June 16: You and your boons can just stay in the closet

Speaking of works of art by megalomaniacs...


Wikipedia says (and right off the bat I must apologize for the "Wikipedia says" lede) that Byron's Manfred is what they call a closet drama, that is, a poem written like a play, but not meant to be performed, in Manfred's case because it would be the worst play of all times.

First of all, it's the kind of play where boons are granted -- actually, they're not granted, but Manfred, our Byronic hero, is too good for them:
From my youth upwards
My spirit walk’d not with the souls of men,
Nor look’d upon the earth with human eyes;
The thirst of their ambition was not mine,
The aim of their existence was not mine;
My joys, my griefs, my passions, and my powers
Made me a stranger; though I wore the form,
I had no sympathy with breathing flesh,
Nor midst the creatures of clay that girded me...

Yeah, we love you too, buddy. Maybe we don't want your spirit walking with our souls -- did you ever think of that?

The introductory note to this play in the HC psyches us up with this paragraph: "For dramatic writing Byron was not favorably endowed. His egotism was too persistent to enable him to enter vitally and sympathetically into a variety of characters, and the hero of his plays...is usually himself more of less disguised." That explains why Manfred seems to have slept with his sister:
She was like me in lineaments—her eyes,
Her hair, her features, all, to the very tone
Even of her voice, they said were like to mine;
But soften’d all, and temper’d into beauty;
She had the same lone thoughts and wanderings,
...Pity, and smiles, and tears—which I had not;
And tenderness—but that I had for her;
Humility—and that I never had.

Oy, and I go on to add, vey. How could someone who wrote this:
Man, being reasonable, must get drunk;
The best of life is but intoxication:
Glory, the grape, love, gold, in these are sunk
The hopes of all men, and of every nation;
Without their sap, how branchless were the trunk
Of life's strange tree, so fruitful on occasion:
But to return,—Get very drunk; and when
You wake with headache, you shall see what then.
Write this:
Man. Think’st thou existence doth depend on time?
It doth; but actions are our epochs: mine
Have made my days and nights imperishable,
Endless, and all alike, as sands on the shore,
Innumerable atoms; and one desert,
Barren and cold, on which the wild waves break,
But nothing rests, save carcasses and wrecks,
Rocks, and the salt—surf weeds of bitterness.

I guess it explains why he drinks.

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