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Told all she had seen, and all she hoped, and all
Swam round the rock, to where a shallow cleft
But when these vanish'd, she pursued her prow,
Again their own shore rises on the view, No more polluted with a hostile hue;
ABBOT OF ST. MAURICE.
WITCH OF THE ALPS. ARIMANES.
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
THE DESTINIES. SPIRITS, &C.
A DRAMATIC POEM. 2
The scene of the Drama is amongst the Higher Alps partly in the Castle of Manfred, and partly in the Mountains.
[Byron the sorcerer! He can do with me according to his will. If it is to throw me headlong upon a desert Island; if it is to place me on the summit of a dizzy cliffhis power is the same. I wish he had a friend or a servant, appointed to the office of the slave, who was to knock every morning at the chamber-door of
mind him he was mortal. - DR Philip of Macedon, and re
No sullen ship lay bristling o'er the foam,
[The following extracts from Lord Byron's letters to Mr. Murray, are all we have to offer respecting the history of the composition of Manfred:
Venice, Feb. 15. 1817.-"I forgot to mention to you, that a kind of Poern in dialogue (in blank verse) or Drama, from which the Incantation is an extract, begun last summer in Switzerland, is finished; it is in three acts, but of a very wild, metaphysical, and inexplicable kind. Almost all the persons -but two or three are Spirits of the earth and air, or the waters, the scene is in the Alps; the hero a kind of magician, Who is tormented by a species of remorse, the cause of which is left half unexplained. He wanders about invoking these
Spirits, which appear to him, and are of no use; he at last goes to the very abode of the Evil Principle, in propria persona, to evocate a ghost, which appears, and gives him an ambiguous and disagreeable answer; and, in the third Act, he is found by his attendants dying in a tower where he had studied his art. You may perceive, by this outline, that I have no great opinion of this piece of fantasy; but I have at least rendered it quite impossible for the stage, for which my intercourse with Drury Lane has given me the greatest contempt. I have not even copied it off, and feel too lazy at present to attempt the whole; but when I have, I will send it you, and you may either throw it into the fire or not."
March 3." I sent you the other day, in two covers, the first act of Manfred,' a drama as mad as Nat Lee's Bedlam tragedy, which was in twenty-five acts and some odd scenes: mine is but in three acts."
March 9." In remitting the third act of the sort of dramatic poem of which you will by this time have received the two first, I have little to observe, except that you must
But grief should be the instructor of the wise;
not publish it (if it ever is published) without giving me previous notice. I have really and truly no notion whether it is good or bad; and as this was not the case with the principal of my former publications, I am, therefore, inclined to rank it very humbly. You will submit it to Mr. Gifford, and to whomsoever you please besides. The thing, you will see at a glimpse, could never be attempted or thought of for the stage; I much doubt if for publication even. It is too much in my old style; but I composed it actually with a horror of the stage, and with a view to render the thought of it impracticable, knowing the zeal of my friends that I should try that for which I have an invincible repugnance, viz. a representation. I certainly am a devil of a mannerist, and must leave off; but what could I do? Without exertion of some kind, I should have sunk under my imagination and reality."
March 25." With regard to the Witch Drama,' I repeat, that I have not an idea if it is good or bad. If bad, it must, on no account, be risked in publication; if good, it is at your service. I value it at three hundred guineas, or less, if you like it. Perhaps, if published, the best way will be to add it to your winter volume, and not publish separately. The price will show you I don't pique myself upon it; so speak out. You may put it into the tire, if you like, and Gifford don't like."
