Imágenes de página


'But to bear arms and wield the lance; indeed,

With these as much is done as with this cowl;


In proof of which the Scripture you may read.

This giant up to heaven may bear his soul

By your compassion: now in peace proceed.

Your state and name I seek not to unroll;

But, if I'm asked, this answer shall be given,

That here an angel was sent down from heaven.


'If you want armour or aught else, go in, Look o'er the wardrobe, and take what you choose,

And cover with it o'er this giant's skin.'
Orlando answer'd, 'If there should lie
Some armour, ere our journey we begin,
Which might be turn'd to my companion's



The gift would be acceptable to me.'
The abbot said to him, Come in and see.'



And in a certain closet, where the wall
Was cover'd with old armour like a
The abbot said to them, 'I give you all.'
Morgante rummaged piecemeal from the


The whole, which, save one cuirass, was too small,

And that too had the mail inlaid with rust. 670

They wonder'd how it fitted him exactly, Which ne'er had suited others so compactly.


'T was an immeasurable giant's, who By the great Milo of Agrante fell Before the abbey many years ago.

The story on the wall was figured well; In the last moment of the abbey's foe,

Who long had waged a war implacable: Precisely as the war occurr'd they drew him, And there was Milo as he overthrew him.

[blocks in formation]


CANTO V [LINES 97-142]

'THE land where I was born sits by the seas,

Upon that shore to which the Po descends, With all his followers, in search of peace. Love, which the gentle heart soon apprehends,

Seized him for the fair person which was ta'en

From me, and me even yet the mode offends.

Love, who to none beloved to love again Remits, seized me with wish to please, so strong,

That, as thou seest, yet, yet it doth remain.


Love to one death conducted us along, But Caina waits for him our life who ended: '

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

In misery, and that thy teacher knows.
But if to learn our passion's first root preys
Upon thy spirit with such sympathy,
I will do even as he who weeps and says. 30
We read one day for pastime, seated nigh,
Of Lancilot, how love enchain'd him too.
We were alone, quite unsuspiciously.
But oft our eyes met, and our cheeks in hue
All o'er discolour'd by that reading were;
But one point only wholly us o'erthrew;
When we read the long-sigh'd-for smile of

To be thus kiss'd by such devoted lover,

[blocks in formation]


[The composition of the eight Dramas extends over a period of seven years, from 1816 to 1822, making a little more than one every twelvemonth besides the large amount of other verse written. To this reckless haste in production may be ascribed many of their crudities; indeed, the more one reads in the poetry of that age, whether it be in the works of Byron or Shelley, the more one is impressed with the harm their genius suffered from the lack of critical repression. The Dramas of Byron fall naturally into two groups: Manfred, Cain, and Heaven and Earth, which deal with frankly supernatural themes and are the full and, in Manfred at least, the most perfect expression of his romantic temperament; and Marino Faliero, Sardanapalus, and The Two Foscari, which are an attempt to show the playwrights of the day what could be done with the materials of history while preserving the classical laws of the drama. Byron protested always that these plays of the second group were not written for the stage, but one cannot but feel that he protests too much, and that all the while in his heart he longed to see them drive the accepted drama of the day off the boards. Otherwise it is hard to see why he should have drawn the contrast so frequently between his work and the lawless plays against which he waged war. It is fair to say, however, that when news reached him of the preparations to bring out Marino Faliero at Drury Lane, he protested vigorously, and even went so far as to attempt to stay the proceedings by means of an injunction obtained from the Lord Chancellor. The play was nevertheless given on April 30, 1821, and on five nights in May. It failed as Byron had predicted. The two latest of the Dramas, Werner and The Deformed Transformed, belong in a way to the second group but contain romantic elements that to a certain extent mark them off by themselves. The first two acts of Manfred were written during Byron's residence in Switzerland in 1816, and the third act was added in Venice. This third act was sent to England, March 9, 1817, and received such severe criticism at the hands of Gifford, Murray's adviser, that Byron practically rewrote it. The play was published June 16, 1817. Much has been said about the source of Byron's inspiration in this poem, and its resemblance to the Faust legend is patent. Byron protested that he had never read Marlowe's Faustus, but he had heard an oral translation of Goethe's poem at Diodati, and his Manfred undoubtedly contains echoes of the German work, though its tone is markedly original. Above all the spirit of the Alps, which inspired the third canto of Childe Harold, breathes also in this powerful drama. The project of Marino Faliero followed hard upon Manfred, and is the fruit of Byron's sympathetic study of the history of Venice. But the play for some reason was laid aside and not taken up again until the year 1820, when it was finished in three months ending July 17. He had prepared himself for the work by a careful study of Venetian annals and boasts of the literalness with which he reproduced the facts of history. For the subject of his next attempt to dramatize like the Greeks,' he turned from Italy to Assyria. Sardanapalus was begun at Ravenna, January 13, 1821, and completed by May 28. It was published in the same volume with The Two Foscari and Cain, December 19, 1821; the three plays were thus written in a single year. The Two Foscari, indeed, represents the same spirit of enthusiasm for the 'regular' drama; it was begun June 12, 1821, and concluded on July 12. Judging by the extracts from Daru's Histoire de la République de Venise and from Sismondi, published in the appendix of the first edition, it would seem that Byron relied chiefly on these two authorities for his knowledge of this incident in Venetian history. But a comparison with these writers shows


