Page images

207 : 3-7. For Byron's feeling for night cf. 'Childe Harold' III, lxxxvi ff. Cf. also his lyric "She walks in Beauty, like the night" (above, p. 296).

207 : 10 ff. With this famous poetical description of the Colosseum compare that in 'Childe Harold' IV, sts. cxxviii-cxxxi. By producing what poetical and dramatic effect is the presence of so long and elaborate a set piece of description in this crucial scene justified?

207: 16, 22. the Casar's palace. On the Palatine Hill. Cf. 'Childe Harold ' IV, cvi-cx,—where also the incident of the owl's cry on the Palatine is mentioned. What other striking points of likeness and of difference are there in the two descriptions?

209 : 62-65. Cf. in Shelley's 'Prometheus Unbound' II, iv, 2-7, Panthea's description of Demogorgon:

"I see a mighty darkness
Filling the seat of power, and rays of gloom
Dart round, as light upon the meridian sun,
Ungazed upon and shapeless; neither limb,
Nor form, nor outline; yet we feel it is
A living Spirit."

Which passage better conveys the impression of awe and mystery and spiritual majesty, and why?

209 : 77- on his brow The thunder-scars are graven. Cf.'Paradise Lost' I, 600 (the description of Satan):

"but his face Deep scars of thunder had intrenched."

209 : 81. The genius of this mortal. Hence the same spirit who had appeared in I, i, IIO ff.

210: 97. this man is forfeited. The Faust-motive. But note Manfred's answer to this claim, below, line 124.

211 : 117. Cf. Byron's 'Heaven and Earth' passim.

211 : 131. Is its own origin of ill and end—i.e. 'and end of ill.'

211:132. And its own place and time. Possibly a reminiscence of the Kantian doctrine that space and time are but forms of thought. Cf. 'Cain' II, i, 161.

211: 135. Sufferance. Here used in the sense of suffering, misery; as in Shakspere, 'Lear' III, vi:

"But then the mind much sufferance doth o'erskip,
When grief hath mates."

211 : 139. and will be My own hereafter, i.e. 'will be my own future-life, my own heaven or hell.'

211 : 141. The Demons disappear. The key to the whole action. As explained above, the baffling of the spirits of evil,—and by no device or trickery other than the assertion of the indomitable and immortal human will—is the significant variation which Byron introduces into the treatment of the Faust-motive. Cf. the concluding lines of Byron's 'Prometheus';

"Triumphant where it [the will] dares defy,
And making Death a victory."

212 : 151. In the first edition this line was accidentally omitted; whereupon Byron wrote to Murray: "You have destroyed the whole effect and moral of the poem, by omitting the last line of Manfred's speaking."

The ending of the poem is quiet, dignified, and full of intense Byronic sincerity of utterance.

These notes upon 'Manfred' may be concluded with a quotation from an old-fashioned and forgotten contemporary criticism of the character of Manfred. "The creation of such a character," writes Gait in his 'Life of Byron,' 1830, p. 328, "is in the sublimest degree of originality; to give it appropriate thoughts and feelings required powers worthy of the conception; and to make it susceptible of being contemplated as within the scope and range of human sympathy, places Byron above all his contemporaries and antecedents. Milton has described in Satan the greatest of human passions, supernatural attributes, directed to immortal intents, and stung with inextinguishable revenge; but Satan is only a dilatation of man. Manfred is loftier, and worse, than Satan; he has conquered punishment, having within himself a greater than hell can inflict. There is a fearful mystery in this conception."


Written at Diodati, near Geneva, July, 1816. Published with the 'Prisoner of Chillon' in December of the same year.

