Lord Byron Poem

MANFRED, A Dramatic Poem Act II.

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Act II
SCENE I. A Cottage amongst the Bernese Alps.
No, no — yet pause — thou must not yet go forth:
Thy mind and body are alike unfit
To trust each other, for some hours, at least;
When thou art better, I will be thy guide—
But whither?
It imports not: I do know
My route full well, and need no further guidance.
Thy garb and gait bespeak thee of high lineage—
One of the many chiefs, whose castled crags
Look o’er the lower valleys — which of these
May call thee Lord? I only know their portals;
My way of life leads me but rarely down
To bask by the huge hearths of those old halls,
Carousing with the vassals; but the paths,
Which step from out our mountains to their doors,
I know from childhood — which of these is thine?
No matter.
Well, sir, pardon me the question,
And be of better cheer. Come, taste my wine;
‘Tis of an ancient vintage; many a day
‘T has thawed my veins among our glaciers, now
Let it do thus for thine — Come, pledge me fairly.
Away, away! there’s blood upon the brim!
Will it then never — never sink in the earth?
What dost thou mean? thy senses wander from thee.
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.
Man of strange words, and some half-maddening sin,
Which makes thee people vacancy, whate’er
Thy dread and sufferance be, there’s comfort yet—
The aid of holy men, and heavenly patience—
Patience and patience! Hence — that word was made
For brutes of burthen, not for birds of prey;
Preach it to mortals of a dust like thine,—
I am not of thine order.
CHAMOIS HUNTER Thanks to heaven!
I would not be of thine for the free fame
Of William Tell; but whatsoe’er thine ill,
It must be borne, and these wild starts are useless.
 Do I not bear it? — Look on me — I live.
This is convulsion, and no healthful life.
I tell thee, man! I have lived many years,
Many long years, but they are nothing now
To those which I must number: ages — ages —
Space and eternity — and consciousness,
With the fierce thirst of death — and still unslaked!
Why, on thy brow the seal of middle age
Hath scarce been set; I am thine elder far.
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 desart,
Barren and cold, on which the wild waves break,
But nothing rests, save carcasses and wrecks,
Rocks, and the salt-surf weeds of bitterness.
Alas! he’s mad — but yet I must not leave him.
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?
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!
And wouldst thou then exchange thy lot for mine?
No, friend! I would not wrong thee, nor exchange
My lot with living being: I can bear—
However wretchedly, ’tis still to bear—
In life what others could not brook to dream,
But perish in their slumber.
And with this—
This cautious feeling for another’s pain,
Canst thou be black with evil? — say not so.
Can one of gentle thoughts have wreak’d revenge
Upon his enemies?
Oh! no, no, no!
My injuries came down on those who loved me—
On those whom I best loved: I never quell’d
An enemy, save in my just defence—
My wrongs were all on those I should have cherished—
But my embrace was fatal.
Heaven give thee rest!
And penitence restore thee to thyself;
My prayers shall be for thee.
I need them not,
But can endure thy pity. I depart—
‘Tis time — farewell! — Here’s gold, and thanks for thee—
No words — it is thy due. — Follow me not —
I know my path — the mountain’s peril’s past:—
And once again, I charge thee, follow not!
SCENE II. A lower Valley in the Alps. — A Cataract.
It is not noon — the sunbow’s rays still arch
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 courser’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.
[MANFRED 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 sunbow 
of the torrent]
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?
To look upon thy beauty — nothing further.
The face of the Earth hath madden’d me, and I
Take refuge in her mysteries, and pierce
To the abodes of those who govern her—
But they can nothing aid me. I have sought
From them what they could not bestow, and now
I search no further.
What could be the quest
Which is not in the power of the most powerful,
The rulers of the invisible?
A boon;
But why should I repeat it? ’twere in vain.
I know not that; let thy lips utter it.
