Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Words including the word "Byron"

Boarding the bus after work - ; I think that's right. One boards a bus. I recognized looking forward to reading more of Byron's Don Juan - and, Why?

The pleasure of reading Byron's Don Juan is at least two-fold. Fold number 1 is the story, or what happens next. Fold No. II is in Byron's digressions and ongoing moments where he reveals the tastes, impressions, and biases of the author composing Don Juan. There is no telling when these digressions will occur or where they will take us. The liner notes are scarcely more informative than the bald text of Byron's sarcasms toward Wordsworth, or the former Lady Byron, or a tutor he fell out with as a boy, or English politics, and on and on.

I say at least two-fold as perhaps there is more going on here, which is Byron revealing what the Byron wants to read Byron revealing, or la di da. But I doubt it. Byron was self-admittedly a fluid, prolific writer. It shows, in near identical rhymes in proximate stanzas, in close then distant adherence to the form (ottava rima). The wit is at turns linear - getting off a good crack - or sublime (a rhyme that lights the page). Whatever third or more aspect of the text there might be would result more as an accident of the reader than an owing to an effort by the author. And so. We. Move on.

You can be a different writer than Byron, but I don't think you could make better choices being the writer Byron was. It took me until now to really get around to him, and what a tremendous surprise it has been. Some of my favorite authors are 18th Century English - Swift and Richardson foremost - and here, here as I see it is the last of the great 18th Century writers, cast all over with Romantic concerns, especially those of the political variety. I don't know another English writer that posits George Washington in such a glowing aspect. But then Byron was a perfect reader for his own interests (which I think every good poet is once you scratch the surface, or not even). For instance, he put Moore, Campbell and Crabbe ahead of Wordsworth and Coleridge; was sure that "posterity" would decide likewise.

Well, who cares, is the point. He had the guts to read his own poems and those of his friends side by side with Pope's and say, Pope had it right.

Do we do something like?

If you are interested, or even if you aren't - I am reading a Norton Critical Edition. The translation from when English was King is quite fair, I think.

1 comment:

rodney k said...


I heart Don Juan! The old canard that English just doesn't rhyme as easily as the Romance languages do sort of go out the window as he effortlessly tosses off ottava after rima. I'll see if I can dig my old Norton up.

Whose "our" Pope, I wonder, to hold up our Wordsworths and Coleridges to? & who even are they?