The story of a man’s life doesn’t end when he dies.
    Think of old Henry James, building a bonfire in his garden out of half a century’s worth of letters, notebooks, and manuscripts. A few weeks before, he had spent the weekend “wading through masses of ancient indecency” -- Lord Byron’s unpublished correspondence. Fascinated by the revelations of incest, James was also appalled at the invasion of old secrets. He returned home, determined to “frustrate as utterly as possible the post-mortem exploiter.” However, as James especially should have known, frustration only feeds the flames of curiosity. His bonfire has not discouraged biographers; on the contrary, wild speculations have flourished in the absence of hard evidence. Biography gains its interest by virtue of what it does not know. The drama of the genre is the narrative of a pursuit: the greater the obstacles, the more avid the biographer.
    Lord Byron, perpetual symbol of the romantic seeker, has also been the exemplary object of the biographical quest. It is not surprising that reflections on Byron should have provoked Henry James’ pyric stab at privacy, just as rumors of Byron’s lover Claire Clairemont inspired his famous fable of biography, The Aspern Papers. Byron was the first great literary celebrity; he was the harbinger of the age of biography. It may be that no writer has ever been as famous in his own life, and certainly none in the same way. Boswell stirred posthomous interest in Samuel Johnson the man, but he did not delve into the intimate details of the great man’s marriage. Only with Byron did the boundaries of privacy begin to shift. Byron himself deserves much of the credit, or blame. He made himself the explicit subject of his poetry and he did so in such a compelling way that his work has been buried beneath his legend.
    In our contemporary obsession with autobiography, the ghost of Byron haunts us still. These days it may be difficult to imagine an era when the public was more concerned with a writer’s work than his life. Now it does not surprise us if the general public knows more about T.S. Eliot’s troubled marriage than his poetry, or that Shakespeare in Love is more widely seen than Romeo and Juliet. Our culture is endlessly fascinated by the anguished lives of the creative and much less interested in what they create. Byron played a crucial role in shaping the enduring myth of the tormented genius. Other poets may have left a deeper poetic legacy, but none had the impact of Byron on the popular imagination. This is a tribute, not only to the melodrama of his life, but to his vitality and charisma, as it found expression in his verse.
    On the face of it, Byron should be an easy subject for a biographer. Whose life is more eventful?  Where else can we find such variety? Foreign adventures, political engagement, love affairs of every stripe, shocking secrets, endless controversies. There is too much, in fact. The eight hundred pages of Benita Eisler’s new biography ought to be enough to cover thirty-six years, and yet she can barely keep up with the poet’s exhausting pace. Inevitably, the poetry gets short shrift. “No twentieth century biographer has troubled to examine his art,” she comments, and then fails to rectify the situation. She provides useful plot summaries of his narrative poems and offers intelligent, if conventional, analyses. But she does not do for Byron what Richard Holmes has done for Shelley and Coleridge, or what Walter Jackson Bate did for Keats. She has not written the biography of his imagination.
    Part of the problem may be that Byron’s poetry has fallen out of fashion. Of course the market for all poetry has diminished since 1814, the year when The Corsair sold 10,000 copies in a single day. But even among consumers of poetry, Byron is not widely read, compared to, say, Keats or Shelley. One reason is that his short lyrics are not his best work. “So We’ll Go No More A-Roving” and “She Walks in Beauty” (to name the best) may be great, but they don’t seem very significant alongside “Ode to the West Wind” or “To Autumn.” And since excerpts don’t do justice to his narrative masterpiece, Don Juan, Byron probably doesn’t make much of an impression on the casual browser of anthologies.
More profoundly, his style has lost its currency. Byron mocked Keats for “frigging his imagination” and derided Wordsworth as “prosaic raving.” However, Keats and Wordsworth have determined the course of modern poetry in English. The contemporary reader of poetry might not appreciate the wit and elegance of Byron. And the reader looking for lofty sentiments or tragical visions had best be forewarned. His myth is the quintessence of romance, but his best work is fundamentally unromantic. The world may always care more for the famous man, the hero/villain, the legend whose personal items are preserved in museums like the reliquaries of a saint. But the poet is ultimately more interesting than his image, and his gifts of language and imagination will speak to us long after the mementoes have turned to dust.
 