Well, though it torture me, ’tis but the same;
My pang shall find a voice. From my youth upwards
My spirit walk’d not with the souls of men,
Nor look’d upon the earth with human eyes;
The thirst of their ambition was not mine,
The aim of their existence was not mine;
My joys, my griefs, my passions, and my powers,
Made me a stranger; though I wore the form,
I had no sympathy with breathing flesh,
Nor midst the creatures of clay that girded me
Was there but one who but of her anon.
I said, with men, and with the thoughts of men,
I held but slight communion; but instead,
My joy was in the Wilderness, to breathe
The difficult air of the iced mountain’s top,
Where the birds dare not build, nor insect’s wing
Flit o’er the herbless granite; or to plunge
Into the torrent, and to roll along
On the swift whirl of the new breaking wave
Of river-stream, or ocean, in their flow.
In these my early strength exulted; or
To follow through the night the moving moon,
The stars and their developement; or catch
The dazzling lightnings till my eyes grew dim;
Or to look, list’ning, on the scattered leaves,
While Autumn winds were at their evening song.
These were my pastimes, and to be alone;
For if the beings, of whom I was one, —
Hating to be so, — cross’d me in my path,
I felt myself degraded back to them,
And was all clay again. And then I dived,
In my lone wanderings, to the caves of death,
Searching its cause in its effect; and drew
From wither’d bones, and skulls, and heap’d up dust,
Conclusions most forbidden. Then I pass’d
The nights of years in sciences untaught,
Save in the old-time; and with time and toil,
And terrible ordeal, and such penance
As in itself hath power upon the air,
And spirits that do compass air and earth,
Space, and the peopled infinite, I made
Mine eyes familiar with Eternity,
Such as, before me, did the Magi, and
He who from out their fountain dwellings raised
Eros and Anteros, at Gadara,
As I do thee; — and with my knowledge grew
The thirst of knowledge, and the power and joy
Of this most bright intelligence, until —
Oh! I but thus prolonged my words,
Boasting these idle attributes, because
As I approach the core of my heart’s grief—
But to my task. I have not named to thee
Father or mother, mistress, friend, or being,
With whom I wore the chain of human ties;
If I had such, they seem’d not such to me—
Yet there was one
Spare not thyself — proceed.
She was like me in lineaments — her eyes,
Her hair, her features, all, to the very tone
Even of her voice, they said were like to mine;
But soften’d all, and temper’d into beauty;
She had the same lone thoughts and wanderings,
The quest of hidden knowledge, and a mind
To comprehend the universe: nor these
Alone, but with them gentler powers than mine,
Pity, and smiles, and tears — which I had not;
And tenderness — but that I had for her;
Humility — and that I never had.
Her faults were mine — her virtues were her own—
I loved her, and destroy’d her!
With thy hand?
Not with my hand, but heart — which broke her heart —
It gazed on mine, and withered. I have shed
Blood, but not hers — and yet her blood was shed —
I saw — and could not staunch it.
And for this—
A being of the race thou dost despise,
The order which thine own would rise above,
Mingling with us and ours, thou dost forgo
The gifts of our great knowledge, and shrink’st back
To recreant mortality — Away!
Daughter of Air! I tell thee, since that hour —
But words are breath — look on me in my sleep,
Or watch my watchings — Come and sit by me!
My solitude is solitude no more,
But peopled with the Furies; — I have gnash’d
My teeth in darkness till returning morn,
Then cursed myself till sunset; — I have pray’d
For madness as a blessing — ’tis denied me.
I have affronted death — but in the war
Of elements the waters shrunk from me,
And fatal things pass’d harmless — the cold hand
Of an all-pitiless demon held me back,
Back by a single hair, which would not break.
In phantasy, imagination, all
The affluence of my soul — which one day was
A Croesus in creation — I plunged deep,
But, like an ebbing wave, it dash’d me back
Into the gulf of my unfathom’d thought.
I plunged amidst mankind — Forgetfulness
I sought in all, save where ’tis to be found,
And that I have to learn — my sciences,
My long pursued and super-human art,
Is mortal here — I dwell in my despair —
And live — and live for ever.
It may be
That I can aid thee.
To do this thy power
Must wake the dead, or lay me low with them.
