Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

161: 186 ff. What points of resemblance are there between this passage and the account of the death of the shipwrecked boy in Don Juan' II, lxxxviii (above, p. 254)?

162 215, 216. The last

link. The only one that was the eternal brink. The brink of eternity.

left.

163: 245 ff. For the conception and the images, cf. Byron's poem 'Darkness' (above, p. 220).

163: 265. through the crevice = 'in the crevice through which.'

164: 292. twice so doubly lone. If it had been his brother's soul, he would never have left him a second time, and consequently doubly lonely and alone from the loss of so bright a hope.

164: 294 ff. Is the simile as expanded merely ornamental and a flourish, or are ll. 295-299 strictly connected with the picture of the prisoner's mental condition? Cf. Wordsworth's 'To a Daffodil' (1804):

"I wandered lonely as a cloud."

165 323. Cf. Dryden's version of Chaucer's tale of Palamon and Arcite, where Palamon, looking out from the tower of his prison,

"sighed, and turned his eyes, because he knew

'Twas but a larger jail he had in view."

The quiet of a loving eye. Cf. Wordsworth, ‘A

165: 331. Poet's Epitaph':

"The harvest of a quiet eye."

165 336. Is the Rhone blue where it enters the lake, not far from Chillon? Or is Byron thinking of its color at some other point in its course? Cf. 'Childe Harold,' III, lxxi (of the Rhone at Geneva):

"By the blue rushing of the arrowy Rhone." But cf. also Don Juan,' XIV, lxxxvii :

"Or like the Rhone by Leman's waters wash'd,
Where mingled and yet separate appears
The river from the lake, all bluely dash'd
Through the serene and placid glassy deep
Which fain would lull its river-child to sleep."

It is a matter of common observation that water which, under certain conditions of atmosphere and light will appear green or other color, under other conditions will appear blue,

165

339. The town is perhaps Vevey (five miles down the lake), or it may be Meillerie (ten miles below on the opposite shore). The latter is especially mentioned in Byron's note tol. III, above. 166: 341. "Between the entrances of the Rhone and Villeneuve, not far from Chillon, is a very small island; the only one I could perceive, in my voyage round and over the lake, within its circumference. It contains a few trees (I think not above three), and from its singleness and diminutive size has a peculiar effect upon the view." [Byron's note. The island referred to (Ile de la Paix) is artificial and did not exist in Bonivard's time, but was built about a century ago. On it three elms were planted.

MANFRED.

'Manfred' was begun during Byron's Swiss tour of 1816. It was finished (in the original version) by February 15, 1817. In its revised form it was published in June, 1817.

We are assured in the 'Recollections of Byron,' ascribed to the Countess Guiccioli, that "the origin of 'Manfred' lies in the midst of sublime Alpine scenery, where, on a rock, Bryon discovered an inscription bearing the names of two brothers, one of whom had murdered the other at that spot.” In Byron's Swiss Journal, September 22 [1816] appears this entry : "Left Thoun in a boat. · passed Interlachen; entered upon a range of scenes beyond all description or previous conception. Passed a rock; inscription-two brothers-one murdered the other; just the place for it." Nothing of this story appears in Manfred.' It, however, perhaps suggested the theme of remorse, the poet first substituting, it may be, a sister, Astarte, for the murdered brother, and then transferring the actual deed of blood from Manfred's to some other hands. So II, iii, 120:

"I have shed

Blood, but not hers--and yet her blood was shed."

> ""

However this may be, there is no doubt that the Alps furnished the chief inspiration of the poem. "As to the germs of 'Manfred,' Byron wrote from Venice, "they may be found in the Journal which I sent to Mrs. Leigh, . . . shortly before I left Switzerland. I have the whole scene of 'Manfred' before me, as

if it was but yesterday, and could point it out, spot by spot, torrent and all." And announcing the work to Moore (March 25, 1817), he says: "I wrote a sort of mad Drama, for the sake of introducing the Alpine scenery in description." This of course is an exaggerated statement of the case, for after all the poetic center of the poem is Manfred, not the Alps, and the poem is essentially psychological and lyrical rather than descriptive.

See the extracts from Byron's Journal and Letters given below in the notes to I, ii, and II, i and ii.

