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Adah. Angel of Light! be merciful, nor say That this poor aching breast now nourishes A murderer in my boy, and of his father.
Angel. Then he would but be what his father is. Did not the milk of Eve give nutriment To him thou now see'st so besmear'd with blood? The fratricide might well engender parricides. — But it shall not be so-the Lord thy God And mine commandeth me to set his seal On Cain, so that he may go forth in safety. Who slayeth Cain, a sevenfold vengeance shall Be taken on his head. Come hither!
Wouldst thou with me?
Angel. To mark upon thy brow Exemption from such deeds as thou hast done. Cain. No, let me die!
It must not be.
[The ANGEL sets the mark on Cain's brow. Cain. It burns My brow, but nought to that which is within it. Is there more? let me meet it as I may.
Angel. Stern hast thou been and stubborn from the womb,
As the ground thou must henceforth till; but he
Cain. After the fall too soon was I begotten;
Angel. Who shall heal murder? what is done is done;
Go forth fulfil thy days! and be thy deeds
Cuin. Ah! little knows he what he weeps for! And I who have shed blood cannot shed tears! But the four rivers would not cleanse my soul. Think'st thou my boy will bear to look on me?
Adah. If I thought that he would not, I wouldCuin (interrupting her). No,
No more of threats: we have had too many of them: Go to our children; I will follow thee.
Adah. I will not leave thee lonely with the dead; Let us depart together.
I think thou wilt forgive him, whom his God
The catastrophe is brought about with great dramatic skill and effect. The murderer is sorrowful and confounded, - his parents reprobate and renounce him, his wife clings to him with eager and unhesitating affection; and they wander forth together into the vast solitude of the universe. — JEFFREY.]
In fondness brotherly and boyish, I
Can never meet thee more, nor even dare
But who hath dug that grave? Oh, earth! Oh, earth!
Give thee back this. -Now for the wilderness.
Not only for thyself, but him who slew thee.
[ADAH stoops down and kisses the body of Which might have graced his recent marriage couch,
Adah. A dreary, and an early doom, my brother,
[The reader has seen what Sir Walter Scott's general opinion of "Cain" was, in the letter appended to the Dedica. cation, ante, p. 317. Mr. Moore's was conveyed to Lord Byron in these words:
"I have read Foscari and Cain. The former does not please me so highly as Sardanapalus. It has the fault of all those violent Venetian stories, being unnatural and improbable, and therefore, in spite of all your fine management of them, appealing but remotely to one's sympathies. But Cain is wonderful-terrible- never to be forgotten. If I am not mistaken, it will sink deep into the world's heart; and while many will shudder at its blasphemy, all must fall prostrate before its grandeur. Talk of Eschylus and his Prometheus! here is the true spirit both of the Poet - and the Devil."
Lord Byron's answer to Mr. Moore on this occasion contains the substance of all that he ever thought fit to advance in defence of the assaulted points in his " Mystery :”—
"With respect to religion," he says, "can I never convince you that I hold no such opinions as the characters in that drama, which seems to have frightened every body? My ideas of a character may run away with me: like all imaginative men, I, of course, embody myself with the character, while I draw it, but not a moment after the pen is froin off the paper."
He thus alludes to the effects of the critical tempest excited
by Cain," in the eleventh canto of " Don Juan :".
"In twice five years the greatest living poet,'
Is call'd on to support his claim, or show it,
Nor sought of foolscap subjects to be king-
My Leipsic, and my Mont Saint Jean seems Cain." We shall now present the reader with a few of the most elaborate summaries of the contemporary critics, favourable and unfavourable — beginning with the Edinburgh Review.
Mr. Jeffrey says, "Though Cain' abounds in beautiful passages, and shows more power, perhaps, than any of the author's dramatical compositions, we regret very much that it should ever have been published. ... Lord Byron has no priestlike cant or priestlike reviling to apprehend from us. We do not charge him with being either a disciple or an apostle of Lucifer; nor do we describe his poetry as a mere compound of blasphemy and obscenity. On the contrary, we are inclined to believe that he wishes well to the happiness of mankind, and are glad to testify that his poems abound with sentiments of great dignity and tenderness, as well as passages of infinite sublimity and beauty. . . . . Philosophy and poetry are both very good things in their way; but, in our opinion, they do not go very well together. It is but a poor and pedantic sort of poetry that seeks to embody nothing but metaphysical subtleties and abstract deductions of reason- and a very suspicious philosophy that aims at establishing its doctrines by appeals to the passions and the fancy. Though such arguments, however, are worth little in the schools, it does not follow that their effect is inconsiderable in the world. On the contrary, it is the mischief of all poetical paradoxes, that, from the very limits and end of poetry, which deals only in obvious and glancing views, they are never brought to the fair test of argument. An allusion to a doubtful topic will
Adah. Peace be with him!
