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Napoleon lives a prisoner. To these sovereigns a long but superfluous list might be added of names equally illustrious and unhappy." [Byron's note.

150 clxxiv, 7. Tully reposed: at Tusculum.


9. Horace's Sabine farm, twenty miles to the north-east.

150: clxxv, 8. Calpe's rock. Gibraltar: in 1811.

150: clxxvi, 1. Symplegades: two small islands near the entrance to the Black Sea.

152: clxxxi, 9. The fleet of the Armada (1588) was destroyed partly by tempests, partly by the English fleet.

"The gale of wind which succeeded the battle of Trafalgar [October 21, 1805] destroyed the greater part, if not all, of the prizes-nineteen sail of the line-taken on that memorable day." [Byron's note.

153: clxxxiv, 9. upon the sea.

as I do here. As if written while sailing

154: clxxxvi, 7. Emblems of pilgrims. Cf. 'Hamlet' IV, v, 23:

"How should I your true love know

From another one?

By his cockle hat and staff,

And his sandal shoon,"


Written, June 1816, at Ouchy near Lausanne in Switzerland, and published at London, December 5th, 1816.

The Bonivard of the poem is essentially a creation of the imagination and not a historical figure. The poet himself admitted this fact in his notes: "When this poem was composed, I was not sufficiently aware of the history of Bonivard." The historical Bonivard (1493-1570), a lover of republican liberty and a religious reformer, because of his opposition to the rule of the House of Savoy was imprisoned by the Duke of Savoy at Chillon from 1530 to 1536, when, in the war of liberation of the cantons of Geneva and Vaud, the castle was captured by the republican forces and Bonivard and other prisoners were liberated. The circumstance of the imprisonment and death of the brothers is entirely of Byron's invention. In his own Memoirs Bonivard testi

fies that he was confined in a dungeon, "the bottom of which was lower than the lake on which Chillon was situated, where I remained four years [two had been spent in better quarters] and had such good leisure to promenade that I wore a path in the rock which was the floor of the place just as if it had been made with a hammer." Most unromantic of all the contradictions which history presents to the poem, Bonivard's interest in life after his release was so lively that he was four times married! He was, however, an idealist and a scholar. D'Aubigné, in his 'History of the Reformation' compares him to Erasmus and says that Bonivard "was, like him, a lover of letters and of liberty more than the former. He was to Geneva the man of the Renaissance as Calvin was the man of the Reformation." The Bonivard of the poem, however, is really an idealized Byron-Byron at the best period of his career, when he was most open to the influences of Rousseau, Scott, Shelley, Wordsworth, and Coleridge (influences to which this poem bears witness), and imagined in circumstances to evoke the deepest tenderness, pathos, sympathy with liberty and with human suffering, and meditative melancholy, latent in the poet's nature.

Professor Kölbing has suggested that probably the chief source from which Byron drew his scanty knowledge of Bonivard was the following passage from Rousseau's 'Nouvelle Héloïse,' a book which Byron and Shelley had been reading together during their journey around the lake: "The castle of Chillon, formerly a dwelling of the lords of Vevey, is situated in the lake on a rock which forms a little peninsula, and around which I have seen soundings taken more than a hundred and fifty fathoms deep, which amounts to nearly eight hundred feet, without reaching the bottom. Cellars and kitchens have been excavated in this rock below the level of the water, which is let in by valves when desired. Here was imprisoned for six years François Bonnivard, Prior of Saint-Victor, a man of rare merit, of unbending uprightness and fortitude, a friend of liberty, although a Savoyard, and tolerant, although a priest."

The situation and much in the tone of the narration of the poem suggest the story of Ugolino and his sons in Dante (Inferno, xxxii, 124-xxxiii, 78). According to Medwin Shelley remarked that "Byron had deeply studied this death of Ugolino, and per

haps but for it would never have written the Prisoner of Chillon.

