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Childe Harold's Pilgrimage was the poem which brought Lord Byron public recognition. He himself disliked the poem, because he felt it revealed too much of himself. In it a young man (called childe after the medieval term for a candidate for knighthood) travels to distant lands to relieve the boredom and weariness brought on by a life of dissipation. It is thought to be a comment on the post-Revolutionary and -Napoleonic generation, who were weary of war.
Byron's exuberant masterpiece tells of the adventures of Don Juan, beginning with his illicit love affair at the age of sixteen in his native Spain and his subsequent exile to Italy. Following a dramatic shipwreck, his exploits take him to Greece, where he is sold as a slave, and to Russia, where he becomes a favourite of the Empress Catherine who sends him on to England. Written entirely in ottava rima stanza form, Byron's Don Juan blends high drama with earthy humour, outrageous satire of his contemporaries (in particular Wordsworth and Southey) and sharp mockery of Western societies, with England coming under particular attack.