Hi, everyone! I’m back again with perhaps my favorite book showing so far. I picked up this compact anthology at the antique store. I’ve read plenty of British eighteenth and nineteenth century literature for my English degree, but reading it for fun/leisure is admittedly new for me. I’ve always enjoyed a good book but usually stuck with modern literature for casual reading. Flipping through this, I knew it’d look regal on the shelf but wasn’t necessarily committed to reading most of the text inside. Now that I’m graduating college and nearing a quarter of a century in age, I’ve become more intrigued with old literature. After giving this bad boy a chance, I found myself totally enthralled by Byron.
The Works of Lord Byron
Lord Byron wrote during the Romantic era but reflected disillusionment with idealism in his writing. It’s easy to imagine why he’s cynical when you know that he lived through the Napoleonic era and the failed French Revolution. Because he did not share the sincere belief that mind could be mastered over matter, many of his contemporaries found him dangerously immoral. The intertwining of romanticism and realism in his works reflect the inner turmoil in Byron between a beautiful dream and stark reality.
The anthology divides Byron’s works into categories ranging from “Occasional Poems” to “Satire” to “Hebrew Melodies” and more. Though further details are hard to find, Black’s Readers Service Company has republished many classics in this same style/color. Crediting the original editions at the front, this anthology borrows introductions from other anthologies–usually brief biographical notes or a stand-alone quote from another poem. Prefacing a novel or chapter with another work’s quote and leaving the reader to interpret the connection remains a popular technique for adding complexity and enigma.
I tried to read “Childe Harolde’s Pilgrimage,” and while it’s difficult to follow as it’s rather abstract, I was honestly taken aback at the raw emotional anguish Byron presents here. Intriguingly enough, publishing the first two cantos of the work skyrocketed Byron’s fame. Apparently, Byron wasn’t the only one feeling disillusioned at the time.
In the section “Domestic Pieces,” I was fascinated by the poem “Fare Thee Well.” Byron wrote the poem about his wife who left him unexpectedly. He wrote this and privately circulated it among friends, but copies got out; the poem was published in the Examiner, which caused great scandal. Translating the gist of his words to modern language, he essentially says, “I hope when you look in our daughter’s face, you remember the beautiful family we had and how you threw it away.” Aw, snap!
I’m having a grand time exploring Byron’s works here, so I hope this post piqued your curiosity. Thanks for reading!