The Works of Lord Byron Volume V Part 54

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----_he would not_ _Thus leave me_.--[MS. M.]

[75] {178}[It is to be noted that the "Giunta" was demanded by Loredano himself--a proof of his bona fides, as the addition of twenty-five n.o.bles to the original Ten would add to the chance of opposition on the part of the supporters and champions of the Doge (see _The Two Doges_, and Romanin, _Storia, etc., iv. 286, note 3_).]

[76] {179} An historical fact. See DARU [1821], tom. ii. [pp. 398, 399.

Daru quotes as his authorities Sabellicus and Pietro Giustiniani. As a matter of fact, the Doge did his utmost to save Carmagnola, pleading that his sentence should be commuted to imprisonment for life (see _The Two Doges_, p. 66; and Romanin, _Storia, etc._, iv. 161).]

[77] {183}[By the terms of the "parte," or act of deposition drawn up by the Ten, October 21, 1457, the time granted for deliberation was "till the third hour of the following day." This limitation as to time was designed to prevent the Doge from summoning the Grand Council, "to whom alone belonged the right of releasing him from the dukedom." (_The Two Doges_, p. 118; _Diebeiden Foscari_, 1878, pp. 174-176).]

[bt] {188} _The act is pa.s.sed--I will obey it_.--[MS. M.]

[78] [For this speech, see Daru (who quotes from Pietro Giustiniani, _Histoire, etc._, 1821, ii. 534).]

[79] {190}[See Daru's _Histoire, etc._, 1821, ii. 535. The _Cronaca Augustini_ is the authority for the anecdote (see _The Two Doges_, 1891, p. 126).]

[bu] {192}

_I take yours, Loredano--'tis the draught_ _Most fitting such an hour as this_.--[MS. M.]

[80] {193}[_Vide ante_, Introduction to _The Two Foscari_, p. 118.]

[bv] _The wretchedness to die_----.--[MS. M.]

[81] ["A decree was at once pa.s.sed that a public funeral should be accorded to Foscari, ... and the bells of St. Mark were ordered to peal nine times.... The same Council also determined that on Thursday night, November 3, the corpse should be carried into the room of the 'Signori di notte,' dressed in a golden mantle, with the ducal bonnet on his head, golden spurs on his feet, ... the gold sword by his side." But Foscari's wife, Marina (or Maria) Nani, opposed. "She declined to give up the body, which she had caused to be dressed in plain clothes, and she maintained that no one but herself should provide for the funeral expenses, even should she have to give up her dower." It is needless to add that her protest was unavailing, and that the decree of the Ten was carried into effect.--_The Two Doges_, 1891, pp. 129, 130.]

[bw] {194} ----_comfort to my desolation_.--[MS. M.]

[82] {195} The Venetians appear to have had a particular turn for breaking the hearts of their Doges. The following is another instance of the kind in the Doge Marco Barbarigo: he was succeeded by his brother Agostino Barbarigo, whose chief merit is here mentioned.--"Le doge, blesse de trouver constamment un contradicteur et un censeur si amer dans son frere, lui dit un jour en plein conseil: 'Messire Augustin, vous faites tout votre possible pour hater ma mort; vous vous flattez de me succeder; mais, si les autres vous connaissent aussi bien que je vous connais, ils n'auront garde de vous elire.' La-dessus il se leva, emu de colere, rentra dans son appartement, et mourut quelques jours apres. Ce frere, contre lequel il s'etait emporte, fut precis.e.m.e.nt le successeur qu'on lui donna. C'etait un merite don't on aimait a tenir compte; surtout a un parent, de s'etre mis en opposition avec le chef de la republique."--DARU, _Hist, de Venise_, 1821, in. 29.

[bx] _I trust Heavens will be done also_.--[MS.]

[83] "_L'ha pagata_." An historical fact. See _Hist. de Venise_, par P.

DARU, 1821, ii. 528, 529.

