Poetry Review: Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage by George Gordon Byron

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an epic poem in four Cantos about a young man, disillusioned with life, who goes on a tour of Europe, reflecting on wars fought in various countries and their histories, and ultimately deciding that life sucks, and there is no love or peace to be found anywhere. (Yay. So it’s a happy poem.) There are many references to a hidden emotional pain of Harold’s that forced him to leave England and haunts him wherever he goes, marring his enjoyment of life. What that painful secret is, we never find out.

The poetry itself is beautiful, of course, but I was hoping for more of a plot instead of all these ramblings and reflections on history and society. The entire poem is rabbit trails with no real resolution! There’s little to no structure in the story.

Most of the references to history, wars and battles, poets and politicians, were ones that I did not immediately recognize, or although I recognized a historical name, I did not remember the story attached to that person. Who was Sappho? I forget. A poet who killed herself, I think. I don’t know what happened at the Convention of Cintra or the Battle of Morat, so… yeah.

The only thing that Harold finds to console him in his despair is Nature, and there are some beautiful passages about the Swiss Alps, rivers, oceans, and forests. Harold decides that he cannot connect on any meaningful level with others in society, so he must turn to Nature for the peace lacking in the human race.

Mostly, I just let the beautiful words wash over me, and enjoyed what I could.

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