LARA STANZA 17 BYRON: TESTO
In him inexplicably mixed appeared
Much to be loved and hated, sought and feared;
Opinion varying o ’er his hidden lot,
In praise or railing ne’r his name forgot:
His silence formed a theme for others’ prate -
They guessed - they gazed - they fain would know his fate.
What had he been? yet some would say,
Whit them he could seem gay amidst the gay;
But owned that smile, if oft observed and near,
Waned in its mirth, and withered to a sneer;
That smile might reach his lip but, passed not by,
None e’er could trace its laughter to his eye:
Yet there was softness too in his regard;
At times, a heart as not by nature hard,
But once perceived, his spirit seemed to childe
Such weakness as unworthy of its pride,
And steeled itself, as scorning to redeem
One doubt from others’ half withheld esteem;
In self-inflicted penance of a breast
Which tenderness might once have wrung from rest;
In vigilance of grief that would compel
The soul to hate for having loved too well.
LARA BYRON ANALYSIS
Comment: Conrad is a pirate chief: he at once captures the popular imagination, as nothing is known about his past, except the fact that he is of high lineage. He is generally taciturn and brooding [permaloso]; he can smile, but his smile is only a sneer [sogghigno], which never illumines his eyes.Yet, now and then, a certain softness can be perceived in his eyes, as if his heart were not hard by nature, but made hard by a self-inflicted penance, compelling his soul to hate as a punishment for having loved too deeply.
In stanza XVIII Conrad is seen as a stranger in the world; his life has been stormy and wild. He can have sometimes fits of generosity, not moved by pity for the others, but by the pride of doing what few other people would be able to do; the same pride sometimes forces him to crime. He lives among people as if he were alone, cold and mysterious. But those who happen to see him cannot forget his aspect and his behaviour; they cannot penetrate his soul but they feel haunted by his mysterious charm.
In this portrait of Conrad, Byron also gives a portrait of himself, or at least of the image that, throughout his life, he created of himself. He was in fact the model of all his “heroes”, or, maybe, he modelled his image on that of his ideal “hero”, a type of character descended from Milton’s Satan (Paradise Lost) and from the heroes of the Gothic novel: a violent and mysterious man, dark and thoughtful [pensieroso], who often, in his past life, has had guilty secrets, but is endowed with great courage and finally redeemed by his passion for a woman.