“Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” is a large lyrical epic poem written by George Gordon Byron. He started on writing this poem during his stay in Albania in 1809, publishing the first two parts in 1812, followed by the third one in 1816, and the last in 1818. This long pauses during making this poem, made the stylistic differences within the four parts outstay even more.
The reason for this long pauses can be found in Byron’s way of writing only about the countries he visited himself. After returning from a journey, he would describe the scenery and impressions of the countries visited, implementing the main character Child Harold in his personal experience.
Child Harold is actually Byron’s alter-ego, bearing a certain symbolic in his name only. His nickname Childe (squire, future knight) suits the character well, as he is eager on becoming a hero himself, although still remaining far away from the heroism, bravery and emotional stability needed for becoming the classical hero.
His character sets the new criteria who will become an example for authors creating other literal characters, as they will be described as “Byronistic”. That kind of characters has a certain set of skills. Despite their noble origin, careless lifestyle, adventurous journeys, and performance of heroic acts they still feel sadness, sorrow, and alienation from the world and society, completely concentrated around their own emotions. Just like the other heroes of literary romanticism, they feel the “Weltschmerz” as described through the character of Goethe’s Werther.
The romantic individuality of a Byronistic character displays not only in his alienation from the world, as in his desire of setting the injustices right as well. The Childe Harold tries on fighting the great injustices in the world, as slavery. He wants to inspire the enslaved on rebellion and change of their conditions.
Those type of romantic ideas are quite naive, as some sort of blind belief in the ideal world, but they allow us to know more about the character. Childe is always unconditionally sharing a side with the oppressed, being led by his morals and emotions, as a foundation of a true heroism.
The fight against the norms of the society and society itself was a typical for Byron as well, as he shares a lot of other similarities with his character. They are both members of the nobility, materially situated, often traveling and unwilling for stepping in the norms of the society.
Byron has been mocked in numerous occasions and almost banned out of his social circles because of his behavior, attitudes, and disrespect for the rules. Every one of this things could be sensed in his literary works, where he creates his characters with a set of unique emotional characteristics, destinies and different point of views.
This novel lacks with the characteristic plot, as it has been written in a form of a travel diary. The plot consists out of a description of the scenery, personal impressions and encounters with different cultures. The journey isn’t served as a base for adventure, as it is the adventure by its own purpose. The journey represents a way of a resistance to the life settled at the one place, considered that kind of lifestyle deadly for one’s spirit.
The certain parts of the poems are used by the author to describe different countries, beginning with the description of Spain and Portugal, followed by Greece, Turkey, and Albania. The plot in the third part of the poem takes place in Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany, ending with a description of six years spent in Venice.
The fourth part really is written during his stay in Italy, so the difference in style is easily noticed. The verses are more influenced by Italian motives. In this part of the poem the main character completely takes over the characteristics of his author, revealing his true personality through the verses about himself, his emotions, absence from England and nostalgia about his late daughter Allegra who passed away at the age of five. This part of the poem is also considered the one where the feeling of “Weltschmerz” is captured at it’s finest.
Motif often used in this poem is the one considering history. The author is, as well as the main character, obsessed with the past times, trying to portray the glory of the old days to the readers, displaying them as a complete contrast to the misery of the presence. The real example for this is Childe’s journey in Greece where he expected to find the glory and beauty worthy of this cradle of civilization.
Alas, he finds slavery and ruins of the famous past, demolished by the local wars and insignificant fights. Glory got substituted by slavery, inspiring the main character to fight against oppression.
This poem consists out of 159 stanzas, each counting nine verses. Between the 13th and 14th verse of the first part, the poet uses a song “Good night” as a lyrical fragment and a salutation while Childe leaves his homeland. He expresses his sorrow for leaving his country, and this moment filled with emotions is highlighted with multiple repeating of the word “goodbye”.
Also,a strong symbol of comparing his homeland with the sun appears, as his homeland disappears under the horizon in the same way as the sun does. At the time of his departure, we notice the Byron’s attitude towards women as well.
While the other travelers present feel sorrow for leaving their mothers and loving wives, Childe regrets nothing. He describes women as sneaky creatures useful only for causing men pain. Childe regrets only for his loss of regret, feeling his absence of feelings and realizing that as a fault.
Genre: lyrical epic poem
Place: England, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Albania , Italy, Switzerland, Belgium
Time: The beginning of the 19th century
Child Harold lives the frivolous life as a member of the aristocracy, feeling the absence of joy and fulfillment so he decides on leaving for a journey. The journey should be served as an emotional kind of pilgrimage with cathartic effects. He wants to remove himself far away from the restricting walls and laws of civilization and try to experience the absolute freedom in exploring the paths of wilderness.
As every other journey, his begins with leaving his homeland. As he observes his homeland going under the horizon, he farewells, feeling a bit nostalgic and blue without any particular reason.The people surrounding him cry as they are leaving their loved ones, parents, wives, and families, but Childe feels no sorrow as he was outcast off the society.
He doesn’t emphasize with the feeling of love for another human being, feeling nothing but a current nostalgia. He feels a bit sorry because of his inability to feel.Childe doesn’t’ understand a man who cries over leaving his wife, as he despises all of the women considering them evil,remembering them as the ones who scarred him and left him in pain.
He first visits Spain and Portugal and, enthusiastic about visiting these countries with rich history,culture fine wine and a lot of fun. He ends in being deeply disappointed, as the current state under the Napoleon’s power only caused misery and poverty, clashing with the vision he had.
