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the situation by comparing it to the fury of a storm breaking over the
Alps:

Could I embody and unbosom now
That which is most within me,”could I wreak
(st. ·)
My thoughts upon expression.

And so forth: he longs for “one word [of ] Lightening,” one word of
comfort that would “lighten” his heart of its weight of sorrow, one word
of insight that would “enlighten” his understanding of his situation, and
one word of power that would, like a bolt of lightning, “blast” and purify
those places “where desolation lurk[s]” (st. µ).
Like Manfred “ another creature of separation “ who begs from
Astarte “one word for mercy” (, , ±µµ), Childe Harold™s longings re-
main incompletely satis¬ed. In all these cases the very effort to achieve

The circumstances of publication
some kind of completion, to reconcile the various contradictions, only
seems to install them more deeply and more ¬rmly.
Charles Skinner Matthews wrote gaily of his “mysterious” style of
discourse, but it was a style which Byron, its supreme master, came to
fear as he developed it through his years of fame. And well he might have
feared it since it was a style which forced into the open the hypocrisies of
those who read and write poetry as if it were simply a beauty or a truth, as
if it were something that could be controlled “ enlisted to the purposes of
either those who produce it or those who receive it. “Fare Thee Well!” is
Byron™s farewell to the illusion that he could be the master of the artistic
powers which were given to him. Written in hopes that it would allow
him to control the dangerous cross-currents of his circumstances in ±±,
the poem™s bad faith “ which is its genius “ worked to undermine the
actual despair latent in such petty hopes.

CONCLUSION

A number of important de¬ciencies tend to follow when circumstances
of production are not factored into the interpretive operation. At the
most elementary level “ at what Blake called “the doors of perception” “
readers will be inclined to see, and hence to deal with, only the linguistic
text. In fact the poetic event always comprehends a larger scriptural
territory, one which is bibliographically (as well as linguistically) encoded.
The physical forms within which poetry is incarnated are abstracted from
an interpretive activity only at the price of a serious critical blindness,
and a blindness that brings with it little corresponding insight.
The problem emerges dramatically in the example from Blake, of
course, but the very clarity of that example “ the fact that it can be grasped
as a local and immediate event “ can be deceiving. Blake™s illuminated
texts do not lend themselves to the kind of physical variabilities which
are common in the case of typographical texts. I am speaking here of
the variabilities which develop when texts are transmitted over time to
later readers. That transmission history tends not merely to erase the
bibliographical terms in which the texts “ the meanings of the texts “
were initially encoded; it tends to make us unaware of the presence
and signi¬cance of bibliographical coding in general. People tend not
to realize that a certain way of reading is privileged when “Ode on a
Grecian Urn” is read in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, and that
it is a way of reading which differs sharply from what is privileged in
Palgrave™s Golden Treasury or in the Oxford Book of Romantic Verse; and when
° Byron and Romanticism
the poem is (or was) read in other kinds of formats “ for example, in its
¬rst printing in the Annals of the Fine Arts “ an entirely different ¬eld of
reading is once again deployed. Furthermore, the work that descends to
us descends through particular forms of transmission, and the work does
not pass through those incarnations without having its meaning affected
by them. We are able to discern patterns in a work™s reception history
precisely because those historical in¬‚uences have inscribed themselves
in the works we receive.
The example from Byron, however, underscores yet another impor-
tant matter. Poetic works are not autonomous in either of the senses that
the academy has come, mistakenly, to believe. That is to say, poems are
neither linguistically self-contained, nor simply the expressed forms of a
single “ an authorizing and integral “ imagination. The actual produc-
tion of poems is one part of that social dialectic by which they live and
move and have their being, one part of the communicative interchange
which they always solicit.
The Byron example is especially instructive, I think, because it shows
how those interchanges can never be brought under the control of the
author. Poems are produced, used, and read in heterogeneous ways;
unlike other forms of discourse, in fact, they require “ they thrive upon “
those diverse forms of life. Crucial parts of those interchanges are en-
coded in the bibliographical and productive histories of the poems we
read. When we neglect those histories we simply condemn our readings
to a culpable “ because an unnecessary “ ignorance.

APPENDIX

Several queries put to my paper by symposium respondents might be
usefully pursued. I note a few of them here and give some brief (too brief
I realize) comments.
± “Does a literary scholar . . . ever have what one might call a ˜natural™
response of his own? Or is he for ever and only knowledgeable about
the way the poem (or whatever) has been received in various constel-
lations of historical circumstances?”
I would say that all responses are continuations of “historical cir-
cumstances.” But because we can never comprehend the limit of those
circumstances, novel and imaginative interventions are always taking
place. We recognize such interventions, after the fact, as having cer-
tain historical routes (roots), and so after the fact we seem to diminish
their singularities. But even after the fact one cannot comprehend
±
The circumstances of publication
the full range of “historical circumstances” within which any text is
imbedded, within which it carries itself out. (I have treated these issues
at greater length in my Social Values and Poetic Acts.)
 “Does some meaning remain in common to all historical readings of
a poem? “ for instance to the three readings of the Byron poem you
mention?”
The three readings of the Byron poem illustrate, for me, not only
a set of differentials, but the ¬eld of their integrity as well. When I
¬gure that ¬eld socio-historically I mean to gesture toward a common
reality which the three readings share, and I do not exclude from
this the reality of a “total meaning.” Each of the readings participate
in that “total meaning”; but because the totality of that meaning is
never complete (it is always being modi¬ed, sometimes by extensions,
sometimes by losses and subtractions), the commonality of meaning
always exists as a state of desire (as Wordsworth puts it, “something
longed for, never seen”).
 “With Byron™s ˜Fare Thee Well!™ you distinguish three different ways
of reading. Shouldn™t one also add a fourth: our reading of Byron™s
poem in an edition (in isolation) . . . ?”
Yes, one should add such a fourth reading, and a ¬fth as well: the
latter being that which is represented by my own, which seeks to
de¬ne the boundaries within which every act of reading will (or could)
take place.
 “Could one go on to develop a strong account of literature as social
action? “ e.g. of the Byron poem as a turning point . . . in the history
of attitudes toward marriage and divorce?”
I think one can and indeed must develop precisely such an account,
and I have been trying to work in that direction with my two most
recent critical books, Social Values and Poetic Acts and Towards a Literature
of Knowledge.±°

NOTES

± All discussions here of the copies of Blake™s books draw heavily on the mon-
umental work by Gerald E. Bentley, Jr (±··).
 See Erdman (±, ±µ). The only other comments that are more than
just passing references are in the excellent review of David Erdman™s revised
edition of The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake done by the Santa Cruz
Blake Study Group (±) and in Ferguson (±·). Unlike the Santa Cruz
Blake Study Group, Ferguson does not really grasp the problematic char-
acter of the plate; see, e.g., his discussion at ±“±·: “The deletions which
 Byron and Romanticism
Blake made from this plate reveal a growing sense of determination, perhaps
also of isolation, similar to that experienced by Ezekiel at the beginning of
his prophetic work . . . So, Blake deletes any apologies for his poem, clearly
demonstrating a new awareness of prophetic calling, and exhibiting a much
tougher attitude toward the reader.” This “reading” has not come to grips
with the textual ground of the (hermeneutical) problem.
 For a possible “reading” of the plate see McGann (±: ch. ±). The present
discussion of the plate from Jerusalem is part of the more extended treatment
of Blake given in that chapter.
 The essential critical discussions of the poem are Coleridge (±“±°:
III, µ± “µµ); Erdman “ ˜Fare Thee Well!™ “ Byron™s Last Days in England,”
in Shelley and his Circle ±··“±, Vol. III, ed. Kenneth Neill Cameron
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, ±·°), W. Paul Elledge,
“Talented Equivocation: Byron™s ˜Fare Thee Well!™ ” Keats“Shelley Journal, µ
(±), “±, and Lord Byron: The Complete Poetical Works, ed. McGann, · vols.
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, ±°“±), III, “).
µ Ethel Colburn Mayne, Byron (London: Methuen and Co. Ltd., ±), µ;
Wordsworth™s reading is given in a letter to John Scott, who put out the
unauthorized printing of Byron™s poem (see below).
 Malcolm Elwin, Lord Byron™s Wife (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, ±),
.
· Thomas Moore, The Life, Letters and Journals of Lord Byron (London, ±), ±.
 Donald Reiman. The Romantics Reviewed (New York: Garland Press, ±·),
Part B, IV, ±··.
 Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, ±.
±° London and Oxford: Oxford University Press, ±.
µ
CHAPTER


Byron and the anonymous lyric




I

Although academic criticism in the twentieth century has maintained a
studied disinterest in Byron™s lyric poetry, nineteenth-century attitudes
were (as usual) very different. The difference is manifest in Pushkin,
Heine, and Poe, but it takes its most startling and perhaps most signi¬cant
form in Baudelaire. A key ¬gure in the history of the lyric even for those
(for instance, T. S. Eliot) who denigrated Byron™s importance, Baudelaire
took Byron™s work as a crucial point of artistic departure. In that (now
largely ignored) context the conventional academic view of Byron has to
be judged, simply and objectively, mistaken. Profoundly mistaken.
To explain the historical contradiction involved here would require a
revisionary critique of the modernist reception of Baudelaire. My object
is more simple. I want to sketch certain key points of relation between
Byron and Baudelaire in order to describe the general formal character
of Byron™s lyric procedures. Such a study will also display the peculiar
subjectivity of Byron™s narrative and dramatic poetry, and hence the re-
markable transformation that he worked upon a paradigmatic Romantic
form, the lyrical ballad.
The connection between Byron and Baudelaire is most easily traced
through the cultural history of dandyism. To study Byron in that context,
however, can easily obscure the technical issues to be understood when
we try to recover what nineteenth-century writers found so important
in Byron™s lyrical procedures. So far as poetry as such is concerned,
dandyism is important for the rhetorical postures it involves. Fleurs du Mal
engages an aesthetic of dandyism that Baudelaire studied in Byron™s lyric
work. This aesthetic is announced in Fleurs du Mal™s famous opening poem
“Au lecteur,” where key conventions of Romantic lyricism undergo an
ironic meltdown. The sacred interiority of the Romantic rˆveur and his
e



 Byron and Romanticism
complicit partner, the overhearing reader, is torn open in order to expose
(and exploit) its spiritual emptiness.
The text needs no rehearsing. We might recall, however, the important
rhetorical move at the poem™s conclusion, where Baudelaire addresses
the reader directly: “Hypocrite lecteur, “ mon semblable, mon fr` re.”e
Baudelaire turns the monstrous delicacy of the Romantic aesthetic “ the
“overheard” poem, in John Stuart Mill™s well-known English formula-
tion “ into a weapon. Poet and reader are no longer permitted to imagine
themselves saved by imagination. On the contrary, imagination is ¬gured
in the poem as hashish, source of illusion. The point of the text is not
at all to escape illusion “ to acquire an aesthetic redemption through
either intense feeling or deeper understanding. Rather, it is simply to
confront the reader with his damnation, to plunge him into the hell he
has imagined he has not chosen and does not inhabit. In this text reader
and poet “ like Paolo and Francesca “ are imagined ¬‚oating in the dry
heat of shared hypocrisies and a culpable linguistic innocence. (As we
shall see, Byron read the famous episode from Dante™s Inferno in precisely
that way “ as an emblem for a writing that would bring itself as well as
its (Romantic) readers to a ¬nal, terrible judgment.)±
To write in this style, for Baudelaire, was to write under Byronic
signs, as Baudelaire told his mother immediately after the publication
of Fleurs du Mal. This we have largely forgotten, just as we have forgot-
ten the extraordinary stylistic means Byron developed for releasing that
system of signs. Baudelaire understood what Byron was doing, however,
and he followed Byron™s example in his own poetry.
In this connection, one of Baudelaire™s most signi¬cant comments
appears in his (unpublished) ± critical essay “L™esprit et le style
de M. Villemain.” Baudelaire™s essay is an extensive critical survey
of Villemain™s dull academic work. In his brief abusive dismissal of
Villemain™s ±µ study of Pindar, Essais sur le g´nie de Pindare et sur le
e
g´nie lyrique, Baudelaire glances at what he considers most signi¬cant
e
in “le g´ nie lyrique.” He calls it “le po´sie lyrique anonyme.” An obtuse
e
e
academic to Baudelaire, Villemain simply has no grasp of this crucial
lyrical style:
Il a pens´ a Longfellow, mais il a omis Byron, Barbier et Tennyson, sans doute
e`
parce qu™un professeur lui inspire toujours plus de tendresse qu™un po` te.
e
This “tendresse” is a condition of feeling appropriate to the style of
Baudelaire™s “anonymous” lyricism. It is a feeling generated from the
(paradoxically) cold style of the dandaical poet, who pursues every range
µ
Byron and the anonymous lyric
of feeling “ pain and pleasure, benevolence and cruelty. Baudelaire reads
Byron as he reads Pindar, as a poet nearly anonymous. Because Byron
is a Romantic poet, however, because he inherits the style of Romantic
self-expression, he becomes for Baudelaire a poet of masks and poses,
the manipulator of his own subjectivities. Pain or pleasure, benevolence
or cruelty, good and evil: the poem (as it were) will decide what to take
up among this range of human things and in what point of view to con-
sider the subject-poet and his overhearing reader. Theatricality replaces
Sincerity as the measure of Romantic style.
We begin to recover Baudelaire™s approach to Byron by starting from
a key Byronic text, the once so celebrated “Fare Thee Well!”µ The aca-

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