I’ve never been good at writing about poetry. That’s why after I read Lord George Gordon Byron’s Darkness several times, I went on a Google expedition. Poetry has always scared me because getting stuck in the tone, diction, and “what was the speaker feeling?” myre is a little too easy. Of course, these are all valid ways to look at poetry — or any other literary work for that matter — but I find it frustrating that a poem is viewed as a code to be cracked.
Synopsis: The poem details the observations of a man whose world is covered in darkness by some fiery cataclysmic event. Byron writes:
I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went -and came, and brought no day…
There’s a lot more after that, but the setup is incredibly important because it lays the foundation for what life was like in Geneva, the city where Byron is said to have gotten the inspiration for this poem, according to Wikipedia.
Historical Context: On the surface, the poem does resemble a last man on Earth story. However, according to Wikipedia, Byron wrote “Darkness” in July 1816, which is referred to as the Year Without a Summer. During that summer, “severe summer climate abnormalities destroyed crops in Northern Europe, the Northeastern United States and eastern Canada. Average global temperatures decreased about 0.4–0.7 °C (0.7–1.3 °F), enough to cause significant agricultural problems around the globe,” according to the entry in Wikipedia.
These crazy weather patterns, scholars think, were caused “by a combination of a historic low in solar activity with a volcanic winter event; the latter caused by a succession of major volcanic eruptions capped off by the Mount Tambora eruption of 1815, the largest known eruption in over 1,600 years,” the post elaborates.
What’s more, if Wikipedia is to be believed, other pretty important things happened because of Mount Tambora’s erruption: Mary Shelley wrote ”Frankenstein” and John William Polidori’s wrote “The Vampyre.” The colder weather also led to poor crop yields, which led to a scarcity of oats for horses, spurring the invention of alternative, horseless transportation. Back then, it was known as the velocipede. Today, we know the contraptions under the name, bicycle. And then we have Joseph Smith. Without that volcano, the Book of Mormon and founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints might have never happened.
So here you have it, folks: Darkness.