#FlashFictionFriday: Lord Byron: Manfred, a Theater of the Mind

Bad poetry can be written by anyone, but writing great poetry takes a certain genius. Words are bent and shaped by poets to evoke meanings, bent and formed into precise shapes. We novelists and writers of short fiction have the luxury of creating a long narrative. In poetry, the author intentionally limits space, forcing the poet to write within narrow constraints. Thus, allegory, allusion, and indirection are common motifs in poetry.

Poetry doesn’t always rhyme and it frequently involves complicated aesthetics that are both auditory and visual. This is because the reader may not always be reading the poem aloud, and so the visual art of the piece comes into play.

Sometimes, poetry is long, epic in actuality. Consider Manfred, by George Gordon, Lord Byron (From Wikipedia, the font of all knowledge): Manfred: A dramatic poem is a poem written in 1816–1817 by Lord Byron. It contains supernatural elements, in keeping with the popularity of the ghost story in England at the time. It is a typical example of a Romantic closet drama. (end quoted text)

Byron himself referred to his works as “closet dramas,” since they were intended more for the theater of the mind than the actual theater.

Excerpt from Manfred

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 baptiz’d 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!

 

And a “theater of the mind” is what Byron’s work sparks in me.

The Poetry Foundation says this about George Gordon, Lord Byron:

In his dynamism, sexuality, self-revelation, and demands for freedom for oppressed people everywhere, Byron captivated the Western mind and heart as few writers have, stamping upon nineteenth-century letters, arts, politics, even clothing styles, his image and name as the embodiment of Romanticism.


Sources and Attributions:

Quote from: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/lord-byron © 2017 Poetry Foundation, accessed August 25, 2017

Manfred – Lord Byron. Poem originally published 1816, portion republished March 2, 2015 by Hanson, Marilee, accessed August 25, 2017|Hanson, Marilee. “Manfred – Lord Byron Poem” https://englishhistory.net/byron/poems/manfred/, March 2, 2015

Wikipedia contributors, “Lord Byron,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lord_Byron&oldid=796893308(accessed August 25, 2017)

Lord Byron in Albanian dress, painted by Thomas Phillips in 1813. Venizelos Mansion, Athens (the British Ambassador’s residence) via Wikimedia Commons, accessed August 25, 2017.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under #FlashFictionFriday, Poetry

3 responses to “#FlashFictionFriday: Lord Byron: Manfred, a Theater of the Mind

  1. Stephen Swartz

    It takes a bad boy to write it good,
    A mid-ling lad to write as he should:
    Then far- away adventure, his to take–
    So perfect for a post-London rake!

    He dallied and tallied his days sublime
    O’er most of the Mediterranean clime
    Fighting Turks and loving Greek boys
    The tales of woe bestowed upon toys!

    Then comes the weekend at Diodati,
    When love was abloom near the potty!
    The Frankenstein & Vampyre reigned
    Yet our poor fellow was mentally chained!

    Nothing remains of those sordid nights
    No verse composed nor tales of frights
    We study the remains of a ghostly plot
    & sound sophisticated–as we sought!

    Now the blogs are writ and the poems rot
    The bards of evil and minstrels thought
    That George Gordon, the Earl of Byron,
    Lies still in his grave, & grass grows upon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Never hurts to be reminded that word crafting matters. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • @Scott–I’ve noticed lately that in the rush of writing commercially viable work, it’s easy to forget that we write as adults because when we were young, we read memorable work. I’d like to do both, lol!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s