Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Chad Norman writes


Mary hidden behind a boulder;
a small sealed box on top of it
When the excursions made thought
seem last
and needless
the Intellectual rose rested
in the evening's crawl
--is the Summer's forever,
more to memory's pace,
how the mind displays
life dimming to dream?
In a furtive year
after pain felt new
and yearnful
the comparison began
based on the body's cracks
--is the Woman's wider,
due to love's trust,
how it supplies her heart
with instant answers?
All this escape
I blame on
dear ecstatic Albe !
Few have the scenes of
his smile kept for greetings;
I relive the lake leading
our early easy boat,
how the shore held still
with his vivid welcomes. 

 Image result for byron painting
 Portrait Of George Gordon -- Thomas Phillips


  1. "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" was a long, semi-autobiographical narrative poem in four parts written by Lord Byron and published between 1812 and 1818. The first two cantos, which Byron was hesitant about publishing because they revealed too much of himself, brought both the poem and its author to immediate and unexpected public attention. As he later wrote, "I awoke one morning and found myself famous." Mary Godwin, who later married Percy Bysshe Shelley, read those two cantos by 1814. She was introduced to him by her half-sister, and rival for Percy's affections, Claire Clairmont, who was pregnant with his child, in April 1816. Mary exclaimed to Claire, "How mild he is! how gentle! So different from what I expected." At about that time Claire expressed her fear that Byron would reject her love for him, writing that her folly might be great "but the Creator ought not to destroy his Creature," a theme that pervaded Mary's first novel, "Frankenstein." Claire persuaded Percy to abandon his plans to go to Italia in order that they could meet Byron in Geneva instead, and they spent most of the summer together at Diodati, in almost constant companionship, the happiest in her life, according to Mary. Byron had just finished Canto III of "Childe Harold," which Claire and Mary made a fair copy of. Byron and Shelley, who had not met before, had many philosophical talks, including a discussion of the principle of life ("Perhaps a corpse would be re-animated;... perhaps the component parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and endued with vital warmth.") On 13 June, at midnight, during a violent thunderstorm, Byron suggested a ghost-story contest, which was the genesis of Mary's "Frankenstein;" though she was the last to begin writing, Byron encouraged her, "You and I will publish ours together." For his part, Shelley, though long an admirer of Byron works, and he would later call him the poet of the age, described him at the time as "a slave to the vilest and most vulgar prejudices, and as mad as the winds." For her part, Mary recalled Percy as someone who "seemed destined not to find the half of himself, which was to complete his happiness. He often left us, and wandered by himself in the woods, or sailed in his little skiff, his books his only companions." When they returned to ngland, Claire reported to Byron, "She says that if she were ever so much determined not to like you, she could not help so doing...." In May 1817, two weeks after finishing "Frankenstein," Mary reread "Childe Harold" and wrote in her journal, "Dear Lake! I shall ever love thee. How a powerful mind can sanctify past scenes and recollections! His is a powerful mind; and that fills me with melancholy, yet mixed with pleasure, as is always the case when intellectual energy is displayed. I think of our excursions on the lake. How we saw him when he came down to us, or welcomed our arrival, with a good-humoured smile. How vividly does each verse of his poem recall some scene of this kind to my memory!" The next day she wrote to Shelley that the poem made her "dreadfully melancholy -- The lake -- the mountains and the faces associated with these scenes passed before me -- Why is not life a continued moment where hours and days are not counted -- but as it is a succession of events happen -- the moment of enjoyment lives only in memory and when we die where are we?" By then Byron had clearly broken with Claire, though Mary still playfully referred to him as "our faithless Albè" (her nickname for the poet based on his initials LB and an anagram of Elba, where his hero Napoleon had been exiled in 1814).

  2. Mary saw very little of Byron between 1817 and 1821, although she occupied his villa at Este for about a month in the autumn of 1818 while Shelley negotiated with Byron about Allegra, Byron's child by Claire; while there, she read the final canto of "Childe Harold." The group gathered again in Italia for a longer period (1821 through 1822), but their situation was far less idyllic than in Switzerland, plagued by the deaths of many loved ones. On 19 October 1822 Mary wrote, "I do not think that any person's voice has the same power of awakening melancholy in me as Albè's. I have been accustomed, when hearing it, to listen and to speak little; another voice, not mine, ever replied -- a voice whose strings are broken. When Albè ceases to speak, I expect to hear that other voice, and when I hear another instead, it jars strangely with every association. I have seen so little of Albè since our residence in Switzerland, and, having seen him there every day, his voice -- a peculiar one -- is engraved on my memory with other sounds and objects from which it can never disunite itself. . . . Since incapacity and timidity always prevented my mingling in the nightly conversations of Diodati, they were, as it were, entirely tête-à-tête between my Shelley and Albè; and thus, as I have said, when Albè speaks and Shelley does not answer, it is as thunder without rain ... and I listen with an unspeakable melancholy that yet is not all pain. The above explains that which would otherwise be an enigma -- why Albè, by his mere presence and voice, has the power of exciting such deep and shifting emotions within me. For my feelings have no analogy either with my opinions of him, or the subject of his conversation. With another I might talk, and not for the moment think of Shelley -- at least not think of him with the same vividness as if I were alone; but, when in company with Albè, I can never cease for a second to have Shelley in my heart and brain with a clearness that mocks reality -- interfering even by its force with the functions of life -- until, if tears do not relieve me, the hysterical feeling, analogous to that which the murmur of the sea gives me, presses painfully upon me." After Shelley's death, Byron declined the £2,000 legacy provided by his will, found Mary a house near his own, visited her at least twice a week, sent her money, found her work as a transcriber, and personally persuaded Percy's estranged father to support their surviving child in England. When he left for Greece, one of his few belongings he took with him was the copy of "Frankenstein" she had inscribed for him. After Byron's death in 1824 she wrote, "Byron too has become one of the people of the grave, that miserable conclave to which the beings I love best belong. I knew him in the bright days of youth, when neither care nor fear had visited me, before death had made me feel my mortality and when the earth was the scene of all my hopes. Can I ever forget our evening visits to Diodati, our excursions on the lake when he sang the Tyrolese hymn to freedom and his voice was harmonized with the winds and the waves? Can I forget his attentions and consolations to me during my deepest misery? Never. Beauty sat on his countenance, and power beamed from his eye. His faults being for the most part weakness induced one readily to pardon them. Albè, the dear, capricious, fascinating Albè has left this desert world. God grant I too may die young and that region now adds that resplendent spirit whose departure leaves the dull earth dark as midnight." Mary wrote four semiautobiographical novels, "Valperga" (1823), "The Last Man" (1826), "Lodore" (1835), and" Falkner "(1837), in each of which the Byron character figures either as the title character or as a romantic hero, depicted as thoroughly masculine and wholly masterful, while the Shelley characters were frail, effeminate, boyish, or ineffectual.


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