Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Stanzas for Music” is a poem concerned with idealized love. In his definitive Byron: A Biography (1957), Leslie Marchand proposes that Byron’s inspiration for the poem was John Edleston, a choirboy to whom Byron formed a romantic attachment while at Cambridge and whose death in 1811 inspired the five elegiac “Thyrza” poems. Byron created the female persona Thyrza to express, as he said in his diary, “the violent, though pure, love and passion” he felt for Edleston. His description of Thyrza in “ If Sometimes in the Haunts of Men’” as “too like a dream of Heaven,/ For earthly Love to merit thee” corresponds to the platonic ideal of a love that transcends sexuality at the core of “Stanzas for Music.” There is no physical dimension to the love articulated in the poem. Despite Byron’s use of vigorous natural imagery, the intense feelings the poem conveys occur on a purely emotional level and almost entirely within the poet’s imagination.

Love is the theme of many lyrical poems, but it has a special significance for Byron and the Romantic poets. “In the broad Romantic application of the term love,’” Meyer H. Abrams writes in Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature (1971), “all modes of human attraction are conceived as one in kind, different only in object and degree, in a range which includes the relations of lover to beloved, children to parents, brother to...

(The entire section is 535 words.)