ABBOT OF ST. MAURICE
WITCH OF THE ALPS
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,
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;
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,
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,
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,
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.-
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,
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,
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,
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,
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.]
Mortal! to thy bidding bow’d,
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;
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;
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;
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,
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?
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
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-
To the Spirit of Ocean
Thy wishes unfold!
Where the slumbering earthquake
Lies pillow’d on fire,
And the lakes of bitumen
Rise boilingly higher;
Where the roots of the Andes
Strike deep in the earth,
As their summits to heaven
Shoot soaringly forth;
I have quitted my birthplace,
Thy bidding to bide-
Thy spell hath subdued me,
Thy will be my guide!
I am the Rider of the wind,
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:
The fleet I met sail’d well, and yet
’T will sink ere night be past.
My dwelling is the shadow of the night,
Why doth thy magic torture me with light?
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;
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,
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!
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,
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!
Before thee at thy quest their spirits are-
What wouldst thou with us, son of mortals- say?
FIRST SPIRIT. Of what- of whom- and why?
MANFRED. 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
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.
MANFRED. Oblivion, self-oblivion-
Can ye not wring from out the hidden realms
Ye offer so profusely what I ask?
SPIRIT. It is not in our essence, in our skill;
But- thou mayst die.
MANFRED. Will death bestow it on me?
SPIRIT. We are immortal, and do not forget;
We are eternal; and to us the past
Is, as the future, present. Art thou answered?
MANFRED. 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,
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.
MANFRED. 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.
MANFRED. I then have call’d ye from your realms in vain;
Ye cannot, or ye will not, aid me.
What we possess we offer; it is thine:
Bethink ere thou dismiss us, ask again-
Kingdom, and sway, and strength, and length of days-
MANFRED. 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 we can make not worthless in thine eyes?
MANFRED. 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;
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.
MANFRED. 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
MANFRED. 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 crushed!
[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,
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,
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,
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;
And forever 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,
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,
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
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;
And the day shall have a sun,
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;
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,
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;
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
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;
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
Hath the word been pass’d — now wither!
The Mountain of the Jungfrau. — Time, Morning.- MANFRED alone upon the Cliffs.
MANFRED. The spirits I have raised abandon me,
The spells which I have studied baffled me,
The remedy I reck’d of tortured me;
I lean no more on super-human aid,
It hath no power upon the past, and for
The future, till the past be gulf’d in darkness,
It is not of my search. — My mother Earth!
And thou fresh breaking Day, and you, ye Mountains,
Why are ye beautiful? I cannot love ye.
And thou, the bright eye of the universe
That openest over all, and unto all
Art a delight — thou shin’st not on my heart.
And you, ye crags, upon whose extreme edge
I stand, and on the torrent’s brink beneath
Behold the tall pines dwindled as to shrubs
In dizziness of distance; when a leap,
A stir, a motion, even a breath, would bring
My breast upon its rocky bosom’s bed
To rest forever — wherefore do I pause?
I feel the impulse-yet I do not plunge;
I see the peril — yet do not recede;
And my brain reels — and yet my foot is firm.
There is a power upon me which withholds,
And makes it my fatality to live;
If it be life to wear within myself
This barrenness of spirit, and to be
My own soul’s sepulchre, for I have ceased
To justify my deeds unto myself —
The last infirmity of evil. Ay,
Thou winged and cloud-cleaving minister, [An eagle passes.]
Whose happy flight is highest into heaven,
Well may’st thou swoop so near me — I should be
Thy prey, and gorge thine eaglets; thou art gone
Where the eye cannot follow thee; but thine
Yet pierces downward, onward, or above,
With a pervading vision. — Beautiful!
How beautiful is all this visible world!
How glorious in its action and itself!
But we, who name ourselves its sovereigns, we,
Half dust, half deity, alike unfit
To sink or soar, with our mix’d essence make
A conflict of its elements, and breathe
The breath of degradation and of pride,
Contending with low wants and lofty will,
Till our mortality predominates,
And men are what they name not to themselves,
And trust not to each other. Hark! the note,
[The Shepherd’s pipe in the distance is heard.]