As to other sources, Goethe's 'Faust' obviously furnished certain suggestions. Writing to Rogers, April 4, 1817, Byron says: "I forgot to tell you that, last autumn, I furnished [Matthew Gregory, or 'Monk'] Lewis with 'bread and salt' for some days at Diodati, in reward for which (besides his conversation) he translated Goethe's 'Faust' to me by word of mouth." And later, June 7, 1820, in a letter to Murray: "[Goethe's] 'Faust' I never read, for I don't know German; but Matthew Monk Lewis, in 1816, at Coligny, translated most of it to me vivâ voce, and I was naturally much struck with it; but it was the Steinbach and the Jungfrau, and something else, much more than Faustus, that made me write Manfred.' The two poems are obviously not in competition. With several motives in common, the aims are different, and they belong in different classes.* With the spirit of Marlowe's Faustus' Manfred' also has something in common, and it is difficult to believe that Byron had never seen Marlowe's work, at least the portions contained in Lamb's 'Specimens of the English Dramatic Poets,' a book which he knew. Yet Byron assures us that such was the fact. "I never read and do not know that I ever saw the Faustus' of Marlowe," he writes to Murray. And later: "As to the 'Faustus' of Marlowe, I never read, never saw, nor heard of it—at least, thought of it, except that I think Mr. Gifford mentioned, in a note of his which you sent me, something about the catastrophe; but not as having anything to do with mine, which may or may not resemble it, for anything I know." Jeffrey in his review of the poem remarks that "in the tone and pitch of the composition, as well as

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

* For suggestive comparisons of the two poems, see Castelar's 'Life of Byron' (Lond. 1875), pp. 169–175; Taine, Hist. Eng. Lit. Bk. IV, ch. ii, sect. iv.

in the character of the diction in the more solemn parts, Manfred' reminds us much more of the Prometheus' of Æschylus than of any more modern performance. The tremendous solitude of the principal person, the supernatural beings with whom alone he holds communion, the guilt, the firmness, the misery, are all points of resemblance to which the grandeur of the poetic imagery only gives a more striking effect." This flattering resemblance Byron was quite willing to admit. "Of the 'Prometheus' of Æschylus," he writes, "I was passionately fond as a boy (it was one of the Greek plays we read thrice a year at Harrow)... The Prometheus, if not exactly in my plan, has always been so much in my head that I can easily conceive its influence over all or anything that I have written." Perhaps also, as Goethe hinted, certain things in the story of Manfred and Astarte were suggested by the story of Pausanias and Cleonice, which Byron refers to in both text and notes of II, ii, 182 ff. Moreover, as Mr. Tozer suggests, but in a very general sense, sts. v-vii of the third book of 'Childe Harold' (written only a short time before Byron began Manfred') contain the germ of the conception of 'Manfred.' They also suggest the real poetic impulse in the writing of this, as of most of his poetry. So Byron, in a letter to Murray at this period wrote: "Without exertion of some kind [as in composing 'Manfred '], I should have sunk under my imagination, and reality."

[ocr errors]

6

Compare also 'Childe Harold,' Bk. IV, cxxiii-cxxvii. And with the scenery and general atmosphere of 'Manfred,' compare Bk. III, lxii, lxxii-lxxv, xcii, xcvi-xcvii. In further illustration of Byron's state of mind at the time of the composition of 'Manfred,' see the end of the extract from his Swiss Journal in the notes which follow on Act I, scene ii.

Of the general aim and character of the poem Byron wrote to Murray as follows: "I forgot to mention to you that a kind of Poem in dialogue (in blank verse) or Drama . . . 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 propriâ per-
sona, to evocate a ghost, which appears and gives him an ambig-
uous and disagreeable answer; and in the third act he is found by
his attendants dying in a tower where he had studied his art" [so
in the first version: see notes below to Act III, scene i]. The
account is sufficiently deprecatory and unassuming; but all this is,
of course, but the outer husk and argument; the real poetical
motive is undescribed. The attempt was so daring and out of the
common that at first Byron was doubtful of the worth and success
of the poem.
Afterwards he grew more confident, and, in July,
1817, wrote to Murray: "He is one of the best of my misbegotten,
say what they will." He felt, however, that the style and con-
ception were ultra-romantic and extreme, and, so, suggestive of
the romantic verse-tales of his English period. "It is too much in
my old style," he writes. "... I certainly am a devil of a manner-
ist, and must leave off." The mannerisms of 'Manfred' are per-
haps of two sorts: (1) in the extravagance of Manfred's character
and moods; (2) in the occasional half-archaisms and stagy turns
of diction. Both, however, are introduced for a purpose, and are
a part of the design as a whole.

Structurally and regarded as narrative (dramatic it was never intended to be), 'Manfred' misses being a great poem. In its essence, and aside from the external form and machinery, it is a great lyrical poem:* but lyrical in Byron's manner; not in the coined and minted perfection of the parts, but in the overmastering mood, the impress of a perfectly incomparable and unparalleled genius (in the strict sense of these words), the passionate sweep, and the dynamic harmony, felt in the whole. It is the great English poem expressive of modern Welt-Schmerz, the woes of the Time-Spirit, the throes of Romanticism in life and in literThe misanthropy, the scepticism, and the pessimism of the age herein, as sentiments, receive full and fierce expression. It has grave defects of style in its parts, but in its central poetic purpose it is a magnificent success. Manfred is the central con

ature.

* Its main lyrical motives have been treated by Tschaikowsky, the great Russian composer, in a "Symphony, after Byron's' Manfred,' in four tableaux," somewhat sensationally, but with great lyrical power.

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »