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Lord Byron (1788–1824).  Poetry of Byron.  1881.
 
III. Dramatic
Manfred and the Seven Spirits
 
(Manfred, Act i. Scene I.)

MANFRED alone.Scene, a Gothic Gallery.—Time, Midnight.

  Man.  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,
Which then I can resist not: in my heart        5
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;
Sorrow is knowledge: they who know the most        10
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,
I have essay’d, and in my mind there is        15
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,
And none have baffled, many fallen before me—        20
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,
And feel the curse to have no natural fear,        25
Nor fluttering throb, that beats with hopes or wishes,
Or lurking love of something on the earth.—
Now to my task.—
                    Mysterious Agency!
Ye spirits of the unbounded Universe!
Whom I have sought in darkness and in light—        30
Ye, who do compass earth about, and dwell
In subtler essence—ye, to whom the tops
Of mountains inaccessible are haunts,
And earth’s and ocean’s caves familiar things—
I call upon ye by the written charm        35
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,
Which makes you tremble—by the claims of him
Who is undying,—Rise! appear!—Appear!
[A pause.    
        40
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,
Which had its birthplace in a star condemn’d,
The burning wreck of a demolish’d world,        45
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,
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,
        50
From my mansion in the cloud,
Which the breath of twilight builds,
And the summer’s sunset gilds
With the azure and vermilion,
Which is mix’d for my pavilion;        55
Though thy quest may be forbidden,
On a star-beam I have ridden;
To thine adjuration bow’d,
Mortal—be thy wish avow’d!
 
Voice of the SECOND SPIRIT.
Mont Blanc is the Monarch of mountains;
        60
  They crown’d him long ago
On a throne of rocks, in a robe of clouds,
  With a diadem of snow.
Around his waist are forests braced,
  The Avalanche in his hand;        65
But ere it fall, that thundering ball
  Must pause for my command.
The Glacier’s cold and restless mass
  Moves onward day by day;
But I am he who bids it pass,        70
  Or with its ice delay.
I am the spirit of the place,
  Could make the mountain bow
And quiver to his cavern’d base—
  And what with me wouldst Thou?        75
 
Voice of the THIRD SPIRIT.
In the blue depth of the waters,
  Where the wave hath no strife,
Where the wind is a stranger,
  And the sea-snake hath life,
Where the Mermaid is decking        80
  Her green hair with shells;
Like the storm on the surface
  Came the sound of thy spells;
O’er my calm Hall of Coral
  The deep echo roll’d—        85
To the Spirit of Ocean
  Thy wishes unfold!
 
FOURTH SPIRIT.
Where the slumbering earthquake
  Lies pillow’d on fire,
And the lakes of bitumen        90
  Rise boilingly higher;
Where the roots of the Andes
  Strike deep in the earth,
As their summits to heaven
  Shoot soaringly forth;        95
I have quitted my birthplace,
  Thy bidding to bide—
Thy spell hath subdued me,
  Thy will be my guide!
 
FIFTH SPIRIT.
I am the Rider of the wind,
        100
  The Stirrer of the storm;
The hurricane I left behind
  Is yet with lightning warm;
To speed to thee, o’er shore and sea
  I swept upon the blast:        105
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,
Why doth thy magic torture me with light?
 
SEVENTH SPIRIT.
The star which rules thy destiny
        110
Was ruled, ere earth began, by me:
It was a world as fresh and fair
As e’er revolved round sun in air;
Its course was free and regular,
Space bosom’d not a lovelier star.        115
The hour arrived—and it became
A wandering mass of shapeless flame,
A pathless comet, and a curse,
The menace of the universe;
Still rolling on with innate force,        120
Without a sphere, without a course,
A bright deformity on high,
The monster of the upper sky!
And thou! beneath its influence born—
Thou worm! whom I obey and scorn—        125
Forced by a power (which is not thine,
And lent thee but to make thee mine)
For this brief moment to descend,
Where these weak spirits round thee bend
And parley with a thing like thee—        130
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!
Before thee at thy quest their spirits are—
  What wouldst thou with us, son of mortals—say?        135
 
  Man.  Forgetfulness—
  First Spirit.            Of what—of whom—and why?
  Man.  Of that which is within me; read it there—
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        140
O’er earth, the whole, or portion, or a sign
Which shall control the elements, whereof
We are the dominators, each and all,
These shall be thine.
  Man.                Oblivion, self-oblivion—
Can ye not wring from out the hidden realms        145
Ye offer so profusely what I ask?
  Spirit.  It is not in our essence, in our skill;
But—thou mayest die.
  Man.                Will death bestow it on me?
  Spirit.  We are immortal, and do not forget;
We are eternal; and to us the past        150
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,        155
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.
  Man.                    Why say ye so?
        160
  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;
Ye cannot, or ye will not, aid me.
  Spirit.                    Say;
        165
What we possess we offer; it is thine:
Bethink ere thou dismiss us, ask again—
Kingdom, and sway, and strength, and length of days—
  Man.  Accursed! what have I to do with days?
They are too long already.—Hence—begone!        170
  Spirit.  Yet pause: being here, our will would do thee service;
Bethink thee, is there then no other gift
Which we can make not worthless in thine eyes?
  Man.  No, none; yet stay—one moment, ere we part—
I would behold ye face to face. I hear        175
Your voices, sweet and melancholy sounds,
As music on the waters; and I see
The steady aspect of a clear large star;
But nothing more. Approach me as ye are,
Or one, or all, in your accustom’d forms,        180
  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.
  Man.  I have no choice; there is no form on earth
Hideous or beautiful to me. Let him,        185
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!
 
  Man.  Oh God! if it be thus, and thou
Art not a madness and a mockery,        190
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.
 
(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,        195
  And the wisp on the morass;
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,        200
Shall my soul be upon thine,
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,        205
There are thoughts thou canst not banish;
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;        210
And for ever shalt thou dwell
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,        215
Must be near thee, and hath been;
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,        220
And the power which thou dost feel
Shall be what thou must conceal.
 
And a magic voice and verse
Hath baptized thee with a curse;
And a spirit of the air        225
Hath begirt thee with a snare;
In the wind there is a voice
Shall forbid thee to rejoice;
And to thee shall Night deny
All the quiet of her sky;        230
And the Day shall have a sun,
Which shall make thee wish it done.
 
 
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