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Writing, as he always wrote, at white heat, and in the manner of improvisation (the composition of this poem took two days), Byron has yet produced here a masterpiece both in structure and in style. The poet's theme is to depict the psychology of the prisoner,- -a political prisoner, noble-minded and innocent of crime. There is very little action; there is very little ornament; the narrative evolves from within, and is presented with high dramatic fidelity, and with subtle gradation and progression. The situation in itself is bare and simple; the art with which the poet developes it is masterly. Who else, except Dante perhaps, as in the Ugolino episode, could do so much with so little? Note how touch is added to touch in just the right order in the building up of the poem. The irregular stanzas or verse paragraphs are the units of structure. The first stanza is introductory, presenting the personages of the poem and centering the interest in Bonivard, the narrator; in II is the Scene (the Dungeon), and, to fix our interest, a glance forward at the psychological state of the prisoner after all is over: how this state came about is the subject of the poem; III presents the details of the situation of the three brothers in prison, and the first effect of confinement (“ But even these at length grew cold"); IV and V tell of the younger and the middle brother, two types of character, both ill-adapted to endure such a fate (effect of pathos through contrast; the central character heightened through picture of his devotion to them); VI the Place again, remote and scanty echoes of free Nature emphasizing by contrast their situation; VII death of the middle brother; his burial, and the effect of this on the mind of Bonivard suggested; VIII death of the younger brother, and emotional climax of the poem; a passage of pure pathos; Dantean touch ("I found him not "); IX effect on the Prisoner; reaction of apathy; X reaction of life; revival to feeling for nature; exquisite touch in the incident of the bird;* XI amelioration; XII life rene enewed, but with a difference; Nature the re

* Cf. the similar situation and device in Coleridge's 'Ancient Mariner'; the Mariner's mental state, ll. 244 f.; and the awakening of his soul through the influence of the water-snakes, ll. 272 f., and of the sky-lark, 1, 359.

storer; XIV liberation: subdued ending in the manner of Wordsworth (diminuendo). The poem is one of pathos merely, in the primary sense of the term. The characters suffer, but do not act. Consequently the treatment, as here given, must be quasi-lyrical (dramatic monologue) and brief. Even thus, as Sir Walter Scott wrote, the poem is more powerful than pleasing. The form and style are in admirable keeping with the subject: vigorous octosyllabics (four-stress couplets) with frequent variations (contrast the more softly melodious movement of Coleridge's 'Christabel'); little imagery, and that closely directed to enforcing the emotional effect; otherwise straightforward realistic speech with no surplusage. Compare the narrative manner of


What is the effect in each case of the various departures from the couplet rhyme in the poem? from the regular iambic flow of the rhythm? Why are certain lines of two and three feet instead of four? Is the alliteration employed artistic and effective? 155 Sonnet on Chillon, 2-4. The general meaning is made clearer in the first version of these lines:

"Brightest in dungeons, Liberty! thou art,

Thy palace is within the Freeman's heart,
Whose soul the love of thee alone can bind."

Cf. the Giaour';

"To me she gave her heart, that all
Which tyranny can ne'er enthrall."

156: The Poem, 18. The six sons and their father.

156: 27 ff. Shelley's prose description of Chillon in his 'His'tory of a Six Weeks' Tour' (taken in Byron's company, June, 1816) is as follows: "We passed on to the Castle of Chillon, and visited its dungeons and towers. These prisons are excavated below the lake; the principal dungeon is supported by seven columns, whose branching capitals support the roof. Close to the very walls, the lake is 800 feet deep; iron rings are fastened to these columns.. Close to this long and lofty dungeon was a narrow cell, and beyond it one larger and far more lofty and dark, supported upon two unornamented arches. Across one of these arches was a beam, now black and rotten, on which

prisoners were hung in secret. I never saw a monument more terrible of that cold and inhuman tyranny, which it has been the delight of man to exercise over man [cf. l. 136-7 of the poem] "-Cf. Byron's prose description in note to 1. III


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157: 69 ff. For the contrast between the two brothers, cf. Ariosto, Orlando Furioso,' c. xviii, st. 166.


157:57. the pure elements of earth, is apparently a vague and general phrase for 'the elementary things which the earth gives to all, as air and water and sunshine,'

158 105. gulf: used with the sense given it by Byron in 'Sardanapalus,' IV, 1:

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"All that the dead dare gloomily raise up
From their black gulf to daunt the living."

159: III. "The Château de Chillon is situated between Clarens and Villeneuve, which last is at one extremity of the Lake of Geneva. On its left are the entrances of the Rhone, and opposite are the heights of Meillerie and the range of Alps above Bouveret and St. Gingo. Near it, on a hill behind, is a torrent; below it, washing its walls, the lake has been fathomed to the depth of 800 feet (French measure); within it are a range of dungeons in which the early reformers, and subsequently prisoners of state, were confined. Across one of the vaults is a beam black with age, on which we were informed that the condemned were formerly executed. In the cells are seven pillars, or rather eight, one being half merged in the wall; in some of these are rings for the fetters and the fettered. In the pavement the steps of Bonnivard have left their traces. He was confined here several years. [Byron's note. 159: 122.

the very rock hath rock'd.

The play on words is

reproduced in Manfred' I, i:

"with the shock Rocking their Alpine brethren."

For the stylistic point, compare Shakspere's Sonnet civ: "For as you were when first your eye I eyed."

Also 'Richard II,' act V, iii, 85:

"This fester'd joint cut off, the rest rest sound,”

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