The Complete Poetical Works of Lord Byron

By George Gordon Byron | Go to book overview

SCENE IV

Interior of the Tower.

MANFRED alone.

The stars are forth, the moon above the

tops 261
Of the snow-shining mountains. -- Beauti-ful!
I linger yet with Nature, for the night
Hath been to me a more familiar face
Than that of man; and in her starry shade
Of dim and solitary loveliness,
I learn'd the language of another world.
I do remember me, that in my youth,
When I was wandering, -- upon such a night
I stood within the Coliseum's wall, 270
Midst the chief relies of almighty Rome.
The trees which grew along the broken arches
Waved dark in the blue midnight, and the stars
Shone through the rents of ruin; from afar
The watch-dog bay'd beyond the Tiber; and
More near from out the Caesars'palace came
'The owl's long cry, and, interruptedly,
Of distant sentinels the fitful song
Begun and died upon the gentle wind.
Some cypresses beyond the time-worn
breach 280
Appear'd to skirt the horizon, yet they stood
Within a bowshot. Where the Cæsars dwelt,
And dwell the tuneless birds of night, amidst
A grove which springs through levell'd battlements
And twines its roots with the imperial hearths,
Ivy usurps the laurel's place of growth; --
But the gladiators' bloody Circus stands,
A noble wreck in ruinous perfection!
While Cæsar's chambers and the Augustan halls
Grovel on earth in indistinct decay. 290
And thou didst shine, thou rolling moon, upon
All this, and cast a wide and tender light,
Which soften'd down the hoar austerity
Of rugged desolation, and fill'd up,
As 't were anew, the gaps of centuries;
Leaving that beautiful which still was so,
And making that which was not, till the place
Became religion, and the heart ran o'er
With silent worship of the great of old, --
The dead, but seeptred sovereigns, who
still rule 300
Our spirits from their urns. --
'T was such a night I!
'T is strange that I recall it at this time;
But I have found our thoughts take wildest flight
Even at the moment when they should array
Themselves in pensive order.

Enter the ABBOT.

Abbot. My good lord!
I crave a second grace for this approach;
But yet let not my humble zeal offend
By its abruptness -- all it hath of ill
Recoils on me; its good in the effect
May light upon your head -- could I say

heart -- 310
Could I touch that, with words or prayers,
I should
Recall a noble spirit which hath wander'd
But is not yet all lost.

Man. Thou know'st me not; My days are number'd, and my deeds re-corded:
Retire, or 't will be dangerous -- Away!

Abbot. Thou dost not mean to menace me?

Man. Not I; I simply tell thee peril is at hand, And would preserve thee.

Abbot. What dost thou mean?

Matt. Look there I What dost thou see?

Abbot. Nothing.

Man. Look there, I say,
And steadfastly; -- now tell me what thou

seest. 320

Abbot. That which should shake me -- but I fear it not: I see a dusk and awful figure rise, Like an infernal god, from out the earth; His face wrapt in a mantle, and his form Robed as with angry clouds: he stands be-tween
Thyself and me -- but I do fear him not.

Man. Thou hast no cause; he shall not harm thee, but
His sight may shock thine old limbs into palsy.
I say to thee -- Retire!

Abbot. And I reply,
Never -- till I have battled with this

fiend: -- 330
What doth he here?

-495-

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