(Poem #510) There is a pleasure in the pathless woods
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society, where none intrudes, By the deep sea, and music in its roar: I love not man the less, but Nature more, From these our interviews, in which I steal From all I may be, or have been before, To mingle with the Universe, and feel What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.
(from Childe Harold, Canto iv, Verse 178) Another very common poetic theme - the desire for wild, lonely places seems to strike a responsive chord in most people, whether as a renunciation of society (and its attendant sensory overload), a wish to be 'closer to nature' or a sense of beauty that city streets and people do not satisfy. Or perhaps it is an extension of (or even a cause of) the wanderlust that pervades poems like yesterday's 'Golden Road to Samarkand' and Stevenson's 'Vagabond'. One of the problems I usually have with Byron is that his verse tends to sound glib - one of the things that tempered my admiration of his admittedly brilliant Don Juan. Thankfully, today's poem avoids that, being unobtrusively crafted while maintaining the quiet solemnity that the subject matter calls for. Construction: Spenserian stanzas. Here's what the Cambridge History of English and American Literature has to say: In his letter to Moore, prefixed to The Corsair, Byron confesses that the Spenserian stanza is the measure most after his own heart, though it is well to remember that when he wrote these words he had not essayed the ottava rima. Disfigured as the stanzas of Childe Harold often are by jarring discords, it must be confessed that this ambitious measure assumed, in Byron's hands, remarkable vigour, while its elaborately knit structure saved him from the slipshod movement which is all too common in his blank verse. Yet, this vigour is purchased at a heavy price. Rarely in Byron do we meet with the stately, if slow-moving, magnificence with which Spenser has invested the verse of his own creation; the effect produced on our ears by the music of The Faerie Queene is that of a symphony of many strings, whereas, in Childe Harold, we listen to a trumpetcall, clear and resonant, but wanting the subtle cadence and rich vowel-harmonies of the Elizabethan master. -- http://www.bartleby.com/222/0209.html On Childe Harold: There's a nice essay on the significance of Childe Harold at Bartleby (from which the above note on the construction is quoted): http://www.bartleby.com/222/0209.html Some quotes: The surprising success of the first two cantos of Childe Harold on their first appearance in 1812 was in no small measure due to the originality of the design, and to Byron's extension of the horizon of romance. [...] There was much that appealed to the jaded tastes of English society under the regency in the conception of Childe Harold as `Pleasure's palled victim,' seeking distraction from disappointed love and Comus revelry in travel abroad; but, placed amid scenes which quiver with an intensity of light and colour, Childe Harold remains from first to last an unreal, shadowy form. He is thrust into the picture as fitfully as the Spenserian archaisms are thrust into the text, and, when, in the last canto, he disappears altogether, we are scarcely conscious of his absence. Random associations: "Light breaks where no sun shines" - Dylan Thomas "I could not love thee, dear, so much/ Loved I not honour more" - Lovelace, 'To Lucasta' Links: We've run a couple of Byron's poems in the past: see poem #169 for a biography and [broken link] http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/index_poet.html for the rest of the poems. The Childe Harold essay (once again): http://www.bartleby.com/222/0209.html Today's poem evoked far too many others to list them all, but worth rereading are: poem #1, poem #2 [if only to note the oblique similarity between the first two poems we ran] poem #113, poem #309 -martin