Fiction > Harvard Classics > Lord Byron > Manfred
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Lord Byron (1788–1824).  Manfred.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Act I
 
Scene I
 
 
MANFRED alone.Scene, a Gothic Gallery. Time, Midnight.
 
Manfred
THE LAMP must be replenish’d, but even then
It will not burn so long as I must watch.
My slumbers—if I slumber—are not sleep,
But a continuance of enduring thought,        5
Which then I can resist not: in my heart
There is a vigil, and these eyes but close
To look within; and yet I live, and bear
The aspect and the form of breathing men.
But grief should be the instructor of the wise;        10
Sorrow is knowledge: they who know the most
Must mourn the deepest o’er the fatal truth,
The Tree of Knowledge is not that of Life.
Philosophy and science, and the springs
Of wonder, and the wisdom of the world,        15
I have essay’d, and in my mind there is
A power to make these subject to itself—
But they avail not: I have done men good,
And I have met with good even among men—
But this avail’d not: I have had my foes,        20
And none have baffled, many fallen before me—
But this avail’d not:—Good, or evil, life,
Powers, passions, all I see in other beings,
Have been to me as rain unto the sands,
Since that all—nameless hour. I have no dread,        25
And feel the curse to have no natural fear,
Nor fluttering throb, that beats with hopes or wishes,
Or lurking love of something on the earth.
Now to my task.—
                Mysterious Agency!        30
Ye spirits of the unbounded Universe,
Whom I have sought in darkness and in light!
Ye, who do compass earth about, and dwell
In subtler essence! ye, to whom the tops
Of mountains inaccessible are haunts,        35
And earth’s and ocean’s caves familiar things—
I call upon ye by the written charm
Which gives me power upon you—Rise! appear!  [A pause.
They come not yet.—Now by the voice of him
Who is the first among you; by this sign,        40
Which makes you tremble; by the claims of him
Who is undying,—Rise! appear!—Appear!  [A pause.
If it be so.—Spirits of earth and air,
Ye shall not thus elude me: by a power,
Deeper than all yet urged, a tyrant—spell,        45
Which had its birthplace in a star condemn’d,
The burning wreck of a demolish’d world,
A wandering hell in the eternal space;
By the strong curse which is upon my soul,
The thought which is within me and around me,        50
I do compel ye to my will. Appear!   [A star is seen at the darker end of the gallery: it is stationary; and a voice is heard singing.
 
FIRST SPIRIT

Mortal! to thy bidding bow’d
From my mansion in the cloud,
Which the breath of twilight builds,
And the summer’s sunset gilds        55
With the azure and vermilion
Which is mix’d for my pavilion;
Though thy quest may be forbidden,
On a star—beam I have ridden,
To thine adjuration bow’d;        60
Mortal—be thy wish avow’d!
 
Voice of the SECOND SPIRIT

Mont Blanc is the monarch of mountains;
  They crown’d him long ago
On a throne of rocks, in a robe of clouds,
  With a diadem of snow.        65
Around his waist are forests braced,
  The Avalanche in his hand;
But ere it fall, that thundering ball
  Must pause for my command.
The Glacier’s cold and restless mass        70
  Moves onward day by day;
But I am he who bids it pass,
  Or with its ice delay.
I am the spirit of the place,
  Could make the mountain bow        75
And quiver to his cavern’d base—
  And what with me wouldst Thou?
 
Voice of the THIRD SPIRIT

In the blue depth of the waters,
  Where the wave hath no strife,
Where the wind is a stranger,        80
  And the sea-snake hath life,
Where the Mermaid is decking
  Her green hair with shells;
Like the storm on the surface
  Came the sound of thy spells;        85
O’er my calm Hall of Coral
  The deep echo roll’d—
To the Spirit of Ocean
  Thy wishes unfold!
 
FOURTH SPIRIT

Where the slumbering earthquake
        90
  Lies pillow’d on fire,
And the lakes of bitumen
  Rise boilingly higher;
Where the roots of the Andes
  Strike deep in the earth,        95
As their summits to heaven
  Shoot soaringly forth;
I have quitted my birthplace,
  Thy bidding to bide—
Thy spell hath subdued me,        100
  Thy will be my guide!
 
FIFTH SPIRIT

I am the Rider of the wind,
  The Stirrer of the storm;
The hurricane I left behind
  Is yet with lightning warm;        105
To speed to thee, o’er shore and sea
  I swept upon the blast:
The fleet I met sail’d well, and yet
  ’Twill sink ere night be past.
 
SIXTH SPIRIT

My dwelling is the shadow of the night,
        110
Why doth thy magic torture me with light?
 
SEVENTH SPIRIT

The star which rules thy destiny
Was ruled, ere earth began, by me:
It was a world as fresh and fair
As e’er revolved round sun in air;        115
Its course was free and regular,
Space bosom’d not a lovelier star.
The hour arrived—and it became
A wandering mass of shapeless flame,
A pathless comet, and a curse,        120
The menace of the universe;
Still rolling on with innate force,
Without a sphere, without a course,
A bright deformity on high,
The monster of the upper sky!        125
And thou! beneath its influence born—
Thou worm! whom I obey and scorn—
Forced by a power (which is not thine,
And lent thee but to make thee mine)
For this brief moment to descend,        130
Where these weak spirits round thee bend
And parley with a thing like thee—
What wouldst thou, Child of Clay, with me?
 
