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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 soli. tude 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.”.
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 invok. ing these Spirits, which appear to him, and are of no use; he at last goes to the very abode of the Evil Principle, in propria personå, to evocate a ghost, which appears and gives him an ambiguous 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 conception 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 mannerist, and must leave off.” The mannerisms of Manfred’are perhaps 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 unparal. leled 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 literature. The 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
* 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.
ception--Manfred as the type and representative of one part of the spirit of Byron's age. Jeffrey, the earliest of the critics of • Manfred,' was quite right when he said that “it is Manfred only that we are required to fear, to pity, to admire. If we can once conceive of him as a real existence and enter into the depth and the height of his pride and his sorrows, we may deal as we please with the means that have been used to furnish us with this impression, or to enable us to attain to this conception. We may regard them but as types, or metaphors, or allegories; but he is the thing to be expressed, and the feeling and the intellect, of which all these are but shadows.” Jeffrey, too, is right in his interpretation of the author's design (and Byron approved of Jeffrey's criticism): " If we were to consider it as a proper drama, or even as a finished poem, we should be obliged to add that it is far too indistinct and unsatisfactory. But this we take to be according to the design and conception of the author. He contemplated but a dim and magnificent sketch of a subject which did not admit of more accurate drawing or more brilliant colouring. Its obscurity is a part of its grandeur; and the darkness that rests upon it, and the smoky distance in which it is lost, are all devices to increase its majesty, to stimulate our curiosity, and to impress us with deeper awe.”
Manfred is not Byron, except in the sense that Hamlet is Shakspere. There is much of Byron's mind in Manfred; more of that subtle and indefinable quality, his genius; very little indeed of the outward things of Byron's life.
In addition to Æschylus' • Prometheus,' to Marlowe's · Faustus,' and to Goethe's • Faust,' Shelley's “Prometheus Unbound' may be studied to advantage in connection with · Manfred.'* It is likely also that Byron had Milton's Satan in mind while composing this drama.
What are the qualities of Byron's blank verse in • Manfred '? Does the verse generally lack continuity of thought and of rhythmical flow? Where are the prevailing pauses ? What substitutions and inversions are most frequently used ? Does it lack in resonance and richness of tone-color? Is it better in dialogue or in
soliloquies and descriptive passages ? Is the poet more successful in rhymed passages ? Where is rhyme used ? Has Byron's verse the merit of being a transparent instrument, so that the poetic idea and emotion are transmitted without intercepting the attention in the process ?
What stylistic devices are prominent in this poem? Is metaphor or is simile more frequent? Do the tropes used rather present pictures or express energy and passion? What devices of repetition are used and what is the effect ? (See, e.g., I, ii, 1-3; II, iv, 136, 143-149.) Is the poet's use of personification vivid and effective ? Byron's use of poetical epithet (qualifying adjectives) throughout Manfred' should be studied, noting the peculiar effect and appropriateness of each epithet in its place. See, e.g., “the answer'd owls”; “cloud-cleaving minister"; " serpent smile"; "shut soul ”; “clankless chain”; “liberal air"; "sauntering herd”; “ toppling crags”; “salt-surf weeds of bitterness”; " difficult air” (of mountains); "crackling skies"; "hush'd boughs "; "snow-shining mountains"; "angry clouds.” But does Byron habitually make much use of adjectives? If not, what is it that chiefly gives his style its poetical quality?
163 : The Motto, from Hamlet' I, v, put in connection with Byron's 6 dramatic poem,” apparently is intended to suggest (but merely to suggest) several ideas : (1) the justification of the use of the supernatural in Manfred;' (2) that the poem is philosophical, with a difference,-or at least that it is symbolic; (3) and so a poetic-dramatic vindication of Byron's peculiar personal philosophy, rather than that of any accepted creeds (or Horatio's); and (4) that the hero's state of soul is perhaps fundamentally that of Hamlet; whereupon we are at liberty to recall by way of explanation other key-notes in "Hamlet' which are echoed in • Manfred,' as, for example:
“But I have that within which passeth show." and,
“How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world !.” and,
“ To be, or not to be: that is the question." But note the essential difference (doubtless both temperamental and designed) between Byron's ideal of resolution and defiance in Manfred and Hamlet's will-lessness.
PLACE OF THE ACTION : Manfred's castle is imagined as situated among the Swiss Alps within sight of the Eiger (cf. III, iii, 37). Other scenes are in the vicinity, in the Bernese Oberland, or near the Jungfrau.
THE TIME is nowhere definitely indicated, although all the accessories mark it out as being in the Mediaval period.
THE NAME MANFRED' Byron may have taken from Italian literature. There have been three Italian poets named Manfredi. Possibly he may have had in mind the Manfredi mentioned in canto III of Dante's • Purgatorio,'-a son of the Emperor Fred. erick II, born 1231. It is more probable, however, that the name was suggested to him from Walpole's Castle of Otranto,' whose chief character bears this name.
ACT I, SCENE I 168: The Scene : a Gothic Gallery. Similarly in Goethe's • Faust' the opening scene is in a “Gothic Room.” So, in a letter to Moore, June, 1820, Byron admits that " the first scene ... and that of [Goethe's] Faustus are very similar.” The first scene introduces us to Manfred's peculiar outlook on the world; varied with the business” of the supernatural element, and elaborate lyrical passages in the incantations of the spirits; indicating to us finally Manfred's quest, self-forgetfulness, with a first hint of the mysterious Astarte. Here, as throughout, however, the important thing in the poetic intention of the composition is not the story but what the Germans call the Stimmung or mood of the piece.
168: 5. For the idea, compare the opening lines of The Dream' (above, p. 213): “Sleep hath its own world,” etc.
169 : 10. On this passage Keats, in a letter to Reynolds (May 3, 1818), comments (slightly misquoting):
“ Byron says, “Knowledge is sorrow'; and I go on to say that • Sorrow is wisdom'; and further, for aught we know for certainty, Wisdom is folly.'". The phrase quoted by Keats is more nearly given by Byron in Act II, sc. iv, 1. 61.
169 : 12. •Genesis' ii, 9: 6 And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and