The Complete Poetical Works of Lord Byron

By George Gordon Byron | Go to book overview

TALES, CHIEFLY ORIENTAL

[These Tales, which spring from the same inspiration as the first two cantos of Childe Harold, have, perhaps, suffered more than any other part of Byron's work in the minds of posterity. We detectmuch that is false and melodramatic in their rhetoric, we are too apt to be blind tothe tremendous flow of life, the superb egotism, that took England and Europe by storm in those early expansive days and gave to these poems a popularity almost unparalleled. They represent the revolutionary side of Byron's character, -the insolent disregard of custom, the longing for strange adventure, the passion for vivid color, the easy sentimentality, - just as the Satires represent the classical strain of with in his mind; and only when these two tendencies flow together, as they do in Don Juan, shall we have the Byron who has nothing to dread from the tooth of time. The Tales, as was said, in their first origion belong with the earlier cantos of Childe Harlod, and show the influence of the author's Oriental travels. The first of them, The Giavour, has even a certain amount of vaguely defined foundation in facts. In a letter to Thomas Moore, dated September 1, 1813, Byron alludes to the event, which had begun to be too freely talked about, and admits having saved a Turkish girl in the Orient who was to be sewed in a sack and thrown into the sea in accordance with Mohammedan law. Later Hobhouse declared, in the Westminster Review, January, 1825, that the girl had not been an object of Byron's attachment but of his Turkish servant's. Like othersof Byron's works The Giaour was practically remade during its passage through the press. The first draft of the poem, written in May of 1813, consisted of only 407 lines; by November of the same year, when the seventh and definitive edition was issued, it had expanded to 1334 lines. Meanwhile early in this same November, before The Giaour was well off his hands, he wrote at fever heat (in four nights, or, according to another account, a week) and published immediately The Bride of Abydos. He had found his vein and his public, and was thrifty in making the best of both. It may be gathered from letters of the period that the more romantic spur to his Muse came from a passion for the wife of his friend James Wedderburn Webster, at whose house he was staying at the time. During the latter half of the following month ( December, 1813) the third of the Tales, The Corsair, was written, and served as a relief to the amotions of the poet who had fled from the same ill-starred passion. How much the poem reflects of Byron's own experience in the East, cannot be known; probably very little. However, in his JOurnal, under date of March 10, 1814, he hints darkly at strange adventures which not even Hobhouse knew about, etc. Lara, which may be regarded as a sequel to The Corsair and which reintroduces Gulnare as the Page and Conrad as Lara, was finished by June 14, 1814, and was published in August, bound up with Rogers Jacqueline. The two poems, however, were soon divorced,' and four editions of Lara alone appeared before the end of 1814. Some time during the next year, probably in the early months, The Siege of Corinth was composed, and with it one observes a certain change in tone as if the poet were getting a little further away from himself. On January 2d of this year he had married; the experience of life was to crowd upon him rapidly. Parasina, a poem exquisitely graceful in parts, was written during the same year. Lady Byron wrote out the copy of the two poems which were sent to the publisher, and which appeared together February 7, 1816; they were little noticed by the press, then savagely engaged with the divorce proceedings that drove Byron from England in the following April. With these two poems, then, the strictly Oriental Tales come to an end, the melodramatic masquerade passes out of the poet's life and the Tales which succeed are instinct with the larger spirit of thelater cantos of Childe Harold and the Dramas. The next Tale, The Prisoner of Chillon, was written at Ouchy, on the border of Lake Leman, where also the third canto of Childe Harold was composed. The room in the hotel is still (or, at least, was a few years ago) marked by an inscription attesting the fact that here during a stay of two days in June of 1816 Byron wrote his noble lines. The character of Bonnivard, whose calamities stirred the poet ever ready with a lyric cry for freedom, is disputed by historians according as they incline to Protestant or Catholic views fo the struggles of the early sixteenth century; he was unquestionably a fit theme for the declamatory genius of the early nineteenth. From Swiss history Byron turned for his next Tale to Russian legend. Mazeppa, the swiftness of whose movement is a literary tour de force, was published June 28, 1819. Between it and the last of the Tales came all the Dramas except Manfred. The composition of The Island fell in the first two months of 1823; the poem was published, not by Murray but by John Hunt, June 26, 1823. It is synchronous therefore with The Age of Bronze, and shows a marked similarity with that poem in the use of the heroic couplet. It is synchronous also with the later cantos of Don Juan, although the tone of the two poems (the cynical spirit of Don Juan had by this time pretty well stifled the romance) would not seem to show a common source. In less than a month after the publication of The Island, Byron had sailed for Greece.]

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The Complete Poetical Works of Lord Byron
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Editor's Note v
  • Table of Contents vii
  • Biographical Sketch xi
  • Childe Harold's Pilgrimage - A Romaunt 1
  • Shorter Poems 83
  • Miscellaneous Poems 139
  • Domestic Pieces 207
  • Hebrew Melodies 216
  • Ephemeral Verses 223
  • Satires 240
  • Tales, Chiefly Oriental 309
  • Italian Poems 436
  • Dramas 477
  • Scene II 481
  • Act II 483
  • Scene I 483
  • Scene II 487
  • Scene IV 488
  • Act III 491
  • Scene I 491
  • Scene II 493
  • Scene III 494
  • Scene IV 495
  • Act I 499
  • Act I 499
  • Scene II 500
  • Act II 509
  • Scene I 509
  • Scene II 516
  • Act III 518
  • Scene I 518
  • Scene II 520
  • Act IV 528
  • Scene I 528
  • Scene II 533
  • Act V 538
  • Act V 538
  • Scene II 546
  • Scenf III 548
  • Scene II 549
  • Sardanapalus 550
  • Scene II 551
  • Act II 561
  • Scene I 561
  • Act III 571
  • Scene I 571
  • Act IV 578
  • Scene I 578
  • Act V 587
  • Scene I 587
  • Act I 595
  • Scene I 595
  • Act II 601
  • Scene I 601
  • Act III 608
  • Scene I 608
  • Act IV 615
  • Scene I 620
  • Scene I 620
  • Dramatis Person Æ 627
  • Dramatis Person Æ 627
  • Act II 636
  • Scene I 636
  • Scene II 639
  • Heaven and Earth 655
  • Heaven and Earth 655
  • Scene II 657
  • Scene II 658
  • Werner; Or, the Inheritance 671
  • Scene II 683
  • Scene II 683
  • Scene II 688
  • Act III 695
  • Scene I 695
  • Scene II 700
  • Scene III 701
  • Scene IV 701
  • Act IV 704
  • Scene I 704
  • Act V 713
  • Scene II 720
  • The Deformed Transformed 722
  • Scene II 723
  • Scene II 730
  • Part II 735
  • Scene I 735
  • Scene II 737
  • Scene III 738
  • Part III 742
  • Scene I 742
  • Don Juan 744
  • Notes 999
  • Indexes 1045
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