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Lord Byron

4.06.2010

Lord Byron was the most colourful of the English romantic poets. Many people find his adventurous life as interesting as his poetry. Byron’s poetry is sometimes tender and sometimes it’s exotic. The main theme of his poetry is Byron’s insistence that people be free to choose their own course in life.


Lord Byron didn’t live a long life. He was an aristocrat and a fashionable man. But he loved freedom and a simple country life. His personality attracted Britain and all Europe. He brought to his poetry romanticism of his times. He was talented and handsome, noble and brave. London admired him.


George Gordon Byron was born on January 22, 1788 into an old aristocratic family. He was the son of John Byron and his wife, Catherine, whose ancestors were of the Royal house of Stuart.


His father was a poor army officer who very soon spent his wife’s money and died when the boy was three. The boy was lame from birth, but thanks to his strong will and regular training, he became an excellent rider, a champion swimmer, boxer and took part in athletic exercises. He was born in London but spent his early years outside the capital. He spent his first 10 years in the north, in Scotland.


He was fond of the rocky coasts and mountains of the country. His love of nature was reflected in many of his poems. Later his mother took him to Aberdeen. They lived there for several years. George went to Aberdeen Grammar School and there is a monument to him outside the school. Now it is a museum and art gallery.


In 1798 his grand-uncle died and at the age of 10 the boy inherited the title of lord and the family estate Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire. When thoy was sixteen he fell in love with Mary Ann Chaworth. But the girl did not like Byron and later married another man. Byron could not forget her and his love for her gave a sad colouring to all his life. Later Byron studied at Harrow School and the University of Cambridge and his literary career began. When George was 19, he came to London. It was the time after the first bourgeois revolution in France; the reactionary


governments of Europe were trying to kill freedom. Byron hated exploitation and sympathised with the workers. In 1807 when he was a student, he published his first collection of poems “Hours of Idleness”. The critics attacked Byron in the leading literary magazine of that time.


In 1809 he left England for a long journey. He visited Portugal, Spain, Albania, Greece, Turkey and described his travels in a long poem “Childe Harolldr s Pilgrimage”. This year Byron made his first speech in the House of Lords. He spoke in defence of the English proletariat and blamed the government for the unbearable conditions of the life of the workers. One day the poet wrote, “I woke up and found myself famous”. It happened after the publication of his autobiographic poem “Childe Harold» in 1812.


In 1815 Byron married Isabella Milbanke, a cold and pedantic woman. It was a brief and unhappy marriage during which a daughter Ada was born, whom father loved very much, but he was not happy with his wife and soon they parted. Byron’s revolutionary speeches in Parliament and the divorce helped his enemies to begin an attack against the poet. Byron was accused in immorality and had to leave England. He went to Switzerland, where he wrote “The Prisoner of Chillon”, the dramatic poem “Manfred” and many lyrics. In the summer of 1816 Byron left Britain forever.


He wrote such works as “Manfred” (1821) and ” Cain” (1921). His last and greatest work was unfinished epic “Don Juan”. In 1823, while writing this poem, he travelled around Europe and decided to join the Greeks in the war for independence from the Turks. Soon he became a member of the Greek liberation movement, for which he died. But he did not lead the Greeks in battle as he wished. He died of fever in 1824. His friends brought Byron’s body to England. They wanted to bury him in Westminster Abbey, where many of England’s great writers are buried, but the English government did not let them, and Byron was buried in Newstead, his native place.


 ”Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” (an extract)

  • Adieu, adieu! My native shore
  • Fades over the waters blue,
  • The night-winds sigh, the breakers roar,
  • And shrieks the wild sea-mew.
  • Yon sun that sets upon the sea
  • We follow in his flight.
  • Farewell awhile to him and thee,
  • My native land -Good Night!
  • A few short hours and He will rise
  • To give the Morrow birth,
  • And I shall hail the main and skies,
  • But not my Mother Earth.
  • Deserted is my own good Hall,           
  • Its hearth is desolate,
  • Wild weeds are gathering on the wall,
  • My dog howls at the gate.
  • To M. S. G.
  • When I dream that you love me, you’ll surely forgive;
  • Extend not your anger to sleep
  • For in visions alone your affection can live
  • I rise, and it leaves me to weep.
  • Then, Morpheus! Envelope my faculties fast,
  • Shed o’er me your languor benign;
  • Should the dream of to-night but resemble the last,
  • What rapture celestial is mine!
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