Do so — in any shape — in any hour —
With any torture — so it be the last.
That is not in my province; but if thou
Wilt swear obedience to my will, and do
My bidding, it may help thee to thy wishes.
I will not swear — Obey! and whom? the spirits
Whose presence I command, and be the slave
Of those who served me — Never!
WITCH     Is this all? 
Hast thou no gentler answer —Yet bethink thee,
And pause ere thou rejectest.
I have said it.
Enough! — I may retire then — say!
[The WITCH disappears
MAN. [alone] 
We are the fools of time and terror. Days
Steal on us and steal from us; yet we live
Loathing our life, and dreading still to die.
In all the days of this detested yoke —
This heaving burthen, this accursed breath —
This vital weight upon the struggling heart,
Which sinks with sorrow, or beats quick with pain
Or joy that ends in agony or faintness —
In all the days of past and future, for
In life there is no present, we can number
How few — how less than few — wherein the soul
Forbears to pant for death, and yet draws back
As from a stream in winter, though the chill
Be but a moment’s. I have one resource
Still in my science — I can call the dead
And ask them what it is we dread to be.
The sternest answer can but be the Grave,
And that is nothing — if they answer not —
The buried Prophet answered to the Hag
Of Endor; and the Spartan Monarch drew
From the Byzantine maid’s unsleeping spirit
An answer and his destiny — he slew
That which he loved, unknowing what he slew,
And died unpardon’d — though he call’d in aid
The Phyxian Jove, and in Phigalia roused
The Arcadian Evocators to compel
The indignant shadow to depose her wrath,
Or fix her term of vengeance — she replied
In words of dubious import, but fulfilled.
If I had never lived, that which I love
Had still been living; had I never loved,
That which I love would still be beautiful —
Happy and giving happiness. What is she?
What is she now? — a sufferer for my sins —
A thing I dare not think upon — or nothing.
Within few hours I shall not call in vain —
Yet in this hour I dread the thing I dare:
Until this hour I never shrunk to gaze
On spirit, good or evil — now I tremble,
And feel a strange cold thaw upon my heart,
But I can act even what I most abhor,
And champion human fears. — The night approaches.[Exit
SCENE III. The Summit of the Jungfrau Mountain.
The moon is rising broad, and round, and bright;
And here on snows, where never human foot
Of common mortal trod, we nightly tread,
And leave no traces; o’er the savage sea,
The glassy ocean of the mountain ice,
We skim its rugged breakers, which put on
The aspect of a tumbling tempest’s foam,
Frozen in a moment — a dead whirlpool’s image;
And this most steep fantastic pinnacle,
The fretwork of some earthquake — where the clouds
Pause to repose themselves in passing by —
Is sacred to our revels, or our vigils;
Here do I wait my sisters, on our way
To the Hall of Arimanes, for to-night
Is our great festival — ’tis strange they come not.
A Voice without, singing
The Captive Usurper,
  Hurl’d down from the throne,
Lay buried in torpor,
  Forgotten and lone;
I broke through his slumbers,
  I shivered his chain,
I leagued him with numbers —
  He’s Tyrant again!
With the blood of a million he’ll answer my care,
With a nation’s destruction — his flight and despair.
Second Voice, without
The ship sail’d on, the ship sail’d fast,
But I left not a sail, and I left not a mast;
There is not a plank of the hull or the deck,
And there is not a wretch to lament o’er his wreck;
Save one, whom I held, as he swam, by the hair,
And he was a subject well worthy my care;
A traitor on land, and a pirate at sea —
But I saved him to wreak further havoc for me!
FIRST DESTINY, answering
The city lies sleeping;
  The morn, to deplore it,
May dawn on it weeping:
  Sullenly, slowly,
The black plague flew o’er it —
  Thousands lie lowly;
Tens of thousands shall perish —
  The living shall fly from
The sick they should cherish;
  But nothing can vanquish
The touch that they die from.
