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THE person here addressed as Ianthe was a girl of less than eleven years of age, Lady Charlotte Harley, second daughter of the Earl of Oxford. 1. Those climes, &c. ;-Spain and Turkey.
straying ;—the rhyme here is double, i.e. on two syllables. There is no instance of this in the first two Cantos, though in the last two it is not uncommon. The poet seems at first to have intentionally avoided it as being undignified, and only to have admitted it in this place owing to the playful character of the Dedication. See Essay on Style, 4. C., p. 44.
3. those visions ... displaying ;-for those visions that display.' 4. but ... only ;-one of these words is superfluous.
6. shall I vainly seek ;— shall I seek to do what would be impossible for me.'
9. What language could they speak ?—'what could they tell, which was not already far better understood ?'
13. his wing :- his inconstancy,' his wish to rove.'
17. the rainbow of, &c.;—that which is to illuminate her future years. The rainbow is also the emblem of hope; cp. 4. 642, 1519.
19. Peri ;-Persian term for a fairy.
23, 24. Happy . . . Happier ;-*I am happy in this, that — and happier still in this, that,
26. whose admiration shall succeed ;-'succeed' here means after'; 'who shall admire thee in the future.'
27. But mix'd ;- but whose admiration shall be mixed.'
28. the Gazelle's ;—the gazelle is a species of antelope; it is often taken in the East as an emblem of beauty.
36. with my wreath one matchless lily blend ;—the wreath ’ is the garland of poetry; the 'lily' is the emblem of purity.
37. Such is thy name, &c. ;—such as a lily introduced into a wreath.
38. kinder ;-more than usually kind.'
-as it stands first. 41. My days once number'd ;—'when my earthly career is closed," when I am dead.'
42. Attract thy fairy fingers near the lyre ;-induce thee to read over the poem.' Fingering the lyre' is calling out its latent tones; so, reading over an old poem is calling out afresh its meaning.
43. Who haild thee ;-'invoked thee in his dedication.'
Prefatory note on Spain and Portugal at the time of Byron's visit.
As the struggle for freedom in the Peninsula is the key-note of this Canto, it may be well to preface it by a notice of the events which had recently occurred in that country.
In 1807, Napoleon, in order to attack England's southern ally, Portugal, required the Prince Regent of that country to detain all Englishmen residing there, and to confiscate all the English property in Portugal. When this demand was refused, orders were given to Junot, Napoleon's general, to march across Spain and seize Lisbon. The Portuguese royal family, however, had already taken their determination of leaving the country in case of a French invasion, and at the moment when Junot's troops came in sight of the capital, the fleet on board of which they had embarked was setting sail for Brazil.
The court of Spain was at this period in alliance with France. The king, Charles IV, was a weak and indolent man, and the chief power was in the hands of a court favourite, Godoy, who was the queen's paramour, and held the office of prime minister. It was by promising this man the southern part of Portugal as a principality for himself that Napoleon persuaded the Spanish authorities to allow his forces to pass through to Lisbon. As soon, however, as he had subdued that country, he turned his arms against Spain, and gradually made himself master of the northern provinces, until at last the king and queen were on the point of leaving Madrid for Seville, with the idea of following the example of their Portuguese neighbours, and retiring to their American dominions. But this was prevented by the populace, and ultimately Charles abdicated in favour of his son, Ferdinand VII. Napoleon was not slow to profit by these dissensions, and by various pretences he enticed all these royal personages, and Godoy also, into France, and appointed his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, king of Spain.
It was at this time that England came to the help of the Spaniards, who were organising resistance in various parts of the country; and during the summer of 1808, Sir Arthur Wellesley (Wellington) landed on the coast of Portugal with 10,000 men, and shortly afterwards defeated the French in the battle of Vimiera. He was superseded, however, by the Home Government, and his successor in the chief command, Sir Hew Dalrymple, signed a convention greatly to the advantage of the French, by which Junot was enabled safely to evacuate Portugal at the moment when his army was threatened with annihilation. The most humiliating point in the agreement was the provision that the French troops should be conveyed to the coast of France at the expense of England and in British vessels, and should be landed there without any stipulation that they should not immediately serve again. This convention has been wrongly called the Convention of Cintra,' in consequence of Dalrymple's despatches on that subject being dated from Cintra, for the scene of the negotiations was at some distance from that place. Then followed the retreat of Sir John Moore, who had penetrated too far into Spain, and his death at Corunna, after he had succeeded in embarking his troops. Shortly after this Sir Arthur Wellesley was finally appointed general-in-chief, and during the spring of 1809 he drove the French out of Portugal, which they had once more invaded under Soult's command. It was in the summer of that year that Byron's visit occurred, and while he was riding with Hobhouse from Lisbon to Seville the important battle of Talavera was fought.
1-9. In invoking the Muse (for his apology for not invoking her amounts to the same thing), Byron follows what had become a traditional custom at the commencement of a long poem. Homer set the example, both in the Iliad and Odyssey; and this was imitated by the chief epic poets- Virgil (Aen. 1. 8); Dante, both in the Inferno (2. 7), and in the Purgatorio (1. 8), while in the Paradiso he invokes Apollo (1.13); Tasso (Gerus. Lib. 1. 2. I); and Milton (Par. Lost, 1. I and 7. 1). In burlesque of this custom, Byron begins Canto 3 of Don Juan with 'Hail, Muse ! cetera.'
