Saturday, 22 January 2011

A Saturday Celebration: Lord Byron

A Saturday Celebration:
Lord Byron, 1788 - 1824

Today at One Stop Poetry we celebrate the work of one of Britain's most famous poets, George Gordon Byron. He is  6th Baron Byron, born, 22nd January 1788, better known as Lord Byron.

Byron’s short life of 36 years was full of adventure and literary acclaim. From being revered as a national hero in Greece, for taking arms and fighting the Ottoman Empire in the Greek War of Independence, to the famous tale of being cooped up for three days during a “wet, ungenial summer” at the Villa Diodati, which  led to Mary Shelley’s famous novel, Frankenstein.

Byron shared the benefits and pitfalls of celebrity.  Affairs and scandals were to follow him throughout his life, including those of sodomy and incest. These things coupled with bouts of depression, extravagant, flamboyant and eccentric behaviour, an extreme temper, a club foot which caused a limp to blight him all his life, Byron certainly had many sources of inspiration.

Following a violent fever, he died, on 19th April 1824, whilst in Greece fighting for their independence. Such was Byron's standing that having been embalmed, the Greeks wanted to keep part of him with them. It is rumoured that either his heart or lungs remain in Greece. Byron's body was returned to England for burial at Westminster Abbey. However, due to "unquestionable morality" the Abbey refused the burial. He is buried at the Church of St Mary Magdalene, in Hucknall, Nottingham. 

He left behind a daughter, The Honorable Augusta Ada Byron, born 1815, who herself holds a notable place in history. It was she, who worked closely with Charles Babbage, the man who was widely regarded as the inventor of the modern computer, and is known for  being the world's first computer programmer.

As a leading figure in the Romanticism movement, Byron was a prolific writer, and it is his work that we wish to share and celebrate today. There have been so many poems to chose; I am sure you each have your favorites. Today I will leave you with three poems, starting with, perhaps, his most known, She Walks in Beauty

She Walks In Beauty
by Lord Byron (1814)

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

When We Two Parted
by Lord Byron (1817)

When we two parted
In silence and tears,

Half broken-hearted,
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this.

The dew of the morning
Sank chill on my brow— 
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame:
I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame.

They name thee before me,
A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o'er me— 
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
Who knew thee too well:— 
Long, long shall I rue thee
Too deeply to tell.

In secret we met— 
In silence I grieve
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?— 
With silence and tears.

Epitaph to a Dog
By Lord Byron (1808)

Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferosity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.

This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
if inscribed over human Ashes,
is but a just tribute to the Memory of
who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
and died at Newstead Nov. 18, 1808.

When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
Unknown by Glory, but upheld by Birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below.
When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen,
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonoured falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in heaven the Soul he held on earth –
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.

Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power –
Who knows thee well must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy words deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye, who perchance behold this simple urn,
Pass on – it honors none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one – and here he lies. 

images all courtesy creative commons/wikipedia


all ways 11 o'clock said...

These are three wonderful examples of Byron's work.
Thank you for sharing them this morning.


Theodore Daniel Richards said...

Byron is the fourth kind of hero:

Soldier Scholar: Winston Churchill
Soldier Statesman: George Washington
Philosopher King: Marcus Aurelius
Warrior Poet: Lord Byron

Michele Brenton aka banana_the_poet said...

Byron lived on Kefalonia - the same Greek island I lived on for three years.

Here is a link to some lovely pictures of the areas that meant a lot to Byron as they are today, together with quotes from his diaries and other interesting information.

The link from my signature goes to my photo blog of my time on Kefalonia - which was also the island made famous by the film of Captain Corelli's Mandolin.

Chris G. said...

Excellent one to see. I do so love me some Lord Byron...and just recently wrote a poem, actually, with him as a premise. I'd post it, but it's presently pending with a couple magazines, so I'm not really at liberty to do so...damn shame, though.

A lovely introduction to the man, in all his glory, and all his pain - and thank you Michele for that lovely link! Some interesting bits there indeed.

Rene/ Not The Rockefellers said...

" a heart whose love is innocent"

just six words strung together like pearls

Maureen said...

"Unquestionable morality" is certainly an interesting way to put the matter.

It's great that One Stop continues to put a focus on poets of long ago. It can still be an amazing experience to read them.

moondustwriter said...

I will always love Byron - he sure knew how to woo a woman.

I also like the three you chose Pete

signed...bkm said...

Three beautiful pieces by Byron...thank the Romantics....bkm

ds said...

Yes, three wonderful examples of Byron's work. Few poems match "She walks in Beauty" as a song of love.
I just mentioned Byron's birthday on another blog; how amazing are the synergies that drive this bloggy world!
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

"She walks in beauty, like the night"

What more is there to say? What words to better express it?

A wonderful post. Thank you. dani

California Girl said...

I vividly remember writing a paper on "When We Two Parted" in college. I thought it so romantic and tragic; the unfaithful lover bemoaned by the betrayed. I memorized it at the time.

It's over the top now, more so than many of his other works. I think I can still recite it now I've re-read it twice.