  Sorrow and anguish,
And evil and dread,
  Envelope a nation
The blest are the dead,
  Who see not the sight
Of their own desolation.—
  This work of a night —
This wreck of a realm — this deed of my doing —
For ages I’ve done, and shall still be renewing!
Our hands contain the hearts of men,
  Our footsteps are their graves;
We only give to take again
  The spirits of our slaves!
Welcome! — Where’s Nemesis?
SECOND DESTINY    At some great work;
But what I know not, for my hands were full.
Behold she cometh.
FIRST DESTINY Say, where hast thou been? —
My sisters and thyself are slow to-night.
I was detain’d repairing shattered thrones,
Marrying fools, restoring dynasties,
Avenging men upon their enemies,
And making them repent their own revenge;
Goading the wise to madness; from the dull
Shaping out oracles to rule the world
Afresh, for they were waxing out of date,
And mortals dared to ponder for themselves,
To weigh kings in the balance, and to speak
Of freedom, the forbidden fruit. — Away!
We have outstaid the hour — mount we our clouds!    [Exeunt
SCENE IV. The Hall of Arimanes — Arimanes on his Throne, a Globe of Fire, surrounded by the Spirits.
Hymn of the SPIRITS
    Hail to our Master! — Prince of Earth and Air! —
Who walks the clouds and waters — in his hand
    The sceptre of the elements, which tear
Themselves to chaos at his high command!
    He breatheth — and a tempest shakes the sea;
He speaketh — and the clouds reply in thunder;
    He gazeth — from his glance the sunbeams flee;
He moveth — earthquakes rend the world asunder.
    Beneath his footsteps the volcanos rise;
His shadow is the Pestilence; his path
    The comets herald through the crackling skies;
And planets turn to ashes at his wrath.
    To him War offers daily sacrifice;
To him Death pays his tribute, Life is his,
    With all its infinite of agonies —
And his the spirit of whatever is!
Glory to Arimanes! on the earth
His power increaseth — both my sisters did
His bidding, nor did I neglect my duty!
Glory to Arimanes! we who bow
The necks of men, bow down before his throne!
Glory to Arimanes!-we await
His nod!
Sovereign of Sovereigns! we are thine
And all that liveth, more or less, is ours,
And most things wholly so; still to increase
Our power increasing thing demands our care
And we are vigilant — Thy late commands
Have been fulfilled to the utmost.
What is here?
A mortal! — Thou most rash and fatal wretch
Bow down and worship!
SECOND SPIRIT I do know the man —
A Magian of great power, and fearful skill!
Bow down and worship, slave! — What, know’st thou not
Thine and our Sovereign? — Tremble, and obey!
Prostrate thyself, and thy condemned clay
Child of the Earth! or dread the worst.
I know it;
And yet ye see I kneel not.
‘Twill be taught thee.
‘Tis taught already; — many a night on the earth,
On the bare ground, have I bow’d down my face,
And strew’d my head with ashes; I have known
The fulness of humiliation, for
I sunk before my vain despair, and knelt
To my own desolation.
FIFTH SPIRIT    Dost thou dare
Refuse to Arimanes on his throne
What the whole earth accords, beholding not
The terror of his Glory — Crouch! I say.
Bid him bow down to that which is above him,
The overruling Infinite — the Maker
Who made him not for worship — let him kneel,
And we will kneel together.
Crush the worm!
Tear him in pieces!—
Hence! Avaunt! — he’s mine.
Prince of the Powers invisible! This man
Is of no common order, as his port
And presence here denote; his sufferings
Have been of an immortal nature, like
Our own; his knowledge and his powers and will,
As far as is compatible with clay,
Which clogs the etherial essence, have been such
As clay hath seldom borne; his aspirations
Have been beyond the dwellers of the earth,
And they have only taught him what we know —
That knowledge is not happiness, and science
But an exchange of ignorance for that
Which is another kind of ignorance.
This is not all — the passions, attributes
Of earth and heaven, from which no power, nor being,
Nor breath from the worm upwards is exempt,
Have pierced his heart; and in their consequence
Made him a thing, which I, who pity not,
Yet pardon those who pity. He is mine,
And thine, it may be — be it so, or not,
No other Spirit in this region hath
A soul like his — or power upon his soul.