April 9. As for Manfred,' the two first acts are the best; the third so so; but I was blown with the first and second heats. You may call it a Poem,' for it is no Drama, and I do not choose to have it called by so d-d a name -a Poem in dialogue,' or- Pantomime, if you will; any thing but a green-room synonyme; and this is your motto
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'"
The Third Act was re-written before publication; as to the particulars of which, the reader is referred to a subsequent note. To avoid overloading the margin, we may give here the most important paragraphs of the two ablest critiques that immediately followed the appearance of Manfred : —
"In Manfred, we recognise at once the gloom and potency of that soul which burned and blasted and fed upon itself, in Harold, and Conrad, and Lara- and which comes again in this piece, more in sorrow than in anger more proud, perhaps, and more awful than ever but with the fiercer traits of its misanthropy subdued, as it were, and quenched in the "gloom of a deeper despondency. Manfred does not, like Conrad and Lara, wreak the anguish of his burning heart in the dangers and daring of desperate and predatory war- nor seek to drown bitter thoughts in the tumult of perpetual contention; nor yet, like Harold, does he sweep over the peopled scenes of the earth with high disdain and aversion, and make his survey of the business, and pleasures, and studies of man an occasion for taunts and sarcasms, and the food of an unmeasurable spleen. He is fixed-by the genius of the poet in the majestic solitudes of the central Alps - where, from his youth up, he has lived in proud but calin seclusion from the ways of men, conversing only with the magnificent forms and aspects of nature by which he is surrounded, and with the Spirits of the Elements over whom he has acquired dominion, by the secret and unhallowed studies of sorcery and magic. He is averse, indeed, from mankind, and scorns the low and frivolous nature to which he belongs; but he cherishes no animosity or hostility to that feeble race. Their concerns excite no interest-their pursuits no sympathy-their joys no envy. It is irksome and vexatious for him to be crossed by them in his melancholy musings, but he treats them with gentleness and pity; and, except when stung to impatience by too importunate an intrusion, is kind and considerate to the comforts of all around him. This piece is properly entitled a dramatic poem for it is merely poetical, and is not at all a drama or play in the modern acceptation of the term. It has no action, no plot, and no characters; Manfred merely
muses and suffers from the beginning to the end. His distresses are the same at the opening of the scene and at its closing, and the temper in which they are borne is the same. A hunter and a priest, and some domestics, are indeed introduced, but they have no connection with the passions or sufferings on which the interest depends; and Manfred is substantially alone throughout the whole piece. He holds no communion but with the memory of the Being he had loved; and the immortal Spirits whom he evokes to reproach with his misery, and their inability to relieve it. These unearthly beings approach nearer to the character of persons of the drama- but still they are but choral accompaniments to the performance; and Manfred is, in reality, the only actor and sufferer on the scene. To delineate his character indeed to render conceivable his feelings-is plainly the whole scope and design of the poem; and the conception and execution are, in this respect, equally admirable. It is a grand and terrific vision of a being invested with superhuman attributes, in order that he may be capable of more than hu man sufferings, and be sustained under them by more than human force and pride. To object to the improbability of the fiction, is to mistake the end and aim of the author. Probabilities, we apprehend, did not enter at all into his consideration; his object was, to produce effect-to exalt and dilate the character through whom he was to interest or appal us and to raise our conception of it, by all the helps that could be derived from the majesty of nature, or the dread of superstition. It is enough, therefore, if the situation in which he has placed him is conceivable, and if the supposition of its reality enhances our emotions and kindles our imagination; - for it is Manfred only that we are required to fear, to pity, or admire. If we can once conceive of him as a real existence, and enter into the depth and the height of his pride and his sorrows, we may deal as we please with the means that have been used to furnish us with this impression, or to enable us to attain to this conception. We may regard them but as types, or metaphors, or allegories; but HE is the thing to be expressed, and the feeling and the intellect of which all these are but shadows." JEFFREY.