This poem is essentially personal and autobiographical. The machinery of the dream is but a poetical convention. The real theme is the story of the great formative emotional experience of the poet's youth, his unrequited love for Mary Chaworth. The experience was like an evil dream, and so is naturally recalled as though it were a dream ("Is not the past all shadow?"). The introductory paragraph sets forth this conception of the nature of human experience. The rest of the poem is a straightforward relation, from memory heightened by imagination, of his boyhood love and disappointment, and of the effect of this disappointment on his character and life, leading to the first Childe Harold pilgrimage, to his own marriage to one not the object of his early love, and to the "blight and desolation" that followed this inauspicious union. The poem is autobiographical, however, only in its main outlines. In its details truth and fiction are strangely mingled. The scenery and places are described with fidelity. But while some points in the love-story agree with the facts, others are altered for poetical effect. Thus line 104 (''And ne'er repassed that hoary threshold more") forms a better climax for this passage than the real fact: for in 1808, after Miss Chaworth's marriage, Byron dined at Annesley on her husband's invitation. The striking incident of the poet's curious state of mind at his own wedding ceremony, related in section vi of the poem, may or may not be largely a piece of poetic invention. It accords well enough with Byron's temperament. And Moore, apparently on the authority of unpublished Memoranda by Byron, testifies that it agrees closely with Byron's own prose account of his wedding; "in which he describes himself as waking, on the morning of his marriage, with the most melancholy reflections, on seeing his wedding suit spread out before him. In the same mood he wandered about the grounds alone, till he was summoned for the ceremony, and joined, for the first time on that day, his bride and her family. He knelt down—he repeated the words after the clergyman ; but a mist was before his eyes—his thoughts were elsewhere ; and he was but awakened by the congratulations of the bystanders to find that he was—married." Jeaffreson ('The Real Lord Byron.' 176 ff., 379), however, argues strenuously that there is little of autobiographic value in the poem, especially in the passage relating to the poet's own marriage.

Mrs. Chaworth-Musters was in fact unhappy in her married life, and after a separation from her husband became for a time mentally deranged (section vii). She however did not "end in madness" (1. 206), but was soon cured of her ailment. The prose of the whole story is given in the following passage from a letter of Byron's written in July, 1823 (originally in Italian):

"It is singular enough, that when very young, I formed a strong attachment for the grand-niece and heiress of Mr. Chaworth [whom Byron's grand-uncle had killed in a duel], who stood in the same degree of relationship as myself to Lord Byron [the grand-uncle aforesaid]; and at one time it was thought that the two families would have been united in us. She was two years older than I was, and we were very much together in our youth. She married a man of an old and honourable family; but her marriage was not a happier one than my own. Her conduct, however, was irreproachable, but there was no sympathy between their characters, and a separation took place. I have not seen her for many years. When an occasion offered, I was upon the point, with her consent, of paying her a visit, when my sister, who has always had more influence over me than anyone else, persuaded me not to do it. 1 For,' said she, 'if you go, you will fall in love again, and then there will be a scene; one step will lead to another, et cela fera un iclat, etc' I was guided by these reasons,* and shortly after I married; with what result it is useless to say. Mrs. C, some time after, being separated from her husband, became insane; but she

* Cf. the verse (" Well! thou art happy") addressed to Mrs. Chaworth in 1808, on the occasion of his last visit:

"I deem'd that time, I deem'd that pride

Had quench'd at length my boyish flame;
Nor knew, till seated by thy side,
My heart in all,—save hope,—the same.
* * * *

Away 1 away! my early dream

Remembrance never must awake:
Oh! where is Lethe's fabled stream?
My foolish heart be still, or break."

has since recovered her reason, and is, I believe, reconciled to her husband."

It was while living at Nottingham in 1803 (he was then hardly fifteen) that his attachment to Miss Chaworth, whose family resided at Annesley, near Nottingham and Newstead, began. Their intimacy lasted for but six weeks. In the following year he bade her the "last" farewell from the hill near Annesley, as described in the poem. In 1805 she was married to Mr. John Musters. Her death occurred in 1832.

In rhetorical structure the matter of the poem is skilfully disposed. Like some modern spectacular plays the poem presents a series of scenes or episodes without much connecting material. But that is not inappropriate for a "Dream." The metrical form is blank verse, a form which Byron generally handles with only moderate success. Here it seems but indifferently adapted to the lyrical impulse of the poem, especially as the verse is rather epical or dramatic in form and abounds in "run-on" lines; although its plainness suggests, appropriately enough, sombreness and the monotony of a heavy dream. This effect is enforced by the absence of ornament and the restrained harmony of the diction. Devices of repetition, as in the formulas for opening each section ("A change came over the spirit of my dream"), or in the lines

"And both were young, and one was beautiful; And both were young, yet not alike in youth," help out the lyrical effect.

213 : 12. Cf. 'Childe Harold' II, ii:

"Gone, glimmering through the dream of things that were." 213 : 18. Cf. 'Parisina' III, 82:

"The past is nothing—and at last
The future can but be the past."

213 : 19-22. Cf. 'Childe Harold' IV, v (p. 93, above). 213:25. Capable of years. An elliptical phrase partly explained in the next line.

214 : 28 ff. The scene described is after Nature—the hill (1. 35) near Annesley, as now, except that the "peculiar diadem of trees " has been cut down.

« PreviousContinue »