The leading motifs of Byron's work
Lord George Gordon Byron
Byron's classicist views seem unexpected for a poet whose name has entered the history of English and world literature as the most influential exponent of the romantic worldview. In his "Diaries and Letters" many discussions about poetry and prose of both the past and the future are expressed, but these thoughts are as contradictory as the figure of the great master itself. And in order to understand at least a little bit the motives of the poet's work, one should turn to his philosophy. And in turn, the very philosophical views of Byron brought to life the masterpieces of his work.
And the motives of the English artist's work changed with the change of his views throughout his life.
The origins of the literary views of the young Byron should be sought in the ethical and aesthetic views of the Enlightenment. But he was also interested in samples of the lyrical, epic and dramatic works of ancient authors, and in the last years of his life and in the work of Italian poets of the early and late Renaissance, which could not but be reflected in the motives of his own work, although Byron himself repeatedly argued that he gave priority over poets historians.
The literary views of the young poet were completely included in the youthful collection Hours of Leisure. The poems included in this collection were imitative. The motives of freethinking loomed vaguely, and reflections on the transience of friendship and love - melancholy. The most typical for this collection are memories of childhood. And the first satirical poem "English bards and Scottish observers" did not testify to the originality of views regarding the appointment of art and the artist.
But the position of the young Byron on this topic is preserved in the later periods of his work. All his life he adhered to the classical theory of art and understanding of the tasks of the poet. Some of the poet's early works were issued only after his death. Among them is the satire "The Curse of Minerva", in which the poet at the same time accused those who robbed the people of Greece, and glorified the ancient masterpieces of the sacred temple in Athens. Consequently, high civic and political motives are characteristic even of Byron's early work. And only the poem "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" became a new stage in Byron's work. Indeed, through the inner world of the character and the author, it reveals both the heroism of ancient and modern times, and the tragic problems of our time. Adhering to the "high" style, giving preference to abstract and sublime images, Byron gives his poem such a tone that the fate of the individual began to be seen as part of a worldwide process. Therefore, the poem "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" can be considered as a new artistic movement of the era of classicism.
The lyrics of the mature poet took on the character of a confession, and in the oriental poems it resulted in the poet's melancholy, in his indignation against hypocrisy and stupidity, which in the era of reaction humiliated the dignity of a person.The enmity with the world of the heroes of Byron's oriental poems acquired a new philosophical understanding in the Swiss drama "Manfred". The tragedy of Count Manfred is caused not so much by clashes with people whom he despises, not so much by the collapse of love, but by the fact that he himself cannot stand his own moral judgment. It is not the circumstances that surround him that become tragic for him, but his own feelings.
But the most fruitful was the "Italian" period of Byron's work. He amazes us with the pathos of the fourth song of Childe Harold, Odes to Venice, Tasso's Lamentations, the mischievous parodic octaves of Beppo and Don Giovanni, the solemn third of Dante's Prophecy and the ease of lyrical poems, classicist tragedies and romantic mysteries, the poetic story "The Island", prose treatises.
Probably, this was a period of conscious searches aimed at finally resolving the issue of the poet's appointment in the modern world. Byron's heroes bear the imprint of spiritual greatness, selflessness and inner complexity, characteristic of Shakespeare's famous characters. Even in the classic satire of his own means, The Bronze Age, Byron depicts a powerful and contradictory image of Napoleon, close to the great thieves and ambitious Shakespearean tragedies.
It is in Don Juan that Byron acts as a judge of morality and social relations, expresses his idea of the homeland, the ruling circles of which are trying to give their selfish politics a high moral and religious significance.
I think that all the diversity of Byron's work reflects his desire for a harmonious and beautiful ideal of the thinkers of the past. But the reality in which the poet lived could not become the basis for the search for such an ideal either in life or in art. Therefore, the feeling of unfulfilled searches became the cause of disharmony both in Byron's worldview and in the contradictions of the motives of his work.