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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 Mediaeval 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 Frederick 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: "And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil."
The line suggests the gist of the Faust-motive (Marlowe, Goethe, Byron).
169: 13-15 suggest at once, and were perhaps suggested by, the opening lines of Goethe's 'Faust.'
"Habe nun, ach! Philosophie,
The more general conceptions of philosophy and scierce Byron had "essayed"; the "springs of wonder,"—the imagination—in travel and in poetry he knew; and his life had brought him sufficiently in contact with "the wisdom of the world," such as it is. So far Manfred is Byron. Other touches are simply invented to give variety to the figure.
169 : 24. that all-nameless hour. A vague phrase, given out to heighten the sense of mystery and gloom which Byron likes to impart to Manfred as to most of his other heroes. Where later in the poem is that "hour" perhaps again referred to? See note to II, iv, 83, below.
169:33. mountains inaccessible. The collocation of long words and the resultant rhythm of the line reinforces the sense. Read as prose there are only three strong stresses in the line. Read as verse the two secondary stresses in 'inaccessible' are given greater force than in prose, and the syllables on which they fall consequently have a greater metrical or time value: five feet are thus plainly felt in the line. Does Byron often introduce long words into his verse? What English poets not infrequently do so?
169 : 35. written charm. The sorcerer made use of various forms of written charms, sometimes the beginning of the Gospel of St. John, or the Ave Maria, or the word 'Abacadabara,' or the like; sometimes some spell of special potency was invented by the necromancer, as perhaps we are to infer in this case.
169 : 38. the first among you. Probably here Arimanes. See Act II, sc. iv. So in ll. 39-40.
170 : 42-49. In this fine poetical climax Byron converts the mere magic lore and mystification of the two preceding conjurations of the 'written charm' and the 'sign' into an impressive piece of symbolism. Spirits of evil appear only to those on whom the curse is laid of evil thoughts, imposed by destiny ("its birthplace in a star condemn'd "). Fatalism, the sense of sin, imperious will,—all of these elements in the conception of Manfred are here at once suggested.
170 : 44. a star condemn'd. The idea is expanded below in 11. 110-131.
170 : 50 ff. The Spirits (named though not in order in 1. 132: "Earth, ocean, air, night, mountains, winds, thy star"),—are treated in part in the manner of Shelley, in part in the manner of Goethe. But the Titanic sympathy with elemental forces is all Byronic. The whole passage, as so much else that is latent in the poem, is meant to enforce the feeling of man's littleness face to face with elemental Nature.
Note the changes of metre and rhythm in these Spirit-songs: The first in four-foot, trochaic catalectic lines, couplet rhyme ; the second, alternate four-foot and three-foot lines in iambic movement, with frequent anapaestic substitutions, the rhyme following the shorter lines in the first half (with some internal rhyme), but interlinked in the second; the third, two-foot anapaestic lines with alternate hypermetrical syllables (feminine endings)—perhaps to be read as three-foot catalectic, alternating with two-foot lines, e.g.:
Where the wind | is a strang|erA |
—the rhyme as in the first half of the second; the fourth, ditto; the fifth like the second; the sixth a five-foot iambic couplet impressive, by contrast, through its brevity; the seventh in fourfoot iambic couplets. Is there any artistic appropriateness felt in these changes of rhythm (especially in the third)?
172: 106-107. For the introduction into this nature-picture of the human interest associated with "The fleet," cf. Byron's 'Letter on Bowles's Strictures on Pope' (Byron's Works, Lond. 1834, VI, 3SS A).
172: 108. the shadow of the night. "Zida mKrbs. 'The Shadow of Night' is the title of a poem by George Chapman (1594)
X72: 11o. A similar conception occurs in the first two lines of Byron's 'Stanzas to Augusta' (1816):
"Though the day of my destiny's over,
This Spirit reappears near the end of ' Manfred' (III, iv, 62 ft.), only to be baffled there and thrown off—marking perhaps Byron's ultimate rejection of the idea of fatalism and star or destiny influence?
172 : 119. Hence the ill-omen which traditionally attaches to comets.
172 : 129. these weak spirits. The Spirit which rules the star of Manfred's destiny regards itself as more potent than the elemental spirits which represent mere forces of Nature, perhaps because it rules a soul.
173 : l32- A line rhythmically after the analogy of the famous line in 'Paradise Lost' (II, 621),
"Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens, and shades of death" and to be scanned, if scanned at all, perhaps like this:
Earth, oc|ean, air, | night, mountains, winds, | thy star. 173 : 135. With this line the donne'e, or working theme of the poem, is presented—the quest for self-oblivion: leading to the suggestion of the (dramatic) cause why the quest is undertaken; the symbolic presentation of the quest itself, culminating in Act II, sc. iv (the Faust-motive); then the Resolution of the action in the closing scenes, with the suggestion of peace of mind (opening of Act III, sc. i), and of possible reconciliation and earthly forgetfulness in death (end of Act III, sc. iv).
173 : 148. Will death bestow it on me? Essentially Hamlet's doubt,
"For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
Manfred, like Hamlet, is contemplating suicide as an escape from his ills.
Lady Blessington reports Byron as saying: "One of the most fearful thoughts that ever crossed my mind during moments of gloomy scepticism has been the possibility that the last sleep may not be dreamless. Fancy an endless dream of horror! It is too dreadful to think of. This thought alone would lead the veriest clod of animated clay that ever existed to aspirations after immortality."
173 ; 155. the lightning of my being. For the metaphor cf. 'Childe Harold' III, st. xcvii.
173 : 160. in thine own words. Explained in the next speech of the Spirit, which thus implies the assertion of man's immortality.
174 : 168. The Spirits are Spirits of the elements of Nature. It is by advancing his sway over Nature through the help of science and art (as if a process of magic like that of Manfred), that man can command these things. But can he command anything further—the really spiritual things—by the help of such means?
174 : 177. As music on the waters. The same simile occurs in the lyric "There be none of Beauty's daughters," above, p. 299. Cf. Moore,
"Hark! the vesper hymn is stealing , O'er the waters soft and clear."
174 : 187 ff. From Manfred's speech which follows, we infer that the Spirit appears in the form of the loved and longed-for Astarte; while later (Act II, sc. iv) the true Phantom of Astarte appears to him. His love was fatal, and so, here the Spirit of the Star of his Destiny takes this form but to delude him and 'crush his heart.' Before the end of the poem is any reconciliation and atonement through the eternal-feminine suggested for Manfred, as it is for Faust in Goethe's drama? (Cf. Act II, sc. iv, ll. 151-155.)
175 : 192 ff. What is the dramatic intention of this Incantation? What part does it fulfil in the whole structure of the poem? Is it (in the last three stanzas) the poet's view of the character he has created, or that of the malign spirit, who in the end is to be baffled? Or are we to imagine that the Voice is that of Astarte?
176 : 250. With the character of Manfred compare that of Cain in Byron's drama of that name.
176 : 251. Thyself to be thy proper Hell. Cf. Milton, 'Par. Lost' I, 254:
"The mind is its own place, and in itself