Canto III of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage by Lord Byron is a poem that recounts his own journey across Europe and offers personal reflections on the recent controversial events of his life. These moments are put in a fictional realm where Byron can defend and try to explain his actions, instead of revealing all of the explicit details that could further implicate him. Although he known to be an autobiographical poet, the fictional world of CHP III allow some distance to be put between Harold and Byron. This distance allows for a distinction to be made between Harold and Byron, at least near the beginning of the poem. As the tale progresses, a deeper analysis of the themes of nature and isolation can be looked at as Byron reveals his preference for nature over mankind.
Canto III looks specifically at themes of isolation and nature; which is fitting given that Byron has left England for good due to the controversy surrounding himself and the possible relationship with his half sister Augusta Leigh, as well as his separation from his wife. He is alone and turns to nature because he seeks solitude. The Romantic notion of finding oneself in nature applies here, as Byron leaves behind his former life to start anew. Now exiled, (both by Byron himself and by English society) he continues his journey and turns to his surroundings for help. Byron seeks nature as a refuse, in order to escape from his problems. By turning to the natural, he can process and evaluate recent events in a space that is free from the social world of England that now rejects him. An example of this rejection comes near the end of the poem when he says “I have not loved the world, nor the world me.”(Line 1058) Byron acknowledges that his controversies have lead to his exile. He understands why his society has rejected him, but it still causes him great pain. Byron’s greatest loss comes when his wife takes away his daughter Ada, as she is addressed in the beginning and the end of the poem. He is rejected by his own family, leaving him completely isolated and without a support system.
Nature then becomes an idealized world where Byron can forget about his past and offers moments of reflection. He turns to physical surroundings in order to complete his emotional journey. He seeks independence; instead of pitying himself, Byron decides that some alone time with his thoughts is what he needs; without the added pressure of English society watching over him. In stanza 12, the speaker says that he is “Proud though in desolation; which could find/ A life within itself, to breathe without mankind.” (107-108) This shows that the speaker, and Byron by default, are willing to live an independent life free from judgement. Despite the hard times, he still has a sense of pride. By separating himself from other people, Harold (and Byron) find it easier to breathe. There is a sense of relief that he feels while isolated, because he no longer has to worry about his past. The only way this is made possible is through exploring and interacting with nature.
As the poem continues in stanza 13, Byron parallels nature to aspects of human life that most people find comfort in. He begins with comparing “the mountains, were [like] friends” (109) and going on to say that “the ocean, was his home.” (110) He even goes on to claim that the natural world and himself spoke “a mutual language,” (115) one he no longer shared with “his land’s tongue.” (116) By comparing the world of nature to the artificial world human society has created, Byron shows us that he prefers surrounding himself by nature over mankind. He does not need companionship in the form of people or find it necessary to stay at home in England. He is able to succeed in finding positivity given the circumstances due to the idealized vision Byron has of nature in his mind. Byron’s ideal world of nature provides a stable place where he can be free from mankind, but still be able to interact and form a bond with the environment. It is a place that does not form judgement, but allows Byron to be freed from his past.
Through isolation, Byron is then able to understand the value of nature and escape from humanity. He completes the necessary physical and emotional journey by seeking out the natural world. Although he still suffers from inner turmoil due to his separation from his daughter Ada, Byron concludes by the end of CHPIII “that goodness is no name, and happiness no dream.” (1066) He can still be happy despite his personal hardships by turning to nature as a support system and mode of escape from humanity.