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The Deformed Transformed:
THIS production is founded partly on the story of a novel called "The Three Brothers 2," published many years ago, from which M. G. Lewis's "Wood Demon" was also taken, and partly on the "Faust" of the great Goethe. The present publication contains the two first Parts only, and the opening chorus of the third. The rest may, perhaps, appear hereafter.
STRANGER, afterwards CESAR. ARNOLD.
Spirits, Soldiers, Citizens of Rome, Priests, Peasants, &c.
[This drama was begun at Pisa in 1821, but was not published 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
The Deformed Transformed.
Enter ARNOLD and his mother BERTHA.
Bert. OUT, hunchback!
Would that I had been so,
Arn. And never seen the light! Bert. I would so too! 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.
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
I was born so, mother! 4 Out, Of seven sons,
to 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.
But get hence,
Arn. 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.
Bert. 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. Arn. (solus). Oh mother! She is gone, and I Her bidding; wearily but willingly [must do
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
My labour for the day is over now.
Or that the devil, to whom they liken me,
[ARNOLD goes to a spring, and stoops to wash his hand: he starts back.
They are right; and Nature's mirror shows me,
[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
[As he rushes to throw himself upon the knife, his
The fountain moves without a wind: but shall
[A cloud comes from the fountain. He stands
What would you? Speak!
As man is both, why not
Your form is man's, and yet
You have interrupted me.
Stran. What is that resolution which can e'er Be interrupted? If I be the devil
You deem, a single moment would have made you
Mine, and for ever, by your suicide;
And yet my coming saves you.
Do you dare you To taunt me with my born deformity ? Strun. Were I to taunt a buffalo with this Cloven foot of thine, or the swift dromedary With thy sublime of humps, the animals Would revel in the complimer.t. And yet Both beings are more swift, more strong, more mighty In action and endurance than thyself,
And all the fierce and fair of the same kind
With thee. Thy form is natural: t'was only
mischief laid to its charge. For an amusing controversy on the subject, see Gent. Mag. vols. lxxx. and ixxxi.]
Arn. Give me the strength then of the buffalo's
When he spurs high the dust, beholding his
Arn. (with surprise). Thou canst ?
Perhaps. Would you aught else?
Thou canst not yet speak mine), the forester
To petty burghers, who leave once a year
Then waste not
A little of your blood.
This is a well-known German superstition - a gigantic shadow produced by reflection on the Brocken. [The Brocken is the name of the lottiest of the Hartz mountains, a picturesque range which lies in the kingdom of Hanover. From
Arn. What do I see?
[Various Phantoms arise from the waters, and pass in succession before the Stranger and
No; I will not.
Not in your own.
Arn. Whose blood then?
Are you content?
turns to ARNOLD.
[The Stranger approaches the fountain, and Be, that the man who shook the
The black-eyed Roman, with
The land he made not Rome's, while Rome became
Arn. The phantom's bald; my quest is beauty.
Stran. His brow was girt with laurels more than
I can but promise you his form his fame
Stran. Then you are far more difficult to please
When love is not less in the eye than heart.
[The Phantom of Julius Cæsar disappears.
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.]
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
Stran. • Since so far You seem congenial, will you wear his features? Arn. No. As you leave me choice, I am difficult, If but to see the heroes I should ne'er Have seen else on this side of the dim shore Whence they float back before us.
Stran. Thy Cleopatra's waiting. [The shade of Anthony disappears: another rises.
1 [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? cannot answer. Who can?"]
In all that nameless bearing of his limbs,
Was he e'er human only ? +
Of the more solid gold that form'd his urn.
The shame Of Greece in peace, her thunderbolt in warDemetrius the Macedonian, and
Taker of cities.
Yet one shadow more. Stran. (addressing the shadow). Get thee to Lamia's lap!
[The shade of Demetrius Poliorcetes vanishes : 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. Stran. 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-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.
["The outside of Socrates was that of a satyr and buffoon, king."- PLUTARCH.]
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
His legs bestrid the ocean: his rear'd arm Crested the world: his voice was propertied As all the tuned spheres," &c.— SHAKSPEARE.] 4["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
Before her glass. You both see what is not,
Must I wait?
Stran. No; that were a pity. But a word or two: His stature is twelve cubits; would you so far Outstep these times, and be a Titan? Or (To talk canonically) wax a son
I love thee most in dwarfs ! A mortal of
Arn. Then let it be as thou deem'st best. [seest, Stran. Thou shalt be beauteous as the thing thou And strong as what it was, and
I ask not
For valour, since deformity is daring. 1
They woo with fearless deeds the smiles of fortune,
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 shouldersAn 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 sighNot 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 them, as persons that they think they may at pleasure despise: and it layeth their competitors and emulators asleep, as never believing they should be in possibility of advancement till they
In turn, because of this vile crooked clog,
Of shape;-my dam beheld my shape was hopeless.
I might be fear'd, admired, respected, loved
And what shall I wear?
Who slew him, that of Paris: or-still higher-
Less will content me;
Your aspect is
For I, too, love a change.
If I chose,
I might be whiter; but I have a penchant
Can neither blush with shame nor pale with fear;
Arn. Stran. Yes. You Shall change with Thetis' son, and I with Bertha, Your mother's offspring. People have their tastes: You have yours - I mine.
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]