This page is only Act I, which is the reading for Monday. Wednesday we will read Act II. Friday we will read Act III.
George Gordon Lord Byron, 1817.
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your Philosophy."
--- DRAMATIS PERSONAE ---
(The Scene of the Drama is amongst the Higher Alps -- partly in the Castle of Manfred, and partly in the Mountains.)
MANFRED The lamp must be replenish'd, but even then It will not burn so long as I must watch: My slumbers -- if I slumber -- are not sleep, But a continuance of enduring thought, Which then I can resist not: in my heart There is a vigil, and these eyes but close To look within; and yet I live, and bear The aspect and the form of breathing men. But grief should be the instructor of the wise; Sorrow is knowledge: they who know the most 10 Must mourn the deepest o'er the fatal truth, The Tree of Knowledge is not that of Life. Philosophy and science, and the springs Of wonder, and the wisdom of the world, I have essayed, and in my mind there is A power to make these subject to itself-- But they avail not: I have done men good, And I have met with good even among men-- But this avail'd not: I have had my foes, And none have baffled, many fallen before me-- 20 But this avail'd not: -- Good, or evil, life, Powers, passions, all I see in other beings, Have been to me as rain unto the sands, Since that all-nameless hour. I have no dread, And feel the curse to have no natural fear, Nor fluttering throb, that beats with hopes or wishes, Or lurking love of something on the earth.-- Now to my task.-- Mysterious Agency! Ye spirits of the unbounded Universe! Whom I have sought in darkness and in light-- 30 Ye, who do compass earth about, and dwell In subtler essence -- ye, to whom the tops Of mountains inaccessible are haunts, And earth's and ocean's caves familiar things-- I call upon ye by the written charm Which gives me power upon you -- Rise! appear! [A pause They come not yet. -- Now by the voice of him Who is the first among you -- by this sign, Which makes you tremble -- by the claims of him Who is undying, -- Rise! appear! Appear! [A pause 40 If it he so. -- Spirits of earth and air, Ye shall not thus elude me: by a power, Deeper than all yet urged, a tyrant-spell, Which had its birth-place in a star condemn'd, The burning wreck of a demolish'd world, A wandering hell in the eternal space; By the strong curse which is upon my soul, The thought which is within me and around me, I do compel ye to my will. -- Appear! [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, 50 From my mansion in the cloud, Which the breath of twilight builds, And the summer's sun-set gilds With the azure and vermilion, Which is mix'd for my pavilion; Though thy quest may be forbidden, On a star-beam I have ridden; To thine adjuration bow'd, Mortal -- be thy wish avow'd! Voice of the SECOND SPIRIT Mont Blanc is the monarch of mountains, 60 They crowned 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; But ere it fall, that thundering ball Must pause for my command. The Glacier's cold and restless mass Moves onward day by day; But I am he who bids it pass, 70 Or with its ice delay. 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 80 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 FOURTH SPIRIT Where the slumbering earthquake Lies pillow'd on fire, And the lakes of bitumen 90 Rise boilingly higher; Where the roots of the Andes Strike deep in the earth, As their summits to heaven Shoot soaringly forth; I have quitted my birth-place, Thy bidding to bide-- Thy spell hath subdued me, Thy will be my guide! FIFTH SPIRIT I am the Rider of the wind, 100 The Stirrer of the storm; The hurricane I left behind Is yet with lightning warm; To speed to thee, o'er shore and sea I swept upon the blast: The fleet I met sailed well, and yet 'Twill sink ere night be past. SIXTH SPIRIT My dwelling is the shadow of the night, Why doth thy magic torture me with light? SEVENTH SPIRIT The star which rules thy destiny, 110 Was ruled, ere earth began, by me: It was a world as fresh and fair As e'er revolved round sun in air; Its course was free and regular, Space bosom'd not a lovelier star. The hour arrived -- and it became A wandering mass of shapeless flame, A pathless comet, -- and a curse, The menace of the universe; Still rolling on with innate force, 120 Without a sphere, without a course, A bright deformity on high, The monster of the upper sky! And thou! beneath its influence born-- Thou worm! whom I obey and scorn-- Forced by a power (which is not thine, And lent thee but to make thee mine) For this brief moment to descend, Where these weak spirits round thee bend And parley with a thing like thee-- 130 What wouldst thou, Child of Clay! with me? The SEVEN SPIRITS Earth, ocean, air, night, mountains, winds, thy star, Are at thy beck and bidding, Child of Clay! Before thee at