‘The Fitting Medium of Desire’: Childe Harold (ii)
Childe Harold yields its riches rather reluctantly. Some of the processes whereby Byron confronts his own confusions have been explored in the previous chapter; but there is more to be said on the role of passion in the overall design of the poem. As I have already suggested, the poem turns on Harold’s restlessness, on his desire for escape, which in turn mirrors the poet’s anxieties. Such yearning for self-abnegation has thematic and stylistic implications, rather similar to those encountered in the narrative poems: Childe Harold involves poet and reader in an exploration of the dangers and delights of feeling, an exploration of how such things can be captured in art. Amongst all its other ambitions, this poem wants to pronounce on the vexatious connections between art and life. It would indeed be some relief if we had begun to hear the last of discussions of Childe Harold in terms, simply, of ‘romantic travelogue’.
KeywordsDust Foam Cataract Arena Mast
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- 2.See Byron: The Critical Heritage, ed. Andrew Rutherford (1970) pp. 81–98; see also Martin, Byron, a Poet before his Public, pp. 64–96.Google Scholar
- 3.The Later Poems of John Clare, ed. Eric Robinson and David Powell (Oxford, 1984) I, 46.Google Scholar
- 5.Hazlitt is particularly worth reading on this passage, even if he is wrongheaded: Complete Works, ed. P. P. Howe (London and Toronto, 1930–4) X, 258.Google Scholar