« ZurückWeiter »
getfulness -- and questions them as to his own immortality. The scene is in his Gothic tower at midnight and opens with a soliloquy that reveals at once the state of the speaker, and the genius of the author.
The lamp must be replenish'd - but even then
It will not burn so long as I must watch !
Philosophy and science, and the springs
Of wonder, and the wisdom of the world,
I have essayed, 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 men-
But this avail'd not: I have had my foes,
And none have baffled, many fallen before me
But this avail'd not;-Good, or evil, life,
Powers, passions, all I see in other beings,
Have been to me as rain unto the sands,
Since that all-nameless hour! I have no dread,
And feel the curse to have no natural fear,
Nor fluttering throb, that beats with hopes or wishes,
Or lurking love, of something on the earth.
Now to my task.”—p. 7, 8. When his evocation is completed, a star is seen at the far end of a gallery, and celestial voices are heard reciting a great deal of poetry. After they have answered that the gift of oblivion is not at their disposal, and intimated that death itself could not bestow it on him, they ask if he has any further demand to make of them. He answers,
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 accustomed forms.
Spirit. We have no forms beyond the elements
Of which we are the mind and principle :
But choose a form — in that we will appear.
Man. I have no choice; there is no form on earth
Hideous or beautiful to me. Let him,
Who is most powerful of ye, take such aspect
As unto him may seem most fitting. — Come!
Seventh Spirit. (Appearing in the shape of a beautiful female
Man. Oh God! if it be thus, and thou
Art not a madness and a mockery,
I yet might be most happy. I will clasp thee,
And we again will be
[The figure vanishes. My heart is crush 'à !
MANFRED falls senseless."-p. 15, 16. The first scene of this extraordinary performance ends with a long poetical incantation, sung by the invisible spirits over the senseless victim before them. The second shows him in the bright sunshine of morning, on the top of the Jungfrau mountain, meditating selfdestruction, and uttering forth in solitude as usual the voice of his habitual despair, and those intermingled feelings of love and admiration for the grand and beautiful objects with which he is environed, that unconsciously win him back to a certain kindly sympathy with human enjoyments.
“ Man. The spirits I have raised abandon me-
The spells which I have studied baffle me
The remedy I reck'd of tortured me:
I lean no more on superhuman aid :
It hath no power upon the past, and for
The future, till the past be gulf'd in darkness,
It is not of my search. — My Mother Earth!
And thou fresh breaking Day, and you, ye Mountains,
Why are ye beautiful? I cannot love
And thou, the bright eye of the universe,
That openest over all, and unto all
Art a delight — thou shin'st not on my heart.
And you, ye crags, upon whose extreme edge
I stand, and on the torrent's brink beneath
Behold the tall pines dwindled as to shrubs
In dizziness of distance; when a leap,
A stir, a motion, even a breath, would bring
My breast upon its rocky bosom's bed
To rest for ever - wherefore do I
Thou winged and cloud-cleaving minister, An eagle passes.
Whose happy flight is highest into heaven,
Well may'st thou swoop so near me, I should be
Thy prey, and gorge thine eaglets! thou art gone
Where the eye cannot follow thee; but thine
Yet piercest downward, onward, or above
With a pervading vision. - Beautiful!
How beautiful is all this visible world !
How glorious in its action and itself!
But we, who name ourselves its sovereigns, we,
Half dust, half deity, alike unfit
To sink or soar, with our mix'd essence make
A conflict of its elements, and breathe
The breath of degradation and of pride,
Contending with low wants and lofty will
Till our mortality predominates,
And men are
- what they name not to themselves, And trust not to each other. Hark! the note,
[The shepherd's pipe in the distance is heard.
The natural music of the mountain reed
For here the patriarchal days are not
A pastoral fable --- pipes in the liberal air,
Mix'd with the sweet bells of the sauntering herd ;
My soul would drink those echoes !— Oh, that I were
The viewless spirit of a lovely sound,
A living voice, a breathing harmony,
A bodiless enjoyment - born and dying
With the blest tone which made me!”.
-p. 20 --- 22. At this period of his soliloquy, he is descried by a Chamois hunter, who overhears its continuance.
• To be thus
Grey-hair'd with anguish, like these blasted pines,
Wrecks of a single winter, barkless, branchless,
A blighted trunk upon a cursed root,
Which but supplies a feeling to decay -
And to be thus, eternally but thus,
Having been otherwise !
Ye topling crags of ice !
Ye avalanches, whom a breath draws down
In mountainous o'erwhelming, come and crush me!
I hear ye momently above, beneath,
Crash with a frequent conflict; but ye pass,
And only fall on things which still would live;
On the young flourishing forest, or the hut
And hamlet of the harmless villager.