thy quest their spirits are-- What wouldst thou with us, son of mortals -- say? MANFRED Forgetfulness-- FIRST SPIRIT Of what -- of whom -- and why? MANFRED Of that which is within me; read it there-- Ye know it, and I cannot utter it. SPIRIT We can but give thee that which we possess: Ask of us subjects, sovereignty, the power 140 O'er earth, the whole, or portion, or a sign Which shall control the elements, whereof We are the dominators, each and all, These shall be thine. MANFRED Oblivion, self-oblivion-- Can ye not wring from out the hidden realms Ye offer so profusely what I ask? SPIRIT It is not in our essence, in our skill; But -- thou mayst die. MANFRED Will death bestow it on me? SPIRIT We are immortal, and do not forget; We are eternal; and to us the past 150 Is, as the future, present. Art thou answered? MANFRED Ye mock me -- but the power which brought ye here Hath made you mine. Slaves, scoff not at my 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 ye what I am. SPIRIT We answer as we answered; our reply Is even in thine own words. MANFRED Why say ye so? 160 SPIRIT If, as thou say'st, thine essence be as ours, We have replied in telling thee, the thing Mortals call death hath nought to do with us. MANFRED I then have call'd ye from your realms in vain; Ye cannot, or ye will not, aid me. SPIRIT Say; What we possess we offer; it is thine: Bethink ere thou dismiss us, ask again-- Kingdom, and sway, and strength, and length of days-- MANFRED Accursed! what have I to do with days? They are too long already. -- Hence -- begone! 170 SPIRIT Yet pause: being here, our will would do thee service; Bethink thee, is there then no other gift Which we can make not worthless in thine eyes? MANFRED No, none: yet stay -- one moment, ere we part-- I would behold ye face to face. I hear Your voices, sweet and melancholy sounds, As music on the waters; and I see The steady aspect of a clear large star; But nothing more. Approach me as ye are, Or one, or all, in your accustom'd forms. 180 SPIRIT We have no forms beyond the elements Of which we are the mind and principle: But choose a form -- in that we will appear. MANFRED 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! MANFRED Oh God! if it be thus, and thou Art not a madness and a mockery, I yet might be most happy. -- I will clasp thee, 190 And we again will be-- [The figure vanishes My heart is crush'd! [MANFRED falls senseless [A voice is heard in the Incantation which follows] When the moon is on the wave, And the glow-worm in the grass, And the meteor on the grave, And the wisp on the morass; When the falling stars are shooting, And the answer'd owls are hooting, And the silent leaves are still In the shadow of the hill, Shall my soul be upon thine, 200 With a power and with a sign. Though thy slumber may be deep, Yet thy spirit shall not sleep, There are shades which will not vanish, There are thoughts thou canst not banish; By a power to thee unknown, Thou canst never be alone; Thou art wrapt as with a shroud, Thou art gathered in a cloud; And for ever shalt thou dwell 210 In the spirit of this spell. Though thou seest me not pass by, Thou shalt feel me with thine eye As a thing that, though unseen, Must be near thee, and hath been; And when in that secret dread Thou hast turn'd around thy head, Thou shalt marvel I am not As thy shadow on the spot, And the power which thou dost feel 220 Shall he what thou must conceal. And a magic voice and verse Hath baptized thee with a curse; And a spirit of the air Hath begirt thee with a snare; In the wind there is a voice Shall forbid thee to rejoice; And to thee shall Night deny All the quiet of her sky; And the day shall have a sun, 230 Which shall make thee wish it done. From thy false tears I did distil An essence which hath strength to kill; From thy own heart I then did wring The black blood in its blackest spring; From thy own smile I snatch'd the snake, For there it coil'd as in a brake; From thy own lip I drew the charm Which gave all these their chiefest harm; In proving every poison known, 240 I found the strongest was thine own. By thy cold breast and serpent smile, By thy unfathom'd gulfs of guile, By that most seeming virtuous eye, By thy shut soul's hypocrisy; By the perfection of thine art Which pass'd for human thine own heart; By thy delight in others' pain, And by thy brotherhood of Cain, I call upon thee! and compel 250 Thyself to be thy proper Hell! And on thy head I pour the vial Which doth devote thee to this trial; Nor to slumber, nor to die Shall be in thy destiny; Though thy death shall still seem near To thy wish, but as a fear; Lo! the spell now works around thee, And the clankless chain hath bound thee; O'er thy heart and brain together 260 Hath the word been pass'd -- now wither!SCENE II. The Mountain of the Jungfrau. --Time, Morning. -- MANFRED alone upon the Cliffs.
