He drops the mock-Tudor diction and the posturing, and the feeble attempts at establishing Harold as an independent persona. Byron the rigorous thinker "comes out" as himself — and his writing discovers fresh nuance and depth as a result. There are many great set-pieces in Canto III: one of the best is the account of the Battle of Waterloo, which is brilliantly contrasted that televisual imagination again with the revelries and seductions of the grand ball held by the Duchess of Richmond in Brussels the night before.
Then there are meditations on Napoleon himself, on Rousseau and the French Revolution and the grandeur of the Alpine landscape. Byron brings history and historical ideas alive. He also becomes a bit of a Wordsworthian, positing the splendours and spirituality of nature against the human world. Is this a genuine conversion to the philosophy of the Lake poet he so frequently mocked?
The quality of the writing suggests that Byron's disbelief has at least been successfully suspended. But it's Canto IV that reveals the full mastery of Byron's control. The poet's visit to the Coliseum inspires particularly charged description. Byron is a fantastic painter of sea and mountains, but he comes into his own when working with an admixture of manmade and natural material.
His ivied tombs and sky-framed ancient columns are never vulgarised by an excess of Gothic shadows. He registers horror where appropriate, as in that brilliantly curbed allegorical image, "Murder's bloody steam", and releases a few darts of stinging sarcasm about the mob and "the bloody Circus' genial laws", but he is also a modern-minded conservationist concerned about the effect of "the brightness of the day" on the excavated fabric. The passion for political liberation goes on flaring, conscious, now, of tragic paradox in a context of shattered empire.
Byron is a great Romantic poet, but this greatness owes much to the Augustan quality of his intellect.
The poet, like Yeats, pursues "the quarrel with himself" in the company of an immortal pantheon. He has been brooding on personal betrayal, a gamut of "mighty wrongs" and "petty perfidy". Now, as he resists his drive to self-pity, he conjures a mysterious "dread power" that might perhaps relate to the "soul of my thought" liberated by a meditation on artistic creation in Canto III stanza VI. But, if artistic immortality is on his mind, it is on an unnamed figure that his eye rests and lingers - the sculpture of the dying Gaul, previously known as " The Dying Gladiator ".
There is never the least whiff of the museum about Byron's ekphrastic writing, and the statue is quickly transfused with flesh and blood. Byron shows us, with a novelist's imaginative empathy, how the arena "swims" and fades from the consciousness of the dying man, and makes us share his last, fondly domestic memories.
The scene is all the more moving for modern readers, aware of how Byron himself will die. With hindsight, we can see in the "Pilgrimage" a poem that has grown up with its hero: as he becomes more emotionally and intellectually complex, so does the poem, while still maintaining a lively momentum as travelogue. It is in the company of a sombrely reflective poet examining his life, rather than a boyishly posturing Byronic hero, that we enter Rome's ruined corridors of power, to thoughts of the ultimate human matter — dust. But Gabriel, not finished yet, thinks more - Then bites poor Sathan in that part so vast That warriors rarely need at least, in war - His pendulous organ prime of generation - Sathan screams - falls - and squirms back to Damnation.
When off he's flown, she, by now really curried, Thinks, "One, two, three! What a terrific day! And presently I got the whole story. Barbara Burke, a sturdy blond, two years older than Lo and by far the camp's best swimmer, had a very special canoe which she shared with Lo "because I was the only other girl who could make Willow Island" some swimming test, I imagine. Through July, every morning - mark, reader, every blessed morning - Barbara and Lo would be helped to carry the boat to Onyx or Eryx two small lakes in the wood by Charlie Holmes, the camp mistress' son, aged thirteen and the only human male for a couple of miles around excepting an old meek stone-deaf handyman, and a farmer in an old Ford who sometimes sold the campers eggs as farmers will ; every morning, oh my reader, the three children would take a short cut through the beautiful innocent forest brimming with all the emblems of youth, dew, birdsongs, and at one point, among the luxuriant undergrowth, Lo would be left as sentinel, while Barbara and the boy copulated behind a bush.
At first, Lo had refused "to try what it was like," but curiosity and camaraderie prevailed, and soon she and Barbara were doing it by turns with the silent, coarse and surly but indefatigable Charlie, who had as much sex appeal as a raw carrot but sported a fascinating collection of contraceptives which he used to fish out of a third nearby lake, a considerably larger and more populous one, called Lake Climax, after the booming young factory town of that name.
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Although conceding it was "sort of fun" and "fine for the complexion," Lolita, I am glad to say, held Charlie's mind and manners in the greatest contempt. Nor had her temperament been roused by that filthy fiend. In fact, I think he had rather stunned it, despite the "fun. On the previous day she probably made love to Charlie Holmes.
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage: Annotating the Second Canto1
Byron, the Haze family physician. At the end of their cohabitation Lolita is unfaithful to Humbert Humbert with Quilty. HH's scuffle with Quilty that precedes the latter's murder seems to be a parody of Gabriel's fight with the Satan in Pushkin's "Gavriliad. I groped under the chest trying at the same time to keep an eye on him.
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All of a sudden I noticed that he had noticed that I did not seem to have noticed Chum protruding from beneath the other corner of the chest. We fell to wrestling again. We rolled all over the floor, in each other's arms, like two huge helpless children. He was naked and goatish under his robe, and I felt suffocated as he rolled over me. I rolled over him. We rolled over me. They rolled over him. We rolled over us. In its published form, this book is being read, I assume, in the first years of A.
Our tussle, however, lacked the ox-stunning fisticuffs, the flying furniture. He and I were two large dummies, stuffed with dirty cotton and rags.
» Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto the Fourth mizpa’s blog
It was a silent, soft, formless tussle on the part of two literati, one of whom was utterly disorganized by a drug while the other was handicapped by a heart condition and too much gin. When at last I had possessed myself of my precious weapon, and the scenario writer had been reinstalled in his low chair, both of us were panting as the cowman and the sheepman never do after their battle. NB: Ovtsebyk is the hero's nickname.