Second part leads him to Albania, where he is admired by the untouched nature. He is delighted with this different culture and pride of people there, soon leaving for Greece, out seeing his expectations of seeing a lot of the famous history and the buildings from the ancient times.
But slavery was ruling the Greek nation, and Harold gets disgusted by their situation, trying to inspire them into organizing a rebellion as a way for ending the slavery. He is motivated by his motions horrified with the way Greeks are acting towards their own nation and the old monuments as well. Many of the monuments were crushed down or damaged due to the many of irrelevant fights.
The third part of the poem takes place in Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland where we feel nostalgia and sorrow for old times. He remembers Napoleon’s destiny and his defeat in Waterloo as he leaves for Italy.In Italy, he mostly contemplates about artists and art present in this country. We begin noticing the descriptions of scenery and Italian beauties of nature as seen in nature and architecture.
Harold still feels deep sorrow that could easily be applicable to the entire world. This universal feeling of pain inspires him for rethinking his own life and acts, and the persons he used to care for as well. The atmosphere of solitude prevails throughout this part of the poem, with a deep feeling of the melancholy present while Harold observes his wasted youth.
Harold is thinking about the glory he once earned and the way it faded seamlessly. He tries in finding the comfort in nature from all the hard feelings, isolating himself on purpose far away from the people and their creations. He remains to be alone within the wilderness, but still being haunted by the life’s troubles and eternal suffer and inner fights.
The main character in this novel, Childe Harold represents the author as well. Harold is a member of a respected aristocratic family, which makes his existential part of living a lot easier, materially bested and incapable of working.
Leisure in his youth made him find excitement in other opportunities- raging social life, wild parties, company and scandalous women. Neverending parties and various social inconveniences took him far away from leading a fulfilled and meaningful life.
Once the leisure became unbearable, Harold decided to find adventure and the meaning of life somewhere else, far from home and the people he despised, and the feeling was mutual. He leaves on a journey around the world in a far away, unknown countries. He heard a lot of interesting and beautiful stories about some of them, yet remained deeply disappointed by those places.
He is disappointed in presence being in such a distinctive oppression with the past, mostly raged with the social norms acceptable in enslaving the other people. Although he was in a search for absolute freedom himself, he can’t stand a large number of human destinies being enslaved, so he stands beside them and tries to inspire them in fighting their rights. At the end, this attempts also leaves him disappointed, as he was unable of changing the world.
All of the Harolds disappointments together result in melancholy and sadness, making the pain only feeling present in Harold. He feels the pain as a weight over the entire world, becoming his essential romantic trade, making him a hero as well. The pain inspires him in fight and heroism, causing him even bigger pain, making Harold alienated and lonely. His running away brings him no peace, as Harold keeps carrying his inner anxiety with him.
Lord Byron Biography
George Gordon Byron was one of the greatest English and British poets and one of the leading figure of the romanticism, a literary movement in 19th century. Known simply as Lord Byron, he is the author of some of the world’s best-known narrative poems – “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” and “Don Juan”.
George Gordon Byron was born in 1788. in London, although some states that he was born in Dover. He comes from a poor aristocratic family, but he has spent most of his life in Scotland. He lived in poverty and sorrow because of his dysplasia, because of which he was afflicted with a limp, and caused him some mental instability.
In 1798. he inherited Newstead Abbey estate which came with a title of Lord that Byron got. That title made Byron rich, but he didn’t become any happier. On his mood, character and psyche were affected a lot by his emotionally unstable mother, and alcoholic nanny. That’s why he also became emotionally unstable, and lonely, but vain.
Byron got his highschool education in Harrow and got his university diploma in Cambridge. During his schooling he fell in love with his cousin, who rejected his love, focusing on his physical defect. This rejection marked his love life and made him think of women as selfish and cynical human beings. He also thought that emotional relationships can’t bring a man any good. That’s why he repeatedly entered in scandalous and unhappy love affairs.
Because of his sense of inferiority, caused by hid limp, Byron grew up as rebelious men, very sensitive and unadjusted to the world and very disappointed by the society he was a part of.
His first collection of poems was published when Byron was eighteen years old, under the title “Hours of Idleness”. Two years afterward, he decided to respond to many critics that his book got, by publishing his work of satire named “English Bards and Scott Reviews”.
When he was 21. Byron became a member of Upper House of Lords. He had a profuse and dissolute lifestyle, and tareget of gossip to upper-class society. Lord Byron traveled a lot. He sailed on the Meditarenian sea from 1809. to 1811. He traveled to Spain, Protugal, Turkey, Malta, and Albania. A year after his comeback from traveling he published to songs from his poem “Childe Harold”. It was very good accepted among the readers. He became fameous almost overnight, and Byron was delighted by it.
After that, he put all of his effort in writing. He got married and became a father. But his marriage didn’t last long because his wife found out that he was in a romantic relationship with his half-sister Augusta. Right after divorce, Byron left England, because he became unwanted in upper-class salons. He went to Schwitzerland. Soon he moved to Italy, where he continues with his literar work.
In 1837. he went to Greece to help then with their rising against Turkey. But very soon after that, he died of a fever, before his 37th birthday.
His most famous works are “Hours od Idleness”, “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”, “Don Juan”, “Lara, a tale”, “Parisina”, “The dream”, ” Manfred” and others.