But with me!!
often pass for a definitive conclusion on it; and, clothed in beautiful language, may leave the most pernicious impressions behind. We therefore think that poets ought fairly to be confined to the established creed and morality of their country, or to the actual passions and sentiments of mankind; and that poetical dreamers and sophists who pretend to theorise according to their feverish fancies, without a warrant from authority or reason, ought to be banished the commonwealth of letters. In the courts of morality, poets are unexceptionable witnesses: they may give in the evidence, and depose to facts whether good or ill; but we demur to their arbitrary and self-pleasing summing up; they are suspected judges, and not very often safe advocates, where great questions are concerned, and universal principles brought to issue."
The Reviewer in the Quarterly was the late Bishop Heber. His article ends as follows:
"We do not think, indeed, that there is much vigour or poetical propriety in any of the characters of Lord Byron's Mystery. Eve, on one occasion, and one only, expresses herself with energy, and not even then with any great depth of that maternal feeling which the death of her favourite son was likely to excite in her. Adam moralises without diguity. Abel is as dull as he is pious. Lucifer, though his first appear. ance is well conceived, is as sententious and sarcastic as a Scotch metaphysician; and the gravamina which drive Cain into impiety are circumstances which could only produce a similar effect on a weak and sluggish mind, the necessity of exertion and the fear of death! Yet, in the happiest climate of earth, and amid the early vigour of nature, it would be absurd to describe (nor has Lord Byron so described it) the toil to which Cain can have been subject as excessive or burdensome. And he is made too happy in his love too extravagantly fond of his wife and his child, to have much leisure for those gloomy thoughts which belong to disappointed ambition and jaded licentiousness. Nor, though there are some passages in this drama of no common power, is the general tone of its poetry so excellent as to atone for these imperfections of design. The dialogue is cold and constrained. The descriptions are like the shadows of a phantasmagoria, at once indistinct and artificial. Except Adah, there is no person in whose fortunes we are interested; and we close the book with no distinct or clinging recollection of any single passage in it, and with the general impression only that Lucifer has said much and done little, and that Cain has been unhappy without grounds and wicked without an object. But if, as a poem, Cain is little qualified to add to Lord Byron's reputation, we are unfortunately constrained to observe that its poetical defects are the very smallest of its demerits. It is not, indeed, as some both of its admirers and its enemies appear to have supposed, a direct attack on Scripture and on the authority of Moses. The expressions of Cain and Lucifer are not more offensive to the ears of piety than such discourses must necessarily be, or than Milton, without offence, has put into the mouths of beings similarly situated. And though the inten. tion is evident which has led the Atheists and Jacobins (the terms are convertible) of our metropolis to circulate the work in a cheap form among the populace, we are not ourselves of opinion that it possesses much power of active mischief, or that many persons will be very deeply or lastingly impressed by insinuations which lead to no practical result, and difficulties which so obviously transcend the range of human experience."
It is not unamusing to compare the above with the following paragraph in one of the Bishop's private letters at the time:
"I have been very busy since I came home in reviewing Lord Byron's dramatic poems. Of course, I have had occasion to find a reasonable quantity of fault, but I do not think
that I have done him injustice. Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt.' I should have liked to have taken up the same ground in a great degree with Jeffrey; but, as it will never do to build on another man's foundation, I have been obliged to break ground on a different side of the fortress, though not, I think, so favourable a one, and with the disadvantage of con. tending against a rival, who has conducted his attack with admirable taste and skill."
