“Childe Harold's Pilgrimage” poetic diary - Lord George Gordon Byron

Essays on literary works - 2023

“Childe Harold's Pilgrimage” poetic diary
Lord George Gordon Byron

He was led by an ardent fighter for the freedom of the peoples of Europe, a poet who grew up in those historical storms of the beginning of the century that frightened many of his contemporaries - conservative romantics, who sometimes sought a quiet backwater, regretting the collapse of familiar conditions. Byron could breathe easily in this stormy air.

The first chapter of this amazing diary begins with the traditional address to the Muse. So it was supposed to begin epic poems according to all the rules of book poetics of the 18th century; Byron was skeptical of them, considering the study of life to be the highest school of poetic skill. That is why this opening has a somewhat ironic character. Everything that follows the solemn address to the Muse is completely different from those pompous, textbook poems that caused so much ridicule in the English Bards and Scottish Reviewers.

After parting with the Muse, Byron goes straight to the point: he introduces the reader to the hero of his poem, the young aristocrat Harold (the English word for a young man from a noble family) and briefly talks about how Harold was tired of secular English society with its arrogant and empty life . Harold, fed up with secular entertainment and bored with life in the estate, decided to go on a trip in order to fill his leisure time with something, to satisfy the thirst for deep impressions, strong experiences.

As soon as Harold gets to Portugal, the whole tone of the poem changes. Harold was bored and hung out in London; his soul was emptied and emaciated from secular life, from communication with the secular mob, which Harold despised, but already the first impressions of Portugal awakened the spirit of the young man, made him vigilantly and excitedly look at the new world that opened before him.

Portugal at that time was going through a difficult time in its history. In 1807, two years before Byron's arrival, Bonaparte's armies occupied the country. The royal family fled in shame, robbing the people and stealing warships that could still repel the invaders. In 1808, the Portuguese people, together with the people of Spain, rebelled against the invaders. England took advantage of this, waiting. the opportunity to land their troops in Portugal and gain a foothold in it. Tory politicians have long been patronizing the Portuguese royal house, hoping to get their hands on the country's veto with its help.

In August 1808, the English commander Wellington, with the help of the rebels, cleared Portugal of the French. However, Wellington conducted military operations deliberately indecisively, dragged them out, interfered with the actions of the people's junta - the government created by the rebels. English politicians and generals wanted above all to secure their positions in the country and restore the monarchical government.

Byron indignantly mentions in the poem about the negotiations in the Portuguese city of Sintra; as a result of these negotiations, the British allowed the French to quietly leave the territory of Portugal. The voice of the poet sounds angry when he talks about the activities of English politicians who trade in the interests of peoples. With disgust, Harold is convinced that the Catholic Church, this support of reaction, is in power in the country; when it suits her, she comes into contact with the British and they support her.

Before the traveler are pictures of poverty and decline, devastation generated by the age-old backwardness of the country, and now aggravated by the war. Harold sees how hard life is for the Portuguese people, robbed by a criminal government, deceived by the clergy, devastated by the French invasion and the stay of the English expeditionary forces. Byron, in his comments on this part of the poem, cites facts that unequivocally illuminate the true attitude of the Portuguese people towards the English allies; it turns out that the Portuguese, who recently fought with such courage against the French, now often attack the British, seeing them as invaders.

Byron saw the people about whom he speaks so vividly and admiringly in these stanzas of his poem. He talked with peasants - participants in the partisan movement, met on the streets of Spanish cities, until recently bloodied with desperate fights, girls with medals on soldier jackets - brave defenders of Spanish freedom.

Byron did not hide the most essential feature of the popular war of the Spanish patriots. It was a revolutionary war, its participants wanted not only the expulsion of the French, but also the elimination of the rotten feudal regime. The heroes of the revolutionary war were, first of all, ordinary people, representatives of the broad sections of the Spanish people.

The royal court, as was the case in Portugal, fled the country. A fairly significant part of the Spanish nobility recognized the power of the puppet "Spanish king" Joseph Bonaparte - Napoleon's brother. Byron knew this. How contemptuously his review of the Spanish nobility is, he speaks just as enthusiastically about the exploits of the Spanish people:

Vassal, he went into battle, even though the overlords Fled, becoming lackeys of Treason; He, a beggar, is devoted to his homeland; He found the way to Freedom in imperishable pride; broken, he beats harder. (I, 86; translated by G. Shengeli)

Byron showed the indomitable love of the Spaniards for freedom, their iron stamina, their faith in victory. The stanzas of the poem, enthusiastically describing the people's war in Spain in 1809, sound like an illustration of the famous words of K. Marx: "... if the Spanish state is dead, then the Spanish society is full of life, and in every part of it the forces of resistance are overwhelmed."

It was this overflowing force of resistance that Byron managed to show, sincerely admiring the exploits of the Spanish people. “Spanish society is full of life” - these words of K. Marx can be attributed to descriptions of Spanish cities, to scenes of folk life, pictures of Spanish nature, with which the Spanish stanzas of the first song are so rich. Doesn't this amazingly lively description of the enthusiasm and emotions of the Spanish crowd reflect one side of this overflowing force of life that was seething in Spanish society? The war awakened the people from centuries of hibernation, showed their strength and capabilities. The stanzas describing the life of the Spanish people testify to the characteristic feature of Byron's entire poem - its picturesqueness, the richness of colors and visual images.