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the historical story is given by Byron in the following extract from Voltaire's Histoire de Charles XII':
“Celui qui remplissait alors cette place était un gentilhomme Polonais, nommé Mazeppa, né dans le palatinat de Padolie: il avait été élevé page de Jean Casimir, et avait pris à sa cour quelque teinture des belles-lettres. Une intrigue qu'il eut dans sa jeunesse avec la femme d'un gentilhomme Polonais ayant été découverte, le mari le fit lier tout nu sur un cheval farouche, et le laissa aller en cet état. Le cheval, qui était du pays de l'Ukraine, y retourna, et y porta Mazeppa, demi-mort de fatigue et de faim. Quelques paysans le secoururent: il resta longtemps parmi eux, et se signala dans plusieurs courses contre les Tartares. La supériorité de ses lumières lui donna une grande considération parmi les Cosaques; sa réputation s'augmentant de jour en jour obligea le Czar à le faire Prince de l'Ukraine.”
More modern accounts alter the story in some particulars. Born about 1645 and dying 1710, Mazeppa had an adventurous career. Because of a quarrel in the palace of Jan Casimir, in which he was involved, he was exiled from the court. The following account of his succeeding adventures is quoted from Schuyler's · Peter the Great' (N. Y., 1884, vol. II, p. 92): “He withdrew to his mother's estate in Volynia, where he became en. gaged in an intrigue with the wife of a neighbouring nobleman, Falbowski. On one of his visits he was waylaid by the injured husband ; was ignominiously stripped and bound to his horse. The spirited animal, frightened by the cuts of a whip and the firing of a pistol close to his ear, rushed furiously through woods and thickets, and brought his master home so torn and bleeding that he was hardly recognizable. Unable to meet his equals af. ter such an adventure, Mazeppa sought a refuge among the Cossacks." By means of his education and talents he soon rose to high position, becoming eventually Hetman or governor of the Cossacks. For over twenty years he remained faithful to his overlord, Peter the Great. Just before the battle of Pultowa, in 1709, however, he deserted to Charles, with whom he shared de. feat and exile till his death in 1710.
The poem is written in the metre and somewhat in the style of the early verse-tales of Byron's London period. The treatment, however, is less melodramatic and more dramatic, direct, and forcible. For vividness, movement, power of realization, intense
feeling, and general effectiveness of style Byron has hardly elsewhere surpassed this poem. The motives which it suggests have been treated in' brilliant musical form by the composer Liszt, in his symphonic poem entitled Mazeppa.' See also Victor Hugo's poem, • Mazeppa' (in · Les Orientales,' xxxiv),– free paraphrase of Byron, plus an application of the text: the steed is his genius who bears the poet at its will, threatened by malevolent spirits (birds and beasts of prey), across the wide deserts of the world towards the horizon of the ideal.
Who can tell his sufferings? He reaches the end, he falls at last,—and rises up, a king !
Again, as in “Manfred,' in “The Prisoner of Chillon,' and in so many other of Byron's poems, the leading motive is, as Dr. Englaender points out, the depicting of silent suffering and heroic endurance. The admiration for characters of superhuman fortitude is innate with Byron and influences all his poetry.
The contemporary interest in the name of Mazeppa and in the land of his reign is attested by the anonymous verse-romance entitled • The Cossack, a Poem in three Cantus,' published at London in 1815. Mazeppa appears at section xi of the second canto. He, however, is not the hero, but Kouteskoff, a minor Cossack chieftain. There is nothing to indicate that Byron knew this poem.
Suggestions for the scenery of the poem Byron may have taken from Voltaire's • Charles XII’: “Depuis Grodno jusq'au Borysthène en tirant vers l'orient, ce sont des marais, des déserts, des forêts immenses.”...“un désert, où ils ne voyaient ni huttes ni tentes, ni hommes ni animaux, ni chemins; tout y manquait jusqu'à l'eau même. [Cf. “Mazeppa’xvii, 5-8.] The poet's aim is to make his landscape and the touches of Nature which he introduces suggest a certain mood and convey a certain impression. This impression is, in the words of Dr. Englaender, “the awful feeling of the illimitable, called forth by the unbounded solitudes and wastes of Nature, and a mournful feeling of yearning and sadness allied to the former, which especially finds expression in the tireless onward flight of Mazeppa's steed.”
The art is noteworthy with which the phenomena of Nature, the appearances of the region traversed in the Ride, are chosen
and depicted as they might be seen and imagined by one bound as Mazeppa was, and suffering as he was. The poet's imagination has thoroughly entered into the character and the situation. Romantic as the tale is, the manner of telling it is realistic in the best sense.
The verse is the free four-foot octosyllabic” measure used by Scott, Coleridge, and others of the Romantic period, and by Byron himself in many of the early narrative poems, in “The Prisoner of Chillon,' and elsewhere. Occasionally lines of three feet occur. The movement is iambic or ascending. The rhymes are freely varied, occasionally running in couplet form for a number of lines, but soon changing to alternate rhymes, or even inore complicated arrangements, as the ebb and flow of the thought suggest. Alliteration is freely but not profusely employed, to lend fluency and emphasis to the verse.
