dr. sc. Janja Ciglar-Žanić, red. prof.
08 January 2013
The Byronic Hero and Russian Romanticism
George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, or simply Lord Byron, was a British poet of Scottish descent who is today considered to be the most influential British poet of the Romantic period (Catherine B. O'Neill calls him "the best-known nineteenth-century British poet outside England"). His adventourous character and wild but appealing works made him famous throughout Europe. He died in Greece during the country's war of Independence and became a legend. He was only 36 when he died but his influence was massive. His works, mostly Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and Don Juan, but also Mazeppa, the Corsair and the Prisoner of Chillon were read among the intelectual elite of the whole Europe and many poets and intelectuals became inspired to write their own works in style of Byron. It was the idea of national identity, so popular in the 19th century, that Byron supported during his life, and the fact that he wrote about the exotic lands and their pains under the tyranny of the oppressors that made him especially popular in moulding of the new nations and their identities in southern and eastern Europe (Hocutt: "Byron's influence as individual and author seemed always to have greater impact outside of England than within his prudish homeland. While imitators and admirers of Byron the individual and author could be found throughout Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, and Russia, little more than harsh criticism for his works and exile for his lifestyle emanated from his sometimes beloved, sometimes criticized native Britain, even after his death."). Apart from his political influence, he was just as appealing to the youth who saw his quests and deeds as an impetus to rebel. In the eyes of his time, Byron was primarily looked upon as an outlaw, an immoral man. He had an affair with his stepsister and was openly sceptic of religion and political institutions. His works were filled with descriptions of decandence and abomination. His demonic heroes with weak moral compass became iconic for the writers who would be influenced by Byron. Catherine B. O'Neill wrote: Childe Harold took the world by storm because of many features that we now think of as characteristic of Romantic poetry: the subjective experience of the natural world, the high degree of identification between the author and the hero, the motif of a journey that is simulatneously literal and psychological, and, primarily, the isolated hero's mysterious disenchantment and heartache. The Byronic hero had become a specific literary type of hero who very much resembles the writer alone. It is usually a young male (although there are female examples) who is constantly bored and unsatisfied. His spleen drives him to a constant search for new sensations, which rarely give him pleasure. He prefers solitude to the company of others and feels much more connected to nature than to people: Now Harold finds himself at lenght alone,
And bade to Christian tongues a long adieu;
Now he adventur'd on a shore unknown, Which all admire, but many dread to view:
His breast was arm'd `gainst fate, his wants were few; Peril he sought not, but ne'er shrank to meet,
The scene was savage, but the scene was new;
This made the ceaseless toil of travel sweet,
Beat back keen winter's blast, and welcom'd summer's heat. He finds particular characteristics of savageness to be more truthfull than society of his day which he finds corrupt and dishonest: The royal vices of our age demand
A keener weapon, and a mightier hand.
He takes great pleasure in satirizing contemporary events and social currents: Prepare for rhyme-I`ll publish, right or wrong:
Fools are my theme, let Satire be my song.
It is no secret that Byron shaped his...
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