Byron’s Arboreal Imagination

5th June 2024


Lydia Shaw

5.30-6.30pm GMT


Ticket registration here. 

Written in 1807, Byron’s poem ‘To An Oak at Newstead Abbey’ focuses upon England’s national tree. When a boy, Byron planted an Oak tree in the grounds of Newstead Abbey, but on returning to his home in 1807 after time away at university, he found find the beloved Oak tree choked by weeds and dying. This talk explores Byron’s representation of his own evolving exilic identity, and his views concerning the growth of the individual mind, and of nations and empires, through the imagery of trees. The durability of trees, despite their susceptibility to disease and decay, analogises human suffering and perseverance, of living with and through melancholy, something the brooding writings of Byron vividly portray. This multifaceted use of arboreal imagery marries Byron’s exilic identity with the fabric of the countries which he both dwells in, and travels through. To map Byron’s growing identity, I start by looking at Oak trees, which have deep relations to England and specifically to Byron’s ancestral home of Newstead before identifying different tree species, such as the Cypress, Pine, and Upas, as I trace Byron’s journey, through the figure of Childe Harold, across Europe.