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Friday Poem: Lord Byron

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194 years ago, yesterday, one of the greatest romantic poets died at the age of just 36; Lord George Gordon Byron. In memory of Byron and the anniversary of his death we take a closer look at one of his poems.

 

 

Byron was notorious throughout the late 1700s and early 1800s for his extravagant tastes and excessive love-affairs, with both men and women. Byron had close relationships with both friend and fellow poet Percy Shelley and his wife Mary; famous, now, for writing the first science fiction novel, Frankenstein.

His flamboyant character created an admired romantic protagonist for his poetic writings. He was brought up by his highly unstable mother, who was often flippant and unattentive. As a young boy, Byron attended Harrow where he met his ‘first love’ Mary Chaworth, who is the inspiration for some of his poetry. When he was not studying at Harrow he lived in Nottinghamshire, where he wrote, at the age of 17, his first collection of poems; Fugitive Pieces.

Byron’s works become infamous, and his poetry was so upsetting for some critics and readers that it ended occasionally in a duel.

Byron had many sexual relationships, in and out of wedlock and, by the time he died, had one legitimate and two illegitimate children. His daughter Ada Lovelace, who also died at the tragically early age of 36, became known as the world’s first computer programmer.

Byron accumulated numerous financial debts over his lifetime and married twice, not for love, but for the fortune he would inherit. He travelled far and wide, from England, to Greece and Italy and even learned to speak Armenian. Both Greece and England were shocked by the news of Byron’s passing and he has become an icon of romantic literature and his name, via the epithet, ‘Byronic, has become synonymous with those renowned for being ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know.’

 

She Walks in Beauty – Lord Byron 

She walks in beauty, like the night 
Of cloudless climes and starry skies; 
And all that’s best of dark and bright 
Meet in her aspect and her eyes; 
Thus mellowed to that tender light 
Which heaven to gaudy day denies. 

 

One shade the more, one ray the less, 
Had half impaired the nameless grace 
Which waves in every raven tress, 
Or softly lightens o’er her face; 
Where thoughts serenely sweet express, 
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place. 

 

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow, 
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent, 
The smiles that win, the tints that glow, 
But tell of days in goodness spent, 
A mind at peace with all below, 
A heart whose love is innocent!

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