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ous or gentle kind, and to end by exciting our tender pity, or deep respect, for those very individuals or classes of persons who seemed at first to be brought on the stage for our mere sport and amusement-thus making the ludicrous itself subservient to the cause of benevolence and inculcating, at every turn, and as the true end and result of all his trials and experiments, the love of our kind, and the duty and delight of a cordial and genuine sympathy with the joys and sorrows of every condition of men. It seems to be Lord Byron's way, on the contrary, never to excite a kind or a noble sentiment, without making haste to obliterate it by a torrent of unfeeling mockery or relentless abuse, and taking pains to show how well those passing fantasies may be reconciled to a system of resolute misanthropy,
or so managed as even to enhance its merits, or confirm its truth. With what different sensations, accordingly, do we read the works of those two great writers!-With the one, we seem to share a gay and gorgeous banquetwith the other, a wild and dangerous intoxication. Let Lord Byron bethink him of this contrast-and its causes and effects. Though he scorns the precepts, and defies the censure of ordinary men, he may yet be moved by the example of his only superior!-In the mean time, we have endeavoured to point out the canker that stains the splendid flowers of his poetry-or, rather, the serpent that lurks beneath them. If it will not listen to the voice of the charmer, that brilliant garden, gay and glorious as it is, must be deserted, and its existence deplored, as a snare to the unwary.
Manfred; a Dramatic Poem. By Lord BYRON. 8vo. pp. 75. London: 1811.
ings, but he treats them with gentleness and pity; and, except when stung to impatience by too importunate an intrusion, is kind and considerate of the comforts of all around him.
THIS is a very strange-not a very pleasing -but unquestionably a very powerful and most poetical production. The noble author, we find, still deals with that dark and overawing Spirit, by whose aid he has so often This piece is properly entitled a Dramatic subdued the minds of his readers, and in Poem-for it is merely poetical, and is not at whose might he has wrought so many won-all a drama or play in the modern acceptation ders. In Manfred, we recognise at once the of the term. It has no action; no plot-and gloom and potency of that soul which burned no characters; Manfred merely muses and and blasted and fed upon itself in Harold, and suffers from the beginning to the end. His Conrad, and Lara-and which comes again in distresses are the same at the opening of the this piece, more in sorrow than in anger scene and at its closing-and the temper in more proud, perhaps, and more awful than which they are borne is the same. A hunter ever-but with the fiercer traits of its misan- and a priest, and some domestics, are indeed thropy subdued, as it were, and quenched in introducea; but they have no connection with the gloom of a deeper despondency. Man- the passions or sufferings on which the interfred does not, like Conrad and Lara, wreak est depends; and Manfred is substantially the anguish of his burning heart in the dan- alone throughout the whole piece. He holds gers and daring of desperate and predatory no communion but with the memory of the war-nor seek to drown bitter thoughts in the Being he had loved; and the immortal Spirits tumult of perpetual contention-nor yet, like whom he evokes to reproach with his misery, Harold, does he sweep over the peopled scenes and their inability to relieve it. These unof the earth with high disdain and aversion, earthly beings approach nearer to the characand make his survey of the business and ter of persons of the drama-but still they pleasures and studies of man an occasion for are but choral accompaniments to the pertaunts and sarcasms, and the food of an im- formance; and Manfred is, in reality, the only measurable spleen. He is fixed by the genius actor and sufferer on the scene. To delineate of the poet in the majestic solitudes of the his character indeed-to render conceivable central Alps-where, from his youth up, he his feelings-is plainly the whole scope and has lived in proud but calm seclusion from design of the poem; and the conception and the ways of men; conversing only with the execution are, in this respect, equally admir magnificent forms and aspects of nature by able. It is a grand and terrific vision of a which he is surrounded, and with the Spirits being invested with superhuman attributes, of the Elements over whom he has acquired in order that he may be capable of more than dominion, by the secret and unhallowed stu- human sufferings, and be sustained under dies of Sorcery and Magic. He is averse them by more than human force and pride. indeed from mankind, and scorns the low and To object to the improbability of the fiction frivolous nature to which he belongs; but he is, we think, to mistake the end and aim of cherishes no animosity or hostility to that the author. Probabilities, we apprehend, did feeble race. Their concerns excite no inter- not enter at all into his consideration-his est-their pursuits no sympathy-their joys object was, to produce effect-to exalt and no envy. It is irksome and vexatious for him dilate the character through whom he was to to be crossed by them in his melancholy mus-interest or appal us-and to raise our concep
Nor flattering throb, that beats with hopes or wishes,
When his evocation is completed, a star is
tion 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 im-seen at the far end of a gallery, and celestial agination-for it is Manfred only that we are voices are heard reciting a great deal of poetry. required to fear, to pity, or admire. If we After they have answered that the gift of can once conceive of him as a real existence, oblivion is not at their disposal, and intimated and enter into the depth and the height of his that death itself could not bestow it on him, pride and his sorrows, we may deal as we they ask if he has any further demand to please with the means that have been used to make of them. He answers, 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.
