Page images
PDF
EPUB

April 9." As for Manfred,' the two first acts are the best; the third

so so; but I was blown with the first and second heats. You may call it

a Poem,' for it is no Drama, and I do not choose to have it called by so d-d a name, -'a Poem in dialogue,' or - Pantomime, if you will; any thing but a green-room synonyme; and this is your motto

'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'

The Third Act was re-written before publication; as to the particulars of which, the reader is referred to a subsequent note. To avoid over. loading the margin, we may give here the most important paragraphs of the two ablest critiques that immediately followed the appearance of Manfred :

[ocr errors]

"In Manfred, we recognise at once the gloom and potency of that soul which burned and blasted and fed upon itself, in Harold, and Conrad, and Lara- and which comes again in this piece, more in sorrow than in anger more proud, perhaps, and more awful than ever-but with the fiercer traits of its misanthropy subdued, as it were, and quenched in the gloom of a deeper despondency. Manfred does not, like Conrad and Lara, wreak the anguish of his burning heart in the dangers and daring of desperate and predatory war-nor seek to drown bitter thoughts in the tumult of perpetual contention; nor yet, like Harold, does he sweep over the peopled scenes of the earth with high disdain and aversion, and make his survey of the business, and pleasures, and studies of man an occasion for taunts and sarcasms, and the food of an unmeasurable spleen. He is fixed by the genius of the poet in the majestic solitudes of the central Alps where, from his youth up, he has lived in proud but calm seclusion from the ways of men, conversing only with the magnificent forms and aspects of nature by which he is surrounded, and with the Spirits of the Elements over whom he has acquired dominion, by the secret and unhallowed studies of sorcery and magic. He is averse, indeed, from mankind, and scorns the low and frivolous nature to which he belongs; but he cherishes no animosity or hostility to that feeble race. Their concerns excite no interest- their pursuits no sympathy- their joys no envy. It is irksome and vexatious for him to be crossed by them in his melancholy musings, but he treats them with gentleness and pity; and, except when stung to impatience by too importunate an intrusion, is kind and considerate to the comforts of all around him. This piece is properly entitled a dramatic poem —for it is merely poetical, and is not at all a drama or play in the modern acceptation of the term. It has no action, no plot, and no characters; Manfred merely muses and suffers from the beginning to the end. His distresses are the same at the opening of the scene and at its closing, and the temper in which they are borne is the same. A hunter and a priest, and some domestics, are indeed introduced, but they have no connection with the passions or sufferings on which the interest depends; and Manfred is substantially alone throughout the whole piece. He holds no communion but with the memory of the Being he had loved; and the immortal Spirits whom he evokes to reproach with his misery, and their inability to relieve it. These unearthly beings approach nearer to the cha

racter of persons of the drama — but still they are but choral accompaniments to the performance; and Manfred is, in reality, the only actor and sufferer on the scene. To delineate his character indeed to render conceivable his feelings. -is plainly the whole scope and design of the poem ; and the conception and execution are, in this respect, equally admirable. It is a grand and terrific vision of a being invested with superhuman attributes, in order that he may be capable of more than human sufferings, and be sustained under them by more than human force and pride. To object to the improbability of the fiction, is to mistake the end and aim of the author. Probabilities, we apprehend, did not enter at all into his consideration; his object was, to produce effect- to exalt and dilate the character through whom he was to interest or appal us—and to raise our conception of it, by all the helps that could be derived from the majesty of nature, or the dread of superstition. It is enough, therefore, if the situation in which he has placed him is conceivable, and if the supposition of its reality enhances our emotions and kindles our imagination; for it is Manfred only that we are required to fear, to pity, or 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 me. taphors, or allegories; but HE is the thing to be expressed, and the feeling and the intellect of which all these are but shadows."- JEFFREY.

"In this very extraordinary poem, Lord Byron has pursued the same course as in the third canto of Childe Harold, and put out his strength upon the same objects. The action is laid among the mountains of the Alps the characters are all, more or less, formed and swayed by the operations of the magnificent scenery around them, and every page of the poem teems with imagery and passion, though, at the same time, the mind of the poet is often overborne, as it were, by the strength and novelty of its own conceptions; and thus the composition, as a whole, is liable to many and fatal objections. But there is a still more novel exhibition of Lord Byron's powers in this remarkable drama. He has here burst into the world of spirits; and, in the wild delight with which the elements of nature seem to have inspired him, he has endeavoured to embody and call up before him their ministering agents, and to employ these wild personifications, as he formerly employed the feelings and passions of man. We are not prepared to say, that, in this daring attempt, he has completely succeeded. We are inclined to think, that the plan he has conceived, and the principal character which he has wished to delineate, would require a fuller developement than is here given to them; and, accordingly, a sense of imperfection, incompleteness, and confusion accompanies the mind throughout the perusal of the poem, owing either to some failure on the part of the poet, or to the inherent mystery of the subject. But though, on that account, it is difficult to comprehend distinctly the drift of the composition, it unquestionably exhibits many noble delineations of mountain scenery, many impressive and terrible pictures of passion, and many wild and awful visions of imaginary horror."- PROFESSOR WILSON.]

DRAMATIS PERSONE.

MANFRED.

CHAMOIS HUNTER.

ABBOT OF ST. MAURICE.

MANUEL.

HERMAN.

WITCH OF THE ALPS.

ARIMANES.

NEMESIS.

THE DESTINIES.

SPIRITS, &c.

The Scene of the Drama is amongst the Higher Alps-partly in the Castle of Manfred, and partly in the Mountains.

« PreviousContinue »