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Adum. Cain : get thee forth : we dwell no more together. Depart 1 and leave the dead to me I am Henceforth alone — we never must meet more. [not Adah. Oh, part not with him thus, my father: do Add thy deep curse to Eve's upon his head : Adam. I curse him not: his spirit be his curse. Come, Zillah : Zillah. I must watch my husband's corse. Adam. We will return again, when he is gone Who hath provided for us this dread office. Come. Zillah : Zillah. Yet one kiss on yon pale clay, And those lips once so warm—my heart! my heart! [Ereunt ADAM and Zillah, weeping. Aduh. Cain : thou hast beard, we must go forth. I am ready, So shall our children be. I will bear Enoch, And you his sister. Ere the sun declines Let us depart, nor walk the wilderness Under the cloud of night. — Nay, speak to me, To me—thine own. Cain. Adah. Cain. And wherefore lingerest thou? not fear To dwell with one who hath done this 7 Adah. Nothing except to leave thee, much as I Shrink from the deed which leaves thee brotherless. I must not speak of this — it is between thee And the great God. A Voice from within erclaims, Cain Cain : Adah. Hear'st thou that voice 2 The Voice within. Cain Cain : Adah. It soundeth like an angel's tone.
Leave me !
Enter the ANGEL of the Lord. Angel. Where is thy brother Abel 7
Cain. Am I then My brother's keeper ? -Angel. Cain : what hast thou done 2
The voice of thy slain brother's blood cries out,
Yield thee her strength; a fugitive shalt thou
Adah. This punishment is more than he can bear.
Cain. Would they could but who are they Shall slay me? Where are these on the lone earth As yet unpeopled 2
Angel. Thou hast slain thy brother, And who shall warrant thee against thy son 7
speech. Let me know what Gifford thinks, for I have a good opinion of the piece, as poetry; it is in my gay metaphysical style, and in the Manfred line."]
1 The “four rivers" which flowed round Eden, and consequently the only waters with which Cain was acquainted upon earth.
Adah. Angel of Light ! be merciful, nor say
Angel. Then he would but be what his father is.
Cain. What Wouldst thou with me? Angel. To mark upon thy brow
Exemption from such deeds as thou hast done.
Adah. He's gone, let us go forth;
Cain. Ah! little knows he what he weeps for :
And I who have shed blood cannot shed tears :
In fondness brotherly and boyish, I
1 [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 Æschylus 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, to hile I draw it, but not a moment after the pen is from 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,”
“But Juan was my Moscow, and Faliero
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 riestlike 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
Not only for thyself, but him who slew thee.
Peace be with him :
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 lon, are concerned, and universal principles brought to ssue."
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 lo 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 dignity. Abel is as dull as he is pious. Lucifer, though his first appearance 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, ...]". 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 ememies 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 *: into the mouths of beings similarly situated. And though the intention 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 arc 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 occa. sion to tind a reasonable quantity of fault, but I do not think Z
that I have done him injustice. • Percant qui ante nos nostra dixcrunt.' 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, l 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 contending 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 “Sardanaalus' and the “Two Foscari." Lord Byron has not, indeed, ulfilled 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 owers, created by the imagination of the poet. The personal dentity 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 thern 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 nerer does so: – there is always a breathing soul beneath his words,
‘That o'er-informs the tenement of clay :"
it is like the fragrant vapour that rises in incense from the o through the morning dew ; and when we listen to his yre, * Less than a God we think there cannot dwell Within the hollow of that shell, That sings so sweetly and so well 1"
“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. To 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 i. 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 too. 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 Byron'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 become too strong to incur any taint thus predicted, from the defect which has been so much insisted on.”]
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,
1 [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 2 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, Fnglish 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 2 Did he not intent, in the noblest sense of the word, all the characters of his pieces 2 Who dreams that any old Italian novelist, or ballad-maker, could have formed the imagination of such a creature as Juliet 2 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 AM lett of the north 2 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 2 Or who, to come nearer home, imagines that Lord Byron himself found his Sardanapalus in Dionysius of Halicarnassus 2
“But here Lord Byron has invented nothing—absolutely Noriusq., 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 czecution; 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 sce 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.
I had begun a drama upon this tale so far back as 1815, (the first I ever attempted, except one at thirteen years old, called “Ulric and Ilvina,” which I had sense enough to burn,) and had nearly completed an act, when I was interrupted by circumstances. This is somewhere amongst my papers in England; but as it has not been found, I have re-written the first, and added the subsequent acts.
The whole is neither intended, nor in any shape adapted, for the stage. S
Pisa, February, 1822.
one of them to be found in ‘Kruitzner," but every one is to be sound 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 compreherd 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 anything 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. . p. 710. J
* [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.]
* [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.]
Jos. Then canst thou wish for that which must break mine 2
Wer. (approaching her slowly). But for thee I had
been—no matter what,
But much of good and evil; what I am,
[WERNER walks on abruptly, and then approaches
Perhaps affects me; I am a thing of feelings,
Jos. To see thee well is muchTo see thee happy Wer. Where hast thou seen such 7
Let me be wretched with the rest :
Jos. But think
Wer. And that's not the worst : who cares
Jos. And art thou not now shelter'd from them all 7
Wer. Yes. And from these alone.
Jos. And that is something. Wer. True—to a peasant.
Jos. Should the nobly born
Be thankless for that refuge which their habits
JWer. It is not that, thou know'st it is not; we
Jos. Well ?
Wer. Something beyond cur outward sufferings
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.]
* [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