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I am referencing to Lord Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (see: Wikipedia article).

Here is the opening stanza of the work (TO IANTHE):

Not in those climes where I have late been straying,
⁠Though Beauty long hath there been matchless deemed,
⁠Not in those visions to the heart displaying.
⁠Forms which it sighs but to have only dreamed,
⁠Hath aught like thee in Truth or Fancy seemed:
⁠Nor, having seen thee, shall I vainly seek.
⁠To paint those charms which varied as they beamed—
⁠To such as see thee not my words were weak;
To those who gaze on thee what language could they speak?

My question is about the capitalized nouns i.e. "Beauty", "Truth" and "Fancy".

Why are those three nouns capitalized?

I assumed the choice of the capital letter could be denoting an allegory. But then why capitalize a noun and not another? In other words why would Byron choose to capitalize those three nouns above but not other nouns in the stanza?

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  • 2
    Words for transcendent ideas in the Platonic sense are often capitalized.
    – BeatsMe
    Jul 27, 2020 at 20:14
  • 1
    Thanks a lot for your reply. What do you mean here by transcendent? How are the three capitalized nouns above more transcendent that others?
    – balteo
    Jul 28, 2020 at 8:23
  • "When used to refer to forms as Plato conceived them, the term “Form” is conventionally capitalized, as are the names of individual Platonic Forms. For Plato, the Forms are perfect exemplars, or ideal types, of the properties and kinds that are found in the world. Corresponding to every such property or kind is a Form that is its perfect exemplar or ideal type. Thus the properties “beautiful” and “black” correspond to the Forms the Beautiful and the Black; the kinds “horse” and “triangle” correspond to the Forms the Horse and the Triangle; and so on."
    – BeatsMe
    Jul 28, 2020 at 13:51
  • 2
    I found this on Google Books about Byron's capitalization: books.google.com/…
    – BeatsMe
    Jul 28, 2020 at 14:33
  • 3
    Capitalization at the time followed no widespread, formal rules; its use was idiosyncratic. For example, one of Byron's contemporary poets, William Blake, also tended to capitalize nouns in accordance to his own preferences.
    – llywrch
    Jul 28, 2020 at 16:16

1 Answer 1

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The use of capitals for qualities generally indicates that they are being treated as high-level abstractions, to the point of being Platonic archetypes. That is, you can speak of a rose's beauty, or a sentence's truth, or a child's fancy, but Beauty, Truth, and Fancy are over-arching principles.

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    Can you speak to why these nouns were capitalized and not others - why are these principles worthy of capitalization, within the context of the poem?
    – bobble
    Jul 6, 2021 at 16:22

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