Παναγόπουλος Νίκος, Επίκουρος Καθηγητής, Tμήμα Αγγλικής Γλώσσας και Φιλολογίας, ΕΚΠΑ
Mήτση Ευτέρπη, Καθηγήτρια, Tμήμα Αγγλικής Γλώσσας και Φιλολογίας, ΕΚΠΑ
Mαρκίδου Βασιλική, Επίκουρη Καθηγήτρια, Tμήμα Αγγλικής Γλώσσας και Φιλολογίας, ΕΚΠΑ
In Lord Byron’s Grecian verse, Greece is presented through a combination of Romanticism and Orientalism. In such poems as the “The Curse of Minerva,” “The Isles of Greece,” and “January 22nd, Missolonghi,” Byron neither idealizes nor emphasizes Greece’s negative aspects. Instead, inspired by his personal experiences from his travels, the poet acknowledges the contribution of Greek antiquity to European culture, but at the same time cannot ignore its historical reality. By the early 19th century Greece had been reduced to a decadent country which, under Ottoman occupation, had lost its identity. In poems such as The Giaour, The Bride of Abydos, and The Age of Bronze, the poet’s interest is focused not so much on Greece as a country, but on Greece as the locus of ideas, values, and sentiments which Britain sorely needed to reconstruct its future and through which the individual was enabled to rediscover his own inner self.
Byron presents an image of Greece from both a Western and an Eastern perspective. On the one hand, it appears as an Other—a mysterious and undiscovered place to European travelers—and on the other, due to its natural beauty, a familiar place for the Romantic poet, providing him with the means to find himself and escape, even in his imagination, from modern industrial society. Besides its exotic character, the Eastern environment enhances the feelings of nostalgia and melancholy in the poet’s mind, revealing the spiritual unity between Nature and Man, while also embodying various philosophical concepts.
The use of enslaved female characters to personify Greece highlights its political weakness, while prefiguring the colonization of the Orient in the colonization of the female body. At the same time, the feminization of the Orient facilitates the transition from the poet’s unfulfilled Romantic love to his struggle for political ideals, specifically that of freedom against tyranny. Byron also uses the Orient as a vehicle to express his political opinions on current debates such as the question of Greekindependence and Britain’s foreign policy in the region. The introduction of political thinking in Romantic poetry gives voice to the poet’s concerns over national issues while enabling him to offer clear answers to these issues so as to finally find the spiritual salvation he needs.
Byron, Byron's poetry, Romantic Orientalism, Grecian Verse, Discovering the Self