‘The Eloquence of Indifference’: Byron
Byron is often seen as a figure apart from the other Romantic poets: it was an image he carefully cultivated. But that careful cultivation was necessary because he knew how little apart, in many ways, he was, either from the Keatsian or the Wordsworthian tradition. The irrational animosity between Keats and Byron is explicable only when we acknowledge what they have in common: each in his own way is obsessed with the problems of writing about the self, and the self’s perplexities. As for Wordsworth and Byron, the differences are obvious. Perhaps the surest indication of their dissimilarity is to register Byron’s famous mobilité against Wordsworth’s stolid consistency. It is, at its simplest, a question of gait, and paradoxically the poetry is a mirror-image of what we know from life — Wordsworth’s gigantic strides across the moors are transformed in the poetry into something much more sedate and sober; Byron’s limp becomes the heroic swagger of his ottava rima. But the polarities are too easy, too tempting: Byron has to face the same problems of self and subject-matter, and how these are to be accommodated in a poetry that speaks to and for the age. Byron’s aristocratic hauteur and Wordsworth’s ‘egotistical sublime’ have points in common.
KeywordsCareful Cultivation Good Humour Death Ride Romantic Poet Poet Laureate
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