Manfred, by Lord Byron, is a chamber drama. It is written in the form of a play but it was never meant to be staged. It might be read by a solitary reader, or perhaps read out loud by a few friends after dinner, in a candlelit drawing room.

This excerpt from the opening reflects Manfred’s desperation as he calls to the spirits. In fact, it is not unlike Hamlet summoning the ghost of his father.

Mysterious Agency!
Ye spirits of the unbounded Universe,
Whom I have sought in darkness and in light!
Ye, who do compass earth about, and dwell
In subtler essence! ye, to whom the tops
Of mountains inaccessible are haunts,
And earth’s and ocean’s caves familiar things—
I call upon ye by the written charm
Which gives me power upon you—Rise! appear!

[A pause.]

They come not yet.—Now by the voice of him
Who is the first among you; by this sign,
Which makes you tremble; by the claims of him
Who is undying,—Rise! appear!—Appear!

[A pause.]

If it be so.—Spirits of earth and air,
Ye shall not thus elude me: by a power,
Deeper than all yet urged, a tyrant—spell,
Which had its birthplace in a star condemn’d,
The burning wreck of a demolish’d world,
A wandering hell in the eternal space;
By the strong curse which is upon my soul,
The thought which is within me and around me,
I do compel ye to my will. Appear!
[A star is seen at the darker end of the gallery: it is stationary; and a voice is heard singing.]

Read the entire play — it’s not long.

Want to get really Halloween-y? Read the entire play while listening to Tchaikovsky’s amazing Manfred Symphony.

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