So, we’ll go no more a roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a roving
By the light of the moon.
Scholars & Rogues’ last masthead honoree is the same as its first: George Gordon Byron, Sixth Baron of Newstead Abbey.
We debated a long while (well, a long while for a bunch of Scrogues – our attention spans are not our strong suits) before deciding that the best Scrogue to honor as we end an endeavor as glorious as S&R has been for us as writers – and we sincerely hope for you as readers given that we’ve often demanded you invest as much time and thought into a topic as we have – is to, to paraphrase a should-a-been Scrogue, John Donne, at the end of the resonant “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,” end where we begun.
So. We started with Byron and we end with Byron.
* * *
There’s much we could debate about Byron as a suitable alpha-omega figure for a publication that has been variously an arts and literature blog, a political blog, an environmentalism blog, a state of journalism blog, a photography blog, a women’s issues blog, a health and fitness blog, and a popular culture blog.
Byron was a womanizer, a wastrel, a conspicuous consumer, a fashion plate, and a scandal monger.
He was also a defender of freedom, a devoted if too-much-absent father, a lover of nature, a major poetic talent, and a role model for generations seeking to escape the stultifying strictures that conventionality, the greatest enemy of life and art, seek to impose.
* * *
When the Luddites began to attack textile mills in an expression of what would would ultimately be rendered impotent rage at the personal cost that Progress (a word that offers cover to the actions of both angels and demons) imposed upon them (their lifelong livelihoods were being swept aside by the mechanization of weaving), it was Lord Byron who stood up in the House of Lords and spoke in their behalf and argued that instead of castigation and punishment that they should be offered education and reintegration that allowed them dignity and did not make them slaves of mere capitalists.
When the people of Greece struggled to throw off the shackles of empire, Byron pledged his “life, fortune and sacred honor” to supporting their cause. It cost him his life.
When the poet Shelley fell on hard times, Byron more than once came to his rescue. One regret he expressed was that he did not learn the seriousness of Keats’ health problems until too late to help him.
He made the name Juan rhyme with “true one.” When he used a word….
* * *
Byron loved cool clothes, good food and wine, great conversation, adventure, romance, open-mindedness, bravery, and honesty.
He hated pomposity, convention, narrow-mindedness, dieting, religion (though not spirituality!), cowardice, and all forms of cant.
In his or her own way, every person who has written for Scholars & Rogues has exhibited Byron’s best qualities in one form or another. He would, if allowed, say that we honored him, not that he should be honored.
* * *
To close, an anecdote:
In my younger and more vulnerable years, to paraphrase another should-a-been Scrogue, F. Scott Fitzgerald, I had a fantastic professor who taught the Romantic poets. After wading through a couple of weeks on Blake, a couple on Coleridge, and weeks and weeks of Wordsworth poetry both significant and picayune, we ended the course with a week each on Byron, Shelley, and Keats.
The pissed off kid in me could not resist storming into his office one afternoon to argue his syllabus choices. “How could you not have us read more Byron and less Wordsworth?” was the gist of my argument, blustery and disorganized as it was.
He got up from his desk, walked over to his office window, and looked out at the expanse of beautiful trees and walkways that led to the university library. He then discoursed for some time about Wordsworth’s status as one of English literature’s greatest poets and the need to delve deeply into his oeuvre to understand both its influences and its influence.
“You know, Professor, you’re probably right – but I think it’s bullshit,” I said.
He smiled slyly over his shoulder at me. “Spoken quite Byronically,” he said.
We both smiled. But honest curiosity got the better of me. “But Byron’s a major poet, too. Why so much Wordsworth and so little Byron?”
He looked out the window again as he spoke. “Because this is a poetry course,” he said, emphasizing the term, I used to assume, for my benefit, though as a sadder but wiser soul, I think it was perhaps for himself, too. “We must always remember…” he paused, gathering his thoughts…
“Wordsworth was a great poet. Byron was a great human.”
Thus we end where we begun…so no more we’ll go a roving…..
“Our thoughts as boundless, and our souls as free,”. -Byron from The Corsair
May each of you remain proud for sharing your boundless thoughts and your souls stay free.