SCENE I. A Hall in the Castle of Manfred
MANFRED and HERMAN
What is the hour?
It wants but one till sunset,
And promises a lovely twilight.
Are all things so disposed of in the tower
As I directed?
All, my lord, are ready;
Here is the key and casket.
It is well:
Thou mayst retire. [Exit HERMAN
[alone] There is a calm upon me --
Inexplicable stillness! which till now
Did not belong to what I knew of life.
If that I did not know philosophy
To be of all our vanities the motliest, 10
The merest word that ever fool'd the ear
From out the schoolman's jargon, I should deem
The golden secret, the sought 'Kalon', found,
And seated in my soul. It will not last,
But it is well to have known it, though but once:
It hath enlarged my thoughts with a new sense,
And I within my tablets would note down
That there is such a feeling. Who is there?
My lord, the abbot of St Maurice craves
To greet your presence.
Enter the ABBOT OF ST MAURICE
Peace be with Count Manfred! 20
Thanks, holy father! welcome to these walls;
Thy presence honours them, and blesseth those
Who dwell within them.
Would it were so, Count! --
But I would fain confer with thee alone.
Herman, retire. What would my reverend guest?
Thus, without prelude: -- Age and zeal, my office,
And good intent, must plead my privilege;
Our near, though not acquainted neighbourhood,
May also be my herald. Rumours strange
And of unholy nature, are abroad, 30
And busy with thy name; a noble name
For centuries; may he who bears it now
Transmit it unimpair'd!
Proceed, -- I listen.
'Tis said thou holdest converse with the things
Which are forbidden to the search of man;
That with the dwellers of the dark abodes
The many evil and unheavenly spirits
Which walk the valley of the shade of death,
Thou communest. I know that with mankind,
Thy fellows in creation, thou dost rarely 40
Exchange thy thoughts, and that thy solitude
Is as an anchorite's, were it but holy.
And what are they who do avouch these things?
My pious brethren -- the scared peasantry --
Even thy own vassals -- who do look on thee
With most unquiet eyes. Thy life's in peril.
I come to save, and not destroy --
I would not pry into thy secret soul;
But if these things be sooth, there still is time
For penitence and pity: reconcile thee 50
With the true church, and through the church to heaven.
I hear thee. This is my reply; whate'er
I may have been, or am, doth rest between
Heaven and myself. -- I shall not choose a mortal
To be my mediator. Have I sinn'd
Against your ordinances? prove and punish!
My son! I did not speak of punishment,
But penitence and pardon; -- with thyself
The choice of such remains -- and for the last,
Our institutions and our strong belief 60
Have given me power to smooth the path from sin
To higher hope and better thoughts; the first
I leave to heaven -- 'Vengeance is mine alone!'
So saith the Lord, and with all humbleness
His servant echoes back the awful word.
Old man! there is no power in holy men,
Nor charm in prayer -- nor purifying form
Of penitence -- nor outward look -- nor fast --
Nor agony -- nor, greater than all these,
The innate tortures of that deep despair, 70
Which is remorse without the fear of hell,
But all in all sufficient to itself
Would make a hell of heaven -- can exorcise
From out the unbounded spirit, the quick sense
Of its own sins, wrongs, sufferance, and revenge
Upon itself; there is no future pang
Can deal that justice on the self-condemn'd
He deals on his own soul.
All this is well;
For this will pass away, and be succeeded
By an auspicious hope, which shall look up 80
With calm assurance to that blessed place,
Which all who seek may win, whatever be
Their earthly errors, so they be atoned:
And the commencement of atonement is
The sense of its necessity. -- Say on --
And all our church can teach thee shall be taught;
And all we can absolve thee, shall be pardon'd.
When Rome's sixth Emperor was near his last,
The victim of a self-inflicted wound,
To shun the torments of a public death 90
From senates once his slaves, a certain soldier,
With show of loyal pity, would have staunch'd
The gushing throat with his officious robe,
The dying Roman thrust him back and said--
Some empire still in his expiring glance,
'It is too late -- is this fidelity?'
And what of this?
I answer with the Roman--
'It is too late!'
It never can be so,
To reconcile thyself with thy own soul,
And thy own soul with heaven. Hast thou no hope? 100
'Tis strange-even those who do despair above,
Yet shape themselves some phantasy on earth,
To which frail twig they cling, like drowning men.
