A new page in the history of genres, the poem “Child Harold's Pilgrimage” - Lord George Gordon Byron

Essays on literary works - 2023

A new page in the history of genres, the poem “Child Harold's Pilgrimage”
Lord George Gordon Byron

Relations with the London beau monde from the young lord did not work out right away. In the poem "Lines addressed to Reverend Beecher in response to his advice to be in the world more often" (1806), the poet draws a sharp line between himself and the "secular crowd." And again the motif of the desire for fame sounds, all the more so since young Byron elects liberal politicians Charles Fox and Lord Chetham as his ethical guidelines. Thus, we understand the goals and objectives that Byron set for himself. He considered himself a higher being, a representative of a noble family, who is obliged to influence the fate of his country, to change it for the better. This explains the merciless criticism of British society, which is constantly present in his works.

The collection Leisure Hours also brought Byron into conflict with the literary elite. Southey, a representative of the "lake" school, gave a sharply negative review of the collection. In response, Byron exploded with a devastating poetic satire "English bards and Scottish reviewers" (1809), in which both the "Laikists" and the good-natured W. Scott got it. The young poet especially condemned the contemplative position of W. Wordsworth and his followers. Byron called escape from reality a crime and declared that he did not belong to romantic schools with their self-isolation from modernity. Contrary to demonstrative statements, Byron's poetry certainly has a romantic character, if only because of its sharp subjectivity and its attempt to live life in the image of a medieval knight.

The poem "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" (1812-1818) brought great fame to the poet, written under the impressions of a trip to exotic countries. Having visited Portugal, Spain, Greece, Albania and even Turkey, Byron was imbued with the exoticism of the East with its wild, criminal character. But the protagonist of The Pilgrimage is not like that. This is an Englishman sick with a backbone, disappointed in humanity and, first of all, in his compatriots, as the most developed, and, therefore, the most dissolute representatives of civilization. Byron was always not indifferent to Greece, he was attracted by its history, landscapes and its people. But at the beginning of the 19th century, the state of Greece was deplorable. Back in the 15th century, after the capture of Constantinople by the Turks, the Greek people lost their statehood and were under foreign invasion. Byron addresses the weakened country with words of sympathy.

Against the background of the mournful Second Song, the picture of the thieves' export of ancient Greek works of art by the British aristocracy, which have settled forever in the British Museum and in private collections, looks very contrasting. Indeed, the British, who served in humanitarian missions in Greece, took advantage of the indifference of the Turkish government members to the ancient shrines, managed to illegally export this priceless national wealth.

Lord Elgin did not even hesitate to break out with the help of hired workers almost all the statues of the Parthenon that remained in the niches. “Let England look down in shame!” - the poet says angrily, bringing down on the London beau monde all the strength of his passionate temperament. "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" opened a new page in the history of genres. Since the time of Aristotle, epic, drama and lyricism have been singled out as different genres of reflection of the world: the epic narrated, the lyricist sang, and the playwright represented. And Byron's poetic temperament, which E. Burgess called "impatience with the demands of poetic skill," turned into innovation. The poem was intended to be epic. It was supposed to tell about the wanderings of a disappointed Englishman in different countries.

But suddenly the poet pushed the annoying hero aside and spoke to the reader in a direct language. Thus was born the technique of lyrical digression and the lyrical epic genre, in which a story about external events is synthesized with direct authorial assessments and associative moves that reveal subjective experiences. Later, Byron will create two lyrodramatic poems ("Manfred" and "Cain"), in which he finally breaks the traditional distribution of genres. The main motive of the "Pilgrimage" in general can be considered a rebellion against European civilization, according to Byron, completely rotten. The publication of the first songs (1812) made Byron famous. He became an idol for radical youth, and his eccentricity and connection with the exotic of the East made the lord one of the outstanding personalities of London.

Having taken a seat in Parliament, Byron entered into a skirmish with industrial circles. At the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Luddite movement began in England. It got its name in honor of the legendary Ned Ludd, who allegedly was the first to destroy the weaving machine in anger. The Industrial Revolution brought with it the mechanization of industry. And where ten workers used to do the work, now one was enough. As a result, mass layoffs began, and thousands of beggars wandered along the roads of England. The Luddite movement tried to stop the process of mechanization. It was a spontaneous protest. People believed that cars were the product of the Devil. They allow one to earn huge money and cut out of the lives of others.

Luddites secretly set fire to factories and houses of industrialists, broke machine tools and steam engines. Until 1812, the movement reached such proportions that it threatened to escalate into a guerrilla war. The government decided to take the most severe measures, and a bill (bill) was sent to Parliament for the introduction of the death penalty for those who destroy cars. The majority of the establishment was on the side of the government, considering the protest of the people reckless, that it undermines the authority of Britain in the international economic community.

Byron was the only representative of the highest nobility who opposed the bill of death sentences. But the bill was passed, and the gallows with the bodies of the hanged were scattered along the roads. Byron flared up in a viciously ironic "Ode to the Authors of the Bill Against Machine Fighters" (1812). “Stockings are more valuable than the entire human race,” he said. The Ode was printed and earned Byron a reputation as a radical. His conflict with the conservative beau monde deepened also because of the scandalous relationship with the eccentric Lady Lemm, who wrote a devastating libel about him after the poet's death, as a result of which he received a reputation as a "demon".

The status of the "demon" for the poet was fixed especially after the divorce from his wife Anabella Milbank, which occurred because of the poet's far from platonic love for his half-sister Augusta Lee. They even had a daughter, Medora. Augusta Lee is the only one whose poems do not carry anything ironic. Despite the separation and further repentance of Augusta, she forever remained the closest and true friend to the poet.