[Daru quotes Palazzi's _Fasti Ducales_ as his authority for this story.

According to Pietro Giustiniani (_Storia_, lib. viii.), Jacopo Loredano was at pains to announce the decree of the Ten to the Doge in courteous and considerate terms, and begged him to pardon him for what it was his duty to do. Romanin points out that this version of the interview is inconsistent with the famous "_L'hapagata_."--_Storia, etc._, iv. 290, note i.]

[84] {196}[Here the original MS. ends. The two lines which follow, were added by Gifford. In the margin of the MS. Byron has written, "If the last line should appear obscure to those who do not recollect the historical fact mentioned in the first act of Loredano's inscription in his book, of 'Doge Foscari, debtor for the deaths of my father and uncle,' you may add the following lines to the conclusion of the last act:--

_Chief of the Ten_. For what has he repaid thee?

_Lor._ For my father's And father's brother's death--by his son's and own!

Ask Gifford about this."]

[85] [The _Appendix_ to the First Edition of _The Two Foscari_ consisted of (i.) an extract from P. Daru's _Histoire de la Republique Francaise_, 1821, ii. 520-537; (ii.) an extract from J. C. L. Simonde de Sismondi's _Histoire des Republiques Italiennes du Moyen Age_, 1815, x. 36-46; and (iii.) a note in response to certain charges of plagiarism brought against the author in the _Literary Gazette_ and elsewhere; and to Southey's indictment of the "Satanic School," which had recently appeared in the Preface to the Laureate's _Vision of Judgement_ (_Poetical Works of Robert Southey_, 1838, x. 202-207). See, too, the "Introduction to _The Vision of Judgment_," _Poetical Works_, 1891, iv.

pp. 475-480.]



"Now the Serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord G.o.d had made."

_Genesis_, _Chapter 3rd, verse 1_.


Cain was begun at Ravenna, July 16, and finished September 9, 1821 (_vide_ MS. M.). Six months before, when he was at work on the first act of _Sardanapalus_, Byron had "pondered" _Cain_, but it was not till _Sardanapalus_ and a second historical play, _The Two Foscari_, had been written, copied out, and sent to England, that he indulged his genius with a third drama--on "a metaphysical subject, something in the style of _Manfred_" (_Letters_, 1901, v. 189).

Goethe's comment on reading and reviewing _Cain_ was that he should be surprised if Byron did not pursue the treatment of such "biblical subjects," as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (_Conversations, etc._, 1879, p. 62); and, many years after, he told Crabb Robinson (_Diary_, 1869, ii. 435) that Byron should have lived "to execute his vocation ... to dramatize the Old Testament." He was better equipped for such a task than might have been imagined. A Scottish schoolboy, "from a child he had known the Scriptures," and, as his _Hebrew Melodies_ testify, he was not unwilling to turn to the Bible as a source of poetic inspiration. Moreover, he was born with the religious temperament.

Questions "of Providence, foreknowledge, will and fate," exercised his curiosity because they appealed to his imagination and moved his spirit.

He was eager to plunge into controversy with friends and advisers who challenged or rebuked him, Hodgson, for instance, or Dallas; and he responded with remarkable amenity to the strictures and exhortations of such orthodox professors as Mr. Sheppard and Dr. Kennedy. He was, no doubt, from first to last a _heretic_, impatient, not to say contemptuous, of authority, but he was by no means indifferent to religion altogether. To "argue about it and about" was a necessity, if not an agreeable relief, to his intellectual energies. It would appear from the Ravenna diary (January 28, 1821, _Letters_, 1901, v. 190,191), that the conception of Lucifer was working in his brain before the "tragedy of Cain" was actually begun. He had been recording a "thought"

which had come to him, that "at the very height of human desire and pleasure, a certain sense of doubt and sorrow"--an _amari aliquid_ which links the future to the past, and so blots out the present--"mingles with our bliss," making it of none effect, and, by way of moral or corollary to his soliloquy, he adds three lines of verse headed, "Thought for a speech of Lucifer in the Tragedy of _Cain_"--

"Were Death an _Evil_, would _I_ let thee live?