The natural music of the mountain reed
(For here the patriarchal days are not
A pastoral fable) pipes in the liberal air,
Mix’d with the sweet bells of the sauntering herd;
My soul would drink those echoes. — Oh, that I were
The viewless spirit of a lovely sound,
A living voice, a breathing harmony,
A bodiless enjoyment — born and dying
With the blessed tone which made me!
Enter from below a CHAMOIS HUNTER.
CHAMOIS HUNTER. Even so
This way the chamois leapt: her nimble feet
Have baffled me; my gains to-day will scarce
Repay my break-neck travail. — What is here?
Who seems not of my trade, and yet hath reach’d
A height which none even of our mountaineers
Save our best hunters, may attain: his garb
Is goodly, his mien manly, and his air
Proud as a freeborn peasant’s, at this distance —
I will approach him nearer.
MANFRED (not perceiving the other). To be thus-
Gray-hair’d with anguish, like these blasted pines,
Wrecks of a single winter, barkless, branchless,
A blighted trunk upon a cursèd root
Which but supplies a feeling to decay —
And to be thus, eternally but thus,
Having been otherwise! Now furrowed o’er
With wrinkles, plough’d by moments, not by years
And hours — all tortured into ages — hours
Which I outlive! — Ye toppling crags of ice!
Ye avalanches, whom a breath draws down
In mountainous o’erwhelming, come and crush me!
I hear ye momently above, beneath,
Crash with a frequent conflict, but ye pass,
And only fall on things that still would live;
On the young flourishing forest, or the hut
And hamlet of the harmless villager.
CHAMOIS HUNTER. The mists begin to rise from up the valley;
I’ll warn him to descend, or he may chance
To lose at once his way and life together.
MANFRED. The mists boil up around the glaciers; clouds
Rise curling fast beneath me, white and sulphury,
Like foam from the roused ocean of deep Hell,
Whose every wave breaks on a living shore
Heap’d with the damn’d like pebbles.- I am giddy.
CHAMOIS HUNTER. I must approach him cautiously; if near
A sudden step will startle him, and he
Seems tottering already.
MANFRED. Mountains have fallen,
Leaving a gap in the clouds, and with the shock
Rocking their Alpine brethren; filling up
The ripe green valleys with destruction’s splinters;
Damming the rivers with a sudden dash,
Which crush’d the waters into mist, and made
Their fountains find another channel- thus,
Thus, in its old age, did Mount Rosenberg-
Why stood I not beneath it?
CHAMOIS HUNTER. Friend! have a care,
Your next step may be fatal!- for the love
Of him who made you, stand not on that brink!
MANFRED. (not hearing him). Such would have been for me a
My bones had then been quiet in their depth;
They had not then been strewn upon the rocks
For the wind’s pastime- as thus- thus they shall be-
In this one plunge.- Farewell, ye opening heavens!
Look not upon me thus reproachfully-
Ye were not meant for me- Earth! take these atoms!
[As MANFRED is in act to spring from the cliff, the CHAMOIS HUNTER seizes and retains him with a sudden grasp.]
CHAMOIS HUNTER. Hold, madman!- though aweary of thy life,
Stain not our pure vales with thy guilty blood!
Away with me- I will not quit my hold.
MANFRED. I am most sick at heart- nay, grasp me not-
I am all feebleness- the mountains whirl
Spinning around me- I grow blind- What art thou?
CHAMOIS HUNTER. I’ll answer that anon.- Away with me!
The clouds grow thicker- there- now lean on me-
Place your foot here- here, take this staff, and cling
A moment to that shrub- now give me your hand,
And hold fast by my girdle- softly- well-
The Chalet will be gain’d within an hour.
Come on, we’ll quickly find a surer footing,
And something like a pathway, which the torrent
Hath wash’d since winter.- Come, ’tis bravely done;
You should have been a hunter.- Follow me.
[As they descend the rocks with difficulty, the scene closes.]