 
    Only in the same imaginary library where we find Henry James’ cremated letters would we be able to enjoy the vivid pleasure of reading Lord Byron’s destroyed autobiography. Although Byron claimed to have “omitted all the really consequential and important parts,” biographers have been gnashing their collective teeth ever since at the burning of those irretrievable revelations. While Byron intended the memoirs to be published, he would also certainly have enjoyed the perpetual extension of his enigma. The dispute which engaged Henry James was only one phase of a two hundred-year discussion of the poet’s sexuality. Did Lady Byron discover evidence of incest or homosexuality? Did the poet rape his wife, sodomize her or possibly just ignore her? The memoir taunts us with its lost secrets, an appropriate appendix to the mocking nostalgia at the core of Byron’s poetry.
      Eisler begins her book with a description of the feckless executors destroying their friend’s work in his publisher’s grate. William Gifford claimed the memoir was “fit only for the brothel and would damn Lord Byron to everlasting infamy.” His prudish friends could not imagine how unshockable posterity would turn out to be. Homosexuality and incest were once unmentionable secrets; later they were controversial assertions; by now they seem fairly humdrum. In 1957, when Leslie Marchand established the facts in his magisterial biography, he still maintained a discreet reserve about sexual matters. He wrote of “the sexual implications of Byron’s passionate friendships” with boys and left the reader to imagine the rest. Eisler, on the other hand, does not spare any of the carnal details.
No sublimated Victorian attachments here, just handsome sailors and comely actresses, eager adulteresses and willing family members. While Marchand can sometimes sound like a nervous attorney defending a misunderstood client, Eisler is relentlessly cool and objective. Probably Byron, who liked to puncture sexual hypocrisy, would have approved. Among other things, Eisler goes into interesting detail about the witty slang which he and his Cambridge friends used to correspond about their homosexual affairs. Homosexuality was known as “la methode “; its practitioners were “Methodists.” This material is not entirely new, but it has never been discussed so matter-of-factly nor placed in the context of his whole life. She makes clear Byron’s distinct consciousness of himself as a sexual outsider, and his unembarassed attitudes towards all varieties of sex.
Regrettably, Eisler has a tendency to jump to unfounded conclusions. For example, while discussing Byron’s passionate boyhood friendships, she quotes at great length J.A. Symonds’s account of Harrow’s “homoerotic underworld” where “every form of transgressive sexuality… was openly indulged.” Without offering any evidence that Byron took part in the activities which Symonds witnessed half a century later, she manages to create a very misleading impression. Likewise, on the basis of very flimsy evidence, Eisler accuses Byron of pedophilia. Treating a rumor repeated by his vindictive wife as an established fact, Eisler indulges in bathetic speculation: “the corruption of innocence, the betrayal of trust, the brutalizing of a child – these were the sins Byron knew as both victim and violator.”
The real problem here is that Eisler feels a need to give a name to each of the “thousand nameless crimes” with which Byron often charged himself. However, an explicit catalog of his perversions doesn’t bring us any closer to the truth of his sexuality. It was the dynamic of secrecy and revelation that really turned him on; the actual contents of the secrets are ultimately beside the point. He liked to flaunt and he liked to conceal. Even more shocking than his incestuous relationship with his half-sister was his indiscretion: how many people he told about their affair, and the poems in which he avowed their love. Like Oscar Wilde, Byron would be forced into exile, and like Wilde, he had been indiscreet to the point of exhibitionism. All his life, he struggled between his desire for the world’s attention and his wish to hide. Each piece of the legend came at a price to the man.
 
 
From an early age Byron had the sort of international fame today reserved for movie stars and royalty; it’s not hard to imagine him followed by paparazzi and celebrated in tabloid headlines. HELLO magazine would probably have done a feature on his lavish renovations of Newstead Abbey, photographing the young Lord in the ancestral crypt. Suddenly famous in 1812, at age twenty-four, with the publication of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, he soon became notorious for his “wicked lord” antics, such as hosting parties where guests dressed up in monks’ robes and drank champagne out of polished skulls. He gave his maiden speech in Parliament; he scandalized and delighted society with outrageous opinions and decadent behavior. Married ladies threw themselves at his feet. He offered the glamour of rank, charisma and talent, combined with the pathos of lonely sin-haunted Childe Harold.
Eisler maintains a cool perspective amidst all the excitement. Behind the brilliant dandy she discerns a frantic young man. “From early youth, Byron had been adroit in presenting himself differently to different friends and lovers, adjusting to the needs of each… This skill [is] often observed in the narcissist, with his insatiable need to be loved.” If he weren’t being talked about, would he exist at all? He performed, not out of calculation, but because he knew no other way to live. His description of Lady Adeline Amundeville in Don Juan can be taken as a self-portrait:
 
So well she acted and every part
By turns – with that vivacious versatility,
Which many people take for want of heart.
They err- ‘tis merely what is call’d mobility,
A thing of temperment and not of art.
 
