BYRON, GEORGE GORDON (1788-1824)
Lot 83
BYRON, GEORGE GORDON (1788-1824) AUTOGRAPH REVISED MANUSCRIPT OF HIS POEM 'SUN OF THE SLEEPLESS', signed with his Greek monogram and dated 'Sept. 8th 1814'
Sold for £26,250 (US$ 44,766) inc. premium
Lot Details
BYRON, GEORGE GORDON (1788-1824)
AUTOGRAPH REVISED MANUSCRIPT OF HIS POEM 'SUN OF THE SLEEPLESS', signed with his Greek monogram and dated 'Sept. 8th 1814', comprising 8 lines, with autograph revisions to the last two lines preserving two reconsidered readings apparently otherwise unrecorded, 1 page, quarto, very slight discoloration on verso with minimal show-through, small professional repairs from the verso at one fold, virtually invisible professional repairs at each corner apparently originally damaged when removed from another leaf, contemporary endorsement 'Lord Byron's own hand writing', [Newstead Abbey], 8 September 1814

Sun of the sleepless! -- melancholy Star!
Whose tearful beam glows tremulously far --
That show'st the darkness thou cans't not dispel
How like art Thou to Joy remembered well!
So gleams the past -- the light of other days --
That shines but warms not with its powerless rays,
A Night-beam Sorrow watcheth to behold
Distinct but distant -- clear -- but -- oh! how cold!

A FINE REVISED MANUSCRIPT OF A TOUCHING LYRIC, WRITTEN THE DAY BEFORE HE PROPOSED TO HIS FUTURE WIFE.

Published in 1815 by Byron as a separate poem in Hebrew Melodies, 'Sun of the sleepless' originally formed part of an unfinished poem entitled 'Harmodia'. Since the manuscript of 'Harmodia' is also dated 8 September 1814 and has the original readings 'Moon-beam' for the interlinear 'Night-beam' and 'death-like cold' for 'oh! how cold!', it is clear that the extraction of 'Sun of the sleepless' and the final revisions took place almost simultaneously with the first composition of 'Harmodia', indeed on the same day. The present manuscript was unknown to Byron's modern editor, Jerome McGann, who suggested that 'The lyric seems to have been extracted from the fragment between 8 and 19 Sept'. McGann cites two autograph fair copies (Bodleian and Murray). The main collections of Byron's manuscripts are the archive of John Murray (now in the National Library of Scotland), the Bodleian Library and Newstead Abbey, Nottingham.

Byron frequently signed letters to friends in Greek, using the Greek transliteration of the English 'B'.

In September 1814 Byron was staying at Newstead Abbey with his half-sister Augusta and her children; he wrote this poem there on the day before he proposed to Annabella Milbanke who became his wife on 2 January 1815.

REFERENCES: Index of English Literary Manuscripts, Volume IV, 1800-1900, Part I, compiled by Barbara Rosenbaum and Pamela White, ByL 636-639; Byron's Letters and Journals, edited by Leslie Marchand, ii. p. 23; Jerome McGann, Lord Byron: the Complete Poetical Works, 1980-1993.
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