‘When we two parted, Childe Harold, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Don Juan, George Gordon, George Gordon Lord Byron, Greek War of Independence, he Prisoner of Chillon, he two Foscari, Lord Byron, Lyrical Ballads, Marino Falieri, ottava rima, poems, Poetry, Robert Browning, Robert Southey, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, She walks in beauty, So we’ll go no more a’roving, The Lost Leader, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, William Wordsworth
The publication in 1798 of Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge certainly transformed poetry. Though The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was the most memorable (and by far the longest) poem in the book, Harold Bloom was right to single out Wordsworth as the seminal force in the enterprise, and he went on over the years to exemplify the new approach of an interpreting and interpreted consciousness. Or, rather, one should say he did this in the limited period in which he remained a major poetic force for, as Bloom notes, before long he was spent poetically, and turned into a rather sad old figure.
He was appointed Poet Laureate, in succession to his more radical and then more conservative contemporary Robert Southey, and became, in the words of a much younger poet, Robert Browning, ‘The Lost Leader’ (1845). But the change had been bewailed even earlier, by the generation of poets that immediately succeeded Wordsworth’s, notably in ‘To Wordsworth’ that Shelley published in 1816.
The leader of that group of poets was George Gordon, Lord Byron. Born in 1788, he was older than both Shelley and Keats and outlived them both, though like them he died comparatively young. He was only 36 when he died, in Missolonghi, where he had gone to join in the Greek War of Independence. More than a hundred and fifty years later, I was at a Conference in Missolonghi organized by the Byron Society to celebrate his continuing influence.