BYRON, GEORGE GORDON, LORD° (1788–1824), English poet. Byron's affection for the Old Testament and romantic interest in oppressed peoples led him to collaborate with Isaac *Nathan in publishing the Hebrew Melodies for which Nathan composed or adapted the music. Though not all are specifically Jewish in theme, some express sympathy for the plight of the Jews. They were published in 1815 as A Selection of Hebrew Melodies, Ancient and Modern; with appropriate symphonies and accompaniments; the poetry written expressly for the work by the Right Hon. Lord Byron. One of the best known of these poems is "The Destruction of Sennacherib." "Weep for those that wept by Babel's Stream" contains the familiar lines: "The wild dove hath her nest/the fox his cave/Mankind their Country/Israel but the grave!"
These poems were translated into Hebrew by J.L. Gordon as Zemirot Yisrael (1884) and into Yiddish by Nathan Horowitz (1926). There are musical settings by Balakirev, *Hiller , Loewe, *Mendelssohn , Moussorgski, Schumann, *Joachim , Hugo Wolf, and others.
In a later work, the satirical Age of Bronze (1823), Byron adopted a hostile attitude toward the Jews, whose emancipation he opposed and whose alleged support for foreign tyranny (Turks against Greeks) he denounced with many unpleasant allusions. More controversy was aroused in Christian circles by Byron's biblical verse play, Cain (1821), which reflected the radical poet's religious skepticism.
JHSET, 2 (1894–95), 5, 8–10; E.W. Marjarum, Byron as Skeptic and Believer (1938); M.F. Modder, Jew in the Literature of England (1939), 113–7; O.S. Phillips, Isaac Nathan, Friend of Byron (1940); Sendrey, Music (1951); H. Fisch, Dual Image (1959), 53–54. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: F. MacCarthy, Byron: Life and Legend (2002); B. Eisler, Byron: Child of Passion, Fool of Fame (2000); ODNB online.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.