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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 3.djvu/181

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INTRODUCTION TO THE BRIDE OF ABYDOS.

Many poets — Wordsworth, for instance — have been con- scious in their old age that an interest attaches to the circum- stances of the composition of their poems, and have furnished their friends and admirers with explanatory notes. Byron recorded the motif and occasion of the Bride of Abydos while the poem was still in the press. It was written, he says, to divert his mind, " to wring his thoughts from reality to imagination — from selfish regrets to vivid recollections " {Diary, December 5, 1813, Letters, ii. 361), "to distract his dreams from ..." {Diary, November 16) "for the sake of e?nployi?ie?it^ (Letter to Moore, November 30, 181 3). He had been staying during part of October and November at Aston Hall, Rotherham, with his friend James Wedderburn Webster, and had fallen in love with his friend's wife. Lady Frances. From a brief note to his sister, dated November 5, we learn that he was in a scrape, but in "no immediate peril," and from the lines, " Remember him, whom Passion's power " {vide ante, p. 67), we may infer that he had sought safety in flight. The Bride of Abydos, or Zuleika, as it was first entitled, was written early in November, "in four nights" {Diary, November 16), or in a week (Letter to Gifford, November 12) — the reckoning goes for little — as a counter-irritant to the pain and distress of amour interrompu. The confession or apology is eminently characteristic. Whilst the Giaour was still in process of evolution, still "lengthening its rattles," another Turkish poem is offered to the public, and the natural explanation, that the author is

in vein, and can score another trick, is felt to be inadequate