Fool! live as I live--as thy father lives, And thy son's sons shall live for evermore."

In these three lines, which were not inserted in the play, and in the preceding "thought," we have the key-note to _Cain_. "Man walketh in a vain shadow"--a shadow which he can never overtake, the shadow of an eternally postponed fruition. With a being capable of infinite satisfaction, he is doomed to realize failure in attainment. In all that is best and most enjoyable, "the rapturous moment and the placid hour,"

there is a foretaste of "Death the Unknown"! The tragedy of _Manfred_ lies in remorse for the inevitable past; the tragedy of _Cain_, in revolt against the limitations of the inexorable present.

The investigation of the "sources" of _Cain_ does not lead to any very definite conclusion (see _Lord Byron's Cain und Seine Quellen_, von Alfred Schaffner, 1880). He was pleased to call his play "a Mystery,"

and, in his Preface (_vide post_, p. 207), Byron alludes to the Old Mysteries as "those very profane productions, whether in English, French, Italian, or Spanish." The first reprint of the _Chester Plays_ was published by the Roxburghe Club in 1818, but Byron's knowledge of Mystery Plays was probably derived from _Dodsley's Plays_ (ed. 1780, l., x.x.xiii.-xlii.), or from John Stevens's Continuation of Dugdale's _Monasticon_ (_vide post_, p. 207), or possibly, as Herr Schaffner suggests, from Warton's _History of English Poetry_, ed. 1871, ii.

222-230. He may, too, have witnessed some belated _Rappresentazione_ of the Creation and Fall at Ravenna, or in one of the remoter towns or villages of Italy. There is a superficial resemblance between the treatment of the actual encounter of Cain and Abel, and the conventional rendering of the same incident in the _Ludus Coventriae_, and in the _Mistere du Viel Testament_; but it is unlikely that he had closely studied any one Mystery Play at first hand. On the other hand, his recollections of Gessner's _Death of Abel_ which "he had never read since he was eight years old," were clearer than he imagined. Not only in such minor matters as the destruction of Cain's altar by a whirlwind, and the subst.i.tution of the Angel of the Lord for the _Deus_ of the Mysteries, but in the Teutonic domesticities of Cain and Adah, and the evangelical piety of Adam and Abel, there is a reflection, if not an imitation, of the German idyll (see Gessner's _Death of Abel_, ed. 1797, pp. 80, 102).

Of his indebtedness to Milton he makes no formal acknowledgment, but he was not ashamed to shelter himself behind Milton's shield when he was attacked on the score of blasphemy and profanity. "If _Cain_ be blasphemous, _Paradise Lost_ is blasphemous" (letter to Murray, Pisa, February 8, 1822), was, he would fain believe, a conclusive answer to his accusers. But apart from verbal parallels or coincidences, there is a genuine affinity between Byron's Lucifer and Milton's Satan. Lucifer, like Satan, is "not less than Archangel ruined," a repulsed but "unvanquished t.i.tan," marred by a demonic sorrow, a confessor though a rival of Omnipotence. He is a majestic and, as a rule, a serious and solemn spirit, who compels the admiration and possibly the sympathy of the reader. There is, however, another strain in his ghostly attributes, which betrays a more recent consanguinity: now and again he gives token that he is of the lineage of Mephistopheles. He is sometimes, though rarely, a mocking as well as a rebellious spirit, and occasionally indulges in a grim _persiflage_ beneath the dignity if not the capacity of Satan. It is needless to add that Lucifer has a most lifelike personality of his own. The conception of the spirit of evil justifying an eternal antagonism to the Creator from the standpoint of a superior morality, may, perhaps, be traced to a Manichean source, but it has been touched with a new emotion. Milton's devil is an abstraction of infernal pride--

"Sole Positive of Night!