The following extract is from Mr. Campbell's Magazine :— "Cain' is altogether of a higher order than Sardanapalus and the Two Foscari.' Lord Byron has not, indeed, fulfilled our expectations of a gigantic picture of the first murderer; for there is scarcely any passion, except the immediate agony of rage, which brings on the catastrophe; and Cain himself is little more than the subject of supernatural agency. This piece is essentially nothing but a vehicle for striking allusions to the mighty abstractions of Death and Life, Eternity and Time; for vast but dim descriptions of the regions of space, and for daring disputations on that great problem, the origin of evil. The groundwork of the arguments on the awful subjects handled is very common-place; but they are arrayed in great majesty of language, and conducted with a frightful audacity. The direct attacks on the goodness of God are not, perhaps, taken apart, bolder than some passages of Milton; but they inspire quite a different sensation; because, in thinking of Paradise Lost, we never regard the Deity, or Satan, as other than great adverse powers, created by the imagination of the poet. The personal identity which Milton has given to his spiritual intelligences, -the local habitations which he has assigned them, the material beauty with which he has invested their forms, all these remove the idea of impurity from their discourses. But we know nothing of Lord Byron's Lucifer, except his speeches: he is invented only that he may utter them; and the whole appears an abstract discussion, held for its own sake, not maintained in order to serve the dramatic consistency of the persons. He has made no attempt to imitate Milton's plastic power; that power by which our great poet has made his Heaven and Hell, and the very regions of space, sublime realities, palpable to the imagination, and has traced the lineaments of his angelic messengers with the precision of a sculptor. The Lucifer of Cain' is a mere bodiless abstraction, the shadow of a dogma; and all the scenery over which he presides is dim, vague, and seen only in faint outline. There is, no doubt, a very uncommon power displayed, even in this shadowing out of the ethereal journey of the spirit and his victim, and in the vast sketch of the world of phantasms at which they arrive: but they are utterly unlike the massive grandeurs of Milton's creation. We are far from imputing intentional impiety to Lord Byron for this Mystery; nor, though its language occasionally shocks, do we apprehend any danger will arise from its perusal."
So much for the professed Reviewers. We shall conclude with a passage from Sir Egerton Brydges's "Letters on the Character and Genius of Lord Byron: ".
"One of the pieces which have had the effect of throwing the most unfavourable hues, not upon the brilliancy of Lord Byron's poetry, but upon its results to society, is Cain.' Yet, it must be confessed, that there is no inconsiderable portion of that poem which is second only to portions of similar import in Milton, and many of them not second; in a style still sweeter and more eloquent, and with equal force, grandeur, and purity of sentiment and conception; such as the most rigidly-religious mind would have read, if it had come from Milton, or any other poet whose piety was not suspected, as the effusion of something approaching to holy inspiration.
"Let us then task our candour, and inquire of ourselves, whether he who could write such passages could mean wrong? Let us recollect, that as the rebellious and blasphemous speeches he has put into the mouths of Lucifer and Cain are warranted by Milton's example, and the fact of Cain's transgression recorded in the Bible, the omission of the design and filling up a character who should answer all those speeches might be a mere defect in the poet's judgment. He might think that Lucifer's known character as an Evil Spirit precluded his arguments from the sanction of authority; and that Cain's punishment, and the denunciations which accompanied it, were a sufficient warning. I know not that any objection has been made to Heaven and Earth.' It has the same cast of excellence as the more perfect parts of Cain,' but, perhaps, not quite so intense in degree.
"It seems as if Lord Byron persuaded himself, with regard to his own being, that he had always within him two contrary spirits of good and evil contending for the dominion over him, and thus reconciled those extraordinary flights of intellectual elevation and purity with a submission to the pride, the ferocity, the worldly passions, the worldly enjoyments, the corporeal pastimes, the familiar humour, the vulgarisms, the rough and coarse manliness, to which he alternately surrendered himself, and which the good-natured public chose to consider as the sole attributes of his personal character. Much of his time, however, must have been spent in the musings by which these high poems, so compacted of the essence of thought, were produced; and, in all this large portion of his existence here, his imagination must have borne him up on its wings into ethereal regions, far above the gross and sensual enjoyments of this grovelling earth. Did he deal, as minor poets deal, in mere splendour of words, his poetry would be no proof of this; but he never does so: - there is always a breathing soul beneath his words,
"If Lord Byron thought that, however loudly noisy voices might salute him with a rude and indiscriminate clamour of applause, his poems were not received with the taste and judgment they merited, and that severe and cruel comments were attached to them by those who assumed to themselves authority, and who seldom allowed the genius without perverting it into a cause of censure, that more than outweighed the praise; those fumes of flattery which are imputed as the causes of a delirium that led him into extravagancies, outraging decorum and the respect due to the public, never, in fact, reached him. To confer faint praise' is to damn; to confer praise in a wrong place is to insult and provoke. Lord Byron, therefore, had not, after all, the encouragement that is most favourable to ripen the richest fruit; and it was a firm and noble courage that still prompted him to persevere.
