When Pushkin’s pen was born a winged line that exhaustively defined the face and character of his beloved hero: “Moskvich in Harold’s Cloak,” its creator, I think, was not at all eager to impress compatriots striking in the face with originality. Its purpose, it is reasonable to assume, was not so ambitious, although no less responsible: to place in one word the prevailing mood of time, to give a capacious embodiment of the worldview position and at the same time – the everyday, behavioral “pose” of a rather wide circle of noble youth (not only Russian, but and European), whose consciousness of their own estrangement from the surrounding was molded into forms of romantic protest.
The most vivid exponent of this critical attitude was Byron, and the literary hero who most fully and consummately embodied this ethical-emotional complex was the title character of his extensive, lyrical poem “The Pilgrimage of Childe Harold” created almost a decade ago, a work to which Byron is indebted was a sensational international fame.
Containing a lot of diverse events of a stormy author’s biography, this written “Spencer’s strophe” (the name of this form goes back to the name of the English poet of Elizabethan epoch Edmund Spencer, the author of the once famous “Fairy Queen”) a poem of travel experiences, born from the experience of young Byron’s travels by the countries of South and South-Eastern Europe in 1809-1811. and the subsequent life of the poet in Switzerland and Italy (third and fourth songs), fully expressed the lyric power and unprecedented ideological and thematic breadth of Byron’s poetic genius.
Her creator had every reason in writing to his friend John Hobhouse, the addressee of her dedication, to characterize “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” as “the largest, richest in thought and the broadest in scope from my works”. For decades, becoming the standard of romantic poetics on a pan-European scale, it entered the history of literature as an exciting, heartfelt testimony “about time and about oneself” that survived its author.
Innovative against the background of Byron’s modern English (and not only English) poetry was not only the view of reality, embodied in the “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”; the novelty was essentially a romantic relationship between the protagonist
and the narrator, in many ways similar, but, as Byron stressed in the foreword to the first two songs (1812) and in addition to the preface (1813), not identical to each other.
Anticipating many creators of a romantic and constructive orientation, particularly in Russia (for example, the author of the “Hero of Our Time” M. Yu. Lermontov, not to mention Pushkin and his novel “Eugene Onegin”), Byron stated in the hero of his work the disease of the century : “the early depravity of the heart and the disregard of morality lead to satiety with past pleasures and disappointment in the new, and the beauty of nature, and the joy of travel, and in general all motives, with the exception of only ambition, the most powerful of all, are lost for souls and, so created, or rather, falsely directed. “
Nevertheless, it is this largely imperfect character that appears to be the container of secret hopes and thoughts of the contemporaries who are extremely perceptive to the evils of modern times and the past from the maximalistic humanistic positions of the poet, before whose name the priests, hypocrites, zealots of official morality and philistines of not only prudish Albion, but also all the monarchs and reactionaries of Europe that groaned under the burden of the “Holy Alliance”. In the final song of the poem this fusion of the narrator and his hero reaches its climax, incarnating into an artistic whole, new for the great poetic forms of the nineteenth century. This whole can be defined as unusually sensitive to the conflicts of the surrounding thinking consciousness, which, in justice, is the main character of the “Childe Harold Pilgrimage.”
This consciousness can not be called otherwise than the most delicate seismograph of reality; and what in the eyes of an unbiased reader appears as the unconditional artistic merits of an agitated lyrical confession, naturally becomes an almost insurmountable obstacle when you try to “translate” the fluttering Byron’s stanzas into the register of an impartial chronicle. The poem is essentially plotless; all its narrative “beginnings” comes down to several, unintentionally dropped lines about an English youth from a noble family who, by nineteen years, was fed up with a favorite set of secular pleasures, disillusioned with the intellectual abilities of compatriots and the charms of compatriots and – starting to travel.
