Lord Byron Biography His Life and Poetical Works
His Life and Poetical Works[Lord Byron Biography ]
Lord Byron, a great literary figure of his age, was born in London on January 22, 1788. He belonged to a highly aristocratic family, of course with the notoriety for a wild, reckless and adventurous living. His father was particularly a heedless libertine, whereas his mother was an egoistic peevish lady of nature, not at all desirable. His childhood was passed at Abardan, amid the plentiful natural sights and sounds which definitely added to his impulsive love for the world of nature. He succeeded to the peerage of his family at the meagre age of ten only.
Byron was first educated at Harrow and then at the famous Trinity College, Cambridge. He shaped well in sports and athletic activities in his student days, despite the grim fact that he had been lame from his very birth, caused by an accident.
Byron started his poetical career during his Cambridge days and published a book of juvenile verse, Hours of Idleness. Despite its popularity in the circle dominated by him, it was severely criticised in the Edinburgh Review. Byron, however, did not succumb to the insult, but sharply retorted his critics in his next work English Birds and Scotch Reviewers. He was particularly found very critical here about the Edinburgh Review that had underrated his maiden poetical venture.
Thereafter, Byron went to travel the continents, continuing his poetical career. His great poetical works came next, one after another. The publication of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage made him at once an immensely popular figure in the English poetical world. His other remarkable works Don Juan, The Vision of Judgment, Beppo, Manfred, Cain, and many more followed smoothly one after another. Some of his later works happened to be his attempt at dramatic writings, but he did not attain much success there.
Byron was a member of the House of Lords, but he took his seat very rarely there. In fact, he had no serious interest in politics and preferred to devote himself to literature and a life of culture and fashion.
Like his predecessors, Byron, too, led a morally loose life. His affair with his wife Anna Isabella Barke was taken as heartless and immoral and made him, like Shelley, unpopular in the high English society. He left England for good in 1816 and settled in Venice. In 1823, he went to join, with great enthusiasm, in the struggle of the Greeks for their freedom against Turkey. He died in a fever in 1824 in course of his earnest and hurried activities to organize the freedom fighters in Greece-to liberate the great ancient land from the savage inroad of the Turks.
Lord Byron as a Poet
Byron, the poet, just like Byron, the man, is found uneven. Naturally, no even standard of judgment or universal acclamation is found in his case. Nevertheless, the poet in Byron, born and bred in the great age of Romantic poetry, is no ignorable name. In his age, his popularity as a poet, was unique, unparalleled, though modern reception to his poetry is found much lessened.
In fact, Byron has his place, definitely a formidable one, in romantic poetical literature, although he might not be placed on the same plane with his great contemporaries like Wordsworth, Shelley and Keats. But he has his position, secured enough for him, in their company.
Whereas Wordsworth is acclaimed as a poet of serenity and contemplation, Shelley, of love and humanity, Keats, of beauty and melody, their contemporary Byron stands out remarkably as a poet of vigour and derision. Of the romantic poets, he was the first to draw the attention of whole Europe and enjoyed an enormous reputation abroad. He became almost the idolnot only of his own countrymen but also of the intellectuals all over civilized Europe.
He was even admired unequivocally by such continental literary masters, like Goethe. Indeed, in his hands, English poetry became European for the first time. Of course, his poetical production is not very bulky and, what is more, as noted before, not of an even standard also. Some of his popular and remarkable works, such as Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, The Vision of Judgment, Don Juan and some shorter lyrics and sonnets on love and freedom are much complimented as the mighty creative specimens of a great poet. But there are some other poems from him, discarded as exaggerated, full of superfluities.
Byron is a poet of vigour and energy. This is particularly marked in his power of description. But his description is something more than the mere presentation of some scene or incident. He has put into this, something of a wonderful personality, which was his own. As a result, his lines become the graphic outlines of his own dynamic mind and impulsive imagination. But this is not all about Byron. His poetry is lit up by the fire of genuine passion. “He is,” in the language of Arnold, “the passionate and dauntless soldier of a forlorn hope, who, ignorant of the future and unconsoled by its promises, nevertheless waged against the conservation of the old impossible world, so fiery a battle.”
Byron’s poetry has some definite marks of quality. He is a powerful poet of description. His descriptive power, as already asserted, is found wonderfully vivid and dynamic, and has made the very objects of his description living and pleasant.
Much of Byron’s poetic significance lies in his satiric art. Enlivened with wit and fun, his satire is found to splash derision with the characteristic Byronic vigour. With an uncommon zeal, he is found to satirize his own nation and make the most penetrating banter on English habits and characters.
Here he seems to stand without an equal and remains outstanding as the last great name in the English verse-satire. Although Byron’s own self is never absent, there lies behind most of his satires, a profound seriousness. His poetry echoes most strongly the passion for liberty. This is animated with a ‘splendid and imperishable excellence of sincerity and strength’ .
Byron is, too, a powerful poet of Nature and seems to hold his pen and guide him to write in praise of her vastness and variety. Of course, he is no philosopher or spiritualist of Nature, like Wordsworth or Shelley. He is a passionate and sensuous lover of her beauty and grace. Here he is like-minded with Keats with great vigour.
“The position of Byron, as a poet,” as observed by Stopford A. Brooke, “is a very curious one.” He is partly of the past and partly of the present. There is something of the School of Pope, strongly present in him, yet there is a complete detachment in his poetry from old measures and old manners to make his poetry individual and singular, and not at all imitative. What is, however, particularly notable is that Byron is everywhere profoundly interested in himself. Subjectivity is the essence of his poetry.
Byron’s poetry, however, suffers from some unfortunate limitations. He shouts and roars and laughs, but lacks what is truly consolatory and idealistic to enliven an age. Even in his serious poems, he has failed to treat his themes with lofty idealism and penetrative visions, and as such, he fails to attain the position of his great contemporaries- Wordsworth, Shelley and Keats. Moreover, he is often found disorderly, careless, and even negligent in his poetical composition.
What is, however, the most striking feature in Byronic poetry is the identification of the poet with his subject. His presence is felt in whatever he has written. He seems to have hardly touched anything seriously other than himself.
Byron, the man, however, had certain deficiencies in character. He was fond of posing and pretension, and remained often vain and pompous. At the same time, he was an uncompromising champion of liberty and democracy and also a strong hater of all cants and hypocrisies. The divergent qualities in Byron, the man, is found to have affected his poetry that has the incarnation both of his poetic excellence and of his poetic deficiency.
Byron has not the vision or sublimity of Shelley or Milton. His poetry lacks the depth of Wordsworth or Coleridge. It has also not the charm and grace of Keats’s poetic creation. But it has its own standard and its own magnificence. Its charms are delicately of the Byronic character, just as its drawbacks are the lapses of the Byronic man.
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