He says that his father was executed for his beliefs, and all six of his sons have suffered persecution for the same reason. Three of the six sons died outside of the prison: one was burnt at the stake and two died in battle. Our narrator, the prisoner of Chillon, was originally imprisoned with his two remaining brothers. Our prisoner was left with the youngest brother, who was cheerful and patient.
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The remaining three sons have been imprisoned together in the dungeon from which the prisoner relates his tale. In Stanza II the prisoner describes his cell. Seven Gothic pillars hold up the heavy roof of this dark prison. A single sunbeam comes in through a crack in the wall.
Each pillar has an iron ring, through which is attached a chain that binds the prisoner to the pillar. The prisoner notes that he has been here for years, long enough to be the last survivor among the three brothers.
Stanza III describes the isolation of the prisoner. Although chained to a pillar in the same room as his two brothers, the prisoner is unable to see them or move so as to draw any nearer to either brother. Only their voices are able to share comfort, but even those give out eventually, and their raw throats are no longer capable of uttering sounds that sound like their familiar voices. In Stanza IV the prisoner describes himself as the eldest of the three brothers and then describes his youngest brother.
This brother was beloved by their father for his resemblance to his mother; he is beautiful and like a bird. This brother, who normally wept only for the pain of others, wept constantly in his terrible cell.
Stanza V gives the reader details about the second middle brother. He was pure-minded but also a strong fighter and skilled hunter. His place was in the wilderness, so this confinement underground was that much worse for him. The prisoner shifts from within the cell to just outside it in Stanza VI, wherein he describes Lake Leman.
Sometimes the waves are so violent as to shake the prison walls, giving the prisoner faint hope that he might die when the water breaks through and floods the cell. In Stanza VII, the prisoner turns again to his middle brother, who stopped eating as his spirits fell prey to the crushing despair of imprisonment.
Either through depression or starvation, the brother dies, and the prisoner is frustrated that he could not move himself to hold his brother as he died. He begs his captors to at least bury his brother in a spot where the sun sometimes shines, but the men only laugh and lay him at the foot of the pillar to which he had spent so much time chained.
There Byron learned the story of Francois de Bonnivard , a sixteenth-century patriot imprisoned for his defense of the freedom of Geneva. This poem marks the first time Byron chooses to tell the story of a real historical figure with attention given to historical, rather than fantastic, detail.
Much of the poem is made up of rhyming couplets, with the main variation being couplets arranged to complement each other i.
The recurrence of rhymed couplets intermingled with oppositely rhymed couplets emphasizes the dichotomies between an imprisoned body and a free mind, between nature and human constructions, and between life and death.
The opening sonnet is told in third person, whereas the remaining verses make up a dramatic monologue with the prisoner speaking in first person. The man whose body is imprisoned is nonetheless free to exercise his mind, while the cause of his imprisonment is his belief in freedom for all men. While he may be in chains as an individual, his ideals cannot be so easily restrained. The contrast between the imprisonment of a person and the freedom of an ideal is thus brought to the forefront of the poem before the narrative proper begins.
Stanza I thereby establishes the prisoner as a man carrying on a tradition of opposition to political and religious oppression, unremarkable in his martyrdom since he comes from a family of martyrs yet remarkable in his unflagging pursuit of freedom and liberty. In Stanza II, Byron succinctly describes the details of the cell. No light or beauty would enter this dungeon on purpose, so dismal is the chamber. As the prisoner describes his cell, however, he already places himself chronologically later in his imprisonment: he has been here for years he cannot count, and his brothers are already dead.
The prisoner moves back in time in Stanza III, describing the psychological torture of being imprisoned in the same room as his brothers but fettered in such a way as to be unable to see either of them. In contrast to this dismal scene, nevertheless, the prisoner—already established as telling his tale from a point much later in his interment—can use his mind to travel through time to the past and recount the events leading up to his eventual freedom. While his body is bound, his mind is still free to roam through memory and imagination, which is far better than nothing and probably what keeps him alert and alive.
The description of the youngest brother in Stanza IV attaches natural and familial imagery to the young man. The prisoner compares him to a bird, particularly a young eagle naturally free to fly where it will. He is innocent and, of all the prisoners, least deserving of a death in chains and darkness.
The middle brother is described in Stanza V. He enjoys moving about the countryside, walking where his younger brother seems to fly. Like his brother, he belongs outdoors, not closed up inside these thick walls; he is a man of action. In Stanza VII, the monologue returns to the second brother. His despair crushes him, leading him to refuse his food and starve himself. If he cannot act upon his world and provide himself with food, this man will not live at all.
This brother is defined by his actions; inaction is the cruelest form of torture for him. Because of his chains, he is unable to reach out and comfort his suffering brother.
BYRON THE PRISONER OF CHILLON PDF
I begged them, as a boon, to lay His corse in dust whereon the day Might shine—it was a foolish thought, But then within my brain it wrought,  That even in death his freeborn breast In such a dungeon could not rest. I could not wish for thine! And thus when they appeared at last, And all my bonds aside were cast, These heavy walls to me had grown A hermitage—and all my own! We were all inmates of one place, And I, the monarch of each race, Had power to kill—yet, strange to tell! Florence] to Thee. Some account of his life will be found in a note appended to the Sonnet on Chillon, with which I have been furnished, etc.
The Prisoner of Chillon
Our voices took a dreary tone, An echo of the dungeon stone, A grating sound, not full and free, As they of yore were wont to be: It might be fancy--but to me They never sounded like our own. I was the eldest of the three And to uphold and cheer the rest I ought to do--and did my best-- And each did well in his degree. I saw, and could not hold his head, Nor reach his dying hand--nor dead,-- Though hard I strove, but strove in vain, To rend and gnash my bonds in twain. Oh, God! One on the earth, and one beneath-- My brothers--both had ceased to breathe: I took that hand which lay so still, Alas!
The Prisoner Of Chillon - Poem by George Gordon Byron
Our voices took a dreary tone, An echo of the dungeon stone, A grating sound, not full and free, As they of yore were wont to be: It might be fancy—but to me They never sounded like our own. I was the eldest of the three And to uphold and cheer the rest I ought to do—and did my best— And each did well in his degree. I saw, and could not hold his head, Nor reach his dying hand—nor dead,— Though hard I strove, but strove in vain, To rend and gnash my bonds in twain. Oh, God!