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By Meyer H. Abrams

This hugely acclaimed examine analyzes many of the traits in English feedback in the course of the first 4 many years of this century.

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The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition (Galaxy Books)

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Consequently, though its fictive date is the late s, and though it recalls the Greek patriotic songs of the late eighteenth century (like Rhiga’s “War Song”), its  context is equally operative. In fact, the Greek war for independence was to commence in , and Byron’s early attachment to that cause would draw him in  from Italy to western Greece and his famous death in . Don Juan’s fictive level – that is, the plot of Juan’s career in the poem’s imagined time scheme stretching from about  to its (unreached) conclusion in  – is always calling attention to its narrative (or “real”) level: that is, to the poem as a continuing historical event which unfolds before its European audience between  and , and which makes that context part of its subject.

As always in Don Juan, Byron reveals and thereby manipulates his poetical machinery in a self-conscious drama of his own mind. We therefore observe this ballad as a vehicle for satirizing Southey and all other republican turncoats, for satirizing generally those who have betrayed the cause of the European political ideal of liberty which had its origin in ancient Greece and which appeared once again in various revolutionary movements during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (paradigmatically in America and France).

But the first two lines of the passage, though not themselves Miltonic, distinctly echo an important Miltonic passage in Manfred.  Milton and Byron There is a power upon me which withholds, And makes it my fatality to live; If it be life to wear within myself This barrenness of spirit, and to be My own soul’s sepulchre, for I have ceased To justify my deeds unto myself— (I, ii, –) The last infirmity of evil. The allusion to “Lycidas” (“Fame is the spur . . That last infirmity of noble minds”) occurs in a passage full of significance for Byron.

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