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Lord Byron (1788–1824). Manfred.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Act II

Scene III

The Summit of the Jungfrau Mountain.


The moon is rising broad, and round, and bright;

And here on snows, where never human foot

Of common mortal trod, we nightly tread,

And leave no traces; o’er the savage sea,

The glassy ocean of the mountain ice,

We skim its rugged breakers, which put on

The aspect of a tumbling tempest’s foam,

Frozen in a moment—a dead whirlpool’s image.

And this most steep fantastic pinnacle,

The fretwork of some earthquake—where the clouds

Pause to repose themselves in passing by—

Is sacred to our revels, or our vigils.

Here do I wait my sisters, on our way

To the Hall of Arimanes, for to—night

Is our great festival—’t is strange they come not.

A Voice without, singing

The Captive Usurper,

Hurl’d down from the throne,

Lay buried in torpor,

Forgotten and lone;

I broke through his slumbers,

I shiver’d his chain,

I leagued him with numbers—

He’s Tyrant again!

With the blood of a million he’ll answer my care,

With a nation’s destruction—his flight and despair.

Second Voice, without

The ship sail’d on, the ship sail’d fast,

But I left not a sail, and I left not a mast;

There is not a plank of the hull or the deck,

And there is not a wretch to lament o’er his wreck;

Save one, whom I held, as he swam, by the hair,

And he was a subject well worthy my care;

A traitor on land, and a pirate at sea—

But I saved him to wreak further havoc for me!

FIRST DESTINY, answering

The city lies sleeping;

The morn, to deplore it,

May dawn on it weeping:

Sullenly, slowly,

The black plague flew o’er it,—

Thousands lie lowly;

Tens of thousands shall perish—

The living shall fly from

The sick they should cherish:

But nothing can vanquish

The touch that they die from.

Sorrow and anguish,

And evil and dread,

Envelope a nation—

The blest are the dead,

Who see not the sight

Of their own desolation;

This work of a night—

This wreck of a realm—this deed of my doing—

For ages I’ve done, and shall still be renewing!


The Three

Our hands contain the hearts of men,

Our footsteps are their graves;

We only give to take again

The spirits of our slaves!

First Des.Welcome! Where’s Nemesis?

Second Des.At some great work;

But what I know not, for my hands were full.

Third Des.Behold she cometh.


First Des.Say, where hast thou been?

My sisters and thyself are slow to—night.

Nem.I was detain’d repairing shatter’d thrones,

Marrying fools, restoring dynasties,

Avenging men upon their enemies,

And making them repent their own revenge;

Goading the wise to madness; from the dull

Shaping out oracles to rule the world

Afresh, for they were waxing out of date,

And mortals dared to ponder for themselves,

To weigh kings in the balance, and to speak

Of freedom, the forbidden fruit.—Away!

We have outstay’d the hour—mount we our clouds![Exeunt.