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214 : 44-45- What is the full import of this simile ?—how many qualities of "the maid" are implied in it?
215 : 84. This description of his emotions, however heightened poetically, helps us to understand one point at least in Byron's peculiar temperament. Compare 'Don Juan' VI, cvi;
"It was but a convulsion, which, though short,
216 : 105 ff. Cf. 'Childe Harold' I, vi.
216 : 114-125. "This is true 'keeping,'—an Eastern picture perfect in its foreground and distance and sky, and no part of which is so dwelt upon or laboured as to obscure the principal figure" (Sir Walter Scott). Prof. Kolbing thinks that the scene can be identified with the ruins of Corinth. Cf. Byron's poem 'The Siege of Corinth,' esp. sect, xviii.
218: 179. Melancholy, the malady which has afflicted the lady's lover, the narrator, as contrasted with the 'phrenzy' of the lady herself. The one robs things of their illusion and glamour; the other at least leaves one monarch 'of a fantastic realm.'
218 : 185 ff. A picture of the poet's situation in the evil days after the death of his mother and so many of his earlier friends, and especially after the separation from his wife and the quarrel with her family ("beings which . . . were at war with him "). The untempered ill-will of the public after this event is doubtless also glanced at.
218 : 191. Mithridates of Pontus, who is said to have circumvented the plots of his enemies to poison him by so inuring his system by degrees-to the use of poisons that they came to have no effect upon him when taken.
219: 195. Cf. 'Childe Harold' III, xiii (p. 55 above); alsoIV. clxxvii-viii (p. 151).
219: 199. Cf. 'Manfred' II, ii, 70, and III, iv, 3 (above, pp 186, 207). 219 : 200-201 recall again 'Manfred' II, ii, 60-74 (p. 186).
Written in Switzerland in July, 1816. Published with 'The Prisoner of Chillon' in the same year. Similar visions of the end of things were written in numbers both before and after Byron's poem. Many of these Prof. Kolbing describes in his edition of 'The Prisoner of Chillon and Other Poems.' Such were; (I) 'The Last Man,' Lond. 1806, where the picture drawn has many points of resemblance with Byron's. Byron's immediate suggestion, however, may have been found in the Old Testament. Cf. 'Jeremiah,' IV, 23, 24, 25.
"I beheld the earth, and lo! it was without form and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. ... I beheld, and lo 1 there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. I beheld, and lo! the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down. ..." 'Ezekiel' xxxii, 7,8: "I will cover the heaven and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. All the bright lights of heaven I will make dark over thee, and set darkness upon thy land, saith the Lord God."
Cf. also 'Joel' II, 30-31; 'Revelation,' VI, etc. (2) Campbell's poem 'The Last Man' ("All worldly shapes shall melt in gloom," etc.) appeared in 1823. It bears a certain resemblance to Byron's poem, but doubtless, as Campbell claims, was written independently. (3) In the 'Poetical Miscellanies of Harlequin Proteus ' appeared a poem entitled 'The World's End '; and (4) in 'The European Magazine,' 1826, one on 'The Death of the World,' both modelled on Byron. Better known is (5) Mrs. Shelley's romance 'The Last Man,' 1826. (6) Thomas Hood's 'Last Man,' 1826, a burlesque poem on the same theme. For other treatments of the same subject the reader is referred to Prof. Kolbing's edition, 213, 222, 224, 234 ff.
The poem in the original MS. was first entitled 'A Dream.' So far as relates to the structure of the poem, three stages are apparent in the description: (I) the condition of things just before the enc (11. 1-54); (2) the end of the two last men (11. 55-69), and (3) the state of the world when life has finally disappeared (11, 69-82).
221 : 50. Till hunger clung them. Cf. 'Macbeth' V, v, 40: "Till famine cling thee," i.e., "Till famine shrivel thee up.'
222 : 73 ff. Byron here may have taken the description of the calm (11. 110 ff.) in the 'Ancient Mariner' as a model.
Written mainly in the latter part of 1818. Not published till 1819. The first eight sections give the setting of the poem, which is based on historical events. After the battle of Pultowa in 1709, in which Peter the Great defeated the Swedish forces under Charles XII, the latter, accompanied, among others, by his ally, the Cossack chieftain Mazeppa, fled to take refuge among fhe Turks. In the course of their flight they snatch a night's repose in the depth of the forest. Charles praises Mazeppa's endurance and horsemanship.
"Mazeppa answer'd—' I'll betide
This answer excites Charles' curiosity, and he induces the seventy-year-old chieftain to recall the days when he was twenty and to relate the tale. In his youth Mazeppa was a page at the court of the Polish king, John Casimir. On account of an intrigue with Theresa, the lady of a powerful Polish count, he was seized at the count's castle, and condemned to the punishment and fate related in sections ix and following of the poem.
