Thursday, June 16, 2022

Quote of the Day (Lord Byron, on Love and Marriage)

“’Tis melancholy, and a fearful sign
Of human frailty, folly, also crime,
That love and marriage rarely can combine,
Although they both are born in the same clime;
Marriage from love, like vinegar from wine—
A sad, sour, sober beverage — by time
Is sharpen’d from its high celestial flavor
Down to a very homely household savour.” — English Romantic poet George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), Don Juan (1819-1823)
In the most popular month for weddings, it really does go against the grain to post such a cynical view of marriage. And these verses were written by a man spectacularly unfit for this institution—a walking advertisement for scandal who was once famously described by a future lover, Lady Caroline Lamb, as “mad, bad and dangerous to know.”
No matter. Whatever interest might derive from the romantic escapades of Lord Byron, that curiosity would likely fade if these adventures were ranked next to those of history’s other great lotharios. 
There’s a far better, more lasting reason to be fascinated by this poet: his work. And nothing in the rest of his career can quite prepare you for his great, rollicking, mock-epic of the last stage of his short life, Don Juan

Erect whatever defenses you want against Byron's irreverence, but by the time you finish stanzas such as this, it seems to me impossible not to put this poem down without one’s sides shaking with laughter.
(For an interesting blog post on the satirical knock-offs inspired by this poem—which itself was a satirical knock-off—see this post, centered around the work of early 19th-century editor-publisher William Hone, from nine years ago.)

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