Despite his club-foot, Lord Byron really got around (apologies). I don’t know whether he was a genuinely accomplished lover, but it hardly matters in his designation as an erotic deity; the man knew how to write a love-poem.
Byron, Lord George Gordon Noel. Hebrew Melodies. London: John Murray, 1815. First edition, first printing.
The first poem in the collection need only be quoted in part:
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And of all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies. (B2r)
How could any one resist such lines? Change, if you will, “She” to “He”, “her” to “his” – it doesn’t do too much damage to the sonority – and you have a poem that can be recited to your love, wherever on the gender spectrum he or they may sit. What happens next, which is not the purview of this flimsy Web-log, is up to you, but the saying will ennoble and enflame both you and your audient(s).
Of further interest – doubtless after the chocolate soufflé that you must remember to order before the entrée has fallen – is the provenance of our copy: it belonged to Francis L. Randolph, Byron’s bibliographer. Randolph used it as an exemplar of the first state (i.e., first edition, first printing) of the collection. Included with the volume is a type-script of Randolph’s notes with some manuscript annotations.
The Hebrew Melodies are true lyric poems, having been set to the music of Isaac Nathan in April of 1815; the lyrics, as it were, were published in the present item in summer of the same year (as the date of the advertisements at rear confirms). Convinced by Lady Caroline Lamb, his mistress, to collaborate with Nathan, Byron attributes the decision to write the poems to his friend (and banker) the Hon. Douglas Kinnaird. If you have a good clear voice, sing it to your love.
Octavo (8 3/4” x 5 9/16”, 222mm x 142mm). binder’s blank, A4 B-D8 E4 F4 G2, binder’s blank; 38 leaves; pp. , 53, blank, , ; half-title A1r, title A2r, note A3r, contents A4r, half-title B1r, Murray advertisements E4r-v, half-title for Works of the Right Hon. Lord Byron. printed by T. Davison F1r, title for The Works of the Right Hon. Lord Byron Vol. I published by Murray F2r, half-title for Works… (identical to F1r) F3r, title for The Works… Vol. II F4r, Murray advertisements (dated “June, 1815.”) G1-2.