A hero proves his heroism when faced with opposition. He is shrewd,
tough, clear-sighted, experienced, and able to handle adversity in a well
equipped manner. However, unlike most heroes, the Byronic hero does not
receive satisfaction simply from possessing these traits. The Byronic hero
sees himself as an individual who practices non conformity. He is a hero of
consciousness more than a hero of action. These qualities of the Byronic
hero are demonstrated in Lord Byron's description of Napoleon.
Byron begins his description in Stanza 36. He points out that Napoleon
is "Extreme in all things!" I believe that this trait means that the
Byronic hero is neither to the left nor the right, but eternally caught in
the middle of both worlds.
Stanza 38 goes on to say, "Oh, more or less than man-in high or low,
Battling with nations, flying from the field; Now making monarchs' necks thy
footstool, now More than they meanest soldier taught to yield; An empire thou
couldest crush, command, rebuild, But govern not thy pettiest passion, nor,
However deeply in men's spirits skill'd, Look through thine own, nor curb
the lust of war, Nor learn that tempted Fate will leave the loftiest star."
I believe that Lord Byron is saying that Napoleon can crush any nation, only
to rebuild it again, and he can win any war, and have control over thousands
of men. It is the war within himself that he has no control over, that he is
not able to crush. Lines 339-342 are referring to the war which Napoleon is
having with himself, and his inability to control it. This is a very
important characteristic of the Byronic hero. It creates the line that comes
between other heroes and the Byronic hero.
Stanza 39 is saying that even though those who once praised him now mock
him, Napoleon is not going to go quietly in to the night, so to speak. Line
350 says "He stood...
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