 It would take many years before he could articulate such witty self-acceptance. His early work is more often a howl of self-pity. The first two cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage played a crucial role in shaping the Byronic myth, but, as poetry, they have not held up very well. The Spenserian stanzas, among other medieval affectations, get tiresome quickly: how much can we stand of this “shameless wight” who keeps “wending his lonely way?” The account of Byron’s exotic travels in Greece and Albania appealed to an audience eager for romantic adventure, but it was the record of agonizing self-consciousness which captured the imagination of his era. Harold, the last link in a decrepit lineage, finds no joy in life. No matter where he goes, he is haunted by a sense of unreality. Everything is too late, despite his youth.
 
Tis night when Meditation bids us feel
We once have loved, though love is at an end:
The heart, lone mourner of its baffled zeal,
Though friendless now, will dream it had a friend.
 
Yet even in the best passages, we can’t care that much about the self-pity of the twenty two-year-old poet. His facility with language does not compensate for his puerile sensibility; in fact, his superb phrase-making tends to underscore the hollowness of the emotion. In his very first published poem, at age 14, he is already scattering flowers on the grave of a beloved friend. From then on, the elegies don’t stop. Biographers compete to identify the “first love” whose loss devastated him so. Was it Mary Duff, for whom he developed a passion at age seven? Margaret Parker, Mary Ann Chaworth or the Earl of Clare, his schoolboy friend? Perhaps John Eddleston, the choirboy he loved at university? It wouldn’t be fair to keep off the list May Gray, the prim Scottish nursemaid who beat him, excoriated him with religion, and sexually molested him. “My passions were developed very early,” Byron wrote in his Italian journal. “Perhaps this is one of the reasons which caused the anticipated melancholy of my thoughts – having anticipated life.”
Altogether there is a bewildering quantity of “first loves.” The pattern of intense but short-lived passions began early. Behind the smokescreen of pretty little girls lies the much more formidable figure of his mother, clearly the most important woman in his life. Largely because of Byron’s malicious descriptions, she has acquired the reputation of a monster. Eisler takes pains to present a more sympathetic view of Catherine Gordon Byron, who sacrificed herself for her son just as she had for her husband, putting herself into debt in order to pay for his extravagances; he rewarded her by ignoring and insulting her. Still it is not hard to understand why his histrionic mother distressed him, as she alternated between excessive adoration and disapproving fury. Before he left for the East, she “uttered an imprecation upon me, praying that I might prove as ill-formed in mind as I am in body.” When he returned, and learned that she was dying, he put off visiting her until it was too late. Found the following night in tears over her corpse, he wailed to the servant, “I had but one friend in the world and she is gone.”
The crazy lady who raised her son above a shop in Aberdeen did not suit the image of “Satanic majesty” Lord Byron wished to cultivate. The poet preferred to be associated with his more distinguished paternal ancestors. While he tried his hardest to emulate his father’s decadent lifestyle, as if he could thus preserve his link to the parent he had never known, his mother represented everything in himself he wished to repudiate. She was Scottish; her son would become indignant if ever accused of having a Scottish accent. She was famously obese; Byron, obsessed with his weight, often restricted himself to hard biscuits and soda water. Extreme diets ultimately left him pale and emaciated: his pallor then became part of his gloomy legend.
The diets are a good example of how what appears haughty and mysterious from a distance comes to seem a bit more pathetic when we learn how much effort actually went into it. Achieving huge fame at such an young age only increased Byron’s sense of emptiness and unreality. That Eisler is not intimidated or enthralled by the young Lord’s glamorous haze allows her to analyze his self-alienation sensitively. When she catches him striking a pose, she doesn’t judge him. She is sympathetic to the melancholy lurking behind his “false self.” If he sometimes feigned nonchalance in order to disguise strong feelings, he would just as often mimic violent passions in order to cover up an inner sense of blankness and depression.
    
