Page images
[blocks in formation]

[This drama was begun at Pisa in 1821, but was not pub. lished till January, 1824. Mr. Medwin says,

"On my calling on Lord Byron one morning, he produced the Deformed Transformed.' Handing it to Shelley, he said Shelley, I have been writing a Faustish kind of drama tell me what you think of it. After reading it attentively, Shelley returned it. 'Well,' said Lord B., how do you like it? Least,' replied he, of any thing I ever saw of yours. It is a bad imitation of Faust,' and besides, there are two entire lines of Southey's in it.' Lord Byron changed colour immediately, and asked hastily, what lines?' Shelley repeated,

And water shall see thee, And fear thee, and flee thee.'

They are in the Curse of Kehama.' His Lordship instantly threw the poem into the fire. He seemed to feel no chagrin at seeing it consume—at least his countenance betrayed none, and his conversation became more gay and lively than usual. Whether it was hatred of Southey, or respect for Shelley's opinion, which made him commit the act that I considered a sort of suicide, was always doubtful to me. I was never more surprised than to see, two years afterwards, The Deformed Transformed' announced (supposing it to have perished at Pisa); but it seems that he must have had another copy of the manuscript, or that he had re-written it perhaps, without changing a word, except omitting the Kehama lines. His memory was remarkably retentive of his own writings. I be lieve he could have quoted almost every line he ever wrote." Mrs. Shelley, whose copy of "The Deformed Transformed" lies before us, has written as follows on the fly-leaf:

"This had long been a favourite subject with Lord Byron. I think that he mentioned it also in Switzerland. I copied ithe sending a portion of it at a time, as it was finished, to me. At this time he had a great horror of its being said that he plagiarised, or that he studied for ideas, and wrote with difficulty. Thus he gave Shelley Aikin's edition of the British Poets, that it might not be found in his house by some English lounger, and reported home: thus, too, he always dated when he began and when he ended a poem, to prove hereafter how quickly it was done. I do not think that he altered a line in this drama after he had once written it down. He composed and

corrected in his mind. I do not know how he meant to finish it; but he said himself, that the whole conduct of the story was already conceived. It was at this time that a brutal paragraph alluding to his lameness appeared, which he re

And never seen the light!


But as thou hast - hence, hence - and do thy best! That back of thine may bear its burthen; 'tis

More high, if not so broad as that of others.

[ocr errors]

Arn. It bears its burthen; but, my heart! Will it Sustain that which you lay upon it, mother?

I love, or, at the least, I loved you: nothing

peated to me; lest I should hear it first from some one else. No action of Lord Byron's life scarce a line he has written -but was influenced by his personal defect."]

2 [Published in 1803, the work of a Joshua Pickersgill, jun.] 3 [A clever anonymous critic thus sarcastically opens his notice of this poem: "The reader has no doubt often heard of the Devil and Dr. Faustus: this is but a new birth of the same unrighteous couple, who are christened, however, by the noble hierophant who presides over the infernal ceremony, Julius Cæsar and Count Arnold. The drama opens with a scene between the latter, who is to all appearance a well-disposed young man, of a very deformed person, and his mother: this good lady, with somewhat less maternal piety about her than adorns the mother-ape in the fable, turns her dutiful incubus of a son out of doors to gather wood. Arnold, upon this, proceeds incontinently to kill himself, by falling, after the manner of Brutus, on his wood-knife: he is, however, piously dissuaded from this guilty act, by whom does the reader think? A monk, perhaps, or a methodist preacher? no;-but by the Devil himself, in the shape of a tall black man, who rises, like an African water god, out of a fountain. To this stranger, after the exchange of a few sinister compliments, Arnold, without more ado, sells his soul, for the privilege of wearing the beautiful form of Achilles. In the midst of all this absurdity, we still, however, recognise the master-mind of our great poet: his bold and beautiful spirit flashes at intervals through the surrounding horrors, into which he has chosen to plunge after Goethe, his magnus Apollo."]

