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There is a pleasure in the pathless woods -- George Gordon, Lord Byron

       
(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.
-- George Gordon, Lord Byron
     (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

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