"In this very extraordinary poem, Lord Byron has pursued the same course as in the third canto of Childe Harold, and put out his strength upon the same objects. The action is laid among the mountains of the Alps-the characters are all, more or less, formed and swayed the operations of the magnificent scenery around them, and every page of the poem teems with imagery and passion, though, at the same time, the mind of the poet is often overborne, as it were, by the strength and novelty of its own conceptions; and thus the composition, as a whole, is liable to many and fatal objections. But there is a still more novel exhibition of Lord Byron's powers in this remarkable drama. He has here burst into the world of spirits; and, in the wild delight with which the elements of nature seem to have inspired him, he has endeavoured to embody and call up before him their ministering agents, and to employ these wild personifications, as he formerly employed the feelings and passions of man. We are not prepared to say, that, in this daring attempt, he has completely succeeded. We are inclined to think, that the plan he has conceived, and the principal character which he has wished to delineate, would require a fuller developement than is here given to them; and, accordingly, a sense of imperfection, incompleteness, and confusion accompanies the mind throughout the perusal of the poem, owing either to some failure on the part of the poet, or to the inherent mystery of the subject. But though, on that account, it is dificult to comprehend distinctly the drift of the composition, it unquestionably exhibits many noble delineations of mountain sce nery, many impressive and terrible pictures of passion, and many wild and awful visions of imaginary horror." -PROFESSOR WILSON.]
["Eternal Agency! Ye spirits of the immortal Universe!". MS.] 2["Of inaccessible mountains are the haunts."- MS.]
If it be so. — Spirits of earth and air,
[A star is seen at the darker end of the gallery: it is stationary; and a voice is heard singing.
FIRST SPIRIT. Mortal to thy bidding bow'd, From my mansion in the cloud, Which the breath of twilight builds, And the summer's sunset gilds With the azure and vermilion, Which is mix'd for my pavilion; 1 Though thy quest may be forbidden, On a star-beam I have ridden; To thine adjuration bow'd, Mortal be thy wish avow'd!
Appear! [A pause.
Voice of the SECOND Spirit. Mont Blanc is the monarch of mountains; They crown'd him long ago
On a throne of rocks, in a robe of clouds,
With a diadem of snow.
Around his waist are forests braced,
The Avalanche in his hand;
Moves onward day by day; But I am he who bids it pass, Or with its ice delay. 2
I am the spirit of the place,
Could make the mountain bow And quiver to his cavern'd base— And what with me wouldst Thou?
Voice of the THIRD SPIRIT. In the blue depth of the waters, Where the wave hath no strife, Where the wind is a stranger,
And the sea-snake hath life, Where the Mermaid is decking
Her green hair with shells; Like the storm on the surface
Came the sound of thy spells; O'er my calm Hall of Coral The deep echo roll'd— To the Spirit of Ocean Thy wishes unfold!
And the lakes of bitumen
["Which is fit for my pavilion."- MS.]
My dwelling is the shadow of the night, Why doth thy magic torture me with light?
The star which rules thy destiny
And thou! beneath its influence born-
[" Or makes its icc delay."-MS.] N
Spirit. It is not in our essence, in our skill; But-thou may'st die.
Will death bestow it on me? Spirit. We are immortal, and do not forget; We are eternal; and to us the past
Is, as the future, present. Art thou answer'd?
Man. Ye mock me- -but the power which brought ye here Hath made you mine. will! The mind, the spirit, the Promethean spark, The lightning of my being, is as bright, Pervading, and far-darting as your own, And shall not yield to yours, though coop'd in clay ! Answer, or I will teach you what I am.
Spirit. We answer as we answer'd; our reply Is even in thine own words.
Why say ye so?
Spirit. If, as thou say'st, thine essence be as ours, V have replied in telling thee, the thing Mortals call dea hath nought to do with us.
Man. I then have call'd ye from your realms in vain ;
Ye cannot, or ye will not, aid me.
What we possess we offer; it is thine:
Bethink thee, is there then no other gift
I would behold ye face to face. I hear
Slaves, scoff not at my
The steady aspect of a clear large star;
Spirit. We have no forms beyond the elements
Man. I have no choice; there is no form on earth Hideous or beautiful to me. Let him, Who is most powerful of ye, take such aspect As unto him may seem most fitting-Come! Seventh Spirit. (Appearing in the shape of a beautiful female figure.) Behold!
Man. Oh God! if it be thus, and thou
I will clasp thee,
[The figure vanishes. My heart is crush'd! [MANFRED falls senseless.
