On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year
The poem is quick to assert that, maybe even provide a caveat, that one should take their life seriously and live their life to the fullest. It’s interesting that Byron beings to reflect on his life at this age, and I find it even more interesting that the poem was written on the last year he would live. One thing Byron emphasizes heavily on this poem is love and compassion. His first lines are an admittance that he does not have a partner by his side (lines 5-8). Many people fear dying alone, and Byron is not immune to such anxiety. Byron is even envious for those who have found love (lines 13-15). The “Chain” Byron says he wears symbolizes loneliness, perhaps even failure. He fears that his ultimate failure in life would be his lack of a companion, and that he cannot fill that void. I think Byron than goes on to say that love is happiness: and to have an absence in love would leave a person empty. Byron realizes he has failed in the one area he defines to be the most important and to recover from that and at least die in an honorable/memorable way is to take the soldier’s death. Since he has no significant other to speak highly of him when he is gone, he could at least have his fellow brothers-in-arms speak of him when he’s gone (most likely due to the soldier’s death). Overall, I’d say Byron is quite malcontented with how he’s lived his life. But I would say he was rather too harsh on himself, he fails to recognize all the great and wonderful things he has achieved in his life. But I also know that no one can determine whether or not someone was successful in life; that can only be determined by how that individual perceives themselves. The poem as a whole seems to be a reflection, but also a sad epiphany that Byron has not done all that he could have done with his life. This leads to the reoccurring theme that has been illustrated by almost all poets of this age: The ‘carpe diem’ seize the day/moment mentality.
At the beginning lines of the poem, Byron sets up the reader to understand that this vision of the future, while not a current reality, could easily become so if mankind does not change his interaction with the environment. A cataclysmic event has occurred in which the sun is destroyed. For the eco-critic, this could be representative of any sort of environmental issue that is the result of man’s irreverence for the Earth – nuclear war, pollution, overpopulation. The poem does not need to explain how the sun was destroyed, just that the event happened and as a result, mankind’s decent into chaos and death was imminent. Mankind’s reaction to the event is to burn both civilization and nature in order to provide fuel to continue its existence. The next section forewarns the reader that following environmental catastrophe will be nothing but destruction. The destruction of nature occurs in the form of the overuse of resources, such as animals for food and trees for fuel. Men and animals would seemingly succumb to an almost hysteric state in which the law of survival becomes the only law, which is heralded as truth. This state of kill or be killed ultimately produced more concerns for the fate of mankind. Not only has the environment begun to be destroyed, here represented by the loss of the sun, but what few resources remain are being consumed at an unsustainable rate. The eco-critic understands that the population of the Earth can and should only become as large as is sustainable by the resources available to it. Byron illustrates this concept through the introduction of famine in the next section of his text. “The crowd was famish’d by degrees; but two of an enormous city did survive, and they were enemies.” The ultimate warning of eco-criticism is that the result of the widespread destruction of the environment is the widespread destruction of the human race. Byron has created a world in which the only two remaining humans cling to...
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