According to Everyman’s Library, yesterday was the day romantic poet George Gordon Byron died in Missolonghi, almost two centuries ago.
Byron may be more widely known as a rather volatile figure, the man that inspired the famous ‘Byronic Hero’, like Carlotte Brontë’s Mr. Rochester and her sister Emily’s Heathcliff. Or renowned are perhaps his literary-wise proliferous days too at Villa Diodati along with the Shelleys, Polidori and Clairmont–days, which gave birth to the groundwork for Frankenstein and The Vampyre.
However, in Greece Byron is something else–or rather, something more. And let me elaborate a tiny bit:
The Greeks regard Byron as the most beloved philhellene, who joined them in their fight for freedom and independence against the Ottomans. The numerous landmarks about him in this country are a testimony to this (in fact, the second time I came across such a Byron reference, I decided to try and keep ‘tracking’ Lord Byron throughout Greece.~).
So, when during my last year at elementary school the time came again for the annual celebration of the Greek War of Independence, I chose to participate in it with a piece of this renowned philhellene. ~
Ultimately, Byron’s figure is very dear to me, as I’ve combined it with one of my first glimpses into the wonder that is the English literature. He died at the age of 36 in 1824–the same year he wrote the piece I recited at my school’s celebration. I’ll leave the poet himsef say the rest:
‘On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year’
(by Lord Geroge Gordon Byron – Extract)
Such thoughts should shake my soul nor now,
Where glory decks the hero’s bier,
Or binds his brow.
The sword, the banner, and the field,
Glory and Greece, around me see!
The Spartan, borne upon his shield,
Was not more free.
Awake! (not Greece–she is awake!)
Awake, my spirit! Think through whom
Thy life-blood tracks its parent lake,
And then strike home!
Tread those reviving passions down,
Unworthy manhood!–unto thee
Indifferent should the smile or frown
Of beauty be.
If thou regrett’st thy youth, why live?
The land of honourable death
Is here:–up to the field, and give
Away thy breath!
Seek out–less often sought than found–
A soldier’s grave, for thee the best;
Then look around, and choose thy ground,
And take thy rest.” ~
Into poetry and looking for something new to discover? Drop by my review for the film Dongju: The Portrait of Poet and get acquainted with the brilliant Korean poet and independence fighter Yun Dong-joo.