chapter  12
14 Pages

Byron’s Imperceptiveness to the English Word *

WithPeter J. Manning

T. S. Eliot’s Symbolist preference for the resonance of the English word had been contested as early as 1937 by Ronald Bottrall’s suggestion that Lord Byron’s poetry operated on a principle of syntax and rhythm rather than on words as individual units. Language in Don Juan is placed between the original stage of infancy and a terminal erotic fusion with terrifying females like Catherine of Russia. Byron cherishes the membership of Don Juan in the linguistic community to which it ineluctably belongs. The words he speaks have a history of their own, meanings they carry with them from their innumerable uses outside and prior to the poem. Don Juan, to return to the quotation from Coleridge, can imitate ‘the indeliberateness, and less connected train, of thinking natural and proper to conversation’ because it sees conversation as an exemplary act performed in language, hence different in degree only, not kind, from literature.