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Childe Harold's Pilgrimage


Childe Harold's Pilgrimage


“But I have lived, and have not lived in vain:


My mind may lose its force, my blood its fire,


And my frame perish even in conquering pain,


But there is that within me which shall tire


Torture and Time, and breathe when I expire…"


Lord Byron's popularity began with Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, an extended poem about a young man who journeys across the world to battle his disillusionment with society.

Why was this poem so hugely popular, selling more than 10,000 copies at its first publication? Was it the cult of youth at its heart ('Who loves, raves—'tis youth's frenzy...')?

Or was it its affirmation of individual freedom, rebellion and a defiance of moral regulation?

Childe Harold is, of course, Byron himself. 'Byronic' has come to mean a defiant, nihilistic, sexually daring, morally unhampered human being: an isolated hero, insisting on the right to imagination amid the debris of earlier hopes.

In an age of tabloid fascination with 'celebrity', it is the flagrant, challenging homosexual, the athletic lover, the dandy with the clubfoot, the merciless satirist, the man who courted scandal by parading his love for his sister.

When Byron left Britain for good in 1816, it was almost certainly because his homosexuality was about to be exposed—and in those reactionary times, sodomy was punishable by death. We know too that Byron's friends got together after his death and burned his memoirs—presumably because of their celebration of homosexual love.


GEORGE GORDON, (LORD BYRON), (1788-1824) the most flamboyant and notorious of the Romantics, was the most fashionable poet of his day. He created an enormously popular Romantic hero—defiant, melancholy, haunted by secret guilt—for which he seemed the model. His masterworks include Don Juan, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, She Walks In Beauty, Prometheus, and The Prisoner of Chillon.


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