Page images
PDF
EPUB

MANFRED ON THE CLIFFS.

(MANFRED, Act i. Scene 2.)

The Mountain of the Jungfrau.-Time, Morning.–

MANFRĖD alone upon the Cliffs.

Man. The spirits I have raised abandon meThe spells which I have studied baffle meThe 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 for ever—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 reedFor 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 blest 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 free-born peasant's, at this distance--
I will approach him nearer.

Man. (not perceiving the other.) To be thus-
Grey-hair'd with anguish, like these blasted pines,
Wrecks of a single winter, barkless, branchless,
A blighted trunk upon a cursed root,
Which but supplies a feeling to decay-
And to be thus, eternally but thus,
Having been otherwise! Now furrow'd 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.

C. Hun. 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.

Man. 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.

C. Hun. I must approach him cautiously ; if near,
A sudden step will startle him, and he
Seems tottering already.
Man.

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?
C. Hun.

Friend ! have a care,
Your next step may be fatal !—for the love
Of Him who made you, stand not on that brink !
Man. (not hearing him.) Such would have been for

me a fitting tomb ; 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 beIn this one plunge.-Farewell, ye opening heavens ! Look not upon me thus reproachfullyYe 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. C. Hun. 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.

Man. I am most sick at heart—nay, grasp me notI am all feebleness, the mountains whirl Spinning around me-- - I grow blind-What art

thou ?

C. Hun. I'll answer that anon. --Away with me-The clouds grow thicker- there—now lean on mePlace 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-wellThe Chalet will be gain'd within an hourCome on, we'll quickly find a surer footing, And something like a pathway, which the torrent Hath wash'd since winter.—Come, tis bravely doneYou should have been a hunter.- Follow me.

[They descend the rocks.

« PreviousContinue »