The Byronic Hero

Lord Byron in Albanian dress, by Thomas Phillips (National Portrait Gallery)

Lord Byron, taking the Romantic pathos to the next level:

From my youth upwards
My spirit walk’d not with the souls of men,
Nor look’d upon the earth with human eyes;
The thirst of their ambition was not mine,
The aim of their existence was not mine;
My joys, my griefs, my passions, and my powers
Made me a stranger; though I wore the form,
I had no sympathy with breathing flesh (1)

By the way, I have to recommend the book from that adventurer and perhaps fabulator of Edward John Trelawny (The Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron). Very entertaining indeed. His unsympathetic view of Byron (as opposed to his unconditional admiration for Shelley) only serves to increase Byron’s legend as the archetypical “poète maudit”. Take for instance the day (if I remember it correctly) when him and Byron find Shelley’s dead body after a shipwreck: According to Trelawny, Byron wanted to keep the skull, so he could drink from it. It does seem that Byron was, after all, “mad, bad and dangerous to know” as Lady Caroline Lamb would put it.

(1) Manfred, Act II, Scene II

Ladies With Visions

Hildegard in trance (in the spiritual sense, not in the musical one), Image taken from Wikipedia

Joan of Arc leading the French to remarkable victories over the English, after following direct orders from Saints.

The Spanish nun Teresa of Ávila, experiencing visions and writing high voltage poems that were almost sexual in nature (note the vision of the cherub with the dart, piercing her heart and entrails until she moans from the pain and the tenderness this love for God produces).

Hildegard of Bingen, the German nun that, besides writing down her visions in books, composed plenty of very cool music; not a small feat for a woman living in the 12th century.

This be the poem

This poem belongs to the Hellenistic poet Philodemus. It is a poem that could have been written by a minimalist in recent times, except it was written two thousand years ago.

I’ve been in love. Who hasn’t? I went out and got drunk. Who hasn’t? I was out of my mind.Who did it? Some god, no doubt. Well, let it go. White hairs come in place of the black. It’s a sign of the age of sense. When it was time to play, I played. Now that it isn’t, I’ll try to put my mind to better things (1)

(1) Taken from Hellenistic poetry: an anthology. By Barbara Hughes Fowler