Lord Byron

In `Excerpt from Don Juan`, answer the following:
Select 3 stanzas from Canto I that you can explain. Do not give plot summary, so carefully choose a stanza that lends itself to analysis or some research. Write about three to four sentences. In Subject Line, identify your stanza, e.g., 44 (Canto I, Stanza 44).

Stanza 5

Brave men were living before Agamemnon

And since, exceeding various and Sage,

A good deal like him too, though quite the same none;   35

But then they shone not on the Poet’s page,

And so have been forgotten: – I condemn none,

But can’t find any in present age

Fit for my poem (that is, for my New One)

So, as I said, I’ll take my friend Don Juan. –    40

In analyzing Stanza 5, it’s interesting to read as we wonder who else Byron may have considered in this poem he sat down to write. Was he considering other brave men, poets, heroes before finalizing it with Don Juan? Who were the others “a great deal like him” (Canto 1, Stanza 5, Line 35). This stanza can be more interesting to readers who examine the history of what was viewed as the scandalous controversial nature of his writing of “Don Juan” and what concessions did Byron have to end up making before it was published. Stanza 5 sums up what he was saying about heroes in the previous stanzas.

Stanza 6

Most epic poets plunge “in medias res”

(Horace makes this the heroic turnpike road),

And then your hero tells, whene’er you please,

What went before—by the way of episode,

While seated after dinner at his ease,   45

Beside his mistress in some soft abode,

Palace, or garden, paradise, or cavern,

Which serves the happy couple for a tavern.

The analysis of Stanza 6 lets the reader in that Byron is intentionally not following Horace’s recommendation of when to start an epic. Byron is (intentionally?) not following the rules of what at the time was being seen by other writers as the better way of starting an epic, which was in the middle. This stanza proves to us the writer is choosing not to write using the examples of Homer or Virgil but writing this epic his own way (Canto 1, Stanza 6, Lines 41-44).

Stanza 7

That is the usual method, but not mine—

My way is to begin with the beginning;   50

The regularity of my design

Forbids all wandering as the worst of sinning,

And therefore I shall open with a line

(Although it cost me half an hour in spinning)

Narrating somewhat of Don Juan’s father,   55

And also of his mother, if you’d rather.

Although the reader isn’t aware of it until later, Byron reveals to us that he knew in advance he would digress in the poem (Canto 1, Stanza 7, Line 54). The reader now learns that was the writer Byron’s intention from the start. The reader can wonder if Byron is even conscious of how he changes some of the “traditional” epic writing in writing this work.

In `Excerpt from Childe Harold`s Pilgrimage`, answer the following:

1. Does the Byronic hero know any form of Keatsian love?

Yes, in that Keatsian love is often associated with “beauty-as-truth.” In Canto 2, Stanza 9 we read as Byron writes of having loved and it was still in his thoughts although he is now alone with those thoughts. We also read of this “beauty-as-truth” love in Canto III Stanza I when he relates of the love for his daughter.

2. Beginning with stanza 17, the narrator talks about Waterloo. Why?

Waterloo is current to at this time to Byron. Just a few months before this, the fate of Europe had been decided because of that Battle. So it is important that the reader is aware that it is sacred ground to him. The battle was fought on June 18th, 1815 which makes this a very relevant event during his lifetime of 1788-1824.

3. In what ways is this poem about mid-life crises?

Childe in this epic refers to a “knight” and we read as this knight is gloomily wandering as a vicious world-worn man. In his thoughts throughout the “pilgramage” it relates closely to a man who is going through similar thoughts a man in mid-life crises might go through as though he has already fully lived.

4. How does the Byronic hero relate to nature?

Byron relates better to nature than he does to humans. In Canto 4, Stanza 178, Byron states this:

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore.
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal

However, in reading this piece, I feel its obvious throughout to the reader that the writer can connect more easily with nature than humans. Because most of Byron’s work is autographical in nature, this is easy to understand if the reader about Byron’personal life.


“Characteristics of the Byronic Hero.” University of Michigan. Online. Internet.

17 May 2003.

(2002, February 11). Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Retrieved May 17, 2007, from The

Project Gutenberg Web site: http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext04/chp110h.htm

(2007). George Gordon, Lord Byron. Retrieved May 17, 2007, from Bob’s Byway Web

site: http://www.poeticbyway.com/xbyron.html