Sunday 16 December 2012

The Incantation

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.

The above picture and verse were shared by a friend on Facebook the other day. I thought it was rather beautiful. The verse itself is Byron. It goes on:

    From these our interviews, in which I steal
    From all I may be, or have been before,
    To mingle with the Universe, and feel
    What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.

With such love of nature, it sounds more like Shelley, a man Francis Thompson described after his death as having: 

[T]he child's faculty of make-believe raised to the nth power... [Shelley] is still at play, save only that his play is such as manhood stops to watch, and his playthings are those which the gods give their children. The universe is his box of toys. He dabbles his fingers in the dayfall. He is gold-dusty with tumbling amidst the stars. - Wiki

Shelley is the guardian of what we aspire to be. Byron bears testament to what we probably are: mad, bad and dangerous to know. Why else would we love him but for his Darkness? Irresistibly dystopian and poetic in vengeance:

    When the moon is on the wave,
    And the glow-worm in the grass,
    And the meteor on the grave,
    And the wisp on the morass;       
    When the falling stars are shooting,
    And the answer’d owls are hooting,
    And the silent leaves are still
    In the shadow of the hill,
    Shall my soul be upon thine,       
    With a power and with a sign.
    Though thy slumber may be deep,
    Yet thy spirit shall not sleep;
    There are shades which will not vanish,
    There are thoughts thou canst not banish;       
    By a power to thee unknown,
    Thou canst never be alone;
    Thou art wrapt as with a shroud,
    Thou art gather’d in a cloud;
    And for ever shalt thou dwell       
    In the spirit of this spell.
    Though thou seest me not pass by,
    Thou shalt feel me with thine eye
    As a thing that, though unseen,
    Must be near thee, and hath been;       
    And when in that secret dread
    Thou hast turn’d around thy head,
    Thou shalt marvel I am not
    As thy shadow on the spot,
    And the power which thou dost feel       
    Shall be what thou must conceal.
    And a magic voice and verse
    Hath baptized thee with a curse;
    And a spirit of the air
    Hath begirt thee with a snare;       
    In the wind there is a voice
    Shall forbid thee to rejoice;
    And to thee shall Night deny
    All the quiet of her sky;
    And the day shall have a sun,       
    Which shall make thee wish it done.
    From thy false tears I did distil
    An essence which hath strength to kill;
    From thy own heart I then did wring
    The black blood in its blackest spring;       
    From thy own smile I snatch’d the snake,
    For there it coil’d as in a brake;
    From thy own lip I drew the charm
    Which gave all these their chiefest harm;
    In proving every poison known,       
    I found the strongest was thine own.
    By thy cold breast and serpent smile,
    By thy unfathom’d gulfs of guile,
    By that most seeming virtuous eye,
    By thy shut soul’s hypocrisy;       
    By the perfection of thine art
    Which pass’d for human thine own heart;
    By thy delight in others’ pain,
    And by thy brotherhood of Cain,
    I call upon thee! and compel       
    Thyself to be thy proper Hell!
    And on thy head I pour the vial
    Which doth devote thee to this trial;
    Nor to slumber, nor to die,
    Shall be in thy destiny;       
    Though thy death shall still seem near
    To thy wish, but as a fear;
    Lo! the spell now works around thee,
    And the clankless chain hath bound thee;
    O’er thy heart and brain together       
    Hath the word been pass’d—now wither!

                                                     - Incantation, from Manfred


  1. Is there an edition of Byrons' works that you prefer?

  2. Hello Petoskystone. I do indeed. Whilst browsing Stirling Books ( in Scotland, I managed to salvage a set from 1845 (Pic: There were actually two copies of Byron, oddly. But I grew up leafing through the Wordsworth compilations. Not perhaps as special, but certainly definitive.