Lord Byron’s insanity

Copyright © deepanairrp

1984

Lord Byron, English poet, aged 25 in a painting by Richard Westall (1813)

This is a poem by me about the turbulent and gloomy thoughts and moods of the famously infamous 19 th century English Romantic poet, George Gordon Byron, simply known as Lord Byron.

Believed to have had Bipolar disorder(controversial), he suffered for all his life time with frequent mood changes, fiery tempers bordering on violence, inebriation, licentious practices and a whole lot of odd behaviors.

The bright side of his malady happened to be his poetical genius. He was a prolific writer who has magnum opuses like ‘Don Juan’ and ‘ Childe Harold’s pilgrimage’ to his credit. The beauty and brilliance of his verse is unmatched. Though a Romantic poet, each of his biographers stresses the degree of realism evident in his verses. I have read only excerpts from Don Juan and Childe Harold’s pilgrimage, the ones given in his biography. The wit and satire he had used in most of the lines is so brilliant. This is exactly so, as to the emotional intensity in his verses.

Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with possible Bipolar Disorder posthumously from existing historical records and he never received the proper treatment or empathy from those around him.

I happened to read this short biography of Lord Byron recently and thought it a good idea to present his mind as a poem instead of writing a book review.

This is my short trip through the mind of the temperamental Lord Byron, a poem about what could have been going through his mind during the 36 years of his existence.

                                   Lord Byron’s Insanity

Whom should I blame for making me lame?

My blood, fettle, stars or Him?

To whom shall I whine, for warping my mind?

My blood and blood only by a grim twist of fate.

 

A savage beast bolting rampant, unfettered,

The row of the brutes ring unbroken,

‘Out of sense and out of nerves’.

 

Rein in, O’ racing mind,

Thy wild whims and heathen rage

Mellow down, O’ beloved bosom,

Thy passions, vile and fierce.

 

Once, the soul fluttering like a thousand vibrant butterflies,

trembling and shaking, powdery colors spilling in the voids,

Of which I pine for the peacock blue shimmering in the muted shadows,

the grass yellow smeared in streaks of summery light,

scarlet red forged from glowing embers

And the grays and purples of cold, hoary November dawn.

 

Wraith visions of this passionate dreamer,

whirling in cyclonic eddies, in vertiginous spirals

sink down to infernal abyss of ferny hemlocks,

chastened in the murky, baleful waters of the Styx .

 

Hover over,O’ lucid mind, buoy up with the fragile sanity

Or the forked tongue of hellfire waits to tear you asunder

in the underworld, a hairsbreadth from here.

 

Why the soul once sublime been leached of the splendid colors?

Like a veined autumn leaf changing it’s hue.

Unlit and sinking, morbid dead ball of shadows.

The grays hiding all the warmth

How the dreary arms of gloom spread inside the vast space?

Once again, it’s bare me, my sinister shadow and the infinite solitude .

 

Drain my soul of these direful woes,

Of the fleeting shadows, of the faceless primal fears,

Of the ponderous fog clogging the mystifying senses

and the looming maelstrom brewing in the calm of bosom.

 

A blissful sleep is all I crave for,

Which not Laudanum, nor one singular water of life,

Nor Rahab and the strumpets could ever gift.

I would sooner die a thousand deaths.

 

Let me pour this settled lunacy into words,

in verse and prose, through the life of Don Juan,

and upend that unchaste Lothario with my unbridled wit.

 

Let me raise the glass castle of spirit

for, many a pietistic man peer,

before it shatters in my inner light.

 

The whole universe is warring with me, one that I won’t win

and the homeland loathes this rebellious,perverse poet, an unredeemable defect.

With a heart of stone, I embrace my offences

Though I have nothing to do with the masses.

 

But, Anabella dear, my ‘princess of parallelograms’,

my brilliant Lady, O’ thou sharpest among women,

threw my sibilant whispers to the winds,

never once looked through the glass,

to single out the vile frenzy in me.

 

Let me not hold on the spirit, long splintered ,

letting loose the angels and fiends alike,

but not before uttering these final words to thee.

 

Detest me, O’ my virtuous wife, as long as you like,

but be done with my phantasm, by punishing or pardoning.

And for Ada, my lovely daughter, touched with the fury and fire

as her blood will tell, let not the venom of verses spread in her veins.

 

All I yearn for is eternal sleep, a dreamless, painless sleep

deep in my daydreams felled by broken wings.

O’ ferryman, accept the coin and row me across the Styx

To the shore where Hemlocks grows aplenty

And hellfire doles out eternal damnation

For, die I must, a loss no one would lament.

 

I let loose the last string of sanity ,

tying me to the morbid world

To enter the netherworld,

devoid of fears, angst or vile

For, this is the penance I pay for my blood

To purify my soul in the wrath of Inferno.

34 thoughts on “Lord Byron’s insanity

  1. I believe Byron would appreciate the beauty and romanticism in the flowing English language you apply in both this tribute and critique of his troubled life. A notable write indeed.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Your poem captures the Byronic sturm und drang very well. I’m curious about the posthumous diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I’ve always tended to question the validity of posthumous diagnoses of historical figures. Is it a matter of compiling evidence of behaviors from letters, court records, or first-hand accounts that align with a particular illness or disorder?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Exactly, Liz. These records are rich with first hand accounts of the symptoms he might have had, from near and dear, physicians, friends, colleagues and the like. And analysis is done by a group of experts who would arrive at the most probable diagnosis, yet,you can’t say a definitive one.
      The spectrum of BPD as we know today was exhibited by so many poets, artists, literary giants, musicians, composers and so on. In Byron’s case, his physicians and public stamped him as insane.
      Thank you for reading, appreciating and communicating, Liz :).

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Priscilla. 🙂
      I don’t think anyone could express Byron’s mind and emotions, as they had been, other than himself. There is a wealth of information in the heaps of letters written by Byron to his friends and family. Some of these are included in his biography.
      The diagnosis is still debated and controversial. There is one group who almost confirms it with documental proof, another group who denies it flatly.
      What we do know from his letters is that he had been smoldering inside until his death.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.