MANFRED The spirits I have raised abandon me-- The spells which I have studied baffle me-- The remedy I reck'd of tortured me; I lean no more on super-human aid, It hath no power upon the past, and for The future, till the past be gulf'd in darkness, It is not of my search. -- My mother Earth! And thou fresh breaking Day, and you, ye Mountains, Why are ye beautiful? I cannot love ye. And thou, the bright eye of the universe, 10 That openest over all, and unto all Art a delight -- thou shin'st not on my heart. And you, ye crags, upon whose extreme edge I stand, and on the torrent's brink beneath Behold the tall pines dwindled as to shrubs In dizziness of distance; when a leap, A stir, a motion, even a breath, would bring My breast upon its rocky bosom's bed To rest for ever -- wherefore do I pause? I feel the impulse -- yet I do not plunge 20 I see the peril -- yet do not recede; And my brain reels -- and yet my foot is firm: There is a power upon me which withholds And makes it my fatality to live; If it be life to wear within myself This barrenness of spirit, and to be My own soul's sepulchre, for I have ceased To justify my deeds unto myself-- The last infirmity of evil. Ay, Thou winged and cloud-cleaving minister [an eagle passes Whose happy flight is highest into heaven 30 Well mayst thou swoop so near me -- I should be Thy prey, and gorge thins eaglets; thou art gone Where the eye cannot follow thee; but thine Yet pierces downward, onward, or above With a pervading vision. -- Beautiful! How beautiful is all this visible world! How glorious in its action and itself; But we, who name ourselves its sovereigns, we, Half dust, half deity, alike unfit 40 To sink or soar, with our mix'd essence make A conflict of its elements, and breathe The breath of degradation and of pride, Contending with low wants and lofty will Till our mortality predominates, And men are -- what they name not to themselves And trust not to each other. Hark! the note, [The Shepherd's pipe in the distance is heard The natural music of the mountain reed-- For here the patriarchal days are not A pastoral fable -- pipes in the liberal air, 50 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! Enter from below a CHAMOIS HUNTER CHAMOIS HUNTER. Even so This way the chamois leapt: her nimble feet Have baffled me; my gains to-day will scarce Repay my break-neck travail. -- What is here? Who seems not of my trade, and yet hath reach'd 60 A height which none even of our mountaineers, Save our best hunters, may attain: his garb Is goodly, his mien manly, and his air Proud as a free-born peasant's, at this distance.-- I will approach him nearer. MANFRED [not perceiving the other] To be thus-- Grey-hair'd with anguish, like these blasted pines, Wrecks of a single winter, barkless, branchless, A blighted trunk upon a cursed root, Which but supplies a feeling to decay-- And to be thus, eternally but thus, 70 Having been otherwise! Now furrow'd o'er With wrinkles, plough'd by moments, not by years; And hours -- all tortured into ages -- hours Which I outlive! -- Ye toppling crags of ice! Ye avalanches, whom a breath draws down In mountainous overwhelming, 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 80 And hamlet of the harmless villager. CHAMOIS HUNTER The mists begin to rise from up the valley; I'll warn him to descend, or he may chance To lose at once his way and life together. MANFRED 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. CHAMOIS HUNTER I must approach him cautiously; if near, 90 A sudden step will startle him, and he Seems tottering already. MANFRED Mountains have fallen Leaving a gap in the clouds, and with the shock Rocking their Alpine brethren; filling up The ripe green valleys with destruction's splinters; Damming the rivers with a sudden dash, Which crush'd the waters into mist, and made Their fountains find another channel -- thus, Thus, in its old age, did Mount Rosenberg-- Why stood I not beneath it? CHAMOIS HUNTER Friend! have a care, 100 Your next step may be fatal! -- for the love Of him who made you, stand not on that brink! MANFRED [not hearing him]. Such would have been for me a fitting tomb; My bones had then been quiet in their depth; They had not then been strewn upon the rocks For the wind's pastime -- as thus -- thus they shall be-- In this one plunge. -- Farewell, ye opening heavens! Look not upon me thus reproachfully-- Ye were not meant for me -- Earth! take these atoms! [As MANFRED is in act to spring from the cliff; the CHAMOIS HUNTER seizes and retains him with a sudden grasp] CHAMOIS HUNTER Hold, madman! -- though aweary of thy life, 110 Stain not our pure vales with thy guilty blood.-- Away with me -- I will not quit my hold. MANFRED I am most sick at heart -- nay, grasp me not-- I am all feebleness -- the mountains whirl Spinning around me -- I grow blind -- What art thou? CHAMOIS HUNTER I'll answer that anon. -- Away with me -- The clouds grow thicker -- there -- now lean on me -- Place your foot here -- here, take this staff, and cling A moment to that shrub -- now give me your hand, And hold fast by my girdle -- softly -- well -- 120 The Chalet will be gained within an hour-- Come on, we'll quickly find a surer footing, And something like a pathway, which the torrent Hath wash'd since winter. -- Come, 'tis bravely done-- You should have been a hunter. -- Follow me. [As they descend the rocks with difficulty, the scene closes]