4["One of the few pages of Lord Byron's Memoranda,' which related to his early days, was where, in speaking of his own sensitiveness on the subject of his deformed foot, he described the feeling of horror and humiliation that came over him, when his mother, in one of her fits of passion, called him a lame brat!' It may be questioned, whether this drama was not indebted for its origin to this single recollection." MoORE.

"Lord Byron's own mother, when in ill humour with him, used to make the deformity in his foot the subject of taunts and reproaches. She would (we quote from a letter written by one of her relations in Scotland) pass from passionate caresses to the repulsion of actual disgust; then devour him with kisses again, and swear his eyes were as beautiful as his father's." Quar. Rev.]

Save you, in nature, can love aught like me.
You nursed me-do not kill me!
Yes I nursed thee,
Because thou wert my first-born, and I knew not
If there would be another unlike thee,
That monstrous sport of nature. But get hence,
And gather wood!


I will but when I bring it,
Speak to me kindly. Though my brothers are
So beautiful and lusty, and as free

As the free chase they follow, do not spurn me ;
Our milk has been the same.

As is the hedgehog's,
Which sucks at midnight from the wholesome dam
Of the young bull, until the milkmaid finds
The nipple next day sore and udder dry. 1
Call not thy brothers brethren! Call me not
Mother; for if I brought thee forth, it was
As foolish hens at times hatch vipers, by
Sitting upon strange eggs. Out, urchin, out!

[Exit BERTHA. She is gone, and I [must do

Arn. (solus). Oh mother! Her bidding; -wearily but willingly I would fulfil it, could I only hope A kind word in return. What shall I do? [ARNOLD begins to cut wood: in doing this he wounds one of his hands.

My labour for the day is over now.
Accursed be this blood that flows so fast;
For double curses will be my meed now

At home-What home? I have no home, no kin,
No kind -not made like other creatures, or
To share their sports or pleasures. Must I bleed too
Like them? Oh that each drop which falls to earth
Would rise a snake to sting them, as they have stung


Or that the devil, to whom they liken me,
Would aid his likeness! If I must partake
His form, why not his power? Is it because
I have not his will too? For one kind word
From her who bore me would still reconcile me
Even to this hateful aspect. Let me wash
The wound.

[ARNOLD goes to a spring, and stoops to wash
his hand: he starts back.

They are right; and Nature's mirror shows me,
What she hath made me. I will not look on it
Again, and scarce dare think on 't.

Hideous wretch

That I am! The very waters mock me with
My horrid shadow-like a demon placed
Deep in the fountain to scare back the cattle
From drinking therein.

[He pauses.
And shall I live on,
A burden to the earth, myself, and shame
Unto what brought me into life! Thou blood,
Which flowest so freely from a scratch, let me
Try if thou wilt not in a fuller stream
Pour forth my woes for ever with thyself
On earth, to which I will restore at once
This hateful compound of her atoms, and
Resolve back to her elements, and take
The shape of any reptile save myself,

And make a world for myriads of new worms!
This knife! now let me prove if it will sever
This wither'd slip of nature's nightshade- my

[This is now generally believed to be a vulgar error; the smallness of the animal's mouth rendering it incapable of the

Vile form-from the creation, as it hath The green bough from the forest.

[ARNOLD places the knife in the ground, with
the point upwards.
Now 't is set,

And I can fall upon it. Yet one glance
On the fair day, which sees no foul thing like
Myself, and the sweet sun which warm'd me, but
In vain. The birds- how joyously they sing!
So let them, for I would not be lamented:
But let their merriest notes be Arnold's knell;
The fallen leaves my monument; the murmur
Of the near fountain my sole elegy.
Now, knife, stand firmly, as I fain would fall!
[As he rushes to throw himself upon the knife, his
eye is suddenly caught by the fountain, which
seems in motion.

The fountain moves without a wind: but shall
The ripple of a spring change my resolve?
No. Yet it moves again! The waters stir,
Not as with air, but by some subterrane
And rocking power of the internal world.
What's here? A mist! No more?

[A cloud comes from the fountain. He stands
gazing upon it; it is dispelled, and a tall
black man comes towards him.

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

Stran. His brow was girt with laurels more than You see his aspect-choose it, or reject.

I can but promise you his form : his fame
Must be long sought and fought for.
I will fight too,
But not as a mock Cæsar. Let him pass;
His aspect may be fair, but suits me not.

Stran. Then you are far more difficult to please Than Cato's sister, or than Brutus's mother,

Or Cleopatra at sixteen-an age

When love is not less in the eye than heart.
But be it so! Shadow, pass on!

[The Phantom of Julius Cæsar disappears.
And can it
Be, that the man who shook the earth is gone,
And left no footstep?

Stran. There you err. His substance Left graves enough, and woes enough, and fame More than enough to track his memory; But for his shadow, 'tis no more than yours,

the earliest periods of authentic history, the Brocken has been the seat of the marvellous. For a description of the pheno menon alluded to by Lord Byron, see Sir David Brewster's "Natural Magic," p. 128.]

[blocks in formation]

But you reject him?


If his form could bring me That which redeem'd it- no. Stran.

I have no power To promise that; but you may try, and find it Easier in such a form, or in your own.

Arn. No. I was not born for philosophy, Though I have that about me which has need on 't. Let him fleet on.

Stran. Be air, thou hemlock-drinker! [The shadow of Socrates disappears : another rises. Arn. What's here? whose broad brow and whose curly beard

And manly aspect look like Hercules, 3

Save that his jocund eye hath more of Bacchus
Than the sad purger of the infernal world,
Leaning dejected on his club of conquest,
As if he knew the worthlessness of those
For whom he had fought.

[blocks in formation]

Thy Cleopatra 's waiting. [The shade of Anthony disappears: another rises.

[In one of Lord Byron's MS. Diaries we find the following passage:-" Alcibiades is said to have been successful in all his battles' but what battles ? Name them! If you mention Cæsar, or Hannibal, or Napoleon, you at once rush upon Pharsalia, Munda, Alesia, Cannæ, Thrasymene, Trebia, Lodi, Marengo, Jena, Austerlitz, Friedland, Wagram, Moskwa: but it is less easy to pitch upon the victories of Alcibiades ; though they may be named too, though not so readily as the Leuctra and Mantina of Epaminondas, the Marathon of Miltiades, the Salamis of Themistocles, and the Thermopyla of Leonidas. Yet, upon the whole, it may be doubted, whether there be a name of antiquity which comes down with such a general charm as that of Alcibiades. Why? I cannot answer. Who can ?"]

*["The outside of Socrates was that of a satyr and buffoon,

[blocks in formation]

Stran. (addressing the shadow). Get thee to Lamia's lap!

[The shade of Demetrius Poliorcetes vanishes : another rises. I'll fit you still, Fear not, my hunchback: if the shadows of That which existed please not your nice taste, I'll animate the ideal marble, till

Your soul be reconciled to her new garment.
Arn. Content! I will fix here.

I must commend
Your choice. The godlike son of the sea-goddess,
The unshorn boy of Peleus, with his locks
As beautiful and clear as the amber waves
Of rich Pactolus, roll'd o'er sands of gold,
Soften'd by intervening crystal, and
Rippled like flowing waters by the wind,
All vow'd to Sperchius as they were-1 behold them!
And him--as he stood by Polixena,

With sanction'd and with soften'd love, before
The altar, gazing on his Trojan bride,

With some remorse within for Hector slain
And Priam weeping, mingled with deep passion
For the sweet downcast virgin, whose young hand
Trembled in his who slew her brother. So
He stood i' the temple! Look upon him as
Greece look'd her last upon her best, the instant
Ere Paris' arrow flew.


I gaze upon him As if I were his soul, whose form shall soon Envelope mine.

The greatest

Stran. You have done well. Deformity should only barter with The extremest beauty, if the proverb 's true Of mortals, that extremes meet. Arn.

I am impatient. Stran.

Come! Be quick!

As a youthful beauty

but his soul was all virtue, and from within him came such divine and pathetic things, as pierced the heart, and drew tears from the hearers." PLATO.]

3 ["His face was as the heavens; and therein stuck A sun and moon; which kept their course, and lighted The little O, the earth.

His legs bestrid the ocean: his rear'd arm Crested the world: his voice was propertied As all the tuned spheres," &c. - SHAKSPEARE.] ["The beauty and mien of Demetrius Poliorcetes were so inimitable, that no statuary or painter could hit off a likeness. His countenance had a mixture of grace and dignity, and was at once amiable and awful, and the unsubdued and cager air of youth was blended with the majesty of the hero and the king." PLUTARCH.]

[blocks in formation]

Of Anak?


Why not?

Glorious ambition!
I love thee most in dwarfs ! A mortal of
Philistine stature would have gladly pared
His own Goliath down to a slight David:
But thou, my manikin, wouldst soar a show
Rather than hero. Thou shalt be indulged,
If such be thy desire; and yet, by being
A little less removed from present men
In figure, thou canst sway them more; for all
Would rise against thee now, as if to hunt

A new-found mammoth; and their cursed engines,
Their culverins, and so forth, would find way
Through our friend's armour there, with greater ease
Than the adulterer's arrow through his heel,
Which Thetis had forgotten to baptize

[blocks in formation]

By heart and soul, and make itself the equal-
Ay, the superior of the rest. There is
A spur in its halt movements, to become

All that the others cannot, in such things
As still are free to both, to compensate
For stepdame Nature's avarice at first.

They woo with fearless deeds the smiles of fortune,
And oft, like Timour the lame Tartar, win them. 2
Stran. Well spoken! And thou doubtless wilt

Form'd as thou art. I may dismiss the mould
Of shadow, which must turn to flesh, to incase
This daring soul, which could achieve no less
Without it.
Arn. Had no power presented me
The possibility of change, I would

Have done the best which spirit may to make
Its way with all deformity's dull, deadly,
Discouraging weight upon me, like a mountain,
In feeling, on my heart as on my shoulders
An hateful and unsightly molehill, to

The eyes of happier man. I would have look'd
On beauty in that sex which is the type
Of all we know or dream of beautiful
Beyond the world they brighten, with a sigh-
Not of love, but despair; nor sought to win,
Though to a heart all love, what could not love me

!["Whosoever," says Lord Bacon," hath any thing fixed in his person that doth induce contempt, hath also a perpetual spur in himself to rescue and deliver himself from scorn; therefore, all deformed persons are extreme bold; first, as in their own defence, as being exposed to scorn, but in process of time by a general habit: also it stirreth in them industry, and especially of this kind, to watch and observe the weakness of others, that they may have somewhat to repay. Again, in their superiors, it quencheth jealousy towards thein, as persons that they think they may at pleasure despise: and it layeth their competitors and emulators asleep, as never be lieving they should be in possibility of advancement till they

In turn, because of this vile crooked clog,
Which makes me lonely. Nay, I could have borne
It all, had not my mother spurn'd me from her.
The she-bear licks her cubs into a sort
Of shape; -my dam beheld my shape was hopeless.
Had she exposed me, like the Spartan, ere
I knew the passionate part of life, I had
Been a clod of the valley,-happier nothing
Than what I am. But even thus, the lowest,
Ugliest, and meanest of mankind, what courage
And perseverance could have done, perchance
Had made me something-as it has made heroes
Of the same mould as mine. You lately saw me
Master of my own life, and quick to quit it;
And he who is so is the master of
Whatever dreads to die.

[blocks in formation]

see them in possession: so that upon the matter, in a great wit, deformity is an advantage to rising." — Essay lv.]

2 ["Lord Byron's chief incentive, when a boy, to distinction, was that mark of deformity, by an acute sense of which he was first stung into the ambition of being great. In one of his letters to Mr. Hunt, he declares it to be his own opinion that an addiction to poetry is very generally the result of an uneasy mind in an uneasy body; disease or deformity,' he adds, have been the attendants of many of our best: Collins mad-Chatterton, I think, mad- Cowper mad- l'ope crooked-Milton blind,' &c. &c." MOORE]

« PreviousContinue »