From Canto IV:
I stood in Venice, on the ‘Bridge of Sighs;’
A Palace and a prison on each hand:
I saw from out the wave her structures rise
As from the stroke of the Enchanter’s wand:
A thousand Years their cloudy wings expand
Around me, and a dying Glory smiles
O’er the far times, when many a subject land
Looked to the winged Lion’s marble piles,
Where Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles!
Written in Spenserian stanzas, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage describes the travels of Harold, a self-exiled pilgrim, who is a melancholy and defiant outcast.
In 1809 Byron took his seat in the House of Lords, and then left for the first of his prolonged visits abroad. He visited Portugal, Spain, Malta, Greece, and the Levant between 1809 and 1811. In 1809 he began the poem that was to become Childe Harold (completing two cantos). The first two cantos were published in March 1812, and the poem was a great literary triumph. After the publication Byron wrote ‘I woke and found myself famous.’ Byron left England in 1816 and travelled to Geneva where the Shelleys had rented a villa. There he wrote Canto III of Childe Harold. By 1817 he was living in Venice, and on a trip to Rome he began the poem’s final canto. The last two cantos were published in 1816 and 1818 respectively.
The text of this ebook edition is based on a collation of volume i. of the Library Edition, 1855, with the following manuscripts:
- the original MS. of the First and Second Cantos, in Byron’s handwriting
- a transcript of the First and Second Cantos, in R C Dallas’s handwriting
- a transcript of the Third Canto, in the handwriting of Clara Jane Clairmont
- a collection of ‘scraps,’ forming a first draft of the Third Canto, in Byron’s handwriting
- a fair copy of the first draft of the Fourth Canto, together with the MS. of the additional stanzas, in Byron’s handwriting
- a second fair copy of the Fourth Canto, as completed, in Byron’s handwriting
For ease of reading, this edition does not include slight textual variations in the manuscripts listed above. Instead, we recommend scholars refer to alternate editions of the poem if they require details of these variations.
Where possible, notes are provided on the same page as the stanza. This is to facilitate ease of reference, and is unique to this edition. Notes are indicated by a bracketed letter: eg [a]. (We have attempted to eliminate repetitive notes: for example, Byron originally named the title character ‘Childe Burun’. It does not benefit the reader to be constantly reminded of this.)
The footnotes include omitted or additional stanzas, together with material useful to the general reader. Footnotes are based on the work of E. H. Coleridge, editor to the 1899 edition, as well as Byron or John Cam Hobhouse. (Hobhouse met and befriended Byron at Trinity College, and accompanied the poet in his journeys in the Peninsula, Greece and Turkey; all of which influenced this poem.)