The mists boil up around the glaciers ! clouds
Rise curling fast beneath me, white and sulphury,
Like foam from the roused occean of deep Hell,
Whose every wave breaks on a living shore,
Heaped with the damn'd like pebbles. -- I am giddy!”- p. 23, 24. Just as he is about to spring from the cliff, he is seized by the hunter, who forces him away from the dangerous place in the midst of the rising tempest.
In the second act, we find him in the cottage of this peasant, and in a still wilder state of disorder. His host offers him wine; but, upon looking at the cup, he exclaims —
Away, away! there's blood upon the brim!
Will it then never never sink in the earth ?'
EVOCATION OF THE ALPINE SPIRIT.
C. Hun. What dost thou mean? thy senses wander from thee.
Man. I say 'tis blood — my blood ! the pure warm stream
Which ran in the veins of my fathers, and in ours
When we were in our youth, and had one heart,
And loved each other as we should not love!
And this was shed: but still it rises up,
Colouring the clouds that shut me out from Heaven,
Where thou art not — and I shall never be!
C. Hun. Man of strange words, and some half-maddening sin, &c.
Man. Think'st thou existence doth depend on time?
It doth ; but actions are our epochs: mine
Have made my days and nights imperishable,
Endless, and all alike, as sands on the shore,
Innumerable atoms; and one desert,
Barren and cold, on which the wild waves break,
But nothing rests, save carcases and wrecks,
Rocks, and the salt-surf weeds of bitterness.
C. Hun. Alas! he's mad - but yet I must not leave him.
Man. I would I were for then the things I see
Would be but a distempered dream.
What is it
That thou dost see, or think thou look'st upon ?
Man. Myself, and thee- a peasant of the Alps —
Thy humble virtues, hospitable home,
And spirit patient, pious, proud, and free;
Thy self-respect, grafted on innocent thoughts ;
Thy days of health, and nights of sleep; thy toils,
By danger dignified, yet guiltless; hopes
of cheerful old age and a quiet grave,
With cross and garland over its green turf,
And thy grandchildren's love for epitaph ;
This do I see
and then I look within -
It matters not - my soul was scorch'd already!”- p. 27 — 29.
The following scene is one of the most poetical and • most sweetly written in the poem.
There is a still and delicious witchery in the tranquillity and seclusion of the place, and the celestial beauty of the Being who reveals herself in the midst of these visible enchantments. In a deep valley among the mountains, Manfred appears alone before a lofty cataract, pealing in the quiet sunshine down the still and everlasting rocks; and says —
• It is not noon— the sunbow's rays still arch 1. The torrent with the many hues of heaven,
And roll the sheeted silver's waving column
O'er the crag's headlong perpendicular,
And fling its lines of foaming light along.
And to and fro, like the pale couser's tail,
The Giant steed, to be bestrode by Death,
As told in the Apocalypse. No eyes
But mine now drink this sight of loveliness ;
I should be sole in this sweet solitude,
And with the Spirit of the place divide
The homage of these waters. I will call her.
(He takes some of the water into the palm of his hand, and
flings it in the air, muttering the adjuration. After a pause,
the WITCH OF THE ALPS rises beneath the arch of the sun-
bow of the torrent.]
Man. Beautiful Spirit! with thy hair of light,
And dazzling eyes of glory! in whose form
The charms of Earth's least-mortal daughters grow
To an unearthly stature, in an essence
Of purer elements; while the hues of youth,
Carnation'd like a sleeping infant's cheek,
Rock'd by the beating of her mother's heart,
Or the rose tints, which summer's twilight leaves
Upon the lofty glacier's virgin snow,
The blush of earth embracing with her heaven,
Tinge thy celestial aspect, and make tame
The beauties of the sunbow which bends o'er thee !
Beautiful Spirit! in thy calm clear brow,
Wherein is glass'd serenity of soul,
Which of itself shows immortality,
I read that thou wilt pardon to a Son
Of Earth, whom the abstruser Powers permit
At times to commune with them if that he
Avail him of his spells to call thee thus,
And gaze on thee a moment.
Son of Earth!
I know thee, and the Powers which give thee power!
I know thee for a man of many thoughts,
And deeds of good and ill, extreme in both,
Fatal and fated in thy sufferings.
I have expected this — what wouldst thou with me?
Man. To look upon thy beauty! — nothing further."— p. 31, 32. There is something exquisitely beautiful, to our taste, in all this passage ; and both the apparition and the dialogue are so managed, that the sense of their improbability is swallowed up in that of their beauty ; --and, without actually believing that such spirits exist or communicate themselves, we feel for the moment as if we stood in their presence.
What follows, though extremely powerful, and more laboured in the writing, has less charm for us. He tells his celestial auditor the brief story of his misfortune; and when he mentions