My psychologist once told me that, “The key to happiness in life is being a good problem solver.” I’d like to add something to this, which is that, unfortunately, the more palpably subsumed a person finds him or herself in problems, the more adept this will be at solving them, though unfortunately this often means solving only certain of ones problems, and leaving the other ones extant.
So let’s get to the topic of making problems, manifesting problems, where there weren’t any there, in the first place. This seems to be the habit of rich people, like the guy who blamed society for not tending to, and fixing, his son’s schizophrenia.
From what I know about Lord Byron, for one, his mother basically put him on, sending him on this lavish trip across multiple countries from which he would relay back that he was still confused, unsure of what to do with his life. There was no talk about him writing incessantly, but rather, I believe, he chose the profession of poetry by way of Keats inspiration, or idolatry, for that matter, which would have come with potent contemporaneity at this point.
Byron was even married when he wrote Don Juan, which made him a man of privilege in every sense of the word. It’s said that the “Byronic hero” was often mimicked in ensuing British writing, and it’s understandable that the work of a handsome, popular man would both reflect this stature and attract those in search of it.
Byron must have been a pretty happy guy, so why did he feel the need to disparage Wordsworth? Another valid question is, why did he choose the genre of poetry, or writing in general?
Well, think about it, can you make fun of someone in a sculpture, can you demote someone’s dress or appearance in song? Words gave Byron, the talented oaf, the raw materials for dragging others down to his general level of being put-off, and insult as a general modus operandi game him ballast, a tactile power source to grant his work lucidity, affording him, at least in his own mind and some others, a viable place in history next to the original genius that was John Keats.
Byron’s case against Wordsworth, by way of the introductory “Dedication” to Don Juan, is that said work is “poetry, at least by his assertion, / And may appear so when the Dog Star rages, / And he who understands it would be able / To add a story to the tower of Babel.” Notice the importance placed on understandability in poetry. Byron seems to be presenting a case of poetry as a model, hence the paradigmatic derivation of the “Byronic hero,” which allegedly manifested in works to come. His work, ideally, is as a way of life, a specified measuring stick. Are you living your life this or that way, are you doing this or that quantifiable activity, are you thinking this or that quantifiable thought?
Byron calls for civic reform, right away: “I want a hero.” In the following sentences he flaunts his distaste for contemporary society by asserting a lack of such a referential “hero,” therein.
Basically, he’s bored. He’s a bored rich kid. He doesn’t understand Wordsworth (though heretofore has voiced no disapproval of the gripping and inspired Keats), he wants entertainment. In his quest for this, he lacerates prevailing poetic taste. And it’s true that people ended up liking him, but people also ended up liking Kurt Cobain of the band Nirvana, another especially restive artist who said “Here we are now / Entertain us.” Dissatisfaction can be a powerful cognitive vehicle, but it’s important to remember that that very dissatisfied eye also looks in the mirror.
Don Juan’s quests were based upon conquering the opposite sex, and this is something Byron himself seems to have done with aplomb is his own life, I mean look at his handsome face.
So the question is, should poetry actually tell us definitively how to live, on a tactile level?
Well, it’s generally impossible for everybody to live the same way, because interaction itself naturally precipitates a giver and a taker — a giver of information, of vibrations, of visions, countenances, prejudices and inclinations, and another, who walks away fatter from the situation, but nonetheless different from how he or she was, mentally, beforehand.
So the next logical point would be that only certain people are poets, poets are “heroic,” and over everyone else our eyesight glosses as a spider over an earthworm. Needless to say, Byron’s is not the poetry of commoners. The very rudiments of his “hero”’s functionality require privileged stature, arguably of both finance and romance. This is not poetry to make everything one, it’s poetry to separate the questing from the idle. But would you call the oak tree on the front lawn idle?
Byron sees stagnancy in everyday life. He sees a problem in this. But also, he has been overseas, traveling about on his mom’s dime, he hasn’t been wedged in a position of struggle in his own country, which some say, not without valence, is a basic necessity of life — the act of struggling. The identification with his work is contingent on various social graces falling into place for the reader. In gaining popularity, Byron has assumed a vacuous public, and got it. He has created a “hero,” a man to defeat his surroundings, rather than connecting with them on an equal plane.
The problem, for Byron, was that Wordsworth’s poetry was hard to understand. But why not offer the flipside? He doesn’t disparage Keats, why not offer praise of the presently five year old “Odes”? “Ode to Apollo” speaks musically and legendarily, offering the auxiliary edict in full, allusive literary force apparently so in demand in Romantic Britain. When Byron writes on Apollo, it’s the desultory work of a bored, detached, but oh so competent, student in a creative writing class. The problem in Byron’s life seems to be that by familial forces he simply had to be a writer, so he lashed back and vented part of his frustration in his very content, with the elevated power of a popular, handsome man. In this way his work becomes sort of like the first trashy talk show. Unable to live harmoniously in societies, craving mathematical superiority over cohorts, people prize defamations and desecrations. It’s a parasitic people who will indulge in the satisfaction of another’s demise as an antidote for what they view poorly.