Thursday, November 19, 2009

Byron and His Beautiful Words

I have a confession to make. I have never read the poetry of George Gordon, Lord Byron. Until now. Early in the week I was looking for material for a tweet and pulled out a book of Byron's poems. I found the poem "When the Moon is on the Wave" and excerpted a couple of lines. Here is the whole stanza:

"When the moon is on the wave,
And the glow-worm in the grass,
And the meteor on the grave,
And the wisp on the morass;
When the falling stars are shooting,
And the answer'd owls are hooting,
And the silent leaves are still
In the shadow of the hill,
Shall my soul be upon thine,
With a power and with a sign."

I find those beautiful words remarkably powerful.

Lord Byron's life is the stuff of fiction. Biographies and collected works abound; my public library has thirty books on its shelves at the moment, lists twenty on the man and his writings. He is the sort of historical personage who crops up everywhere as soon as you look at the period.

I knew many details of his life without ever having read a biography or his work. Indeed I always accepted that his work was good, perhaps a little dated, I thought, but worthy of reading some day.Then, quite by chance, I read "She Walks in Beauty Like the Night" and it has become my favourite Regency poem:

"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 mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies."

Byron was by all accounts a difficult man, a man of many conflicting parts. Two hundred years ago, in 1809, he was just approaching the height of his powers. By 1824 he was dead. He captured the imagination of his time, and still appears regularly in Regency fiction written today.
I have never been a great lover of poetry. But I am learning, and growing. I read Robert Burns, Sarah Teesdale, John Keats, Helen Maria Williams and William Wordsworth. And now I read Byron.

Listen as you read "So We'll Go No More A-Roving":

So we'll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And Love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon."

Beautiful words indeed...

'Til next time,


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