"The Days Of Our Youth Are The Days Of Our Glory"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The cult of Romanticism is the cult of youth. Too soon young people acquire world weariness. They have seen and experienced all, and there is nothing left to live for. But in their passage through life, they must achieve glory. Of course, the movement had other facets, since each country interpreted Romanticism differently, and there was even a different norm for romantic prose and poetry. Revolt and search for liberty were other characteristics. One of the definitions of Romanticism is "a revolt against everything that Classicism stands for." In English literature, the first generation of Romantic poets, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey, while friends of revolution in their youth, became conservatives by the time the bulk of their work appeared. The second generation of Romantic poets, Byron, Shelley, and Keats, all rebelled so fiercely that their passions wore them out. All died young, before any tendency toward conservatism could develop. It seems unbelievable today, when Byron's poetic gift is considered secondary to that of the other two, that he was formerly widely and admiringly read by people to whom Shelley and Keats were practically unknown. Byron took joy in his youth, and dreaded the approach of old age–which he never knew because when he died of malaria while preparing to help the Greeks in their struggle for liberty against the Turks, he was only thirty-six years old. From the mature age of thirty-three, one day while riding from Florence to Pisa in Italy, he meditated on the significance of Fame and Glory. Probably the resulting poem is a pose, since most Romanticists maintained some sort of pose, but he declares in the four stanzas that he is not ambitious for a name in some future history of literature. He is happy with the lesser crown achieved by a twenty-two-year-old; the more honorable laurel crown is not bestowed until the recipient is too elderly and wrinkled for it to become him. For Byron, the only use of Fame is to realize how it makes him more attractive to the girl beside him, and the sight of love for him in her eyes is his real joy. The final stanza is addressed to Fame.

Oh, talk not to me of a name great in story;
The days of our youth are the days of our glory:
And the myrtle and ivy of sweet two-and-twenty
Are worth all your laurels, though ever so plenty.
What are garlands and crowns to the brow that is wrinkled?
'T is but as a dead-flower with May-dew besprinkled.
Then away with all such from the head that is hoary!
What care I for the wreaths that can only give glory! . . .
. . .
There chiefly I sought thee, there only I found thee;
Her glance was the best of the rays that surround thee;
When it sparkled o'er aught that was bright in my story,
I knew it was love, and I felt it was glory.