Ay -- father! I have had those earthly visions
And noble aspirations in my youth,
To make my own the mind of other men,
The enlightener of nations; and to rise
I knew not whither -- it might be to fall;
But fall, even as the mountain-cataract,
Which having leapt from its more dazzling height, 110
Even in the foaming strength of its abyss,
(Which casts up misty columns that become
Clouds raining from the re-ascended skies)
Lies low but mighty still. -- But this is past,
My thoughts mistook themselves.
And wherefore so?
I could not tame my nature down; for he
Must serve who fain would sway -- and soothe -- and sue --
And watch all time -- and pry into all place --
And be a living lie -- who would become
A mighty thing amongst the mean, and such 120
The mass are; I disdained to mingle with
A herd, though to be leader -- and of wolves.
The lion is alone, and so am 1.
And why not live and act with other men?
Because my nature was averse from life;
And yet not cruel; for I would not make,
But find a desolation: --Like the wind,
The red-hot breath of the most lone Simoom,
Which dwells but in the desert, and sweeps o'er
The barren sands which bear no shrubs to blast, 130
And revels o'er their wild and arid waves,
And seeketh not, so that it is not sought,
But being met is deadly; such hath been
The course of my existence; but there came
Things in my path which are no more.
I 'gin to fear that thou art past all aid
From me and from my calling, yet so young,
I still would --
Look on me! there is an order
Of mortals on the earth, who do become
Old in their youth, and die ere middle age, 140
Without the violence of warlike death;
Some perishing of pleasure -- some of study --
Some worn with toil -- some of mere weariness --
Some of disease -- and some insanity --
And some of withered, or of broken hearts;
For this last is a malady which slays
More than are numbered in the lists of Fate,
Taking all shapes, and bearing many names.
Look upon me! for even of all these things
Have I partaken; and of all these things, 150
One were enough; then wonder not that I
Am what I am, but that I ever was,
Or, having been, that I am still on earth.
Yet, hear me still --
Old man! I do respect
Thine order, and revere thine years; I deem
Thy purpose pious, but it is in vain:
Think me not churlish; I would spare thyself,
Far more than me, in shunning at this time
All further colloquy -- and so -- farewell. [Exit MANFRED
This should have been a noble creature: he 160
Hath all the energy which would have made
A goodly frame of glorious elements,
Had they been wisely mingled; as it is,
It is an awful chaos -- light and darkness --
And mind and dust -- and passions and pure thoughts,
Mix'd, and contending without end or order,
All dormant or destructive: he will perish,
And yet he must not; I will try once more,
For such are worth redemption; and my duty
Is to dare all things for a righteous end. 170
I'll follow him -- but cautiously, though surely. [Exit ABBOT
SCENE II. Another Chamber
MANFRED and HERMAN.
My Lord, you bade me wait on you at sunset:
He sinks behind the mountain.
Doth he so?
I will look on him.
[MANFRED advances to the Windom of the Hall
Glorious Orb! the idol
Of early nature, and the vigorous race
Of undiseased mankind, the giant sons
Of the embrace of angels, with a sex
More beautiful than they, which did draw down
The erring spirits who can ne'er return. --
Most glorious orb! that wert a worship, ere
The mystery of thy making was reveal'd! 10
Thou earliest minister of the Almighty,
Which gladden'd, on their mountain tops, the hearts
Of the Chaldean shepherds, till they pour'd
Themselves in orisons! Thou material God!
And representative of the Unknown --
Who chose thee for his shadow! Thou chief star!
Centre of many stars! which mak'st our earth
Endurable, and temperest the hues
And hearts of all who walk within thy rays!
Sire of the seasons! Monarch of the climes, 20
And those who dwell in them! for near or far,
Our inborn spirits have a tint of thee,
Even as our outward aspects; -- thou dost rise,
And shine, and set in glory. Fare thee well!
I ne'er shall see thee more. As my first glance
Of love and wonder was for thee, then take
My latest look: thou wilt not beam on one
To whom the gifts of life and warmth have been
Of a more fatal nature. He is gone:
I follow. [Exit MANFRED 30
SCENE III. The Mountains. -- The Castle of Manfred at
some distance. -- A Terrace before a Tower. -- Time, Twilight.
HERMAN, MANUEL, and other Dependents of MANFRED,
'Tis strange enough; night after night, for years,
He hath pursued long vigils in this tower,
Without a witness. I have been within it, --
So have we all been oft-times; but from it,
Or its contents, it were impossible
To draw conclusions absolute, of aught
His studies tend to. To be sure, there is
One chamber where none enter; I would give
The fee of what I have to come these three years,
To pore upon its mysteries.
