of Byron and Venezia

I'd like to extend a warm Divas welcome to my dear friend squozed who graciously agreed to write a piece for our blog (romantics that we are) about the poet Lord Byron. Now, as many romance writers know - especially the historical writers - Byron's poetry is - well pretty much required reading. So I'm sure you'll enjoy reading this post as much as I did.

Thank you so much squozed for blogging with us today. You truly are an honorary Divo.

by Squozed

I was honoured when I was asked by the lovely Johanna D’Angelo if I would consider writing a piece for her terrific website Pop Culture Divas where I was made an honorary Devo.  I met JoJo a few months ago through a social media site that I don’t use much anymore and discovered that we have a lot in common, not only our heritage, but a passion for movies and great literary works. If you don’t already, I highly recommend you check out her other site – well worth the visit.

JoJo suggested that I write about my favourite poet who may be yours as well, Lord Byron.  Now I know that there have been many stories, books and even documentaries and movies written and produced about the bard, but I decided to write about what he means to me from the perspective of his time in Venice, which coincidentally is where part of my family is from and where I started my life as well.  The request was also quite timely as I was scheduled to go there for business and to partake in some of the Carnevale festivities.  So as I arrived by motorboat snaking my way down the Grand Canal to my destination, I stopped and saw the Bridge of Sighs and immediately thought of the following passage:

I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs;
A palace and a prison on each hand;
I saw from out the wave of her structure's 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
Look'd to the winged Lion's marble pines,
Where Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles.

~ Childe Harold (canto IV, st. 1)

I suppose at this point I am taking for granted that you know who Lord Byron is? I have studied the man and have found some similarities in my life.  No, I absolutely do not think that anything I could ever write would have gone anywhere other than the rubbish bin if he wrote the exact same words.  I do imagine though that when I do write prose that I am channeling his spirit at some points. 

Anyway, a quick thumbnail about Lord Byron – born to a well to do father, he was short in stature – only 5’8” and fluctuated widely in weight being between 137 and 202 pounds as an adult; he became notorious for his alleged love affairs with women and Mediterranean boys; created his own cult of personality, the concept of the 'Byronic hero' - a defiant, melancholy young man, brooding on some mysterious, unforgivable in his past; had a clubbed foot that was made worse by a quack physician, he attended Cambridge which he called “a devil’s place,” because of his lasciviousness was basically exiled from England, travelled to Italy and settled in Venice where he lived for a few years and wrote some of his best works including the fourth canto of Childe Harold, the good-humored satire of Beppo, large parts of his memoirs, sundry other lyrics, some verse drama, dozens and dozens of letters, and the first sections of his masterpiece Don Juan.  He died of complications from Malaria in 1824.

Venice at the time that Byron arrived was a tribute to extreme excess and hedonism – clearly, it was well-suited for Byron where he spent many days and nights in unprecedented debauchery.  For example, he wrote about how he was with 200 women in the first 200 days that he was there.  He lived at the palazzo mocenigo, a tribute to all that was opulent during that time.  However, after a while, it appears from historical accounts, he backed away from the free-for-all.  This was also the period where he began to shy away from that brooding, angst-ridden tortured soul and introduced satire into his writing.  It has been said that Teresa Guiccioli, Byron's last love, whom he met in April 1819 became the mellowing influence on his life, though how he got together with her was also quite scandalous as she was married at the time and had the Pope dissolve her marriage in order to be with Byron. 

So with that as the backdrop, my similarities with Byron consist of attending the same university (though not the same college), having a passion for a city that is unmatched in the world, being a tortured soul but also loving satire.  That is where the similarities end – alas, no heroic trysts here, but nonetheless, I was drawn to his writing as the quintessential romantic and poet quite by happenstance.

I did not study English as a major in school, but did like taking some of the classes – my passion for Byron did not start until after university when I went to a poetry reading with a former fiancée – an aspiring actress who could have been the doppelgänger for Scarlett Johansson.  I was living in New York for a little while, but was so caught up in my work that my life at the time consisted of going from my apartment to work and back.  I figured if I agreed to go it would seem as though I might be more cultured than I really was.  To my shock, I really enjoyed the readings.  There was something that just spoke to my soul about the passion that was intertwined with each word read.  It might have been that he was a somewhat tortured person and that at the time was my mindset.  I just enjoyed and still do all of his writings.  The language is, no doubt, flowery to the point of making you pause and really think about what is being conveyed in each of his poems or stories. 

There is no doubt that he loved women and his mastiff which by the way was caricatured in a cartoon drawn to commemorate Cambridge’s 800th anniversary last year along with other famous graduates of that place.  To me, there is no other writer or poet that has gone before him or since that has been able to capture his passion for life, love, tragedy and yes, even politics not because he wrote of such happy events – but because he wrote of such events with his middle-finger raised high and because he wrote from an often very dark place.  Certainly my assessment is entirely subjective, but I have never felt words move me in such a way as his writing has.  From a moral standpoint, he clearly was bankrupt and the rumours of his sexuality and incest never went away.  In fact, he was such the antihero that many of his works would not be published until much later, after he died because they were thought to have been about subjects that were too risqué.  One of the early banned books pioneers I suppose.

Since the time of my enlightenment about Byron, I have written (attempted) to write some poetry, most of which falls far from his passion, but certainly written in his spirit.  I shouldn’t write this, but there have been times that friends or co-workers have asked me to write for them so they could give their wives, girlfriends or significant other something for a birthday or other special occasion.  Maybe I was like Lord Byron in that sense that I got lucky living vicariously through them.  I can only smile as the modern day Cyrano or something like that.

