Childe Harold's Pilgrimage | Study Guide

Lord Byron

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Childe Harold's Pilgrimage | Themes

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Loneliness

Loneliness is the primary feeling throughout Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. He leaves London in Canto 1 because he has been shunned from society. The narrator comments that, "And now Childe Harold was sore sick at heart, / And from his fellow bacchanals would flee."

In Canto 2 Childe Harold feels lonely while sailing away from Greece. He states, "The heart, lone mourner of its baffled zeal, / Though friendless now, will dream it had a friend." He wants to be a boy again and remembers when he felt that he had friends.

Childe Harold thinks that he has reinvented himself as a better man in Canto 3, but no one has noticed or cares. The people in London who shunned him will never see him for anything except what he was in the past. The narrator states, "Still round him clung invisibly a chain / Which galled for ever, fettering though unseen."

Childe Harold tells in Canto 3 that "I have not loved the world, nor the world me, — / But let us part fair foes." He feels lonely but accepts the loneliness. He mentions his daughter Ada Byron twice in Canto 2 beginning and ending the canto with her. He states, "I know that thou wilt love me; though my name / Should be shut from thee, as a spell still fraught / With desolation, and a broken claim." Childe Harold believes that his daughter will love him even if no one else in the world does, and even though he thinks that Ada's mother will keep them apart.

The narrator comments in Canto 4 that he would rather forget every person and live in nature. He states, "That I might all forget the human race." He wants to be in nature more than cities because he feels alone in crowds.

War

Childe Harold speaks of war throughout Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. He despises war but calls the soldiers gallant. He talks of the Napoleonic wars when in Spain by saying, "Who could foresee thee, in a space so brief, / A scene where mingling foes should boast and bleed." He describes the blood and horrors of war in every country he visits except Switzerland.

Childe meets Ali Pasha (1741–1822) in Albania. Ali Pasha tells Childe Harold stories of his own conquests and victories in war. Childe Harold visits Belgium and goes to the site of the battle of Waterloo where Napoleon was defeated. He imagines the start of the battle in Waterloo as fighting that interrupts a festival and visits the grave of a fallen soldier. Childe Harold describes Greece as a "land of war and crimes."

The narrator comments that Childe Harold's "life was one long war with self-sought foes." Childe Harold is at war with himself over the man he thinks he should have been and the man he became. The man he became caused him to lose his home, his daughter, and everything he knew.

Nature

Childe Harold uses nature almost like a medicine. He describes some cities but focuses on the mountains, lakes, and other scenery around each city he visits. He comments that nature is "the kindest mother still" and the "fairest in her features wild." He thinks of nature as kind and beautiful and chooses to be out of the cities as much as possible. He describes the mountains and ocean as his friends and home and wants only the companionship of the wilderness.

His notes that nature will always be there even when everything people create is destroyed. He states, "Art, Glory, Freedom fail, but Nature still is fair."

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