Antipathist of Light!

Fate's only essence! primal scorpion rod-- The one permitted opposite of G.o.d!"

Goethe's devil is an abstraction of scorn. He "maketh a mock" alike of good and evil! But Byron's devil is a spirit, yet a mortal too--the traducer, because he has suffered for his sins; the deceiver, because he is self-deceived; the hoper against hope that there is a ransom for the soul in perfect self-will and not in perfect self-sacrifice. Byron did not uphold Lucifer, but he "had pa.s.sed that way," and could imagine a spiritual warfare not only against the _Deus_ of the Mysteries or of the Book of Genesis, but against what he believed and acknowledged to be the Author and Principle of good.

_Autres temps, autres murs!_ It is all but impossible for the modern reader to appreciate the audacity of _Cain_, or to realize the alarm and indignation which it aroused by its appearance. Byron knew that he was raising a tempest, and pleads, in his Preface, "that with regard to the language of Lucifer, it was difficult for me to make him talk like a clergyman," and again and again he a.s.sures his correspondents (_e.g._ to Murray, November 23, 1821, "_Cain_ is nothing more than a drama;" to Moore, March 4, 1822, "With respect to Religion, can I never convince you that _I_ have no such opinions as the characters in that drama, which seems to have frightened everybody?" _Letters_, 1901, v. 469; vi.

30) that it is Lucifer and not Byron who puts such awkward questions with regard to the "politics of paradise" and the origin of evil. n.o.body seems to have believed him. It was taken for granted that Lucifer was the mouthpiece of Byron, that the author of _Don Juan_ was not "on the side of the angels."

Little need be said of the "literature," the pamphlets and poems which were evoked by the publication of _Cain: A Mystery_. One of the most prominent a.s.sailants (said to be the Rev. H. J. Todd (1763-1845), Archdeacon of Cleveland, 1832, author _inter alia_ of _Original Sin_, _Free Will_, etc., 1818) issued _A Remonstrance to Mr. John Murray, respecting a Recent Publication_, 1822, signed "Oxoniensis." The sting of the _Remonstrance_ lay in the exposure of the fact that Byron was indebted to Bayle's _Dictionary_ for his rabbinical legends, and that he had derived from the same source his Manichean doctrines of the _Two Principles, etc._, and other "often-refuted sophisms" with regard to the origin of evil. Byron does not borrow more than a poet and a gentleman is at liberty to acquire by way of raw material, but it cannot be denied that he had read and inwardly digested more than one of Bayle's "most objectionable articles" (_e.g._ "Adam," "Eve," "Abel," "Manichees,"

"Paulicians," etc.). The _Remonstrance_ was answered in _A Letter to Sir Walter Scott, etc._, by "Harroviensis." Byron welcomed such a "Defender of the Faith," and was anxious that Murray should print the letter together with the poem. But Murray belittled the "defender," and was upbraided in turn for his slowness of heart (letter to Murray, June 6, 1822, _Letters_, 1901, vi. 76).

Fresh combatants rushed into the fray: "Philo-Milton," with a _Vindication of the "Paradise Lost" from the charge of exculpating "Cain: A Mystery_," London, 1822; "Britannicus," with a pamphlet ent.i.tled, _Revolutionary Causes, etc., and A Postscript containing Strictures on "Cain," etc._, London, 1822, etc.; but their works, which hardly deserve to be catalogued, have perished with them. Finally, in 1830, a barrister named Harding Grant, author of _Chancery Practice_, compiled a work (_Lord Byron's "Cain," etc., with Notes_) of more than four hundred pages, in which he treats "the proceedings and speeches of Lucifer with the same earnestness as if they were existing and earthly personages." But it was "a week too late." The "Coryphaeus of the Satanic School" had pa.s.sed away, and the tumult had "dwindled to a calm."

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