WELCOME ONE AND ALL TO BYRONIC APRIL!

It's really just gonna be me posting about my beloved and not much else BUT I thought I'd kick off with a Scottish Byron post! Yes, he was technically an anglo-scot poet (and a big fan of Walter Scott! all of the Scottishness!)

  • He was born George Gordon Byron on the 22nd January 1788. A double barrel name kid and an Aquarius so the signs were there.
  • Gordon was his mother's surname (Catherine Gordon) and she was Scottish! Yes, lil George was a half Scot and even spent his childhood in Aberdeenshire. He was born on Holles Street in London (now a John Lewis. I think Byron would have enjoyed their lamps) but his mother quickly moved back to home turf because Byron's dad (John "Mad Jack" Byron) was a total dick. Absconded with her money, got the family into debt, and his fathering duties amounted to taking care of baby Byron alone for one night and then dumping him back with his mother before walking out again... we have no time for him.
  • A couple biographers (based on comments from his contemporaries) argue that Byron had a bit of a Scottish twang to his accent. If I remember correctly Mary Shelley once commented on it. I can definitely see Byron playing up a Scottish accent for dramatic or entertainment purposes but I also think his day-to-day accent was probably naturally the accent of the English upper class (he did go to Harrow and Cambridge after all). It would be really cool to have a recording of his voice because Byron lived in so many different places. He went from Aberdeenshire to Nottinghamshire to Harrow to Cambridge to London, travelled abroad and then lived in Italy and Greece where he spoke the local languages and at points Italian became somewhat of a default language for him (when not speaking to his English friends and acquaintances of course). There is an instance when, after a few years of living in exile in Italy, Hobhouse used the word ‘radical’ and Byron didn’t understand what he meant and asked him to explain.
  • The Gordon tartan:
  • Back to the main Byron man: He was born with a clubbed right foot, which he blamed on his mother wearing corsets while pregnant with him. He and his mother had a complicated relationship; she drank a lot (debatable), he was prone to the odd tantrum or two as a kid (supposedly bit a chunk out of a china plate) (it happens), they fought, she didn't seem very concerned when he was sexually abused by his nanny or later (allegedly) by the man renting Newstead from them, they called each other names, he got them into debt the minute he got to college, she had him brainwashed tutored in Calvinism leading to quite the complex relationship with sexuality/the body etc etc, and Byron rejected her often and was embarrassed by her. BUT they shared a love of literature and read the old testament together (OF COURSE Byron read the old testament) and there are times in his letters when he talks about her being his only true friend and he was devastated by her death.
  • Byron is actually a descendent of James I of Scotland on his mother's side of the family. Byron mentions it in the notes to some of his early Scottish poems, "... my maternal ancestors, the “GORDONS,” many of whom fought for the unfortunate Prince Charles, better known by the name of the Pretender. This branch was nearly allied by blood, as well as attachment, to the STEWARTS. George, the 2d. Earl of Huntley, married the Princess Annabella Stewart, daughter of James the 1st of Scotland, by her he left four sons: the 3d, Sir William Gordon, I have the honour to claim as one of my progenitors." Gight Castle was the seat of his Gordon ancestors.
  • Byron attended the Aberdeen Grammar School and was an alright student but often neglected his studies and got into fights in defence of others and when his disability was mocked. He quickly moved on to Harrow when he inherited his title.
  • He became a lord when he was TEN years old, due to his great-uncle dying without an heir (thanks to a canon in Corsica), and the sixth Baron Byron of Rochdale was unleashed onto the world. Byron and his mother left Scotland and moved to the ancestral home, Newstead Abbey, but it was in a bit of a mess so they moved to nearby lodgings in Nottingham.

Well, I'm sure my facts have been riveting but the best way of demonstrating Byron's Scottishness would be to let the dude himself tell you. He wrote a couple of what are known as his 'Scottish poems' in his early poet days and the most famous is Lachin Y Gair. Just imagine Byron standing on a crag with his tartan billowing in the wind:

~poem text under the cut~

This Is It, by William Letford

Skint, baw ragged, poackets ful eh ma fingers, cannae afford tae burn toast an it’s November, Christmas is close. Av been away bit noo am back an ivery coarner is a different colour cause am hame an memories ur painted wae mischief. Am ootside Gregs eatin a macaroni pie an a busker picks up eez guitar an plugs in eez amplifier. The sound fae the strings is like frost. Eez young an the dreams thit wur boarn in eez bedroom wake me up. Am watchin people passin an they know thit eez good bit they don’t want tae look. They turn thur heeds an tilt thur ears an jog on. If a hud a spare pound a wid throw it bit a don’t so a jist listen. I’d like tae tell um thit this is it, this is where the hammer hits the stane an sparks ur made, standin oan a coarner in yr hame toon, an audience eh one radge eatin a macaroni pie, bit singin, wee man, yur singin.

A sense of the supernatural and the weird, bound up with a mysterious feeling of limitlessness and indefinitude that haunted him in his thoughts about this world and our earthly life.  The forms of another mysterious world, very near to this earth of ours, were seemingly present to his imagination.  From The Feeling for Nature in Scottish Poetry, Vol. 2, 1887.

Wondering about this post?  Wait for the dissertation (TBA). For now:  WeblogBooksVideosMusicEtsy

Delilah

Teach me, he said—

we were lying in bed—

how to care.

I nibbled the purse of his ear.

What do you mean?

Tell me more.

He sat up and reached for his beer

I can rip out the roar

from the throat of a tiger,

or gargle with fire

or sleep one whole night in the Minotaur's lair,

or flay the bellowing fur

from a bear,

all for a dare.

There's nothing I fear.

Put your hand here—

he guided my fingers over the scar

over his heart,

a four-medal wound from the war—

but I cannot be gentle, or loving, or tender.

I have to be strong.

What is the cure?

He fucked me again

until he was sore,

then we both took a shower.

Then he lay with his head on my lap

for a darkening hour;

his voice, for a change, a soft burr

I could just about hear.

And, yes, I was sure

that he wanted to change,

my warrior.

I was there.

So when I felt him soften and sleep,

when he started, as usual, to snore,

I let him slip and slide and sprawl, handsome and huge,

on the floor.

And before I fetched and sharpened my scissors—

snipping first at the black and biblical air—

I fastened the chain to the door.

That's the how and the why and the where.

Then with deliberate, passionate hands

I cut every lock of his hair.