An autistic opinion on the poet Lord Byron and his contributions to LGBTQIA literature.
The romantic era of literature is full of masterful artists in literature and visual arts. It was a time of sexual awakening and rebelliousness which is an important part of humanity’s history. The Victorian era was a time of strict laws and taboos, but this only helped the artists to further express themselves and break new boundaries. As we can see in today's world, there is no such thing as "too much", because people will always seek more explicit art. Lord Byron or Geroge Gordon was a trailblazer for erotic content that challenged the norms of society in the early 1800s. He was the first romantic poet to explore themes of sexuality, which he did in a very unique way. To truly appreciate his work, we must set aside our modern ways of thinking and try to understand him from his time period.
Romanticism in Victorian times
In the poem Prometheus by Lord Bryon the true human condition is revealed by means of mythological references. Prometheus is a titan who defies Zeus and creates man. In turn, Zeus tears him from Mount Olympus and chains him to a rock where an eagle eternally devours his liver. Eventually, Heracles kills the bird with an arrow and frees Prometheus from his eternal torment. Through classic Greek mythology, Lord Byron gives a picture of humanity's desire to implement change despite obstacles that occur along the way.
During the 18th century, the oppressive view of sexuality was full force. Byron created an atmosphere of escape and his tales mocked the prudishness of English women (Francez, 167) This caused his poems to be read by middle-aged English women of the time looking for an escape from their daily lives. The sufferings of mortality....The suffocating sense of woe was highlighted in all of Byron's works (Line 2,10).
In fact, the relationship between Byron and his mother was complicated. Filled with mood swings, affection, and punishment which added to Byron's free spirit. Byron was constantly pushing back against social norms which scene in the verse of Prometheus and the inexorable Heaven/And the deaf tyranny of Fate/The ruling principle of Hate (Line 18-20). The romantic era was a time of a social mission to change the landscape of society (Ahmad, para. 4).
Romanticism was characterized by nostalgia, individualism, and the celebration of nature. Romantic writers were interested in reviving the classical past of Greece and Rome of which Byron shared this same interest. Byronic heroes are infamous for their obsessive love that threatens to destroy humanity. The things it may annihilate/Refus'd thee even the boon to die/The wretched gift Eternity (Line 22-24). Eternity in an oppressive world was not painted as the future in Byron's words. Passion was something that Byron never avoided even going as far as to fall in love with a cousin.
Rebelliousness against the norms
Byron was a rebel against the social constructs of his time. He was known for his frankness and his outrageous acts. A perfect example of this is that he was noted for having an affair with his half-sister, Augusta Leigh. Lord Byron at one point wrote the following poem about the subject (poetry.org).
Even though it may have been common in the past to marry siblings or cousins, this was not done lightly in the 18th century. Byron discusses the topic of social class divisions in "Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte". He states that social classes are constructed. Byron is referring to the aristocracy, who are usually wealthy landowners, as being ignorant and arrogant.
The human condition was consistently a theme in most of Byron's pieces over decades. Death is an inevitable fate for all humans, Byron argues that it does not mean you cannot live life fully. A mighty lesson we inherit/Thou art a symbol and a sign/To Mortals of their fate and force;/Like thee, Man is in part divine (Line 55-58). No one can beat fate, but that does not mean you stop trying to find happiness and this is a recurring theme in his works.
A lack of control over their mortality will always mean that humans seek happiness and fulfillment. It is why Byron chose not to fall into the all-too-common pit of despair to which many succumb. Lord Byron was a trailblazing poet that carried the romantic era into the history books. Lord Byron broke the mold and broke out into popular culture as one of the first poets to take the leap into the future.
Originally written for our LIT 375 course 2021
Ahmad Banyasady, et al. “Human Agency and Social Mission of the Humboldtian Model of University in the Age of Enlightenment and Romantic Era.” Philosophical Investigations, vol. 14, no. 30, Apr. 2020, pp. 38–55. EBSCOhost, doi:10.22034/jpiut.2019.33065.2302.
Francev, Peter. “‘Faith and Infidelity: Byron in 1819’ Newstead Abbey Byron Society Conference 26–27 April 2019.” Byron Journal, vol. 47, no. 2, Dec. 2019, pp. 165–168.
GreekMythology.com. “Prometheus - Greek Mythology.” GreekMythology.Com, 31 Oct. 2018,
“Lord Byron (1788–1824). Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte. William Stanley Braithwaite, Ed. 1909. The Book of Georgian Verse.” Bartlby.Com, www.bartleby.com/333/543.html. Accessed 13 Sept. 2021.
Lynn, Steven. Texts & Contexts - Writing About Literature with Critical Theory (6th, 11) by Lynn, Steven J [Paperback (2010)]. Vol. 7, Prentice Hal, Paperback(2010), 2021.
Poetry Foundation. “Lord Byron (George Gordon).” Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/lord-byron. Accessed 13 Sept. 2021.
---. “Prometheus by Lord Byron (George Gordon).” Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43843/prometheus-56d222b61d799. Accessed 13 Sept. 2021.