combining the poetry of landscape and travel with the confessional and the meditative. He contrasts the power and permanence of nature with the insignificance and transience of man. Waterloo will fade from the memory; Venice will crumble into the sea. The tone of the poem is therefore somber: Byron’s tour passes through a fallen and decayed world.
Yet it is a world capable of redemption. If Waterloo and Venice will not endure, Marathon, Shylock, and Othello will. Through noble deeds and great art, mankind can achieve immortality.
Byron, George Gordon, Lord. Works. Edited by Ernest Hartley Coleridge. 13 vols. New York: Octagon Books, 1966. Originally published between 1898 and 1904 in thirteen volumes, this is a...
(The entire section is 538 words.)