The first stanza was not in the original manuscript of the poem, but was added after the author's return to England. If we did not know this from other evidence, we might learn it from the mention of his visit to Delphi, for Childe Harold was commenced in Albania, before he had
visited Greece. He celebrates his first view of Pamassus in st. 60 of this Canto, In writing this exordium he seems to have experienced the difficulty which he himself elsewhere describes (Don Juan, 4. I, 2);
• Nothing so difficult as a beginning
In poesy, unless perhaps the end'for this first stanza is not very good, and certainly rather obscure. The same thing is true of the two last stanzas of Canto 2, which also were a later addition, and were 'the end of the first portion of the poem.
Line 1. Hellas ;—the name by which the inhabitants of Greece designated their country.
deen'd of heavenly birth ;-this appears to have a sarcastic force, implying that the moderns do not look to heaven for their inspiration, as the Greeks did.
2. form’d or fabled ;-'imagined or described in words.' It seems somewhat awkward, when invoking the Muse, to speak of her at the same time as a creation of the poet. 3. since shamed ;—very elliptical for ‘since [thou hast been] humiliated.'
later lyres ;--the poets his contemporaries ; cp. 2. 885, louder minstrels in these later days.'
on earth ;—this gives the reason for what is said in the next line: • I will not call thee to earth, because thou hast been so often humi. liated there.'
4. thy sacred hill ;—the verses which follow show that Parnassus is meant, not Helicon, though the latter mountain was the more recognised abode of the Muses ; so Tasso says, Gerus. Lib. 1. 2. 1, 2 :
• O Musa tu, che di caduchi allori
Non circondi la fronte in Elicona.' By a pardonable inaccuracy, Byron elsewhere in this Canto speaks of the Muses as having deserted Parnassus ; see 11. 620, 635.
5. Yet there I've wander'd ;- yet [I might have some claim to do so, for] there I've wandered.'
thy vaunted rill ;—the fountain of Castalia, which gushes from the foot of the cliffs in the neighbourhood of Delphi, on the side of Parnassus. The Muses had a temple near the spring. “Vaunted' is in contrast with 'feeble fountain' two lines below.
6. Delphi's long deserted shrine ;—the Delphic oracle finally ceased to be consulted in the reign of Theodosius the Great, at the end of the fourth century A.D.
8. mote ;-archaic for ' may,' 'is free to': it is a part of the verb from which ' must 'comes (Skeat, Etym. Dict., s.v. must). On the archaisms in Childe Harold, see Essay on Style, 1. h., p. 36.
shell ;— lyre.' Hermes made the first lyre by stretching strings on a tortoise-shell; hence Gr. xé us and Lat. testudo are used for 'the lyre.'
the weary Nine ;--the Muses, worn out by inferior poems and invocations.
10. Whilome ;-archaic for .formerly,'' once.' 11. ne ;-archaic for not.'
12. uncouth ;—'unseemly,' an earlier meaning of the word than the modern sense of clumsy.'
13. vex'd with mirth the drowsy ear of Night ;-kept up his dissipation far into the night. Night is here personified, and as she represerts the time of sleep, is described as drowsy. Similarly, as night is veiled in darkness, Milton, in his Ode on the Nativity, describes the light of the heavenly host as illuminating the shamefaced night.'
15. Sore ;– very much’; the word is constantly used in this sense in the English Bible.
18. flaunting wassailers ;-'gay boon-companions'; the word · flaunting' implies impudent showiness. The life here described is a sort of travesty of that led by Byron and his college friends at Newstead shortly before he started on his travels. To judge from a letter by one of their number, C. S. Matthews, which is given in Moore's Life of Byron (p. 82), their behaviour at that time would seem to have been rather that of unruly schoolboys.
19. Childe Harold ;— Childe' was a mediaeval title of knights and squires: the ballad of Childe Waters, which Byron refers to in his Preface, is found in Percy's Reliques, vol. iii. p. 94. In the original draft of Byron's poem the name was ‘Childe Burun,' that being the early form of his family name. On the question how far the poet's own character is portrayed in that of Childe Harold, see Introd. p. 24.
hight ;-'called’; cp. Germ. heissen, 'to be called.'
but whence his name, &c.;~' but whence [were derived] his name and lineage.'
21. perchance they were of fame ;—perchance' is inserted, not to throw doubt on the statement, but to qualify the apparent boastfulness.
of fame;—' famous'; for other instances of 'of' with the substantive in place of an adjective cp. 1. 209, 'fruits of fragrance’; 4. 657, thunder-hills of fear.' 22, in another day ;-'at a previous period.'
23. But one sad losel soils a name for aye ;- but one deplorable prodigal brings disrepute on a name for ever.'
25. all that heralds rake from coffin’d clay ;-'all that those who investigate genealogies hunt out from the memorials of the dead.' • Rake' expresses ' searching with difficulty’; so Burke speaks of Peculation as ‘raking in the dust of an empty treasury.'
26. forid prose ;—'encomiums.' 27. blazon ;-'embellish.'