 
The “Byronic” represents a bundled contradiction: romantic love and misanthropic solitude, passionate intensity and emotional inanition, grandiose arrogance and suicidal despair. In one way, Byron was like Childe Harold, perpetually disgusted with the world, exiling himself over and over. And yet he also had an enormous capacity for love and friendship. While he hardly ever went a month without a passionate love affair, no attachment could hold his interest in the long run. He left England to elude the complex triangle of his wife and sister, while his long cohabitation with Theresa Guiccioli did not stop him from undertaking his final trip to Greece.
Extant portraits don’t quite convey why so many women found Byron irresistible, though his effervescent letters give us a sense of his charm and charisma. He was involved with fascinating women, and Eisler devotes considerable space to their characters. Now and then she gets angry at the way Byron treated them, following a long tradition of feminist outrage towards the poet, which began with Lady Byron, and her advocate, Harriet Beecher Stowe. Just as the confessional poets of our own age have attracted scores of armchair psychologists and partisan ideologues, Byron’s conduct was fiercely debated in his own lifetime.
Several women fell in love with him on the basis of his poetry, and wrote fan letters in order to meet and seduce him. Eisler is particularly interested in Lady Caroline Lamb; she even reprints two pages of Caroline’s peculiar drawings. Eisler doesn’t blame Byron for his lover’s subsequent descent into madness, but she does treat their ridiculous affair with a reverence that would have gratified Caroline. Claire Clairemont, Shelley’s sister-in-law, did not fare so well either. Byron was reluctant from the start, and when she became pregnant, his boredom turned into hatred. He refused to see Claire ever again, and in fact prevented her from seeing their daughter, Allegra, who died in a convent at age five. Apparently childbirth didn’t bring out the best in him. He was also enraged by his wife’s pregnancy. His treatment of her reached its worst in the weeks before her parturition. Constantly drunk, he boasted to her of his infidelities, smashing furniture and saying that he hoped she and the baby would die. According to Lady Byron’s maid, in the weeks after the birth, Lord Byron attempted to rape his wife repeatedly. These, at least, were Annabella’s allegations, which Byron denied, and Eisler presents as fact.
The failure of his marriage haunted Byron for the rest of his life. Bitter little poems to his wife issued forth at regular intervals. Eisler brings Annabella Byron to life as a formidable opponent for her husband: intellectual, independent, and even a little kinky in her way. But the marriage of two such strong minds was doomed to fail; it almost seems as if they married each other as a kind of mutual punishment. As atrocious as his behavior towards her could be, you have to wonder what Annabella thought she was getting into. Anyway, like many couples, their divorce was the most interesting part of their marriage. Lady Byron devoted the rest of her life to defending herself, throwing logs of controversy onto the fire of diabolical legend already surrounding Byron. “There is no vice,” she hissed, “with which he has not endeavoured to familiarize me.” Don Juan sums up their relationship succinctly:
 
Hatred is by far the longest pleasure;
Men love in haste, but they detest at leisure.
 
The various love affairs of Byron’s English years seem at once overheated and insubstantial, with one exception: the great love of his life, Augusta Leigh, his half-sister. Perhaps, in order to love, Byron needed to be breaking the law. Legally sanctioned marriage was a disaster for him, whereas his longest and most stable relationship was with a woman (Theresa Guiccioli) married to another man. Incest does not have a political constituency, but if it ever did, Byron ought to be the standard-bearer. He made the guilty love of brother and sister the subject of narrative poems ranging from The Bride of Abydos to Manfred. Still, however much transgression thrilled him, his feelings for his half-sister were not a stunt. He dedicated passionate love poems to her: “Though woman, thou didst not forsake… Though trusted, thou didst not disclaim me…” Tolerance and fidelity were exactly what his mother and wife had failed to provide. While Annabella expected him to change and reform, Augusta offered unconditional love. The ideal of a lover who is also your twin may be the height of narcissism, but it speaks to a universal fantasy. Two beings, one heart: a perfect union, a flight from the painful and necessary isolation of consciousness.  
    Cain turns the biblical account of creation into a justification of incest. If all humanity originated from Adam and Eve, the poem slyly asks, then who gave birth to their grandchildren? Logically, Cain’s wife must have also been his sister. Adah, Cain’s sister/wife, thinks it perfectly natural that her own son and daughter should marry in their turn:
 
    Shall they not love and bring forth things that love
    Out of their love?… was not he, their father,
    Born of the same sole womb, in the same hour
    With me? Did we not love each other? And
    In multiplying our being multiply
    Things which will love each other…?
 