"For this reason, as well as for others, I think his foreign residences were more propitious to the energies of his Muse than a continued abode in England would have been. The poison of the praises that were insidious did not reach him so soon; and he was not beset by treacherous companions, mortifying gossip, and that petty intercourse with ordinary society which tames and lowers the tone of the mind. Το mingle much with the world is to be infallibly degraded by familiarity; not to mingle, at least, among the busy and the known, is to incur the disrespect to which insignificance is subjected. Lord Byron's foreign residence exempted him from these evils: he saw a few intimate friends, and he corresponded with a few others; but such an intercourse does not expose to similar effects. The necessary knowledge and necessary hints may thus be conveyed; but not all the pestilent chills which general society is so officious to unveil.
"If Lord Byron had not had a mind with a strong spring of virtue within it, I think that he would have thrown down his pen at some of the attacks he received, and given himself up to the sensual pleasures of his rank for the remainder of his life. The finer parts of his poems were of such spiritual splendour, and so pure, though passionate, an elevation, that they ought to have redeemed any parts which were open to doubt from a malevolent construction, and even have eclipsed and rendered unnoticeable many positive faults. Lord By. ron's style, like his thoughts, had every variety: it did not attempt (as is the common practice) to make poetry by the metaphorical and the figurative; it followed his thoughts, and was a part of them: it did not fatigue itself to render clear by illustration or important by ornament, because the thought was clear or important in itself.
"I remember, when I first read Cain,' I thought it, as a composition, the most enchanting and irresistible of all Lord Byron's works; and I think so still. Some of the sentiments, taken detachedly, and left unanswered, are no doubt dangerous, and therefore ought not to have been so left; but the class of readers whom this poem is likely to interest are of so very elevated a cast, and the effect of the poetry is to refine, spiritualise, and illumine the imagination with such a sort of unearthly sublimity, that the mind of these, I am persuaded, will becoine too strong to incur any taint thus predicted, from the defect which has been so much insisted on."]
Werner; or the Enheritance :
BY ONE OF HIS HUMBLEST ADMIRERS,
THE following drama is taken entirely from the "German's Tale, Kruitzner," published many years ago in Lee's Canterbury Tales; written (I believe) by two sisters, of whom one furnished only this story and another, both of which are considered superior to the remainder of the collection. 2 I have adopted the characters, plan, and even the language, of many parts of this story. Some of the characters are modified or altered, a few of the names changed, and one character, Ida of Stralenheim, added by myself; but in the rest the original is chiefly followed. When I was young (about fourteen, I think,) I first read this tale, which made a deep impression upon me; and may, indeed, be said to contain the germ of much that I have since written. I am not sure that it ever was very popular; or, at any rate, its popularity has since been eclipsed by that of other great writers in the same department. But I have generally found that those who had read it, agreed with me in their estimate of the singular power of mind and conception which it developes. I should also add conception,
[The tragedy of "Werner" was begun at Pisa, December 18th, 1821, completed January 20th, 1822, and published in London in the November following. The reviews of " Werner" were, without exception, unfavourable. One critique of the time thus opens:
"Who could be so absurd as to think, that a dramatist has no right to make free with other people's fables? On the contrary, we are quite aware that that particular species of genius which is exhibited in the construction of plots, never at any period flourished in England. We all know that Shakspeare himself took his stories from Italian novels, Danish sagas, English Chronicles, Plutarch's Lives - from any where rather than from his own invention. But did he take the whole of Hamlet, or Juliet, or Richard the Third, or Antony and Cleopatra, from any of these foreign sources ? Did he not invent, in the noblest sense of the word, all the characters of his pieces? Who dreams that any old Italian novelist, or ballad-maker, could have formed the imagination of such a creature as Juliet? Who dreams that the HAMLET of Shakspeare, the princely enthusiast, the melancholy philosopher, that spirit refined even to pain, that most incomprehensible and unapproachable of all the creations of human genius, is the same being, in any thing but the name, with the rough, strong-hearted, bloody-handed AMLETT of the north? Who is there that supposes Goethe to have taken the character of his Faust from the nursery rhymes and penny pamphlets about the Devil and Doctor Faustus? Or who, to come nearer home, imagines that Lord Byron himself found his Sardanapalus in Dionysius of Halicarnassus?
