Lord Byron: Literary contribution

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      George Gordon, sixth Lord Byron (1788-1824) was born in London. He was the son of John Byron, a captain in the army, and Catherine Gordon of Giglet, an Aberdeenshire heiress. He inherited from his uncle the title of Baron at the early age of ten. Educated at Harrow and Cambridge, he made many friends and indulged in all kinds of dissipation. In 1807 he published Poems on Various Occasions and Hours of Idleness. The latter was ferociously criticised by Lord Brougham in the Edinburgh Review. Byron replied in 1809 in his English Bards and Scotch Reviewers It was an immediate success and laid the foundation of his reputation. But his fame came to him instantly with the publication of the two cantos of Childe Harold (1912) on his return to England after journey in Spain and the East. A series of verse tales followed in quick succession: The Ginour, The Bride of Abydos, The Corsair, Lara, The Siege of Corinth, Hebreaw Melodies and Parisina.

George Gordon, sixth Lord Byron (1788-1824) was born in London. He was the son of John Byron, a captain in the army, and Catherine Gordon of Giglet, an Aberdeenshire heiress.
Lord Byron

      In 1816, Byron's wife Hannah Isabella Mibanke left him on account of his immorality and he became the object of scandal and condemnation. He exiled himself for ever from England. During his journey he wrote The Prisoner of Chilian and published the third canto of Childe Harold in 1816. The Lament of Tasso was published in 1817, the fourth canto of Childe Harold in 1818, and the first fifteen cantos of Don Juan were written during the next two years. Manfred, Sardanapolus, Cain and the Two Foscari - all dramas were written in Italy. He, however, found his true bent in the poetry, now lyrical or passionate, now careless or satirical, of his Don Juan (1819-1824). He met a premature and glorious death from illness at Missolonghi where he had gone to fight for the independence of Greece.

      As a poet Byron's position is a peculiar one. It has been said of him that he is a romantic poet only on the other fringe of his consciousness. He was deeply influenced by the ancients and still more by Pope and his school. Matthew Arnold says of him: "His instincts are fundamentally classical in form without an adequate precision and sacrifices nothing to suggestion." He affected to disdain the stylistic innovations of the lake poets and to admire Pope and the English classical school. He used satire and wit. His Don Juan was written in the eight-line stanza (Ottava rima) of the Italian mock-heroic poets. At a time when wit was divorced from poetry, he gave a rich feast of witty sallies, puns and jokes in his poetry.

      Yet a powerful romanticism is the core of Byron's poetry. In the words of Prof. Cazamian, "his passion for freedom, his vanity and egoism, his love of nature, his fierce indignation at and discontent with the present mark him as a romanticist". With Childe Harold Byron introduced into English literature the figure of the disillusioned man, the hero satiated with pleasures and debauchery despising mankind and revolting against the laws of the society. All his writings are pervaded by his personality which is a complex one. His life was wayward, passionate, wilful and profligate and embodied the very spirit of romantic rebellion against all conventions of society, religion and poetry. His militant and passionate personality was writ large on all his writings and lent a romantic charm to his works in the eye of all his readers, English and continental. All his heroes are the veiled representations of himself - Cain, Manfred, Childe Harold who were distinguished by pride and scorn, but they always kept a tender place in their hearts for some woman, who was gentle, loving and impassioned. It is because of these essential romantic characteristics of revolt, passion and ego-centric consciousness which distinguish Byron's poetry that he has been incontestably the most popular of the English romantic poets in Europe and his influence, particularly in France was immense. He, however, wrote some poems of love and liberty which are characterised by classical poise and balance. His All for Love and On the Castle of Chilian combine romantic passion for love and liberty with the classical restraint of expressions.

      Byron's dramas are blank verse tragedies that were composed during the later stages of his career. The chief are Manfred (1817), Marino Faliero (1821), The Two Foscari and Cain (1821) and The Deformed Transformed (1824). The heroes are of the Byronic type.

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