The image of the lovers in the womb together represents a defiance, not only of solitude, but of time. Byron here makes an outrageous attempt to naturalize the utmost violation of nature. Incest becomes a way of transcending mortal limitations and moral conventions at the same time: the ultimate symbol of the Romantic quest. Yet transcendence inevitably leads to tragedy, in Cain and elsewhere. Manfred, another Faustian hero who has committed incest with his sister, captures in one phrase the futility of the quest: “The Tree of Knowledge is not that of Life.”
 
 
 
The greatest drama of Byron’s life goes virtually unrecorded in this book. I refer, not to a secret love affair, but to an internal drama, subtle and difficult to trace: his metamorphosis into a great poet. Somehow in Don Juan, he found a way to bring the funny, colloquial voice of his letters into his poetry. Gone were the stilted archaisms and lofty sentiments that mar so much of his early work. Eisler notices the change, but she fails to place his creative transformation in the context of his life. The last two cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, composed after his departure from England, are about as passionate and eloquent as poetry can be, and yet stylistically, they break no new ground. Whereas, from the first page, Don Juan is something completely new. The metaphysical angst of his verse dramas and turgid romance of his Oriental tales do not prepare us for this most unlikely of epic poems. This narrative of ordinary life dismisses all ideals with equal acerbity. Passion is ridiculous, idealism is ridiculous, wickedness is ridiculous, Byronism is ridiculous. Theresa Guiccioli was so deeply offended by the epic that she made him promise to stop writing it. “I would rather have the fame of Childe Harold for three years than the immortality of Don Juan,” she said. Yet strangely enough, Don Juan is Byron’s most hopeful poem. His exalted odes to Romantic aspiration always end in gloom, but this frank assessment of human vanity has an infectious joy. Its humor reconciles us to the world, and to our lives.
“Of all the barbarous Middle Ages, that/ Which is the most barbarous is the middle age/ Of man.” Byron speaks in a new voice here, the chastened man of experience. The recurring joke of Don Juan is the contrast between our sublime self-image and our trivial realities. Morality is just a polite veneer for tyranny; civilization, a frantic attempt to stave off boredom. “Society is now one polished horde/ Formed of two mighty tribes, the Bores and Bored.” Idealism is another form of vanity; love is a hideous delusion. Glory doesn’t save us from the humiliation of illness: “Without a stomach what were a good name?” Byron only trusts in the tangible. Metaphysical speculation doesn’t make us nearly as happy as a good meal.
 
All human history attests
That happiness for man, the hungry sinner,
Since Eve ate apples, much depends on dinner.
 
The author of Childe Harold would never have believed that he would one day be writing poetry about indigestion. Divorce and exile had shattered his overweening confidence. In disgrace, he had lost his audience. The accolades which used to greet each scrap from Byron’s desk had vanished. When he published the first two cantos of Don Juan, the critics savaged him. His publisher and his mistress advised him to give up. As the poem continued to grow, its “failure” became one of its themes. But his sense of diminishment had deeper roots than the withdrawal of the world’s attention. Byron feared that his creative powers were flagging. The manic pace of his years in England had kept depression at bay. In Italy, he couldn’t distract himself so easily.
 And yet, in the depths of melancholy, Byron had a new surge of inspiration. Success had been a trap; failure liberated him. Now he was only writing to please himself.
 
But ‘why then publish?’ There are no rewards
     Of fame or profit when the world grows weary.
    I ask in turn why do you play at cards?
    Why drink? Why read? To make some hour less dreary.
    It occupies me to turn back regards
    On what I’ve seen or pondered, sad or cheery,
And what I write I cast upon the stream
To swim or sink. I have had at least my dream.
 
    No longer consumed by what others thought of him, he did not have to take himself so seriously. His new humility allowed him to escape the prison of his self. He discovered gifts of observation and characterization that give Don Juan the humor and pathos of a great novel. Most of all, he is able to laugh at himself. Every time he hears himself becoming too serious, he mocks his pretensions. He disclaims wisdom –-- he only wants to play.
 