that he treated the subject-matter with considerable freedom. The exact story of the Foscari, which dates back to the fifteenth century, may be found by those interested in the standard histories of Venice. The third of the plays of 1821, Cain, a Mystery, was begun at Raveuna, July 16, and finished September 9. The theme, with its glorification of revolt, was in many respects admirably fitted to Byron's hand, and some of the imagery is in fact sublime. Goethe praised the poem extravagantly, as did others of lesser critical note; but to the English public at large, the blasphemy of the scenes was Satanic. It raised a storm of protest. Probably, to-day, it is chiefly of this poem we think in connection with Goethe's saying that Byron was a child when he reflected. Heaven and Earth, exquisite in parts but, as a whole, far below Manfred and Cain in conception and execution, occupied Byron from October 9, 1821, to about the 23d of the same month. It was to have been published with the other three dramas, but for reasons of prudence Murray held it back until the poet, incensed, demanded its restitution. It was finally printed in the Liberator, January 1, 1823. Two months after completing this biblical drama, December 18, 1821, he began Werner at Pisa, and brought it to an end in just a month and two days. It was published by Murray, November 23, 1822. In his Preface Byron names the source of the play, and tells how early the subject had fascinated his imagination. In the actual execution of the drama as we have it, there are signs of apparent fatigue, as if he had grown tired of this form of composition. As a whole it is dull reading. The last of the plays, The Deformed Transformed (written at Pisa some time in 1822), was also drawn from a novel, The Three Brothers, by Joshua Pickersgill, Jr. It was published, February 20, 1824, just before Byron's death at Missolonghi. Probably the formlessness of the thing influenced him in keeping it so long from the public; probably, too, the manifest kinship of Byron's devil to Goethe's Mephistopheles made him fear the charge of plagiarism and against that charge he was always extremely, almost perversely, sensitive. If the editor's judgment may be trusted, there is a notable and almost uninterrupted decline in the merit of these dramas from the first to the last. Manfred in its own sphere is unrivaled; it is superb. The other supernatural dramas, Cain, Heaven and Earth, and The Deformed Transformed (if we place the last named in this group), are each a step below the other in excellence. Marino Faliero, again, is a powerful production that grips the reader despite its monotony of tone and its overblown heroics. The following secular plays lose regularly in this intensity and singleness of impression. In all other branches-lyric, reflective, satiric, narrative Byron's work progresses in mastery with almost as perfect a regularity, though his nearest approach to perfection may have come in each genre just before the end. This difference between his development in the drama and in the other forms of poetry is no doubt due to the undramatic nature of his genius.]


[blocks in formation]


The scene of the Drama is amongst the Higher Alpspartly in the Castle of Manfred, and partly in the Mountains.

[blocks in formation]

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 live, and bear
The aspect and the form of breathing men.
But grief should be the instructor of the

Sorrow is knowledge: they who know the



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 essay'd, 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


But this avail'd not: I have had my foes,
And none have baffled, many fallen before



[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[blocks in formation]

[ocr errors]

A wandering mass of shapeless flame,

A pathless comet, and a curse,
The menace of the universe;
Still rolling on with innate force,
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 -
What wouldst thou, Child of Clay, with me?



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?

[ocr errors]


of whom

Man. Forgetfulness First Spirit. Of what why?


Man. 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
O'er earth, the whole, or portion, or a
Which shall control the elements, whereof
We are the dominators, each and all,
These shall be thine.


Man. Oblivion, self-oblivion Can ye not wring from out the hidden


Ye offer so profusely what I ask?

[blocks in formation]


Man. I then have call'd ye from your realms in vain;

Ye cannot, or ye will not, aid me.



What we possess we offer; it is thine: Bethink ere thou dismiss us, ask again Kingdom, and sway, and strength, and length of days

Man. Accursed ! what have I to do with days?


They are too long already. — Hence — begone! 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?

Man. 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

« AnteriorContinuar »