This is the book that made Lord Byron (George Gordon) famous. He was a published and a known poet, but until this book took the English-speaking world by storm in 1812, he was not a famous poet.
He was, however, a celebrity. As an aristocrat whose personal life was considered shockingly scandalous - and even today would be good stuff for celebrity gossip magazines - his name was known. His previous work was received out of a mixture of literary merit and personal notoriety. This book directly capitalizes on that. Childe Harold narrates the experiences of a young nobleman, sated with the wine, women, and song of his native England, who goes forth in search of the wine, women, song, and adventure of Spain, Greece, and the Ottoman Empire.
The book is literally an armchair travelogue in rhyming couplets, quite unlike anything before or since. He expresses himself in vivid, forceful and emotional language on the landscapes, people, customs, and cultures he encounters, and shapes his experience into a deep study of that subject so favored by all the Romantic poets - himself.
This performance of the work is underscored at intervals with excerpts from the music of Byron's contemporary, John Field, often regarded as the inventor of the nocturne - a form of Romantic music very well suited to the romanticism of the poet and his work.
Public Domain (P)2010 Robert Bethune
The audio of this great poem is compromised by two problems: piano music intrudes at the end of each section, drowning out the words for a stanza at a time, and the narrator, Robert Bethune, turns in an eccentric performance. His reading isn't bad exactly, as his pacing is good and he stresses the right syllables. However, his voice has a slightly nasal tone, and he has a tendency to swoop and soar, coming dangerously close to a sing-song delivery. While this can be a little annoying, it is still much better than having no poem at all. Maybe I'll get used to it.
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