At the end of June 1809, Byron went on a two-year journey, during which he visited Portugal, Spain, Albania, Turkey and Greece. Byron was interested in the peoples of these countries, their life, culture. Particularly struck by his social contrasts: he saw the unlimited arbitrariness of local and foreign tyrants, the complete lack of rights of peoples. During the journey, he realized the public purpose of poetry and the civic vocation of the poet. In these two years he created the first two songs of the poem “Childe Harold Pilgrimage”.
The poem “Childe Harold Pilgrimage” is the first work of Byron-romance, romance of a new type, distinct from all predecessors. The poet does not flee from reality, he defends the freedom of peoples, their right to national liberation struggle, speaking out in defense of the individual from violence and humiliation, he demands active actions from the person himself, stigmatizes him for his shame because he could bow his head to tyranny. Like all romantics, Byron glorified nature, but not abstractly, but in relation to man, arguing that only a free and spiritually developed person can achieve harmony between himself and nature. All the poem is pervaded by the connection of times: the past is illuminated by the light of modernity and, together with the present, allows us to look into the future.
The first song tells about the invasion of the Napoleonic troops on the Iberian Peninsula. The sympathies of the poet are entirely on the side of the Spaniards fighting with the invaders. Byron manages to show people in action, in mass scenes, when people fight, work, have fun. He stops and on individual heroic personalities, for example, a virgin from Saragossa. In the unity of the hero with the people, Byron sees the guarantee of the success of the struggle of the Spaniards for a just cause, which was important not only for Spain itself:
… waiting for the enslaved peoples,
Will Spain achieve freedom,
So that more countries would rise up for it
The poet writes.
The topic of the struggling people continues to develop in the second song. Childe Harold travels to Albania, then turns up in Greece. Much of the song is dedicated to Greece. The poet always sees the contrast between the great past of this country and the humiliated position of the Greeks under the Turkish yoke. Delight before the “beautiful Hellas” is replaced by anger against her descendants who have submitted to the foreign yoke:
… the Greek is silent, and the slaves are bending their backs,
And under the whips of the Turkish humiliated,
stretched out, Treaded in the mud.
But anger gives way to the hope that in the people “the former force of indomitable freedom lives,” and the poet calls: “O Greece, rise up to fight!”.
The poet’s love for Greece is invariable, and the verses about her in the poem help to better understand why Byron is joining the ranks of the fighters for the freedom of the Greek people.
March 10, 1812, the first two songs of Childe Harold are published, and Byron is widely known. “Childe Harold” stands the edition after the publication, the poet’s popularity is growing day by day.
Once in Switzerland, Byron tries to capture in his letters, in the diary everything that he sees remarkable: historical places, nature, people, their way of life. These observations were then embodied in the third song of Childe Harold. This song reflected his travel experiences, he was forced to leave his homeland and go to Switzerland. Here he reflects on the Battle of Waterloo and the defeat of Napoleon.
From the battle of Waterloo, the poet looks at the majestic nature, but does not cease to reflect on how wars at all times have destroyed both natural and man-made beauty. Thoughts of war reappear when the lyrical hero in Switzerland compares with the Waterloo the battle for the independence of the city of Morata in the 15th century: “There won the battle not tyrants, / Liberty, and Citizenship, and the Law.” Only such goals can justify wars in Byron’s... eyes.
The nature of Switzerland leads the poet to the idea that Man is a part of Nature, and in this unity the joy of life: “Blessed is whose life with nature is one… / I’m not locked in there. / There I am a part of Nature, its creation.” Developing this idea, Byron glorifies Rousseau, an enlightener who promoted the connection between man and nature, proclaiming the ideas of equality and freedom of people. He also recalls another thinker, who prepared the minds for the revolution, Voltaire, whose “mind on the foundation of doubts / Dared to create a rebellious idea of the temple.”
In the third song, a reflection of Byron’s thought about the events that worried the whole world then is found. In a free, laid-back narrative, hymns to nature, laconic and accurate characteristics of historical figures, a genre scene depicting the ball before the Battle of Waterloo are woven.
The fourth song of the “Childe Harold Pilgrimage” was written in Italy and published in 1818. Italy became for Byron a country in which many of its creative and life plans were embodied in reality. There he found a personal happiness, meeting with Teresa Guiccioli.
In the fourth song, the most voluminous poem, the poet seeks to give a whole and diverse image of the country, which in fact became his second homeland. With all the love for Italy, admiration for its historical past and high artistic culture, Byron looks at it with the eyes of a man who does not forget his own country and his people. AND; “while the language of Britain sounds,” he believes that she will live in his memory.
Italy in the image of Byron is a country that can not be foreign to other peoples. “Italy, peoples must stand up / For your honor, quarrels sweeping away…”, he exclaims with conviction. But the Italians themselves are encouraged by the poet to fight and remember examples from the heroic history of his country, not to forget her great sons. Turning to Venice, he recalls the “thousand-year freedom” – the poet can not see it resigned to the loss of independence, because only in the struggle “the soul of the people is ripening and growing.” In Ferarre, the lyrical hero recalls Torquato Tasso, an outstanding poet, who was declared insane by order of the duke and kept in custody for seven years. The name of the Duke would have been long forgotten, Byron writes, if his atrocities “did not entwine the poet’s fate.” Poets, thinkers and heroes of Italy are dear to everyone, Byron calls Florence – the birthplace of Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio – “an ungrateful city,” because there they “do not even have busts.” Rome was “the land of his dreams,” and he devoted a lot of stanzas. Through monuments, ruins, the poet’s sight tends to penetrate into the depths of centuries, to revive in his imagination the long-gone times.
The fourth song is filled with descriptions of the sights of Italy, but it shows how the poet seeks to overcome the romantic idea of the historical experience of mankind and, restraining his fantasy so as not to go into abstract reasoning, often amazes the foresight of the future. In stanzas dedicated to the French Revolution, Byron expresses the hope that in the future “the sown seeds… will not give a bitter fruit”.
As well as in the previous songs, the poet enthusiastically sings the nature: unforgettably the description of the sea in the finale, a picture conveying the beauty of Velino waterfall. According to Byron, it is nature that enables man to come into contact with eternity. Eternity in the mind of the poet is a category unchanged. Time is fleeting, it is in motion. The running of time often plunges the poet into despondency and sadness, but with him he connects and hopes that those who slander him will be exposed, because only Time is “the judgments of the false faithful ruler.”
The poem “Childe Harold’s pilgrimage” was completed. She absorbed the life experience of Byron from his youth to the beginning of the most fruitful period of creativity.