What doth he here then?
Let him answer that.
Ye know what I have known, and without power
I could not be amongst ye: but there are
Powers deeper still beyond — I come in quest
Of such, to answer unto what I seek.
What wouldst thou?
Thou canst not reply to me.
Call up the dead-my question is for them.
Great Arimanes, doth thy will avouch
The wishes of this mortal?
Whom wouldst thou
One without a tomb — call up
Shadow! or Spirit!
  Whatever thou art,
Which still doth inherit
  The whole or a part
Of the form of thy birth,
  Of the mould of thy clay,
Which returned to the earth,
  Re-appear to the day!
Bear what thou borest,
  The heart and the form,
And the aspect thou worest
  Redeem from the worm.
Appear! — Appear! — Appear!
Who sent thee there requires thee here!
[The Phantom of ASTARTE rises and stands in the midst]
Can this be death? there’s bloom upon her cheek;
But now I see it is no living hue,
But a strange hectic — like the unnatural red
Which Autumn plants upon the perish’d leaf.
It is the same! Oh, God! that I should dread
To look upon the same — Astarte! — No,
I cannot speak to her — but bid her speak —
Forgive me or condemn me.
By the power which hath broken
  The grave which enthrall’d thee,
Speak to him who hath spoken,
  Or those who have call’d thee!
She is silent.
And in that silence I am more than answered.
My power extends no further. Prince of air!
It rests with thee alone — command her voice,
Spirit — obey this sceptre!
Silent still!
She is not of our order, but belongs
To the other powers. Mortal! thy quest is vain,
And we are baffled also.
Hear me, hear me —
Astarte! my beloved! speak to me:
I have so much endured — so much endure —
Look on me! the grave hath not changed thee more
Than I am changed for thee. Thou lovedst me
Too much, as I loved thee: we were not made
To torture thus each other, though it were
The deadliest sin to love as we have loved.
Say that thou loath’st me not — that I do bear
This punishment for both — that thou wilt be
One of the blessed — and that I shall die,
For hitherto all hateful things conspire
To bind me in existence — in a life
Which makes me shrink from immortality —
A future like the past. I cannot rest.
I know not what I ask, nor what I seek:
I feel but what thou art — and what I am;
And I would hear yet once before I perish
The voice which was my music — Speak to me!
For I have call’d on thee in the still night,
Startled the slumbering birds from the hush’d boughs,
And woke the mountain wolves, and made the caves
Acquainted with thy vainly echoed name,
Which answered me — many things answered me —
Spirits and men — but thou wert silent all.
Yet speak to me! I have outwatch’d the stars,
And gazed o’er heaven in vain in search of thee.
Speak to me! I have wandered o’er the earth
And never found thy likeness — Speak to me!
Look on the fiends around — they feel for me:
I fear them not, and feel for thee alone —
Speak to me! though it be in wrath, — but say —
I reck not what — but let me hear thee once —
This once — once more!
Say on, say on —
I live but in the sound — it is thy voice!
Manfred! To-morrow ends thine earthly ills.
Yet one word more — am I forgiven?
Say, shall we meet again?
One word for mercy! Say, thou lovest me.
[The Spirit of ASTARTE disappears
She’s gone, and will not be recall’d
Her words will be fulfilled. Return to the earth.
He is convulsed — This is to be a mortal
And seek the things beyond mortality.
Yet, see, he mastereth himself, and makes
His torture tributary to his will.
Had he been one of us, he would have made
An awful spirit.
Hast thou further question
Of our great Sovereign, or his worshippers?
Then for a time farewell.
MANFRED We meet then —
Where? On the earth?
That will be seen hereafter.
Even as thou wilt: and for the grace accorded
I now depart a debtor. Fare ye well!
  [Scene closes]

MANFRED, A Dramatic Poem Act III.
MANFRED, A Dramatic Poem Act I.


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