Изображения страниц

Compare and contrast the treatment of the theme of despair in Marlowe's Faustus,' especially scenes xiv and xvi.

201: 88-96. The story of the death of Nero, sixth emperor, A.D. 54-68, is told in Suetonius, 'Life of Nero' xlix.

201 101. despair above, i.e., despair of being pardoned above, in Heaven.

[ocr errors]


This passage formed the conclusion of the original first scene. Of it Byron said: "The speech of Manfred to the Sun is the only part of this act [in its first form] I thought good myself." Cf. the equally magnificent Hymn to the Sun in Tennyson's 'Akbar's Dream.' Cf. also Ossian's Address to the Sun (at end of Carthon ').

204 4-8. The fate of these "giant sons " and "erring spirits" forms the subject of Byron's dramatic poem 'Heaven and Earth,' 1821. Cf. 'Genesis' vi, 2, 4. Cf. also, Moore's poem The Loves of the Angels,' 1823.

204 13. the Chaldean shepherds. The Chaldeans were fireworshippers.


What is the poetic intention of this scene and its function in the structure of the drama? Why the references to the mysterious chamber, the vigils in the tower, Manfred's father and the good old times, his wanderings, and the fatal night where Manfred and the still-undescribed Astarte were alone together in the tower? In what way does this scene serve as preparation for and contrast to the final scene that follows?


206 37. The (Grosse) Eiger stands a few miles north from the Jungfrau in the region of the Bernese Oberland. Manfred's castle is thus imagined in this region in sight of the Eiger,-but not necessarily to the east of it, as the sunset rays frequently color the clouds in the east as well as the west.

206: 46-47. For the missing word are we to supply sister? And is the love described that of brother and sister? Does that agree with previous references to Astarte? Or is the word perhaps cousin? The poet obviously intended the mystery to pique our curiosity, but still to remain unsolved.


The structure of this scene deserves study. The calm and solemn opening with its reminiscences of earthly beauty and glory in Manfred's soliloquy, then the intervention of the Abbot, the representative of conventional opinion and the conventional power of good, as opposed to the conventional and limited powers of evil who next appear,-all by subtle gradations prepare our mood for the climax of Manfred's fate that follows, and all serve to set in bold relief the dominant figure of the hero.

Byron's once notorious and agitating "scepticism" is to be traced in the implications of this scene more than elsewhere in the poem. It properly gives the "moral" of the piece. Manfred is not converted and saved at the last moment by the power of the Church, nor is he carried off despairing by the powers of evil, as is the hero in Marlowe's 'Faustus' and in the popular versions of the Faust legend generally. Moreover Goethe's optimistic resolution of the situation in the ending of the second part of 'Faust' was not then in existence to afford the hint of still a third outcome to Byron. And so, with the stern naturalism which was the result of the absolute integrity and intellectual sincerity of Byron's poetic genius when confronted with the fundamental and eternal problems of life, Manfred is neither saved by the Church, nor damned by the Devil, nor rapt up to Heaven by the intercession of the atoning power of the Ever-Feminine, but simply dies, an immortal soul, destined to the immortality of its own heaven or hell,-of its own heaven and hell.

"The mind which is immortal makes itself
Requital for its good or evil thoughts-
Is its own origin of ill and end--
And its own place and time."

This is Byron's doctrine-his poetic doctrine-of future punishment and future life. A complete statement in four lines of the relativity of all existence except that of the individual soul! As for this life and the ending of it,—

"Old man! 'tis not so difficult to die."


2073-7. For Byron's feeling for night cf. Childe Harold' III, lxxxvi ff. Cf. also his lyric "She walks in Beauty, like the night" (above, p. 296).

207 : 10 ff. With this famous poetical description of the Colosseum compare that in 'Childe Harold' IV, sts. cxxviii-cxxxi. By producing what poetical and dramatic effect is the presence of so long and elaborate a set piece of description in this crucial scene justified?

207 16, 22. the Cæsar's palace. On the Palatine Hill. Cf. 'Childe Harold' IV, cvi-cx,-where also the incident of the owl's cry on the Palatine is mentioned. What other striking points of likeness and of difference are there in the two descriptions?

209: 62-65. Cf. in Shelley's 'Prometheus Unbound' II, iv, 2-7, Panthea's description of Demogorgon:

"I see a mighty darkness
Filling the seat of power, and rays of gloom
Dart round, as light upon the meridian sun,
Ungazed upon and shapeless; neither limb,
Nor form, nor outline; yet we feel it is
A living Spirit."