'Twere dangerous; 10
Content thyself with what thou knowest already.
Ah! Manuel! thou art elderly and wise,
And couldst say much; thou hast dwelt within the castle --
How many years is't?
Ere Count Manfred's birth,
I served his father, whom he nought resembles.
There be more sons in like predicament.
But wherein do they differ?
I speak not
Of features or of form, but mind and habits:
Count Sigismund was proud, -- but gay and free, --
A warrior and a reveller; he dwelt not 20
With books and solitude, nor made the night
A gloomy vigil, but a festal time,
Merrier than day; he did not walk the rocks
And forests like a wolf, nor turn aside
From men and their delights.
Beshrew the hour,
But those were jocund times! I would that such
Would visit the old walls again; they look
As if they had forgotten them.
Must change their chieftain first. Oh! I have seen
Some strange things in them, Herman.
Come, be friendly; 30
Relate me some to while away our watch:
I've heard thee darkly speak of an event
Which happened hereabouts, by this same tower.
That was a night indeed; I do remember
'Twas twilight, as it may be now, and such
Another evening; -- yon red cloud, which rests
On Eigher's pinnacle, so rested then,
So like that it might be the same; the wind
Was faint and gusty, and the mountain snows
Began to glitter with the climbing moon; 40
Count Manfred was, as now, within his tower, --
How occupied, we knew not, but with him
The sole companion of his wanderings
And watchings her, whom of all earthly things
That lived, the only thing he seem'd to love,
As he, indeed, by blood was bound to do,
The lady Astarte, his --
Hush! who comes here?
Enter the ABBOT
Where is your master?
Yonder, in the tower.
I must speak with him.
He is most private, and must not be thus 50
Upon myself I take
The forfeit of my fault, if fault there be --
But I must see him.
Thou hast seen him once
This eve already.
Sirrah! I command thee,
Knock, and apprize the Count of my approach.
We dare not.
Then it seems I must be herald
Of my own purpose.
Reverend father, stop --
I pray you pause.
But step this way,
And I will tell you further. Exeunt
SCENE IV. Interior of the Tower.
The stars are forth, the moon above the tops
Of the snow-shining mountains. -- Beautiful!
I linger yet with Nature, for the night
Hath been to me a more familiar face
Than that of man; and in her starry shade
Of dim and solitary loveliness,
I learn'd the language of another world.
I do remember me, that in my youth,
When I was wandering, -- upon such a night
I stood within the Colosseum's wall, 10
'Midst the chief relics of almighty Rome;
The trees which grew along the broken arches
Waved dark in the blue midnight, and the stars
Shone through the rents of ruin; from afar
The watchdog bayed beyond the Tiber; and
More near from out the Caesars' palace came
The owl's long cry, and, interruptedly,
Of distant sentinels the fitful song
Begun and died upon the gentle wind.
Some cypresses beyond the time-worn breach 20
Appeared to skirt the horizon, yet they stood
Within a bowshot -- where the Caesars dwelt,
And dwell the tuneless birds of night; amidst
A grove which springs through levell'd battlements,
And twines its roots with the imperial hearths,
Ivy usurps the laurel's place of growth; --
But the gladiators' bloody Circus stands,
A noble wreck in ruinous perfection!
While Caesar's chambers, and the Augustan halls,
Grovel on earth in indistinct decay. -- 30
And thou didst shine, thou rolling moon, upon
All this, and cast a wide and tender light,
Which soften'd down the hoar austerity
Of rugged desolation, and fill'd up,
As 'twere, anew, the gaps of centuries;
Leaving that beautiful which still was so,
And making that which was not, till the place
Became religion, and the heart ran o'er
With silent worship of the great of old! --
The dead, but sceptred sovereigns, who still rule 40
Our spirits from their urns. --
'Twas such a night!
'Tis strange that I recall it at this time;
Rut I have found our thoughts take wildest flight
Even at the moment when they should array
Themselves in pensive order.
Enter the ABBOT
My good Lord!
I crave a second grace for this approach;
But yet let not my humble zeal offend
By its abruptness -- all it hath of ill
Recoils on me; its good in the effect
May light upon your head -- could I say heart -- 50
Could I touch that, with words or prayers, I should
Recall a noble spirit which hath wandered,
But is not yet all lost.