"But here Lord Byron has invented nothing-absolutely NOTHING. There is not one incident in his play, not even the most trivial, that is not to be found in Miss Lee's novel, occuring exactly in the same manner, brought about by exactly the same agents, and producing exactly the same effects on the plot. And then as to the characters-not only is every
rather than execution; for the story might, perhaps, have been developed with greater advantage. Amongst those whose opinions agreed with mine upon this story, I could mention some very high names: but it is not necessary, nor indeed of any use; for every one must judge according to his own feelings. I merely refer the reader to the original story, that he may see to what extent I have borrowed from it; and am not unwilling that he should find much greater pleasure in perusing it than the drama which is founded upon its contents.
one of them to be found in Kruitzner,' but every one is to be found there more fully and powerfully developed. Indeed, but for the preparation which we had received from our old familiarity with Miss Lee's own admirable work, we rather incline to think that we should have been unable to comprehend the gist of her noble imitator, or rather copier, in several of what seem to be meant for his most elaborate delineations. The fact is, that this undeviating closeness, this humble fidelity of imitation, is a thing so perfectly new in any thing worthy of the name of literature, that we are sure no one, who has not read the Canterbury Tales, will be able to form the least conception of what it amounts to.
"Those who have never read Miss Lee's book, will, however, be pleased with this production; for, in truth, the story is one of the most powerfully conceived, one of the most picturesque, and at the same time instructive stories, that we are acquainted with,
Kruitzner, or the German's Tale,' possesses mystery, and yet clearness, as to its structure; strength of characters, and admirable contrast of characters; and, above all, the most lively interest, blended with and subservient to the most affecting of moral lessons."
The reader will find a minute analysis, introduced by the above remarks, in Blackwood, vol. xií. p. 710.]
[This is not correct. "The Young Lady's Tale, or the Two Emily's," and "the Clergyman's Tale, or Pembroke," were contributed by Sophia Lee, the author of " The Recess," the comedy of "The Chapter of Accidents," and "Almedya, a Tragedy," who died in 1824. The "German's Tale," and all the others in the Canterbury Collection, were written by Harriet, the younger of the sisters.]
3 [Werner is, however, the only one of Lord Byron's dramas that proved successful in representation. It is still (1836) in possession of the stage.]
Scene-Partly on the Frontier of Silesia, and partly Let me be wretched with the rest!
Time-the Close of the Thirty Years' War.
[Werner - we mean Kruitzner is admirably drawn. Who does not recognise in him the portrait of too common a character? The man of shining talent, ardent mind, powerful connections, brilliant prospects, who, after squandering away all in wanton self-indulgence, having lived only for himself, finds himself bankrupt in fortune and character, the prey of bitter regret, yet unrepentant, as selfish in remorse as in his gaiety. All that is inconsistent in the character of Kruitzner is rendered still more so in the Werner of the drama. Ecl. Rev.]
2 [In this play, Lord Byron adopts the same nerveless and pointless kind of blank verse, which was a sorrow to every body in his former dramatic essays. It is, indeed, "most unmusical, most melancholy."-"Ofs," "tos," "ands," "fors,' "bys," "buts," and the like, are the most common
Wer. (approaching her slowly). But for thee I had
But much of good and evil; what I am,
Thou knowest; what I might or should have been,
[WERNER walks on abruptly, and then approaches
The storm of the night
In watching me.
To see thee well is much
Where hast thou seen such?
A hunter, and a traveller, and am
A beggar, and should know the thing thou talk'st of.
And that is something.
Wer. True-to a peasant.
Well? Wer. Something beyond cur outward sufferings (though
These were enough to gnaw into our souls)
conclusions of a line; there is no ease, no flow, no harmony, "in linked sweetness long drawn out:" neither is there any thing of abrupt fiery vigour to compensate for these defects. Blackwood.]
3 [In this drama there is absolutely no poetry to be found; and if the measure of verse which is here dealt to us be a sample of what we are to expect for the future, we have only to entreat that Lord Byron will drop the ceremony of cutting up his prose into lines of ten, eleven, or twelve syllables (for he is not very punctilious on this head), and favour us with it in its natural state. It requires no very cunning alchemy to transmute his verse into prose, nor, reversing the experiment, to convert his plain sentences into verses like his own."When," says Werner, "but for this untoward sickness, which seized me upon this desolate frontier, and hath