David Lurie, the protagonist in J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace is a scholar with an interest in the Romantic poets. Toward the end of the book he works at an animal shelter disposing of dead dog corpses. I knew at time of reading that Byron loved dogs, so Googled the two, and came up with this poem called Darkness…from which:
The meagre by the meagre were devoured,
Even dogs assail’d their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famish’d men at bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
Lured their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answered not with a caress–he died.
Although Joshua Heller recently informed me that David Lurie was the name of someone in Coetzee’s home town…I was nonetheless, at the time, pleased to see the word ‘Lured’ in the poem.
Paul West is referred to in Coetzee’s novel Elizabeth Costello. And so it was, that when I came across Byron and the Spoiler’s Art at Ten Editions book shop on Spadina Avenue in Toronto yesterday afternoon…I bought it.
Here’s West on Byron-Lurie:
"Reduce everything he ever wrote, and you will find an essential act of repulsion: either self-emptying into a persona, or a repudiation. He pushes away what he is; he repudiates even the persona of Don Juan. He has the insecure person’s fierce need of elimination; he needs to feel unobliged to his subject-matter, his friends, his publisher, his mistresses, his house, his role, his reputation. And yet, by a method approaching ‘double think’, he seeks to eliminate this lust for elimination; and so he lands up with inappropriate impedimenta – the wrong woman, the wrong type of poem, the wrong reputation, the wrong stanza-form, and so on. His was a multiple nature, chameleonic and irresponsible. This is not to say that he cannot be found in a mood of single-mindedness, a denial of his changeability, a resolute act – all of which show now and then in his dealings with his daughters."