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By George Gordon, Lord Byron


SCENE I. A Hall in the Castle of Manfred


	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?

			Re-enter HERMAN

	My lord, the abbot of St Maurice craves
	To greet your presence.


				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?
							[Exit HERMAN

	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.

	Take it.

		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


	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.

					These walls
	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.

				'Tis impossible;
	He is most private, and must not be thus			50
	Intruded on.

			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.

				Why so?

					But step this way,
	And I will tell you further.				Exeunt

SCENE IV. Interior of the Tower.

			MANFRED alone.

	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?

					Not I;
	I simply tell thee peril is at hand,
	And would preserve thee.

				What dost mean?

						Look there!

	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 -- 
	Avaunt! --

	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 --

					Old man!
	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.

				Reluctant mortal!
	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.
							[MANFRED expires

	He's gone -- his soul hath ta'en its earthless flight --
	Whither? I dread to think -- but he is gone.