Byron – Occasional Pieces (1809)

What’s wonderful about Byron’s “Stanzas Composed During a Thunder-storm” is that is that he seems finally to have some of the experience necessary to discuss his subjects of choice. Of course, he had love in his past, and indeed the sort of love that would have been novel to publish in English, you know, the cripple being molested by his nanny, that sort. So his early work is generally boring–it’s just too commonplace. And it’s in his later work, as he becomes both cosmopolitan and self-assured that he then deserves to write on the subjects he chooses, and they’re finally believable. This is where it first shows up, though in his “Lines to Mr. Hodgson” he discusses parts of his tour across the Mediterranean, it’s still done with the same lackluster humor that his earlier poems written about going to school or boozing possess. In this one, perhaps he’s guilty of lovely arrogant name-dropping, classical terms, modern cities, but he mixes it with some of the peril we come to expect from this generation of poets, always on the verge of death, kiss me! as well as the repining for lost love that is the hallmark of early Byron. This prepares us for “Childe Harold” as well as “Don Juan”–or at least shows us more of the transition of early Byron into what we know him to become. Also, it’s worth mentioning that he uses the word “panting” — “panting Nature” in his “To Florence” — which is always worth mentioning, as I recall it being a word Shelley uses quite liberally, and, honestly, it’s a wonderful word, a wonderful thing to do, to pant, everyone should pant more often.

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