Each time I go back to Venice, I try to retrace the footsteps and go to the places that Byron enjoyed in order to gain a better understanding of what he was thinking or feeling during that time.  While Venice has evolved from the den of iniquity, being there during Carnevale gives one a small glimpse of what life must have been like at that time although I don’t think that any of the festivities today comes close to what was going on in the early 1800s.  It certainly must have been some culture shock to Byron, especially after being essentially kicked out of England for doing things that were probably quite tame in Venice.  Oh the culture clashes.

To channel Lord Byron is exactly what I try to do with this type of writing.  My words are chosen, not in an attempt to show that I am superior anyone; rather I am trying to make the reader think about what is being conveyed – to foster a discussion about the subject – or to get the reader to express his or her feelings or thoughts. 

Hey, if I can get some of the ladies to swoon along the way – well that is just an added bonus.  I am, of course, just kidding about that part – well, maybe just a little.

I am not a writer, but have a passion for writing;
I am not a poet, but poetry is my song;
I am not a romantic, but live each day hoping to find romance.

Squozed posts regularly on two different blogs:

For articles that range from thoughtful and reflective to whipsmart and witty you can read squozed's posts on his wordpress blog called squozed too.

For always delectable concoctions of provocative music, prose, poetry and images check out squozed's tumblr blog.


  1. Hey Squozed

    Welcome to the Divas, dear Divo!

    I studied some poems of Byron for my last year of high school. While I loved his writing, it is your post today that really made me see him as a man and not just, as then, as an author I was supposed to study.



  2. A modern-day Cyrano - I love that! And the Bridge of Sighs makes me sigh just thinking about it. Thanks for the wonderful post squozed. Hope you'll visit again soon.

  3. I love your lines of not-poetry at the end, especially:

    'I am not a writer, but have a passion for writing'

    I feel just the same as I tackle manuscript revisions. Really enjoyed your post on Byron - as Z mentioned, you've introduced me to the origin of 'Byronic hero' and I'm very glad to meet him.

  4. I, too, loved your final words - all fabulous really. I discovered my poetic side late in life after I met my father and heard how his mother had written poetry. Byron sounds fascinating - often the writer is far more interesting than their work or maybe it's just that I love to read about people and places in history! You've really inspired my day and my independent spirit.

  5. I also think that I often channel Lord Byron, probably because of my own tendency to be "mad, bad, and dangerous to know", not to mention my tendency towards self-imposed exile and numerous love affairs (reformed female rake). Thanks for the elegant post! A little Byron goes a long way.

  6. Fascinating stuff! Seems always that our heroes reflect our passions more succinctly than any of our pastimes. I love how you find kernels of inspiration sprinkled throughout Byron's life. Very cool!

    May you find passion within your prose and inspire others to discover the passion within their souls.

    --Chiron O'Keefe
    Weekly Motivation for Writers at The Write Soul: www.chironokeefe.blogspot.com

  7. Thank you honorary DIVO!

    What a wonderfully insightful piece, though I am always quite curious, when someone posts in a pen name, who the person behind it is... And your Tumblr blog is also quite mysterious.

    That said, I did enjoy reading about all the similarities you pointed to between yourself and Byron. And Venice indeed, one of a kind.

    On a completely different note but your piece made me think of it, and from a fellow Italian, I do recommend watching 'The Fakir of Venice' if the film ever gets released and reading Rushdie's 'The Enchantress of Florence' if you haven't already, for more interconnections you might find yourself attracted to... And more similarities...

  8. I love this post! I'm familiar with Byron's wonderful work but I never had a chance to read what his life was like. It sounded like he had a full and eventful life if only one that was relegated to so many loves and emotional growth.

    Thanks for such a wonderful, enlightening post, squozed, and congrats and welcome on becoming an honorary Divo!. :-)

  9. Thank you for your post, Squozed.

    I have two degrees in English, so you can bet I've studied Byron quite a bit. I can understand your enthusiasm for the man and his works. After two centuries, both are still highly relevant. Not to mention enjoyable!

    Byron is significant to modern culture for many reasons. But one of the most important is that, IMHO, he's the prototype for a figure that keeps recurring in our pop culture---the antihero, the angry young man, the square peg. Some claim that Marlon Brando or James Dean started it all. I say the original for this sort of figure goes back further, all the way to Byron.

    The part about channeling Byron really caught my eye. Do you mean that literally or figuratively? Just wondering . . .

    Memo to Joanna: Y'know, I feel about another poet of the period, John Keats, in a way similar to how Squozed feels about Byron. If you're still open to the idea of guest divas blogging on PCD, could I do a write-up on my main man?

    Keep up the good work!

  10. Thanks again Squozed for blogging with us today. It was a pleasure. Your article was not only enlightening, but personal, poetic and poignant as well.

  11. Thanks everyone for your comments - Mary Anne - you are very welcome to guest blog for us! ;) I'll be in touch about that.

    Take care.

  12. Dearest Joanna: I am frightfully pleased to advise you that you have been chosen as a most worthy recipient of the Creative Blogger Award! To accept your award and to acquaint yourself with the explicit & time-honoured rules, kindly visit: http://thiscatsabroad.blogspot.com/2010/03/creative-writer-blogger-award.html. [i]Hip hip hurray to you![/i]


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