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136 MANFIELD — MISPIACED SATIRE.
the death of the only being he had ever loved, the beauteous Spirit breaks in with her superhuman pride.
“And for this—
A being of the race thou dost despise, -
The order which thine own would rise above,
Mingling with us and ours, thou dost forego -
The gifts of our great knowledge, and shrink'st back
To recreant mortality Away!
Man. Daughter of Air I tell thee, since that hour—
But words are breath! — Look on me in my sleep,
Or watch my watchings—Come and sit by me !
My solitude is solitude no more,
But peopled with the Furies — I have gnash'd
My teeth in darkness till returning morn,
Then cursed myself till sunset; — I have pray'd
For madness as a blessing—'tis denied me.
I have affronted Death—but in the war
Of elements the waters shrunk from me,
And fatal things pass'd harmless.”—p. 36, 37,
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 apologises 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:
Goading the wise to madness; from the dull
Shaping out oracles to rule the world
Afresh : for they were waxing out of date,
And mortals dared to ponder for themselves,
To weigh kings in the balance, and to speak
Of freedom, the forbidden fruit — Away!
We have outstaid the hour – mount we our clouds!”—p. 44.
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
His PROUD BEARING AMONG THE IMMORTALs. 137
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.
“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 know —
That 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 being,
Nor breath, from the worm upwards, is exempt,
Have pierced his heart; and in their consequence
Made him a thing, which I, who pity not,
Yet pardon those who pity. He is mine,
And thine, it may be — be it so, or not,
No other Spirit in this region hath
A soul like his — or power upon his soul.”—p. 47, 48. -
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 agonizing address.
“Hear me, hear me —
Astarte my beloved 1 speak to me !
I have so much endured — so much endure — -
Look 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
• Which makes me shrink from immortality—
A future like the past! I cannot rest. *
I 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,
The voice which was my music. — Speak to me !
For I have call'd on thee in the still night,
Startled the slumbering birds from the hush'd boughs,
And woke the mountain wolves, and made the caves
Acquainted with thy vainly echoed name,
Which answered me — many things answered me —
Spirits and men — but thou wert silent still !
Yet speak to me! I have outwatched the stars,
And gazed o'er heaven in vain in search of thee.
Speak to me! I have wandered o'er the earth
And never found thy likeness.- Speak to me !
Look on the fiends around — they feel for me :
I fear them not, and feel for thee alone. —
Speak to me! though it be in wrath; – but say—
I wreck not what — but let me hear thee once —
This once 1 — once more
Phantom of Astarte. Manfred
Man. Say on, say on—
I live but in the sound — it is thy voices
Phan. Manfred To-morrow ends thine earthly ills.
Man. Yet one word more — am I forgiven 2
Man. Say, shall we meet again?
Phan. Farewell !
Man. One word for mercy! Say, thou lovest me !
Phan. Manfred [The Spirit of Ast ARTE disappears.
Nem. She's gone, and will not be recalled."—p. 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, and but few bursts of dignity and pride. The following passages are full of poetry and feeling: — “Ay—father I have had those earthly visions And noble aspirations in my youth : To make my own the mind of other men, The enlightener of nations; and to rise I knew not whither—it might be to fall; But fall, even as the mountain cataract, Which having leapt from its more dazzling height, Even in the foaming strength of its abyss, (Which casts up misty columns that become
BYRoN's MANFRED — THE colossEUM. 139
Clouds raining from the re-ascended skies),
Lies low but mighty still.—But this is past !
My thoughts mistook themselves. -
Abbot. And why not live and act with other men 2
Man. Because my nature was averse from life;
And yet not cruel; for I would not make,
But find a desolation :-like the wind,
The red-hot breath of the most lone Simoom,
Which dwells but in the desert, and sweeps o'er
The barren sands which bear no shrubs to blast,
And revels o'er their wild and arid waves,
And seeketh not, so that it is not sought,
But being met is deadly Such hath been
The course of my existence; but there came
Things in my path which are no more.”—p. 59, 60.
There is also a fine address to the setting sun — and 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
Of the snow-shining mountains.—Beautiful!
I linger yet with Nature, for the night
Hath been to me a more familiar face
Than that of man; and in her starry shade
Of dim and solitary loveliness,
I learn'd the language of another world !
I do remember me, that in my youth,
When I was wandering—upon such a night
I stood within the Colosseum's wall,
"Midst the chief relics of almighty Rome;
The trees which grew along the broken arches
Waved dark in the blue midnight, and the stars
Shone through the rents of ruin; from afar
The watchdog bayed beyond the Tiber; and
More near, from out the Caesars' palace came
The owl's long cry, and, interruptedly
Of distant sentinels the fitful song
Begun and died upon the gentle wind.
Some cypresses beyond the time-worn breach
Appeard to skirt the horizon; yet they stood
Within a bowshot.—
And thou didst shine, thou rolling moon! upon
All this, and cast a wide and tender light,
Which softened down the hoar austerity
Of rugged desolation, and fill'd up,
As 'twere, anew, the gaps of centuries;
Leaving that beautiful which still was so,
And making that which was not, till the place
140 BYRON's MANFRED — GENERAL CHARACTER.
Became religion, and the heart ran o'er With silent worship of the great of old!"—p. 68, 69. In his dying hour he is beset with Demons, who pretend to claim him as their forfeit; — but he indignantly and victoriously disputes their claim, and asserts his freedom from their thraldom. “Must crimes be punish'd but by other crimes, And greater criminals?— Back to thy hell! Thou hast no power upon me, that I feel; Thou never shalt possess me, that I know: What I have done is done; I bear within A torture which could nothing gain from thine: The mind which is immortal makes itself Requital for its good or ill—derives No colour from the fleeting things without; But is absorb’d in sufferance or in joy, Born from the knowledge of its own desert. Thou didst not tempt me, and thou couldst not tempt me. I have not been thy dupe, nor am thy prey— But was my own destroyer, and will be My own hereafter. — Back, ye baffled fiends! The hand of death is on me — but not yours! [The Demons disappear.” — p. 74, 75. There are great faults, it must be admitted, 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 more accurate drawing,