"The lamp must be replenish'd-but even then
Or lurking love of something on the earth.—
I would behold ye face to face. I hear
Of which we are the mind and principle :
The events, such as they are, upon which the piece may be said to turn, have all taken place long before its opening, and are but dimly shadowed out in the casual communicaMan. I have no choice; there is no form on earth tions of the agonising being to whom they Who is most powerful of ye, take such aspect Hideous or beautiful to me. Let him relate. Nobly born and trained in the castle As unto him may seem most fitting.-Come! of his ancestors, he had very soon sequestered himself from the society of men; and, after Seventh Spirit. (Appearing in the shape of a running through the common circle of human beautiful female figure.) Behold!' M. Oh God! if it be thus, and thou sciences, had dedicated himself to the worship Art not a madness and a mockery, of the wild magnificence of nature, and to And we again will beI yet might be most happy.-I will clasp thee. those forbidden studies by which he had [The figure vanishes. learned to command its presiding powers.My heart is crush'd! One companion, however, he had, in all his [MANFRED falls senseless."-pp. 15, 16. tasks and enjoyments-a female of kindred The first scene of this extraordinary pergenius, taste, and capacity-lovely too beyond tion, sung by the invisible spirits over the formance ends with a long poetical incantaall loveliness; but, as we gather, too nearly senseless victim before them. The second related to be lawfully beloved. The catas- shows him in the bright sunshine of morning, trophe of their unhappy passion is insinuated in the darkest and most ambiguous termson the top of the Jungfrau mountain, mediall that we make out is, that she died un-solitude as usual the voice of his habitual tating self-destruction-and uttering forth in
timely and by violence, on account of this fatal attachment-though not by the act of its object. He killed her, he says, not with his hand-but his heart; and her blood was shed, though not by him! life is a burden to him, and memory a torture From that hour, -and the extent of his power and knowledge serves only to show him the hopelessness and endlessness of his misery.
The piece opens with his evocation of the Spirits of the Elements, from whom he demands the boon of forgetfulness-and questions them as to his own immortality. The scene is in his Gothic tower at midnight-and opens with a soliloquy that reveals at once the state of the speaker, and the genius of the author.
love and admiration for the grand and beautidespair, and those intermingled feelings of ful objects with which he is environed, that unconsciously win him back to a certain kindly sympathy with human enjoyments.
"Man. The spirits I have raised abandon me-
Thou winged and cloud-cleaving minister,
[An eagle passes.
Well may'st thou swoop so near me--I should be
How glorious in its action and itself!
To sink or soar, with our mix'd essence make
[The shepherd's pipe in the distance is heard. The natural music of the mountain reedFor here the patriarchal days are not A pastoral fable-pipes in the liberal air, Mix'd with the sweet bells of the sauntering herd; My soul would drink those echoes!-Oh, that I were The viewless spirit of a lovely sound, A living voice, a breathing harmony, A bodiless enjoyment-born and dying With the blest tone which made me !"-pp. 20-22.
At this period of his soliloquy, he is descried by a Chamois hunter, who overhears its continuance.
"To be thusGrey-hair'd with anguish, like these blasted pines, Wrecks of a single winter, bark less, branchless, A blighted trunk upon a cursed root, Which but supplies a feeling to decayAnd to be thus, eternally but thus, Having been otherwise!
Ye topling crags of ice! Ye avalanches, whom a breath draws down In mountainous o'erwhelming, come and crush me! I hear ye momently above, beneath, Crash with a frequent conflict; but ye pass, And only fall on things which still would live; On the young flourishing forest, or the hut And hamlet of the harmless villager. The mists boil up around the glaciers! clouds Rise curling fast beneath me, white and sulphury, Like foam from the roused ocean of deep Hell, Whose every wave breaks on a living shore, Heaped with the damn'd like pebbles-I am giddy!" pp. 23, 24.
Just as he is about to spring from the cliff, he is seized by the hunter, who forces him away from the dangerous place in the midst of the rising tempest. In the second act, we find him in the cottage of this peasant, and in a still wilder state of disorder. His host offers him wine; but, upon looking at the cup, he exclaims
"Away, away! there's blood upon the brim! Will it then never-never sink in the earth? C. Hun. What dost thou mean? thy senses wander from thee.
