The Great Expatriate Writers by Stoddard Martin (auth.)

By Stoddard Martin (auth.)

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Following Manfred and Beppo, this last canto represents the final poetic act in his self-rehabilitation. He has suffered great pain - greater than he had ever foreseen in the early cantos of the poem - but it has not been for nothing. He sees the time-transcending point of his efforts now: the unearthly force that will transport his spirit into a future his physical being will never reach: {For] there is that within me which shall tire Torture and Time, and breathe when I expire; Something unearthly, which they deem not of, Like the remember'd tone of a mute lyre, Shall on their soften'd spirits sink, and move In hearts all rocky now the late remorse of 10veY Knowing as much, Byron can release his hate for Annabella; slowly too he may get over the loss of Augusta and all it represents.

Of course, the objective is the reverse of the appearance: Byron wants the acceptance, indeed love, of the haut monde he professes to despise. Nevertheless, Childe Harold extols every country he visits at the expense of his own. Portugal is debased by 'licking the hand' of her ally in the fight against the French. Spain degrades herself by putting her fate in the hands of the antipathetic Wellington. Greece, that nation symbolic of the best in man -liberty, classical beauty, poetry and so on - is diminished not only by her own decline and occupation by the Turks but also by the civilised rapine of Lord Elgin who - even while Byron frolics with his catamite - is dismantling the frieze of the Parthenon.

Of course Byron had fantasised most of these: they were hardly the fruits of scholarly research; they were essentially masks, grand disguises he put on to keep the haut monde at arm's length, so that he could continue his daydreams of escape into seclusion and adventure. Thus the prototypical Byronic hero is born. He is detached, misanthropic, very private. He makes his own laws and does not Byron 27 worry if in conventional terms he is called 'evil'. He is an outsider living by a Robin Hood code.

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