The most famous of Byron’s poems is Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. The poem was created in parts. The first two of her songs were written during Byron’s trip to Portugal, Spain, Albania, Greece. The third song – on the shores of Lake Geneva after the final departure from England, the fourth song is completed already in Italy in 1817.
Two initial songs of the poem were published on February 29, 1812 and immediately won the hearts of readers. “One fine morning I woke up and found out that I was famous,” Byron recalled.
All four songs are united by one hero. The image of Childe Harold entered the world literature as an image of a completely new hero, whom literature had not yet known. It embodies the most characteristic features of the enlightened part of the younger generation of the Romantic era. Byron himself stated that he wanted to show his hero “the way he is” at this time and in this reality, although “it would be nicer and probably easier to portray a more attractive face.”
Who is the “pilgrim” Childe Harold? Already at the beginning of the poem the author presents his hero:
A young man lived in Albion. His age
He dedicated only to idle entertainment
In crazy thirst for joy and nig…
It is the offspring of an ancient and once glorious family. It would seem that he should be satisfied with life and happy. But unexpectedly for himself, “in the
There was talk of satiety in him,
The disease of the mind and heart is fatal,
And it seemed like a vile all around:
Prison – homeland, grave – father’s house…
Harold is eager for strangers, unknown to him, he craves change, danger, storms, adventures – anything, just to get away from what he was disgusted with:
The inheritance, the house, the patrimonial estates, the
lovely ladies whose laughter he loved so much…
He exchanged for the winds and fogs,
For the roar of the southern waves and the barbaric countries.
The new world, the new countries gradually open their eyes to a different life full of suffering and disasters and so far from its former secular life. In Spain, Harold is no longer that secular dandy, as he described at the beginning of the poem. The great drama of the Spanish people, forced to choose between “obedience or the grave,” fills it with anxiety, hardens the heart. At the end of the first song is a moody, disillusioned man in the world. He is burdened by the whole way of life of an aristocratic society, he finds no sense either in the earthly or in the afterlife, he is swearing and suffering. Such a hero, neither English nor European literature, did not yet know.
However, already in the second chapter, after finding himself in the mountains of Albania, Harold, although still “desires is alien, careless”, but is already yielding to the beneficial influence of the majestic nature of this country and its people – proud, brave and freedom-loving Albanian mountaineers. In the hero, responsiveness, sincere generosity, and ever less dissatisfaction and longing in him are manifested. The soul of the misanthrope Harold begins to sort of recover.
After Albania and Greece, Harold returns to his homeland and plunges into a “whirlwind of secular fashion,” into “a swathe in the hall where the bustle is boiling,” He again begins to pursue the desire to flee from this world of empty vanity and aristocratic swagger. But now “his goal… is worthy than then.” Now he knows for sure that “among the desert mountains his friends”. And he “takes the pilgrim’s staff again” …
Since the publication of the “Pilgrimage Childe Harold” readers identified the hero of the poem with the author himself, although Byron categorically objected to this, insisting that the hero is fictional. Indeed, the author and his hero have a lot in common, even if only in biography. However, Byron’s spiritual appearance is immeasurably richer and more complex than the appearance of the character he created. Nevertheless, the desired “line” between him and his hero was never held, and in the fourth song of the poem Childe Harold is not even mentioned at all. “In the last song, the pilgrim appears less frequently than in the previous ones, and therefore he is less divided from the author who speaks here on his own behalf,” Byron admitted.
Childe Harold is a sincere, profound, though very contradictory man who is disillusioned with the “light”, in his aristocratic environment, runs away from her, passionately seeks new ideals. This image soon became the embodiment of the “Byronic” hero in the literature of many European countries in the era of Romanticism.