The SEVEN SPIRITS

Earth, ocean, air, night, mountains, winds, thy star,
  Are at thy beck and bidding, Child of Clay!        135
Before thee at thy quest their spirits are—
  What wouldst thou with us, son of mortals—say?
  Man.  Forgetfulness—
  First Spirit.                Of what—of whom—and why?
  Man.  Of that which is within me; read it there—        140
Ye know it, and I cannot utter it.
  Spirit.  We can but give thee that which we possess:
Ask of us subjects, sovereignty, the power
O’er earth, the whole, or portion, or a sign
Which shall control the elements, whereof        145
We are the dominators,—each and all,
These shall be thine.
  Man.                Oblivion, self—oblivion—
Can ye not wring from out the hidden realms
Ye offer so profusely what I ask?        150
  Spirit.  It is not in our essence, in our skill;
But—thou mayst die.
  Man.                Will death bestow it on me?
  Spirit.  We are immortal, and do not forget;
We are eternal; and to us the past        155
Is as the future, present. Art thou answer’d?
  Man.  Ye mock me—but the power which brought ye here
Hath made you mine. Slaves, scoff not at my will!
The mind, the spirit, the Promethean spark,
The lightning of my being, is as bright,        160
Pervading, and far darting as your own,
And shall not yield to yours, though coop’d in clay!
Answer, or I will teach you what I am.
  Spirit.  We answer as we answer’d; our reply
Is even in thine own words.        165
  Man.                Why say ye so?
  Spirit.  If, as thou say’st, thine essence be as ours,
We have replied in telling thee, the thing
Mortals call death hath nought to do with us.
  Man.  I then have call’d ye from your realms in vain;        170
Ye cannot, or ye will not, aid me.
  Spirit.                Say;
What we possess we offer; it is thine:
Bethink ere thou dismiss us, ask again—
Kingdom, and sway, and strength, and length of days—        175
  Man.  Accursèd! What have I to do with days?
They are too long already.—Hence—begone!
  Spirit.  Yet pause: being here, our will would do thee service;
Bethink thee, is there then no other gift
Which ye can make not worthless in thine eyes?        180
  Man.  No, none: yet stay—one moment, ere we part—
I would behold ye face to face. I hear
Your voices, sweet and melancholy sounds,
As music on the waters; and I see
The steady aspect of a clear large star;        185
But nothing more. Approach me as ye are,
Or one, or all, in your accustom’d forms.
  Spirit.  We have no forms, beyond the elements
Of which we are the mind and principle:
But choose a form—in that we will appear.        190
  Man.  I have no choice; there is no form on earth
Hideous or beautiful to me. Let him,
Who is most powerful of ye, take such aspect
As unto him may seem most fitting—Come!
  Seventh Spirit  (appearing in the shape of a beautiful female figure). Behold!        195
  Man.                Oh God! if it be thus, and thou
Art not a madness and a mockery,
I yet might be most happy. I will clasp thee,
And we again will be—  [The figure vanishes.
                My heart is crush’d!  [MANFRED falls senseless.        200
 
(A Voice is heard in the Incantation which follows.)
When the moon is on the wave,
  And the glow—worm in the grass,
And the meteor on the grave,
  And the wisp on the morass;        205
When the falling stars are shooting,
And the answer’d owls are hooting,
And the silent leaves are still
In the shadow of the hill,
Shall my soul be upon thine,        210
With a power and with a sign.
 
Though thy slumber may be deep,
Yet thy spirit shall not sleep;
There are shades which will not vanish,
There are thoughts thou canst not banish;        215
By a power to thee unknown,
Thou canst never be alone;
Thou art wrapt as with a shroud,
Thou art gather’d in a cloud;
And for ever shalt thou dwell        220
In the spirit of this spell.
 
Though thou seest me not pass by,
Thou shalt feel me with thine eye
As a thing that, though unseen,
Must be near thee, and hath been;        225
And when in that secret dread
Thou hast turn’d around thy head,
Thou shalt marvel I am not
As thy shadow on the spot,
And the power which thou dost feel        230
Shall be what thou must conceal.
 
And a magic voice and verse
Hath baptized thee with a curse;
And a spirit of the air
Hath begirt thee with a snare;        235
In the wind there is a voice
Shall forbid thee to rejoice;
And to thee shall Night deny
All the quiet of her sky;
And the day shall have a sun,        240
Which shall make thee wish it done.
 
From thy false tears I did distil
An essence which hath strength to kill;
From thy own heart I then did wring
The black blood in its blackest spring;        245
From thy own smile I snatch’d the snake,
For there it coil’d as in a brake;
From thy own lip I drew the charm
Which gave all these their chiefest harm;
In proving every poison known,        250
I found the strongest was thine own.
 
By thy cold breast and serpent smile,
By thy unfathom’d gulfs of guile,
By that most seeming virtuous eye,
By thy shut soul’s hypocrisy;        255
By the perfection of thine art
Which pass’d for human thine own heart;
By thy delight in others’ pain,
And by thy brotherhood of Cain,
I call upon thee! and compel        260
Thyself to be thy proper Hell!
 
And on thy head I pour the vial
Which doth devote thee to this trial;
Nor to slumber, nor to die,
Shall be in thy destiny;        265
Though thy death shall still seem near
To thy wish, but as a fear;
Lo! the spell now works around thee,
And the clankless chain hath bound thee;
O’er thy heart and brain together        270
Hath the word been pass’d—now wither!
 

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