Byron – Occasional Pieces (1811)

1811 is an interesting year for Byron’s work, because it ends on such a vastly different tone than which it began. It ends with two poems to Thyrza, and looking ahead, it seems Thyrza is a name he dotes on for quite some time. In itself, this is unusual, given the number of women who tear out the young Byron’s heart until this point. Early 1811 poems continue much the same as those few from 1810, halfhearted love-pieces, fragments, translations, bits of humor about travel, and at times as in ‘To Dives’ we get the sense that he’s trying to write from a height he simply cannot believe. So we move from:

Then, in my solitary nook,
Return to scribbling, or a book,
Or take my physic while I’m able
(Two spoonfuls hourly by the label)

to:

The pledge we wore–I wear it still,
But where is thine?–Ah! Where art thou?
Oft have I borne the weight of ill,
But never bent beneath till now!

A stanza that recalls many of his earliest pieces to girls who promised their love and then ran off. But something about this writing is more believable, perhaps it’s the simplicity and the loss for words, it seems far more emotional than his early work, more desperate, more pleading, and Byron’s treatment of death turns from a teenage fantasy to something far more real. In October he’s writing about her, and in December also, and looking ahead, into February still. Of course, I don’t know if she is real, and if not, then Byron has merely matured on his own–but I’ve been looking for a turning point, and up until now 1811 didn’t seem to offer much hope of one until I reached these poems today. Finally appears the man who will write Don Juan

Sweet Thyrza! waking as in sleep,
Thou art but now a lovely dream;
A star that trembled o’er the deep,
Then turn’d from earth its tender beam.
But he who through life’s dreary way
Must pass, when heaven is veil’d in wrath,
Will long lament the vanish’d ray
That scatter’d gladness o’er his path.

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