Mine’s a bubble not blown up for praise
But just to play with, as an infant plays.
 
The picaresque narrative of a young Spanish gentleman is merely a frame on which Byron can hang his digressions. The true subject of the poem is its own unfolding. Now and then he refers to a preconceived plan: “The regularity of my design/ Forbids all wandering as the worst of sinning…“ But this is his joke. In truth, it is his wandering as much as Juan’s travels that make up the story. “I never know the word which will come next,” he confesses. We are always conscious of the man speaking, overhearing himself, arguing with himself, laughing when he is too serious. The sport of the storyteller gives the poem its enchantment. He does not even believe in his own metaphors, offering them up with a skeptical shrug, and sometimes retracting them. He laughs at his own efforts to come up with rhymes, stretching the language in weird and delightful ways. The rhymed couplets at the end of each ottava rima stanza are reliably witty.
 
‘Tis strange, the Hebrew noun which means “I am”,
The English always use to govern damn.
 
The epic hero of this Odyssey is not Juan, but the poet himself, who must perform the Herculean task of sustaining his spontaneity over thousands of lines. This is a labor not only of art but of life. The false grandeur of Byron the Romantic has crumbled, only to reveal the seeds of a new Romanticism in its ruins. Here is the freedom that Cain and Manfred sought in vain, the genuine Tree of Life. After being submerged in grandiose self-deception, he can finally just be himself. “You have so many divine poems,” Byron wrote to his publisher. “Is it nothing to have written a human one?” His paean to human limitation is, paradoxically, a celebration of man’s freedom and mastery. The master of disenchantment comes not to chasten us but to liberate us from our illusions. Don Juan offers what only the greatest art gives us --- an opportunity to share the experience of creative power and joy, and thereby awaken our  capacity for play.
 
 
Byron the legend pops up again at the end of the story. His old grandiosity reared its head. He imagined that he personally would lead the Greeks to independence. The scarlet uniforms he ordered for his little brigade had gold buttons and sashes; the helmets had “plumes waving above the Byron crest and motto ‘Crede Byron’.” His uniforms didn’t help much when he arrived to find himself caught between rival Greek factions. A cynic might argue that Byron accomplished nothing on his expedition except to contract malaria in Missolonghi. Yet even if his immediate impact was marginal, his journey did provide an inspiring symbol for freedom fighters throughout the nineteenth century. Eisler notes that when the Decembrists were executed in St. Petersburg in 1825, one of the young rebels carried a volume of Byron to the scaffold.
Even more influential has been the existential gesture of embracing a dangerous fate. His invocation of The Land of honorable Death still resonates. The myth of Hemingway, with its emphasis on physical courage and dangerous foreign milieus, is a restatement of the same romance. Byron’s brave death ensured his afterlife. The statue of Byron at Rome’s Villa Borghese is inscribed with these lines:
 
But there is that within me which shall tire
Torture and Time, and breathe when I expire.
 
The reader of Don Juan may cringe at the self-importance of this couplet, but you would have to have a heart of stone not to find them a little inspiring.
 Deafened by the acclaim for the hero of politics, it is sometimes hard to remember the quieter heroism of art. At first glance, the development of a poetic style may seem like a minor matter compared to the aspirations of a nation. And yet, while Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage may have accompanied a revolutionary to the scaffold, Don Juan proved to be the inspiration for the great foundation work of nineteenth century Russian literature, Eugene Onegin. Who has had a more significant impact, Aleksander Pushkin or the Decembrists? The Byron of Missolonghi stands for something abstract and monumental: the freedom of a nation. The Byron of Don Juan merely speaks for the freedom of a single individual. Yet, after the bloody experiences of the last century, national liberation as an ideal has lost its luster; while independence of thought and the capacity for authentic feeling are still values worth fighting for.  If I were to build a statue to Byron, these are the modest words I would inscribe at its base, words written on a long-ago September afternoon in a villa near Genoa, the distant echo of one man delighting in his own invention:
 
In taking up this paltry sheet of paper,
My bosom underwent a glorious glow,
And my internal spirit cut a caper.
And though so much inferior, as I know,
To those who by the dint of glass and vapour
Discover stars and sail in the wind’s eye,
I wish to do as much by poesy.
 
 
BYRON’S AFTERLIFE
Byron: Child of Passion, Fool of Fame by Benita Eisler
From The Yale Review