In the first song, Childe visits Portugal, Spain; in the second – Greece, Albania, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul; in the third, after his return and a short stay in his homeland – Belgium, Germany and for a long time lingers in Switzerland; Finally, the fourth is devoted to the Byron’s lyrical hero’s journey to the cities of Italy that preserve the traces of the majestic past. And only looking closely at what separates us from the environment, which snatches from the kaleidoscopic variety of landscapes, architectural and ethnographic beauties, everyday signs, everyday situations, a tenacious, piercing, in the full sense of the word, thinking eye of the narrator, we can take for ourselves the notion that, what in the civil, philosophical and purely human terms this hero is Byronic’s poetic “I”
And then you are suddenly convinced that the lengthy, five thousand verses lyrical narrative of the “Pilgrimage of Childe Harold” is in a sense nothing more than an analog of the current review of international events familiar to our contemporaries. Even stronger and shorter: hot spots, if you do not fear a boring newspaper stamp. But the review, which is as alien as possible to any class, national, party, confessional prejudice. Europe, like now, at the turn of the third millennium, is engulfed by the flames of large and small military conflicts; Its fields are strewn with piles of weapons and the bodies of the dead. And if Childe is a slightly distanced observer of dramas and tragedies unfolding before his eyes, Byron, who stands behind him, on the contrary, never misses an opportunity to express his attitude to what is happening,
So in Portugal, the strict beauty of whose landscapes enchant the stranger (song 1-I). In the meat grinder of the Napoleonic wars, this country became a bargaining chip in the conflict of major European powers; And Byron has no illusions about the true intentions of their ruling circles, including those that determine the foreign policy of his own island homeland. So in Spain, blinding the splendor of colors and fireworks of national temperament. He devotes a lot of beautiful lines to the legendary beauty of Spanish women, capable of touching the heart of the child who is fed up with everything in the world (“But there is not a blood of Amazons in the Spaniards, \ For the love of the devil there is created a virgin”). But it is important that the narrator sees and portrays the bearers of these charms in a situation of mass social upheaval, in an atmosphere of nationwide resistance to Napoleonic aggression: “Beloved wounded – she does not shed tears, \ Pal is the captain – she leads the squad, \ They run away – she screams: go ahead! \ And the onslaught of the new dared the enemy avalanche. Who will make it easier for a slain death? Who will take revenge if the best soldier has fallen? Who will inspire the man with courage? \ Everything, all of it! When the haughty gall \ Before the women so shamefully retreated? “
So in the moaning under the heel of Ottoman despotism of Greece, whose heroic spirit the poet tries to revive, recalling the heroes of Thermopylae and Salamina. So in Albania, stubbornly defending its national identity, even at the cost of everyday bloody revenge on the invaders, at the cost of a total conversion of the entire male population into intrepid, ruthless giaours, threatening the sleepy peace of the Turks-oppressors.
Other intonations appear on the lips of Byron-Harold, slowing down a step on the grandiose ashes of Europe – Waterloo: “He beat your hour, and where is the Great, the Power?” Everything – Power and Strength – turned into smoke. \ The last time, more invincible, \ The eagle soared – and fell from heaven, pierced… “
Once again summing up the paradoxical lot of Napoleon, the poet is convinced: the military confrontation, bringing innumerable sacrifices to the peoples, does not bring liberation (“That death is not tyranny – only a tyrant”). Sober, with all the obvious “heretical” for his time, and his reflections on Lake Leman – the refuge of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, like Voltaire, who invariably delighted Byron (canticle 3).
French philosophers, the apostles of Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood, awakened the people to an unprecedented riot. But are the ways of retribution always righteous, and does the fateful seed of its own future defeat carry in itself the revolution? “And the trace of their fatal will is terrible. \ They tore the veil from Truth \ By destroying the false representations of the system, \ And the innermost eyes appeared. \ They mixed the Good and the Evil began \ All the past was overthrown. \ For what? \ To the new throne the offspring founded. \ To build a prison for him, \ And the world once again saw the violence of triumph. “
“It should not, can not last long!” – exclaims the poet, who has not lost faith in the original idea of historical justice.
The spirit is the only thing that does not cause doubt in Byron; in the futility and vicissitudes of the destinies of the powers and civilizations, he is the only torch whose light can be fully trusted: “So let us think boldly! We defend \ The last fort among the common fall. \ Let at least you remain mine, \ The holy right of thought and judgment, You, God’s gift! “
The only pledge of true freedom, he fills the meaning with being; the pledge of human immortality, according to Byron’s thought, is an inspired, inspired creativity. Therefore, it is hardly by chance that the apotheosis of the Harold wanderings around the world becomes Italy (the 4th song), the cradle of universal human culture, a country where eloquent stones of the tombs of Dante, Petrarch, Tasso, the ruins of the Roman Forum, the Colosseum eloquently declare their greatness. The humiliated destiny of the Italians at the time of the “Holy Alliance” becomes for the narrator a source of unflagging spiritual pain and, at the same time, a stimulus to action.
Well-known episodes of the “Italian period” of Byron’s biography are a kind of off-screen commentary on the final song of the poem. The poem itself, including the unique image of its lyrical hero, is a symbol of the author’s faith that bequeathed to the contemporaries and descendants the unshakable principles of his philosophy of life: “I learned the adverbs others, \ To strangers I was not a stranger. \ Who is independent, in his element, \ In whatever he would have landed, – \ And between people, and where there is no housing. \ But I was born on the island of Liberty \ And Reason – there my native land… “