Lord Byron, Stanza by Stanza, Canto 1, 7-13

Please note – I’m moving this Childe Harold project to its own page.

VII.

The Childe departed from his father’s hall;
It was a vast and venerable pile;
So old, it seemed only not to fall,
Yet strength was pillared in each massy aisle.
Monastic dome! condemned to uses vile!
Where superstition once had made her den,
Now Paphian girls were known to sing and smile;
And monks might deem their time was come agen,
If ancient tales say true, nor wrong these holy men.

Pile = a large building or group of buildings.

The town of Paphos is on the island of Cyprus, known for its recent banking troubles. The ancient city, now referred to as Old Paphos, is where Aphrodite was reputedly born from the sea foam, and housed a famous temple in her honor. Phapian girls are either merely wanton, or are prostitutes. I’m not sure which meaning applies here.

Anyway, Harold has converted his Dad’s place, a former monastery, into a swinging bachelor pad. I’m not sure what ancient tales are referred to in the last two lines.

VIII.

Yet ofttimes in his maddest mirthful mood,
Strange pangs would flash along Childe Harold’s brow,
As if the memory of some deadly feud
Or disappointed passion lurked below:
But this none knew, nor haply cared to know;
For his was not that open, artless soul
That feels relief by bidding sorrow flow;
Nor sought he friend to counsel or condole,
Whate’er this grief mote be, which he could not control.

haply = by chance, luck, or accident (think happenstance)

IX.

And none did love him: though to hall and bower
He gathered revellers from far and near,
He knew them flatterers of the festal hour;
The heartless parasites of present cheer.
Yea, none did love him—not his lemans dear—
But pomp and power alone are woman’s care,
And where these are light Eros finds a feere;
Maidens, like moths, are ever caught by glare,
And Mammon wins his way where seraphs might despair.

Leman = sweetheart, lover; esp. mistress

feere = consort or mate

“Maidens, like moths, are ever caught by glare, and Mammon wins his way where seraphs might despair.” – Great quote!

(Seraphs are a type of angel.)

X.

Childe Harold had a mother—not forgot,
Though parting from that mother he did shun;
A sister whom he loved, but saw her not
Before his weary pilgrimage begun:
If friends he had, he bade adieu to none.
Yet deem not thence his breast a breast of steel;
Ye, who have known what ’tis to dote upon
A few dear objects, will in sadness feel
Such partings break the heart they fondly hope to heal.

Harold is a thinly disguised fictional version of Byron. Him and his mother didn’t get along all that well, and he did have a half-sister whom he loved (a little too much).

XI.

His house, his home, his heritage, his lands,
The laughing dames in whom he did delight,
Whose large blue eyes, fair locks, and snowy hands,
Might shake the saintship of an anchorite,
And long had fed his youthful appetite;
His goblets brimmed with every costly wine,
And all that mote to luxury invite,
Without a sigh he left to cross the brine,
And traverse Paynim shores, and pass earth’s central line.

Paynim = is an old word for “pagan”

XII.

The sails were filled, and fair the light winds blew
As glad to waft him from his native home;
And fast the white rocks faded from his view,
And soon were lost in circumambient foam;
And then, it may be, of his wish to roam
Repented he, but in his bosom slept
The silent thought, nor from his lips did come
One word of wail, whilst others sate and wept,
And to the reckless gales unmanly moaning kept.

circumambient = encompassing, being on all sides

This stanza seems a bit over the top. The crew is weeping and moaning in a most unmanly matter, with the exception of our hero…

XIII.

But when the sun was sinking in the sea,
He seized his harp, which he at times could string,
And strike, albeit with untaught melody,
When deemed he no strange ear was listening:
And now his fingers o’er it he did fling,
And tuned his farewell in the dim twilight,
While flew the vessel on her snowy wing,
And fleeting shores receded from his sight,
Thus to the elements he poured his last ‘Good Night.’

Up next: Harold sings goodnight to his native land…

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