Byron at Play in the Alps

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The way Byron staged ‘The pageant of his bleeding heart’ across Europe
in 1816, as Arnold rather cold-heartedly put it, is clear to anyone who
reads his work from this time. Whether it is Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
(the work uppermost in Arnold’s mind), the desperate isolation
witnessed in The Prisoner of Chillon, or the pessimism of Manfred, Byron’s poetry from this period has come to symbolise Romantic solitude and tragic despair, where the only possible recompense appears to reside in believing that ‘sorrow is knowledge’. But even in his most melancholic moments, Byron was sympathetically inclined towards the ludic. To read much of his writing from his alpine tour is to be conscious of a poet keen to play with his surroundings, with other writers, and with the various moods of his mind. This article suggests that Byron finds pleasurable amusement during a time of personal and political unease and that his playing in the Alps in 1816 greatly contributes to his turn back to comedy in his final years.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-167
Number of pages13
JournalKeats-Shelley Review
Issue number2
Early online date2 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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