chapter  14
13 Pages

The Art of Don Juan: Byron’s Metrics *

WithDrummond J. Bone

Drummond Bone argues that critics should devote more attention to the technical matters of rhythm and rhyme in Byron’s poetry. The rigour of formalist analysis was for a long time (sometimes over-simplistically) associated with the narrow pieties of New Criticism, but piety is something Bone wishes to avoid. His work turns to the exigencies of form as a way of combating the ‘essential religious tendency’ of criticism which desires to produce interpretation. Bone’s approach is a theoretically informed formal analysis of what he describes as ‘the unattached, the particular thing, or the experience which is itself and no other’. As Anne Barton and Peter Manning demonstrate above, very little in Byron’s poetry is ‘unattached’, and we should perhaps also bear in mind Michael G. Cooke’s hypothetical warning that ‘to canonize the particularity of separate things may only reflect the lack of an adequate level of conception or generalisation’. Bone’s discussion of what he calls ‘the self-awareness nexus’ in Byron’s verse addresses the issue of the relationship between the poem and its readers. This essay, therefore, offers a testing alternative to Jerome McGann’s examination of readerly experience. Just as McGann identifies a third party in Byron’s contradictions, Bone finds ‘three, or maybe more’. McGann and Bone approach Byron’s poetry from different critical continents and it is fruitful to read their essays in dialogue and to compare, for example, their invocations of Soren Kierkegaard’s either/or dialectic and his concept of existential angst. Bone’s essay, like much new formalist writing, offers the reader shared, historically specific delight in what Cooke has called ‘the vital properties of texts that obey and yet hold surprises for known categories’.