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William Wordsworth defined poetry by stating, "emotion recollected by tranquility" (Norton Anthology, pg: 245). Lord Byron's, "On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year", sets the standard. This poem covers an entire life span of the author. It gives you an inside glimpse of his experiences as a father, as a lover, gives you an insight to him as a soldier, and his dealing with the illness that claimed his life.
The second stanza of this poem leaps off of the page as Byron makes a powerful statement. "My days are in the yellow leaf; 'The flowers and fruits of love are gone, The worm, the canker, and the grief, are mine alone!" (Cambridge, page: 206). He gives love weight with his imagery. He paints the image of beautiful yellow flowers, of fruits, and then he takes them away. Trying to unravel this mans love life, is the equivalent of taking a long trip on the interstate, getting amnesia right at the end of the trip, and finally having no choice but to pull off at the side of the road. This amnesia leaves you with a feeling of deep confusion, and no real way to find your way back home.
There are a few women in Byron's life that made a lasting impression. The first woman was Lady Byron. Her and Byron were married on January 2nd 1815. There love provided them with a daughter named Ada. She left Byron on January 15th 1816. They had a string of custody battles, and they did not end on the greatest terms (Page, page:98).
Byron had a half sister, named Augusta Byron who was married to a cousin,
Colonel George Leigh. In 1813 she met Byron in London and they fell in love. Byron and Augusta's love as all of his, were short lived (Page, page 97). Lady Caroline Lamb was married to William Lamb, and shared a brief romance with Byron. The two of them met at the Holland House in 1812. After Byron broke it off with her, she acted in the manner a that could easily be compared to that of a stalker. Intense letters, which later lead to threats, but fused down shortly after (Page, page: 103). Another woman of note was Lady Oxford. She was married to Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford. Byron and her met in 1812, and the affair was shortly ended when she went overseas with her husband (Page, page: 105).
The most notable love in Byron's life was Countess Teresa Guiccioli. At the age of nineteen she married a rich and elderly, Count Guiccioli. She met Byron in 1818, and the two fell madly in love. A divorce decree that had to go to the pope, was approved in 1820. They were married happily until Byron departed for Greece (Page, page: 99).
The fourth stanza can be interpreted in a way that everyone can relate to. "The Hope, The fear, The jealous care, The exalted portion of the pain And power of love, I cannot share, But wear the chain" (Cambridge, page: 206). Hope could be a reference to his children. It is said that they are the future. In this hope they will have a future filled with love, and happiness, unlike him. Separation from ones family could easily lead to the feelings of loneliness, and suffering that he felt when he wrote this. Byron was a well traveled man, and had a distant relationship with his two daughters, Ada, and Allegra
(Page, page 91).
His first daughter Ada, was born on December 10th, 1815 (Page, page: 41). The
mother was Lady Byron, and the two of them had custody disputes (Page, page 50). Byron was known to carry a picture of her with him on his person (Page, page:65). Byron would also carry a locket with him, of Ada's hair (Page, page: 73). The line, "And power of love I cannot share, but wear the chain" (Cambridge, page 206). This could easily be in reference to that locket he wore. Byron only knew of Ada through letters, but still managed to keep her close to his heart everyday until his death (Page, page; 92).
His other daughter, Allegra was born on January 12th, 1817. Byron had a strained relationship with the child's mother, Claire Clairemont (Parker, page: 72). Unfortunately, she was also a sickly child, Allegra died on April 20th 1822, and she died after having feverish like symptoms (Parker, page: 98). Loosing a child is hard enough, and Byron was blamed for his daughters death (Parker, page: 98). This amount of devastation would cause a tremendous amount of pain, and shouldering the blame for it did not assist the situation. That just seems like a burden only a man with an immeasurable amount of mental fortitude could withstand.
A true warrior-poet could very well describe the great Lord Byron. In stanza six, Byron shows us this side to his personality. "The sword, the banner, and the field, Glory and Greece, around me see! The Spartan, borne upon his shield, Was not more free"
(Cambridge, page: 206). Byron made a loan to Greece of 4,000 pounds for their fleet He acted as a propagandist for there cause (Parker, page: 112). Byron started the, "Hellenica Chronica". This paper served as an agent of propaganda (Parker, page:114). Byron also led troops. He lead 2,000 soldiers to the relief of Lepanto. This place was a major tactical point in the war. It served as the only Turkish fortress on the north shore of the Gulf of
Corinth. Capturing this point would enable the Greeks to gain control of the Castle of Morea. Ultimately, giving them command of the whole gulf coast (Parker, page: 116).
The last stanza of the poem stands out like the last stage in his life. "Seek out-less often sought than found- A soldier's grave, for thee the best; Then look around, and choose thy ground, And take thy rest" (Cambridge, page: 207). Byron knew that his days were numbered when he wrote this poem. The line, "take thy rest" shows that he was ready for death, and he did not want to suffer anymore (Cambridge, page: 207) .
The month of February in 1824, was the first sign of Byron's ailment. He collapses, then looses consciousness, and falls into convulsions. Due to immediate medical attention Byron makes a quick recovery. This was described as an, "epileptic" fit (Parker, page: 116). March 18th 1824, Byron complains of vertigo of the head, irritable, and alarm for no reason (Page, page: 91). April 9th 1824, Byron goes on a long ride in the rain. He becomes soaked, gets a fever, and refuses to be bled. These symptoms continue until the 17th, and then is bled for about three pounds (Page, page: 92). On the 18th, Byron is described as delirious. April 19th 1824, Byron refuses to be bled. He is quoted to say, "If my hour has come, I shall die whether I lose my blood or keep it". He falls asleep on
the same day, and never wakes up (Page, page: 93). Finally receiving the rest he wrote about so fondly.
Lord Byron shows us that it is allowed to let love rough you up before it sends you back into the lonesome, cruel world. There is no love that is considered a waste. Each love is an experience, and our experiences lead to influences. Influence makes us improve ourselves, and lead us to leave this world a little sweeter when we depart from it.
Byron, Lord. "The Complete Poetical Works of Byron". Houghton Mifflin Co. 1905. Print.
Greenblatt, Stephen, and Abrams, M.H. Ed. "The Norton Anthology of American Literature". Volume 2. W.W. Notron & Company. 2006. Print.
Page, Norman. "A Byron Chronology". G. K. Hall & CO. Boston Massachusetts. 1988. Print.
Parker, Derek. "Byron, and His World. The Viking Press. New York, New York. 1968. Print.