"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Two Centos for Byron

Once more through all he bursts his thundering way—
It is not ours to judge,—far less condemn;
The gift—a fate or will that walked astray—
For stories,—but I don’t believe the half of them.
(He made the church a present by the way);
Why doth he gaze on thee, and thou on him?
A heavy price must all pay who thus err,
Beating for love as the caged birds for air.

Lord Byron, Image Credit: NYPL

For my part I say nothing—nothing—but
For me who, wandering with pedestrian Muses,
Pythagoras, Locke, Socrates—but pages
And they were enemies; they met beside
A noble wreck in ruinous perfection!
But something of the spirit of old Greece
Would still, albeit in vain, the heavy heart divest.
Why, I’m Posterity—and so are you;
Give thee back this.—Now for the wilderness.
The wandering outlaw of his own dark mind;
The Arbiter of other’s fate
Obeys thee; thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.
Your next step may be fatal!—for the love
White, cold and pure, as looks a frozen rill,
Death’s a reformer, all men must allow.
The doom he dreads, yet dwells upon—
‘That good but rarely came from good advice.’
‘Gainst such belief, there’s something stronger still
And if you had it o’er again—‘twould pass—
An arrow for the heart like a sweet voice.
The fair most fatal Juan ever met,
His spirit seemed to dare you to forget!

Poet's Note:

The above centos are the poetic equivalent of playing with LEGO pieces. Think of each line as a block stacked on top of other blocks. These two poems are comprised of individual lines taken from several different Byron works. Why play with a dead man's writing in this way? Firstly, because my current poetry mentor, Stephen Fry, told me to as an exercise. Secondly, as Mr. Fry accurately promised me, centos "provide a harmlessly productive way of getting to know a particular poet's way with phrase and form." (The Ode Less Travelled, p. 262)

Here are the Byron poems from which I borrowed lines: Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Epistle to Augusta, Beppo, Manfred, Cain, Don Juan, Darkness, The Giaour, Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte.

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