The image of Childe Harold as the embodiment of the Byronic hero - Lord George Gordon Byron

Essays on literary works - 2023

The image of Childe Harold as the embodiment of the Byronic hero
Lord George Gordon Byron

Byron's most famous poem is Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. The poem was created piecemeal. Her first two songs were written during Byron's travels to Portugal, Spain, Albania, Greece (1809-1811). The third canto is on the shores of Lake Geneva after the final departure from England (1816), the fourth canto was completed already in Italy in 1817.

The two opening cantos of the poem were published on February 29, 1812, and immediately won the hearts of readers. “I woke up one fine morning and found out that I was famous,” Byron recalled.

All four songs are united by one hero. The image of Childe Harold entered world literature as the image of a completely new hero, whom literature had not known until now. It embodies the most characteristic features of the enlightened part of the younger generation of the era of romanticism. Byron himself stated that he wanted to show his hero "as he is" at a given time and in a given reality, although "it would be nicer and probably easier to portray a more attractive face."

Who is the "pilgrim" Childe Harold? Already at the beginning of the poem, the author introduces his hero:

There lived a young man in Albion. He devoted his life

only to idle entertainment

In a crazy thirst for joy and negligence...

This is the offspring of an ancient and once glorious family (Child is the old name for a young man of a noble class). It would seem that he should be satisfied with life and happy. But unexpectedly for himself, "in the prime of life's May" he falls ill with a "strange" disease:

Satiation spoke in him, A

fatal disease of the mind and heart,

And it seemed vile all around:

Prison - homeland, grave - father's house ...

Harold rushes into foreign, unknown to him lands, he longs for change, dangers, storms, adventures - anything, just to get away from what is disgusting to him:

Inheritance, home, family estates,

Charming ladies, whose laughter he loved so much ...

He exchanged for winds and fogs,

On the roar of the southern waves and barbarian countries.

The new world, new countries gradually open his eyes to a different life, full of suffering and disasters and so far from his former secular life. In Spain, Harold is no longer the social dandy he is described at the beginning of the poem. The great drama of the Spanish people, forced to choose between "submission or the grave," fills them with anxiety and hardens their hearts. At the end of the first song, this is a gloomy, disillusioned person in the world. He is burdened by the whole way of life of an aristocratic society, he does not find meaning either in earthly or in the afterlife, he rushes about and suffers. Neither English nor European literature in general has yet known such a hero. However, already in the second chapter, finding himself in the mountains of Albania, Harold, although still "alien to desires, careless", but already amenable to the beneficial influence of the majestic nature of this country and its people - proud courageous and freedom-loving Albanian highlanders. In the hero, responsiveness, spiritual nobility are increasingly manifested, there is less and less dissatisfaction and longing in him. The soul of the misanthrope Harold begins to recover, as it were.

After Albania and Greece, Harold returns to his homeland and again plunges into the "whirlwind of secular fashion", into "the flea market where the fuss boils", He again begins to be haunted by the desire to escape from this world of empty fuss and aristocratic swagger. But now "its goal ... is more worthy than then." Now he knows for sure that "his friends are among the desert mountains." And he "takes up the pilgrim's staff again"...

Since the appearance in print of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, readers have identified the hero of the poem with the author himself, although Byron strongly objected to this, insisting that the hero was fictional. Indeed, the author and his hero have a lot in common, at least even in the biography. However, the spiritual image of Byron is immeasurably richer and more complex than the image of the character he created. And yet, the "line" desired by the poet between him and his hero was never succeeded, and in the fourth song of the poem, Childe Harold is no longer mentioned at all. “In the last song, the pilgrim appears less frequently than in the previous ones, and therefore he is less separable from the author, who speaks here in his own person,” admitted Byron.

Childe Harold is a sincere, deep, albeit very contradictory person who has become disillusioned with the "light", in his aristocratic environment, runs away from it, passionately looking for new ideals. This image soon became the embodiment of the Byronic hero in the literature of many European countries in the era of romanticism.