Which passage better conveys the impression of awe and mystery and spiritual majesty, and why?

209: 77. on his brow The thunder-scars are graven. Cf. 'Paradise Lost' I, 600 (the description of Satan):

"but his face Deep scars of thunder had intrenched."

209 81. The genius of this mortal. who had appeared in I, i, 110 ff.

210: 97. this man is forfeited. The Faust-motive. Manfred's answer to this claim, below, line 124. 211 117. Cf. Byron's Heaven and Earth' passim.

211 131. Is its own origin of ill and end-i.e. and end of


[ocr errors]

Hence the same spirit

But note

211: 132. And its own place and time. Possibly a reminiscence of the Kantian doctrine that space and time are but forms of thought. Cf, Cain' II, i, 161.


211 135. Sufferance. Here used in the sense of suffering, misery; as in Shakspere, Lear' III, vi :

[ocr errors]

"But then the mind much sufferance doth o'erskip,
When grief hath mates."

211:139. and will be My own hereafter, i.e. 'will be my own future-life, my own heaven or hell.'

211 141. The Demons disappear. The key to the whole action. As explained above, the baffling of the spirits of evil,—and by no device or trickery other than the assertion of the indomitable and immortal human will-is the significant variation which Byron introduces into the treatment of the Faust-motive. Cf. the concluding lines of Byron's Prometheus':


"Triumphant where it [the will] dares defy,
And making Death a victory."

212: 151. In the first edition this line was accidentally omitted; whereupon Byron wrote to Murray: "You have destroyed the whole effect and moral of the poem, by omitting the last line of Manfred's speaking."

The ending of the poem is quiet, dignified, and full of intense Byronic sincerity of utterance.

These notes upon Manfred' may be concluded with a quotation from an old-fashioned and forgotten contemporary criticism of the character of Manfred. "The creation of such a character," writes Galt in his 'Life of Byron,' 1830, p. 328, “is in the sublimest degree of originality; to give it appropriate thoughts and feelings required powers worthy of the conception; and to make it susceptible of being contemplated as within the scope and range of human sympathy, places Byron above all his contemporaries and antecedents. Milton has described in Satan the greatest of human passions, supernatural attributes, directed to immortal intents, and stung with inextinguishable revenge; but Satan is only a dilatation of man. Manfred is loftier, and worse, than Satan; he has conquered punishment, having within himself a greater than hell can inflict. There is a fearful mystery in this conception."


Written at Diodati, near Geneva, July, 1816. Published with the Prisoner of Chillon' in December of the same year.

This poem is essentially personal and autobiographical. The machinery of the dream is but a poetical convention. The real theme is the story of the great formative emotional experience of the poet's youth, his unrequited love for Mary Chaworth. The experience was like an evil dream, and so is naturally recalled as though it were a dream ("Is not the past all shadow?"). The introductory paragraph sets forth this conception of the nature of human experience. The rest of the poem is a straightforward relation, from memory heightened by imagination, of his boyhood love and disappointment, and of the effect of this disappointment on his character and life, leading to the first Childe Harold pilgrimage, to his own marriage to one not the object of his early love, and to the "blight and desolation" that followed this inauspicious union. The poem is autobiographical, however, only in its main outlines. In its details truth and fiction are strangely mingled. The scenery and places are described with fidelity. But while some points in the love-story agree with the facts, others are altered for poetical effect. Thus line 104 ("And ne'er repassed that hoary threshold more") forms a better climax for this passage than the real fact: for in 1808, after Miss Chaworth's marriage, Byron dined at Annesley on her husband's invitation. The striking incident of the poet's curious state of mind at his own wedding ceremony, related in section vi of the poem, may or may not be largely a piece of poetic invention. It accords well enough with Byron's temperament. And Moore, apparently on the authority of unpublished Memoranda by Byron, testifies that it agrees closely with Byron's own prose account of his wedding; "in which he describes himself as waking, on the morning of his marriage, with the most melancholy reflections, on seeing his wedding suit spread out before him. In the same mood he wandered about the grounds alone, till he was summoned for the ceremony, and joined, for the first time on that day, his bride and her family. He knelt down-he repeated the words after the clergyman; but a mist was before his eyes—his thoughts

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »