The History of Literature #145 – Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know – The Story of Lord Byron

The Later Romantic poet George Gordon Byron, once described by Lady Caroline Lamb as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” lived 36 years and became world famous, his astonishing career as a poet matched only by his astonishing record as a breaker of norms, an insatiable lover, a bizarre hedonist, a restless exile, a head-scratching eccentric, a passionate friend, a determined athlete, an ardent revolutionary, and in general, one of the greatest embracers of life the world has ever seen.

Works discussed include Childe Harold’s PilgrimageFugitive Pieces / Hours of IdlenessEnglish Bards and Scotch Reviewers, and Don Juan.

For another taste of Romantic poetry, try our episode on Poetry and Ruins, which includes a look at Shelley’s Ozymandias.

Jacke recounts his own attempts to write a Keatsian poem in the Bad Poetry episode.

Byron makes a cameo appearance – he was on the scene when both Frankenstein and vampires were invented – in our Mary Shelley episode.

Want some of the older Romantics? Try our episode on Coleridge and the Person from Porlock.


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History of Literature Episode #56 – Shelley, HD, Yeats, Frost, Stevens – The Poetry of Ruins (with Professor Bill Hogan)


In 1818, the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley published his classic poem “Ozymandias,” depicting the fallen statue of a once-powerful king whose inscription “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” has long since crumbled into the desert. A hundred years later, a set of Modernist poets revisited the subject of ruins, injecting the poetic trope with some surprising new ideas. Professor Bill Hogan of Providence College joins Jacke for a look at the treatment of ruins in the poetry of H.D. (1886-1961), William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Robert Frost (1874-1963), and Wallace Stevens (1879-1955).


 Works Discussed:

“Ozymandias” (1818) – Percy Bysshe Shelley

“The Walls Do Not Fall” (1944) – H.D.

“The Tower” (1928) – W.B. Yeats

“The Directive” (1946) – Robert Frost

“The Anecdote of the Jar” (1919) and “The Man on the Dump” (1939) – Wallace Stevens

Show Notes: 

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Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).