The Byron Journal

‘Headlong he leapt—to him the swimmer’s skill / Was native’: Byron at Sea

The Byron Journal (2019), 47, (1), 5–16.

Abstract

From the famous 1810 Hellespont feat to the 1818 Lido-Grand Canal race, Byron’s prowess as a sea-swimmer and his talent for relating these epic exploits in vibrant prose remains unchallenged, as his famous letter vindicating his Leander swim and the Venice race, printed in The London Magazine in April 1821, attests. Equally compelling are his poetic depictions of swimmers—Manfred’s and Jacopo Foscari’s childhood memories, Childe Harold’s Ocean stanzas, The Island’s seascape. Perhaps most significant, however, is the pervading presence of marine metaphors and tropes that navigate the entirety of Byron’s oeuvre, and reveal an idiosyncratic poetics. This essay will address the intricate, transgressive, playful ways in which Byron’s life-long relationship with the sea, and swimming, is reflected in his writing.

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Author details

Horová, Mirka