By Martyn Corbett (auth.)
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Manfred communes with Nature but Nature as Byron saw it on his journey: 'Passed whole woods of withered pines - all withered - trunks stripped & barkless branches lifeless - done by a single winter - their appearance reminded me of me & my family' (BLJ 5 102). So Manfred sees his own desolation reflected in an identical scene: To be thusGrey-haired with anguish, like these blasted pines, Wrecks of a single winter, barkless, branchless, A blighted trunk upon a cursed root, Which but supplies a feeling to Decay And to be thus, eternally but thus, Having been otherwise!
He rightly sees these disordered elements and fondly thinks that his power can yet mingle them wisely. The Abbot believes in the saving and benevolent force of his religion; he overlooks the destructive and (in the universe of Earth and Air over which Arimanes reigns) paramount power of immortal evil. The only supernatural elements presented in this drama are infernal. The Abbot and the Demons of the last scene can scarcely be regarded as agents of coeval Light and Darkness conflicting in the cosmos as they do in Manfred's soul.
This order was, after an intricate legal dispute, eventually withdrawn and, on 25 April, four days after the publication of the work by Murray, the tragedy was performed and ran for a short, undistinguished but by no means discreditable run of seven nights. 2 On publication, it was respectfully but unenthusiastically received. Jeffrey, Hazlitt, Heber, and Wilson reviewed it for the major literary reviews. 3 Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review was more favourable than any other reviewer, though he admired the 'consid- 47 48 Byron and Tragedy erable beauties' of the work, he regarded it as 'a failure both as a Poem and a Play'.