“On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year”

This week I wanted to look deeper into On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year by Lord Byron. It’s important to note that this particular poem was the final entry in Lord Byron’s journal before he died, and that it was written in Greece on his thirty-sixth birthday. (Damrosch and Dettmar, pg. 862). To me, this poem carries a theme of emotion over logic, with a specific emphasis on love and feelings surrounding death. As you may recall in our readings, and please forgive me for emphasizing so much on context (I think it’s crucial for this poem), Byron had a train wrecked marriage, and a whole skew of lovers and interests, that left him hollow. Where we pick up, Byron has sought out battle in Greece as a means to mask his general confusion about love and all the emotions that accompany it. He has seemed to reach a dead end with his short-lived love affairs, and is wrought with the realization that he will never find a true love. This is made evident by lines three and four: “Yet though I cannot be beloved, Still let me love.” He is aware of his looming death, “my days are in the yellow leaf,” and is filled with sadness at that though of passing alone.  So much of Byron’s work is emotion over logic, and a whole line in this poem is solely dedicated to emotions: “the hope, the fear, the jealous care.” These emotions are means to his end, but also give him hope in a glorious death. After spending the first half of the poem mourning for himself and his lost chance at true love, Byron recuperates in the second half. It is here that he gets emotionally caught up in the war related glory of the Greek men he is fighting with, and he becomes infatuated with the idea of dying an honorable death in battle: “awake my spirit”. By the end of the poem Byron has fully accepted, and is even excited about, death: “seek out-less often sought than found, Soldier’s Grave-for thee best.” This shows the Byron has fully embraced emotion over logic, because the logical brain does not desire death at the age of thirty-six. Byron runs to it with open arms, replacing his longing for love with the desire to be honored in his passing.

This poem differs from my previous one, which was The Tyger by William Blake, in one very key aspect. Put simply, Byron tends to focus on emotion over logic, while Blake’s favorite concept is imagination. Blake tries to take his readers into his world though vivid imagery and hints of exoticism. Byron, on the other hand, seems to view everything through emotional eyes. I feel that in his last poem, it was more of him trying to sort all his feelings out in words (his comfort), as opposed to seeking affirmation from readers. It is beautiful poetry, but it also has this raw factor; it’s like you can see into his soul. I love writing because I feel it’s the most thorough medium to express yourself through, at least in my opinion. Byron captured an essential theme of the romantic period by leaving logic for emotion. I understand where he is coming from though. Logic seems to be ever changing, and it’s often hard to relate to the logic of another. But emotions are something we all have in common, and it’s something that will be relatable for centuries to come.

Damrosch, David, and Kevin Dettmar. “George Gordon, Lord Byron.” The Longman Anthology of British Literature. Fifth ed. Vol. 2A. New York: Longman, 2012. 862. Print.


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