Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Quote of the Day (Lord Byron, on ‘The Moral of All Human Tales’)

“There is the moral of all human tales:
   'Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
   First Freedom, and then Glory—when that fails,
   Wealth, vice, corruption—barbarism at last.” — English Romantic poet George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto IV (1812)
Over the weekend, while watching a DVD of the 1935 horror classic, The Bride of Frankenstein, I groaned for a second as I listened to that sequel’s opening, a framing sequence featuring author Mary Shelley and her circle. The moment that offended me came courtesy of actor Gavin Gordon, playing one of the Shelleys’ dearest friends, Lord Byron.
Whether taking the initiative to try it himself or doing so at the urging of director James Whale, Gordon, a Southerner, spoke his lines in the plummiest possible English accent. To eradicate the impression, I found the above quatrain, much to my relief.
The tough-minded observer of the human spectacle behind these verses was nothing like the creature of the film: a pompous poet in love with his own voice, even while speaking to his friends. In his forecast of the fate of great powers, the real-life Byron also identified the third stage in which America finds itself now: “Wealth, vice, corruption.”

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