Back to Index

Manfred and the Seven Spirits

by George Gordon Byron, 1881

(Manfred, Act 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
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.—
                    Mysterious Agency!
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
  ’Twill 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?

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?

  Man.  Forgetfulness—
  First Spirit.

Published in Poetry of Byron

Any corrections or public domain poems I should have here? Email me at poems (at) this domain.