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Darkness and The Prisoner of Chillon - Comparing and Contrasting

Uploaded by boff_brigader on May 07, 2002


In this essay I will be discussing the similarities and differences between two poems written by Lord Byron in 1816, “Darkness” and “The Prisoner Of Chillon”.

I expect the poems will be very similar, as Lord Byron was inspired to write both of them on real events. “Darkness” was inspired by three volcanic explosions in different parts of the world in 1814 and 1815, which threw up masses of dust into the upper atmosphere, which made the summer of 1816 one of the darkest and wettest on record. This fact led Byron to imagine what might happen if the sun was blotted out permanently, and he wrote “Darkness”.

Another time he went for a trip around Lake Geneva, Switzerland where he was staying with a close friend to escape London society’s hatred. Whilst on his trip he discovered the Castle of Chillon, in which, between 1526 and 1532, a famous Genevan writer called François Bonnivard had been imprisoned. Byron hated the idea of anyone being imprisoned for his or her beliefs, as Bonnivard was, so he then wrote “The Prisoner Of Chillon”.


Byron seems to be obsessed with words ending in “-ess”, in “Darkness” he seems to fixate on words ending in “-less”, but in “The Prisoner Of Chillon” it is generally words ending in “-ess”. In “Darkness” the first example is:

“Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;” lines 4+5

Later in “Darkness” there is an even better example of his fixation:

“Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless,” line 71

In “The Prisoner Of Chillon” we don’t see this connection until much later in the poem:

“A sea of stagnant Idleness
Blind - boundless - mute - and motionless.” section 9, lines 249+250

In “The Prisoner Of Chillon” not only do we see his obsession with “-ess” words, but he also seems to be fanatical about the word “no”:

“There were no stars - no earth - no time -
No check - no change - no good - no crime -” section 9, lines 245+246

The effect this has on the poem is a very upsetting and negative mood, as it is constantly telling us that everything has stopped and there is nothing left, not even the pure elements.

In both poems the subject of selfishness is mentioned. In “Darkness” the selfishness is the world’s wish for light:

“Of this desolation; and all the hearts
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light:” lines 8+9

In “The Prisoner Of...

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Uploaded by:   boff_brigader

Date:   05/07/2002

Category:   Poetry

Length:   12 pages (2,720 words)

Views:   1551

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