Thou know'st me not;
My days are numbered, and my deeds recorded:
Retire, or 'twill be dangerous -- Away!
Thou dost not mean to menace me?
I simply tell thee peril is at hand,
And would preserve thee.
What dost mean?
What dost thou see?
Look there, I say,
And steadfastly; -- now tell me what thou seest? 60
That which should shake me, -- but I fear it not --
I see a dusk and awful figure rise
Like an infernal god from out the earth;
His face wrapt in a mantle, and his form
Robed as with angry clouds; he stands between
Thyself and me -- but I do fear him not.
Thou hast no cause -- he shall not harm thee -- but
His sight may shock thine old limbs into palsy.
I say to thee -- Retire!
And, I reply --
Never -- till I have battled with this fiend -- 70
What doth he here?
Why -- ay -- what doth he here?
I did not send for him, -- he is unbidden.
Alas! lost mortal! what with guests like these
Hast thou to do? I tremble for thy sake;
Why doth he gaze on thee, and thou on him?
Ah! he unveils his aspect; on his brow
The thunder-sears are graven; from his eye
Glares forth the immortality of hell --
Pronounce -- what is thy mission?
What art thou, unknown being? answer! -- speak! 80
The genius of this mortal. -- Come! 'tis time.
I am prepared for all things, but deny
The power which summons me. Who sent thee here?
Thou'lt know anon -- Come! come!
I have commanded
Things of an essence greater far than thine,
And striven with thy masters. Get thee hence!
Mortal! thine hour is come -- Away! I say.
I knew, and know my hour is come, but not
To render up my soul to such as thee:
Away! I'll die as I have lived -- alone. 90
Then I must summon up my brethren. -- Rise!
[Other Spirits rise up
Avaunt! ye evil ones! -- Avaunt! I say,
Ye have no power where piety hath power,
And I do charge ye in the name --
We know ourselves, our mission, and thine order;
Waste not thy holy words on idle uses,
It were in vain; this man is forfeited.
Once more I summon him -- Away! away!
I do defy ye, -- though I feel my soul
Is ebbing from me, yet I do defy ye; 100
Nor will I hence, while I have earthly breath
I o breathe my scorn upon ye -- earthly strength
To wrestle, though with spirits; what ye take
Shall be ta'en limb by limb.
Is this the Magian who would so pervade
The world invisible, and make himself
Almost our equal? -- Can it be that thou
Art thus in love with life? the very life
Which made thee wretched!
Thou false fiend, thou liest!
My life is in its last hour, -- that I know, 110
Nor would redeem a moment of that hour;
I do not combat against death, but thee
And thy surrounding angels; my past power
Was purchased by no compact with thy crew,
But by superior science -- penance -- daring --
And length of watching -- strength of mind -- and skill
In knowledge of our fathers -- when the earth
Saw men and spirits walking side by side
And gave ye no supremacy: I stand
Upon my strength -- I do defy -- deny -- 120
Spurn back, and scorn ye! --
But thy many crimes
Have made thee --
What are they to such as thee?
Must crimes be punish'd but by other crimes,
And greater criminals? -- Back to thy hell!
Thou hast no power upon me, that I feel;
Thou never shalt possess me, that I know:
What I have done is done; I bear within
A torture which could nothing gain from thine:
The mind which is immortal makes itself
Requital for its good or evil thoughts -- 130
Is its own origin of ill and end --
And its own place and time -- its innate sense,
When stripp'd of this mortality, derives
No colour from the fleeting things without,
But is absorb'd in sufferance or in joy,
Born from the knowledge of its own desert.
Thou didst not tempt me, and thou couldst not tempt me;
I have not been thy dupe, nor am thy prey --
But was my own destroyer, and will be
My own hereafter. -- Back, ye baffled fiends! 140
The hand of death is on me -- but not yours!
[The Demons disappear
Alas! how pale thou art -- thy lips are white --
And thy breast heaves -- and in thy gasping throat
The accents rattle -- Give thy prayers to heaven --
Pray -- albeit but in thought, -- but die not thus.
'Tis over -- my dull eyes can fix thee not;
But all things swim around m, and the earth
Heaves as it were beneath me. Fare thee well --
Give me thy hand.
Cold -- cold -- even to the heart --
But yet one prayer -- alas! how fares it with thee? -- 150
Old man! 'tis not so difficult to die.
He's gone -- his soul hath ta'en its earthless flight --
Whither? I dread to think -- but he is gone.