Man. I say 'tis blood-my blood! the pure warm
Which ran in the veins of my fathers, and in ours
C. Hun. Man of strange words, and some halfmaddening sin, &c.
Man. Think'st thou existence doth depend on It doth; but actions are our epochs: mine [time? Have made my days and nights imperishable, Endless, and all alike, as sands on the shore, Innumerable atoms; and one desert, Barren and cold, on which the wild waves break, But nothing rests, save carcasses and wrecks, Rocks, and the salt-surf weeds of bitterness.
C. Hun. Alas! he's mad-but yet I must not leave him.
Man. I would I were-for then the things I see Would be but a distempered dream.
What is it That thou dost see, or think thou look'st upon? Man. Myself, and thee-a peasant of the AlpsThy humble virtues, hospitable home, And spirit patient, pious, proud and free; Thy self-respect, grafted on innocent thoughts; Thy days of health, and nights of sleep; thy toils, By danger dignified, yet guiltless; hopes Of cheerful old age and a quiet grave, With cross and garland over its green turf, And thy grandchildren's love for epitaph; This do I see-and then I look withinIt matters not-my soul was scorch'd already!" pp. 27-29. The following scene is one of the most poetical and most sweetly written in the poem. There is a still and delicious witchery in the tranquillity and seclusion of the place, and the celestial beauty of the Being who reveals herself in the midst of these visible enchantments. In a deep valley among the mountains, Manfred appears alone before a lofty cataract, pealing in the quiet sunshine down the still and everlasting rocks; and
"It is not noon-the sunbow's rays still arch The torrent with the many hues of heaven, And roll the sheeted silver's waving column O'er the crag's headlong perpendicular, And fling its lines of foaming light along, And to and fro, like the pale courser's tail, The Giant steed, to be bestrode by Death, As told in the Apocalypse. No eyes But mine now drink this sight of loveliness; I should be sole in this sweet solitude, And with the Spirit of the place divide The homage of these waters.-I will call her. [He takes some of the water into the palm of his hand, and flings it in the air, muttering the adjuration. After a pause, the WITCH OF THE ALPS rises beneath the arch of the sunbow of the torrent.]
Man. Beautiful Spirit! with thy hair of light, And dazzling eyes of glory! in whose form The charms of Earth's least-mortal daughters grow To an unearthly stature, in an essence Of purer elements; while the hues of youth,Carnation'd like a sleeping infant's cheek, Rock'd by the beating of her mother's heart, Upon the lofty glacier's virgin snow, Or the rose tints, which summer's twilight leaves The blush of earth embracing with her heaven,Tinge thy celestial aspect, and make tame The beauties of the sunbow which bends o'er thee! Beautiful Spirit! in thy calm clear brow, Wherein is glass'd serenity of soul, Which of itself shows immortality, I read that thou wilt pardon to a Son Of Earth, whom the abstruser Powers permit At times to commune with them-if that he Avail him of his spells-to call thee thus, And gaze on thee a moment.
Son of Earth! I know thee, and the Powers which give thee power! I know thee for a man of many thoughts, And deeds of good and ill, extreme in both, Fatal and fated in thy sufferings.
I have expected this-what wouldst thou with me! Man. To look upon thy beauty!-nothing further."-pp. 31, 32.
There is something exquisitely beautiful, to our taste, in all this passage; and both the apparition and the dialogue are so managed, that the sense of their improbability is swal lowed up in that of their beauty;-and, without actually believing that such spirits exist or communicate themselves, we feel for the moment as if we stood in their presence.
What follows, though extremely powerful, and more laboured in the writing, has less charm for us. He tells his celestial auditor the brief story of his misfortune; and when he mentions the death of the only being he had ever loved, the beauteous Spirit breaks in with her superhuman pride.
"And for this-
Man. Daughter of Air! I tell thee, since that
But peopled with the Furies!-I have gnash'd
The third scene is the boldest in the exhibition of supernatural persons. The three Destinies and Nemesis meet, at midnight, on the top of the Alps, on their way to the hall of Arimanes, and sing strange ditties to the moon, of their mischiefs wrought among men. Nemesis being rather late, thus apologizes for keeping them waiting.
"I was detain'd repairing shattered thrones, Marrying fools, restoring dynasties, Avenging men upon their enemies,
And making them repent their own revenge;
This we think is out of place at least, if we must not say out of character; and though the author may tell us that human calamities are naturally subjects of derision to the Ministers of Vengeance, yet we cannot be persuaded that satirical and political allusions are at all compatible with the feelings and impressions which it was here his business to maintain. When the Fatal Sisters are again assembled before the throne of Arimanes, Manfred suddenly appears among them, and refuses the prostrations which they require. The first Destiny thus loftily announces him.
