There Is Pleasure In The Pathless Woods
– By Lord Byron
(from Childe Harold, Canto IV, Verse 178)
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.
George Gordon Byron (1788-1824), more popularly known as Lord Byron, remains perhaps the most fascinating English poet of the Romantic Age. Notorious for his many sexual escapades, aristocratic excesses, huge debts, Bryon led most of his youth in a flamboyant fashion, indulging in many extravaganzas. Later, Byron went into a self-imposed exile and traveled all across Europe, lived in Italy for seven years, and then died while championing the cause of liberty by fighting the Greek War of Independence for which the Greeks revere him as national hero. Calvinist by religion and a free-thinker by nature, Byron’s writings reflect an eagerness for liberty, freedom from oppression, self-revelation of human nature, disgust for society and man, and a secret guilt- which was probably a personal expression of his own nature. The image of Byronic Hero- handsome, defiant, cynical, melancholy, an outcast – fascinates us to this date and stands as an embodiment of Romanticism. His most celebrated works are ‘Don Juan’ and ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’, lengthy narrative poems, and ‘She Walks In Beauty’, a short lyric. His god-like beauty, scandalous personality and emotion-stirring writings, altogether made him the most popular and dynamic figure of the Romantic Age.
The poem is a part of Lord Byron’s long narrative poem ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’ that Byron composed during his travels to Portugal, Mediterranean Sea and Aegean Sea from 1809 to 1811 and was published in between 1812 and 1818. ‘Childe Harold’ is partly auto-biographical and recollects his experiences during his travel to distant lands away from society and man. A sense of deep melancholy and disillusionment from society runs through all the Cantos of the poem, perhaps gained from Byron’s experience from the Post-Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and the poet’s self-imposed exile.
“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods” is a small stanza from ‘Childe Harold’, Canto IV, Verse 178. Individually, it is memorable as one of the best short poems of Byron. The poem describes a weary young traveler who is thoroughly disenchanted with human society- its artificiality and hypocrisy, and thus travels wide and across in the forlorn lands to find pleasure in nature. The poet finds recluse in the serenity of ‘Nature’, in the ‘rupture’ of the ‘lonely shore’, in the ‘music’ of the ‘deep sea’, in his many solitary intercourse with the nature that is still untouched of human demoralization. However, the poet entirely doesn’t abandon his love for man and society, ‘I love not man the less’ but shows a deep distaste for it and asserts that his many ‘interviews’ with nature has opened the spiritual window of his inner conscience that was lying latent until now and has untied him with the ‘Universe’, to become one and same with the cosmos- an experience that he can neither completely ‘express’ nor ‘conceal’.
Literary Technique and Style:
The lines are written in Spenserian stanza, the rhyme scheme Byron used to compose ‘Childe Harold’. The poem has nine lines, the first eight of which are in iambic pentameter and the last line is iambic hexameter or “alexandrine” with an extra foot. The rhyme scheme of the poem is ABABBCBCC. There is a twist in the last lines that describes the poet’s feeling of the moment, the effect that the beauty of nature has over him surpasses all human language.