It is not improbable that, as Elze maintains ('Life of Byron,' p. 138), "in 'Mazeppa' we have the idealized reflex of Byron's relation to the Countess Guiccioli; like her the object of Mazeppa's love is called Theresa, and the old Polish Count is perhaps the old Count Guiccioli." Against this supposition merely stands the fact that 'Mazeppa ' was begun before September 24, 1818, when the poem is mentioned in a letter of Byron's as still incomplete, while his acquaintance with the Countess Guiccioli did not begin till the spring of 1819. But the first part of the poem, where Theresa is mentioned, may have been written last. For the portion of the story related in sections ix-xx, however, there is nothing to correspond in Byron's life. Here his treatment is objective. The source of this portion as well as of the whole of the historical story is given by Byron in the following extract from Voltaire's 'Histoire de Charles XII':
"Celui qui remplissait alors cette place etait un gentilhomme Polonais, nomme Mazeppa, ne dans le palatinat de Padolie: il avait ete eleve page de Jean Casimir, et avait pris a sa cour quelque teinture des belles-lettres. Une intrigue qu'il eut dans sa jeunesse avec la femme d'un gentilhomme Polonais ayant ete decouverte, le mari le fit lier tout nu sur un cheval farouche, et le laissa aller en cet etat. Le cheval, qui etait du pays de l'Ukraine, y retourna, et y porta Mazeppa, demi-mort de fatigue et de faim. Quelques paysans le secoururent: il resta longtemps parmi eux, et se signala dans plusieurs courses contre les Tartares. La superiorite de ses lumieres lui donna une grande consideration parmi les Cosaques: sa reputation s'augmentant de jour en jour obligea le Czar a le faire Prince de TUkraine."
More modern accounts alter the story in some particulars. Born.about 1645 and dying 1710, Mazeppa had an adventurous career. Because of a quarrel in the palace of Jan Casimir, in which he was involved, he was exiled from the court. The following account of his succeeding adventures is quoted from Schuyler's 'Peter the Great' (N. Y., 1884, vol. II, p. 92): "He withdrew to his mother's estate in Volynia, where he became engaged in an intrigue with the wife of a neighbouring nobleman, Falbowski. On one of his visits he was waylaid by the injured husband; was ignominiously stripped and bound to his horse. The spirited animal, frightened by the cuts of a whip and the firing of a pistol close to his ear, rushed furiously through woods and thickets, and brought his master home so torn and bleeding that he was hardly recognizable. Unable to meet his equals after such an adventure, Mazeppa sought a refuge among the Cossacks." By means of his education and talents he soon rose to high position, becoming eventually Hetman or governor of the Cossacks. For over twenty years he remained faithful to his overlord, Peter the Great. Just before the battle of Pultowa, in 1709, however, he deserted to Charles, with whom he shared defeat and exile till his death in 1710.
The poem is written in the metre and somewhat in the style of the early verse-tales of Byron's London period. The treatment, however, is less melodramatic and more dramatic, direct, and forcible. For vividness, movement, power of realization, intense feeling, and general effectiveness of style Byron has hardly elsewhere surpassed this poem. The motives which it suggests have been treated in brilliant musical form by the composer Liszt, in his symphonic poem entitled 'Mazeppa.' See also Victor Hugo's poem, 'Mazeppa' (in 'Les Orientales,' xxxiv),—a free paraphrase of Byron, plus an application of the text: the steed is his genius who bears the poet at its will, threatened by malevolent spirits (birds and beasts of prey), across the wide deserts of the world towards the horizon of the ideal. Who can tell his sufferings? He reaches the end, he falls at last,—and rises up, a king!
Again, as in 'Manfred,' in 'The Prisoner of Chillon,' and in so many other of Byron's poems, the leading motive is, as Dr. Englaender points out, the depicting of silent suffering and heroic endurance. The admiration for characters of superhuman fortitude is innate with Byron and influences all his poetry.
The contemporary interest in the name of Mazeppa and in the land of his reign is attested by the anonymous verse-romance entitled 'The Cossack, a Poem in three Cantcs,' published at London in 1815. Mazeppa appears at section xi of the second canto. He, however, is not the hero, but Kouteskoff, a minor Cossack chieftain. There is nothing to indicate that Byron knew this poem.
Suggestions for the scenery of the poem Byron may have taken from Voltaire's 'Charles XII': "Depuis Grodno jusq'au Borysthene en tirant vers l'orient, ce sont des marais, des deserts, des forets immenses." ... "un desert, ou ils ne voyaientni huttes ni tentes, ni hommes ni animaux, nichemins; tout y manquait jusqu'a l'eaumeme." [Cf. 'Mazeppa ' xvii, 5-8.] The poet's aim is to make his landscape and the touches of Nature which he introduces suggest a certain mood and convey a certain impression. This impression is, in the words of Dr. Englaender, "the awful feeling of the illimitable, called forth by the unbounded solitudes and wastes of Nature, and a mournful feeling of yearning and sadness allied to the former, which especially finds expression in the tireless onward flight of Mazeppa's steed."
The art is noteworthy with which the phenomena of Nature, the appearances of the region traversed in the Ride, are chosen