Byron among the classics : a study of the influence of classical poetry on the work of lord Byron
This study begins by defining epic to determine if Byron's claims, regarding Don Juan,to be writing an epic, are justified, concluding that though most epics preserve the form ofearlier epics, substituting a different "message" or heroic ethos, Byron, in defiance of thistradition, attempts to preserve the essence of Homeric epic, particularly its new heroicethos, but in a new form. This is where Byron and Vergil's imitations of Homer differ,Byron rejecting both Vergil's manner of imitation and his heroic ethos. In a series ofimitations, Byron parodies Vergil, borrowing his imagery to suggest the unnatural and thesterile. Differences are exposed in their respective treatments of war, Byron advocatingthe self-justifying act of love rather than the consolations of duty and fame offered byVergil, which rely on a perception of cosmic order lacking in Byron's view, a view whichlinks him to Homer and the Attic tragedians. The Greek view of the darkness andconfusion of the cosmos Byron finds congenial, appreciating the opportunities it affordsfor open-endedness, though aware that this open-endedness is always subsumed by largerclosure due to different levels of perspective (actors, chorus, and gods). In ChildeHarold's Pilgrimage, Byron attempts to emulate this multilevelledness as a means todistance himself from the cycles of Nature from which he is painfully excluded due to hismixed body and spirit nature, finally breaking out to channel these cycles of Natureproductively through art. In Byron's dramas, too, there are cycles of evil whose origins liein Attic tragedy. Ever present in Byron, as in classical tragedy, is the Promethean dilemmabetween submission, and defiance leading to inevitable defeat. In his later poetry, Byronis more reconciled to the cycles of life, though continuing his Promethean quest in thefields of love and literature.