86 'Prince of the Powers invisible! This man Is of no common order, as his port And presence here denote; his sufferings Have been of an immortal nature, like Our own; his knowledge and his powers and will, As far as is compatible with clay, Which clogs the etherial essence, have been such As clay hath seldom borne; his aspirations Have been beyond the dwellers of the earth, And they have only taught him what we knowThat knowledge is not happiness; and science But an exchange of ignorance for that Which is another kind of ignorance. This is not all;-the passions, attributes
Of earth and heaven, from which no power, nor
At his desire, the ghost of his beloved Astarte is then called up, and appears—but refuses to speak at the command of the Powers who have raised her, till Manfred breaks out into this passionate and agonising address. "Hear me, hear meAstarte! my beloved! speak to me ! I have so much endured-so much endureLook on me! the grave hath not changed thee more Than I am changed for thee. Thou lovedst me Too much, as I loved thee: we were not made To torture thus each other, though it were The deadliest sin to love as we have loved. Say that thou loath'st me not-that I do bear This punishment for both-that thou wilt be One of the blessed-and that I shall die! For hitherto all hateful things conspire To bind me in existence-in a life A future like the past! I cannot rest. Which makes me shrink from immortalityI know not what I ask, nor what I seek: I feel but what thou art—and what I am; And I would hear yet once, before I perish, For I have call'd on thee in the still night, The voice which was my music.-Speak to me! Startled the slumbering birds from the hush'd boughs,
And woke the mountain wolves, and made the
Phantom of Astarte. Manfred!
I live but in the sound-it is thy voice!
Say, shall we meet again?
Man. One word for mercy! Say, thou lovest me! Phan. Manfred!
[The Spirit of ASTARTE disappears. Nem. She's gone, and will not be recalled." pp. 50-52.
The last act, though in many passages very beautifully written, seems to us less powerful. It passes altogether in Manfred's castle, and is chiefly occupied in two long conversations between him and a holy abbot, who comes to exhort and absolve him, and whose counsel he repels with the most reverent gentleness, following passages are full of poetry and and but few bursts of dignity and pride. The feeling.
"Ay-father! I have had those earthly visions,
(Which casts up misty columns that become
Abbott. And why not live and act with other men?
pp. 59, 60.
There is also a fine address to the setting sun-aud a singular miscellaneous soliloquy, in which one of the author's Roman recollections is brought in, we must say somewhat unnaturally.
"The stars are forth, the moon above the tops
I learn'd the language of another world!
"Must crimes be punish'd but by other crimes,
No colour from the fleeting things without;
in this poem ;-but it is undoubtedly a work of genius and originality. Its worst fault, perhaps, is, that it fatigues and overawes us by the uniformity of its terror and solemnity. Another is the painful and offensive nature of the circumstance on which its distress is ultimately founded. It all springs from the disappointment or fatal issue of an incestuous passion; and incest, according to our modern ideas for it was otherwise in antiquity-is not a thing to be at all brought before the imagination. The lyrical songs of the Spirits are too long; and not all excellent. There is something of pedantry in them now and then; and even Manfred deals in classical allusions a little too much. If we were to consider it as a proper drama, or even as a finished poem, we should be obliged to add, that it is far too indistinct and unsatisfactory. But this we take to be according to the design and conception of the author. He contemplated but a dim and magnificent sketch of a subject which did not admit of a more accurate drawing, or more brilliant colouring. Its obscurity is a part of its grandeur;-and the darkness that rests upon it, and the smoky distance in which it is lost, are all devices to increase its majesty, to stimulate our curi. osity, and to impress us with deeper awe.
It is suggested, in an ingenious paper, in a late Number of the Edinburgh Magazine, that the general conception of this piece, and much of what is excellent in the manner of its execution, have been borrowed from "the Tragical History of Dr. Faustus" of Marlowe; and a variety of passages are quoted, which the author considers as similar, and, in many respects, superior to others in the poem before us. We cannot agree in the general terms of this conclusion;-but there is, no doubt, a certain resemblance, both in some of the topics that are suggested, and in the cast of the diction in which they are expressed. Thus, to induce Faustus to persist in his unlawful studies, he is told that the Spirits of the Elements will serve him
I have not been thy dupe, nor am thy prey-
[The Demons disappear."—pp. 74, 75. There are great faults, it must be admitted,
"Sometimes like women, or unwedded maids, Than have the white breasts of the Queene of Shadowing more beauty in their ayrie browes
And again, when the amorous sorcerer commands Helen of Troy to be revived, as his paramour, he addresses her, on her first ap pearance, in these rapturous lines
"Was this the face that launcht a thousand ships,
O! thou art fairer than the evening ayre,
Thou didst not tempt me, and thou couldst not More lovely than the monarch of the skyes
The catastrophe, too, is bewailed in verses of great elegance and classical beauty.
"Cut is the branch that might have growne full And burned is Apollo's laurel bough [straight, That sometime grew within this learned man.