A Story Is Written In First-Person Point Of View When Musings on Childe Harold by Lord Byron

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Musings on Childe Harold by Lord Byron

I recently finished a novel. In Eileen McHugh, Reconstructing a Life, I created a character named Alice, an art teacher nearing retirement, as the main character’s sculpture teacher as an art student in her first year. The book’s structure demanded that the story, set in the 1970s, be told from today’s perspective by contemporary survivors. Alice would not have lived until now, so I gave the role of her to her son, a physics professor at a university in the north of England. I had already fixed the surname of the artistic family in which the boy grew up. It was, by chance, Child. These two artist parents, one three-dimensional, the other two, must have chosen a one-dimensional name for their son, so I call him Harold, Harold Child. It was a joke.

Then, a few days later, I heard a performance of Harold’s in Italy, all but Berlioz’s Viola Concertos. Somewhere in this drug-fueled romanticism was an account, or perhaps a mere reflection, of Byron’s child Harold’s trip to Italy. I thought I should read the poem again. I first read it when I was the age that my character, Eileen McHugh, was in her art college. I can’t remember anything about it now.

It is a heroic poem by Lord Byron, written by the equally drug-fuelled Lord Byron, in nine-line stanzas, ending after eight pentameters in Alexandrian. It rhymes ABABBCBCB, meaning that the five lines of each stanza rhyme in a traditional manner. In it, our eponymous hero crosses the Mediterranean by sea, if linguistically possible, and visits many places where an artistic education might recall classical allusions. Throughout the journey, he calls at places with millennia of vivid history and proceeds to demonstrate much of what he knows, all of which he learned within the confines of private tutoring in English. Child Harold is self-absorbed, always keen to keep his own reactions at the forefront of his thoughts, often despite external stimuli. But that’s romanticism, isn’t it? And didn’t I just write about Eileen McHugh, a 1970s concept artist who imagined the meaning of everything she could choose to juxtapose?

A few years ago, I wrote a novel that attempted to be a loose parody of Don Quixote. It was called A Search for Donald Coty. I’m the one who wrote this, so you shouldn’t be surprised by my guess at success. I am especially proud of my episode update on the Cave of Montesinos. I began to wonder how anyone could parody Byron’s Harold nearly 200 years after his conception.

So instead of reviewing Child Harold, which has probably been done, what I offer here is a plan for a parody that will never be written. The first two stanzas, for me, if experienced today, would be a Mediterranean cruise. Let’s not have much experience at first but enjoy dropping off for a few hours in the protected areas of the famous, visited, historical places mentioned in the brochure. A diary kept by our cruiser, written in verse, is Child Harold 2020, in which passages are copied from handouts given on coastal day trips. It is not a reflection of Child Harold’s or any other traveler’s experiences which make up the summary but quotes from tourist notes supplied to anyone paying for the trip.

Later stanzas travel inland. How we get from A to B is largely ignored, but Byron rarely strays far beyond the Grand Tour. In contemporary terms. It’s a bus trip, of course, a 50-strong group that marches, chatters, past the wonders of Neapolitan art at the Capodimonte, lecturing in front of Caravaggio, overlooking the Brera to marvel at the peeling of the Last Supper in Milan and plastering around a copy of David in front of Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio. assembly I think I joked. But Naples is too dirty to walk around, isn’t it?

What interests me in 2020 is that the coronavirus pandemic will make both cruises and bus trips rather difficult to pursue. The obstacles are obvious and I won’t even attempt to list them. So how could Child Harold 2020 suffer his cascaded paroxysms of emotion?

Online, that’s how. WebCams, Wikipedia, TripAdvisor, Airb’n’b reviews, restaurant reviews complete with owner’s apologetic comments about service, this is how our Lockdown 2020 child Harold can play his viola. Imagine pensioners locked-down at home. Where did you go today dear? I walked around the Uffizi. Ignored the bullshit. Just looked at Canalettos. Read about them too. Scenes from Venice, apparently. Poetry will be epic.

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