[These verses were written in Switzerland, in 1816, and transmitted to England for publication, with the third canto of Childe Harold. "As they were written," says Mr. Moore, "immediately after the last fruitless attempt at reconciliation, it is needless to say who was in the poet's thoughts while he penned some of the opening stanzas."]
2 [" And the wisp on the morass."- Hearing, in February, 1818, of a menaced version of Manfred by some Italian, Lord Byron wrote to his friend Mr. Hoppner- "If you have any means of communicating with the man, would you permit me
(A Voice is heard in the Incantation which follows.)
And the wisp on the morass;
Though thy slumber may be deep,
There are shades which will not vanish,
By a power to thee unknown,
Thou art wrapt as with a shroud,
And a magic voice and verse
From thy false tears I did distil
I found the strongest was thine own.
By thy cold breast and serpent smile,
to convey to him the offer of any price he may obtain, or think to obtain, for his project, provided he will throw his translation into the fire, and promise not to undertake any other of that, or any other of my things? I will send him his money immediately, on this condition." A negotiation was accordingly set on foot, and the translator, on receiving two hundred francs, delivered up his manuscript, and engaged never to translate any other of the poet's works. Of his qualifications for the task some notion may be formed from the fact, that he had turned the word " wisp," in this line, into" a bundle of straw."]
Man. The spirits I have raised abandon me The spells which I have studied baffle meThe remedy I reck'd of tortured me;
I lean no more on superhuman aid,
It hath no power upon the past, and for
The future, till the past be gulf'd in darkness,
Art a delight-thou shin'st not on my heart.
If it be life to wear within myself
1 ["I do adjure thee to this spell.” — MS.]
[The germs of this, and of several other passages in Manfred, may be found in the Journal of his Swiss tour, which i Lord Byron transmitted to his sister: e. g. "Sept. 19.Arrived at a lake in the very bosom of the mountains; left our quadrupeds, and ascended further; came to some snow in patches, upon which my forehead's perspiration fell like rain, making the same dents as in a sieve; the chill of the wind and the snow turned me giddy, but I scrambled on and upwards. Hobhouse went to the highest pinnacle. The whole of the mountains superb. A shepherd on a steep and very high cliff playing upon his pipe; very different from Arcadia. The music of the cows' bells (for their wealth, like the patriarchs', is cattle) in the pastures, which reach to a height far above any mountains in Britain, and the shepherds shouting to us from crag to crag, and playing on their reeds where the steeps appeared almost inaccessible, with the surrounding scenery, realised all that I have ever heard or imagined of a pastoral existence- much more so than Greece or Asia Minor; for there we are a little too much of the sabre and musket order, and if there is a crook in one hand, you are
The last infirmity of evil.
Whose happy flight is highest into heaven,
To sink or soar, with our mix'd essence make
[The Shepherd's pipe in the distance is heard.
A living voice, a breathing harmony,
A bodiless enjoyment- born and dying
Enter from below a CHAMOIS HUNTER. ``.
This way the chamois leapt her nimble feet
Man. (not perceiving the other). To be thus-
sure to see a gun in the other: but this was pure and unmixed-solitary, savage, and patriarchal. As we went, they played the Ranz des Vaches' and other airs, by way of fare. well. I have lately repeopled my mind with nature."]
3 [See the opening lines to the "Prisoner of Chillon," antè, p. 138. Speaking of Marie Antoinette," I was struck," says Madame Campan," with the astonishing change inisfortune had wrought upon her features: her whole head of hair had turned almost white, during her transit from Varennes to Paris." The same thing occurred to the unfortunate Queen Mary "With calm but undaunted fortitude," says her hictorian," she laid her neck upon the block; and while one executioner held her hands, the other, at the second stroke, cut off her head, which, falling out of its attire, discovered her hair, already grown quite grey with cares and sorrows." The hair of Mary's grandson. Charles I, turned quite grey, in like manner, during his stay at Carisbrooke.]
4 [“ Passed whole woods of withered pines, all withered, -trunks stripped and barkless, branches lifeless, done by a single winter: their appearance reminded me of me and iny family."-Swiss Journal.]