For the ride itself, compare, in • The Giaour,' ll. 180 ff., the account of the wild ride of the hero,
“Who thundering comes on blackest steed," etc. An interesting monograph on the poem has been written by Dr. E. Englaender, “Lord Byron's Mazeppa, eine Studie' (Berlin, 1897).
223 : ix, 3. Ukraine. District in southern Russia, north of the Black Sea and in the valley of the Dnieper, inhabited by the Cossacks.
223-5: x. The story of the revenge which Mazeppa afterwards took for his sufferings comes in appropriately at this point, firstly, because it is in character for the proud old warrior to let his hearers know without delay that he was not wronged with impunity; and, secondly, because if put at the close of the poem it would disturb the effect of reconcilement and peaceful ending there introduced.
225: xi, 15. Spahi. Turkish cavalryman.
226 : xii, 13-18. Byron is not squeamish about introducing images of mere horror. Here, of course, this image emphasizes the dramatic effect : it is quite in keeping from the mouth of the wild Cossack warrior. In itself, moreover, it adds to the effect of barbarous circumstances and feelings which the poem aims to produce. These are the things which Mazeppa thought of in his terror and agony.
We should not feel them if he concealed them, or if he expressed his thought in more chastened symbols.
227 : xii, 31. Do wolves run in “troops” or packs except during the winter ?
228 : xiii, 19 ff. It is perhaps in his psychology, in his portrayal of states of mind, in this poem, that Byron's art is most extraordinary. In such a touch as
“but could not make My senses climb up from below,”
and in all that follows there is, or (what is quite as important for poetry) at least there seems to be, absolute fidelity to fact and to the laws of psychology. In this respect is there an advance on the art of The Prisoner of Chillon'?
Compare Coleridge's “The Ancient Mariner,' his suffering, swoons, and hallucinations.
229 : xiv, 7. Cf. •Anc. Mariner,' 62 : “ Like noises in a swound.”
230 : xiv, 24. What is the effect of the sudden introduction of the three-foot line? Is the device used for similar effects elsewhere in the poem, as, for example, in xv, 4, 9, 14, 24 ; xvii, 9, 34; 39, 63, 78, 83, 95, etc. ?
230 : xiv, 30. Why “suspended pangs '? and, 19, why hollow trance'? How do these epithets enlarge their nouns ?
230 : xv, 3. Does this line exhibit expressive tone-color ?
230 : xv, 4. The inverted rhythm of the first foot helps to express the idea of effort.
230 : xv, 10-13. Is the coloring true for moonlight effects ?
230 : xv, 19-20. Is this properly a case of “pathetic fallacy”? Would then an unfallacious form of statement have been equally dramatic and effective ?
231 : xvi, 19 ff. During how many days has the ride con. tinued ? 232 : xvii, 12. werst. More commonly written verst,
-a Rus. sian measure of distance, about two-thirds of a mile.
234 : xvii, 92-94. So Byron wrote in his Journal of February 18, 1814: “I
here anything beyond ? Who knows? He tha can't tell. Who tells that there is? He who don't know. And when shall
he know? Perhaps, when he don't expect, and generally when he don't wish it. In this last respect, however, all are not alike : it depends a good deal upon education, something upon nerves and habits, but most upon digestion.”
234 : xvii, 70–110. Is this passage of moralization out of place? Is it sufficiently justified by the suggestion that it serves a purpose of relief and relaxation of attention in the progress of the story?
237: xx, 16. Borysthenes. Ancient name of the river Dnieper, formerly the boundary between Poland and Russia, and, near its mouth, between Turkey and Russia.
DON JUAN: THE SHIPWRECK (Canto II, Stanzas xxiv-Ixxvi, lxxviii-lxxx, lxxxiii-cxi.) · Don Juan' was begun in the summer of 1818. The second canto was finished in January, 1819, and cantos I and II were published in July, 1819, cantos III-V in 1821, and the others at intervals in 1823 and 1824. The plan is even looser and more rambling than that of .Childe Harold. “I have no plan ; I had no plan; but I had or have materials," wrote Byron to Murray. The poem carried on the vein opened up in • Beppo,' and, in its author's words, was “meant to be a little quietly facetious upon everything." Nothing else quite like it exists in English, although • The Monks and the Giants’ (1817), by “the brothers Whistlecraft ” (John Hookham Frere) is after the same models in Italian (Pulci and others) followed by Byron, and itself furnished Byron with many hints. The plot and spirit are Southern and Continental rather than English ; and the poem, although now by many accounted Byron's masterpiece for power, performance, and originality, affronted and baffled his own generation. Indeed, at this day, although it must be admitted that the poem is full of license, * and in some parts inevitably shocks most accepted standards of feeling and of ethics, the elementary distinction, as put by Taine, that “Don Juan' is a satire on the abuses of the present state of society, and not an eulogy of vice," needs to be re
*“ The soul of such writing is license : at least the liberty of that license, if one likes,—not that one should abuse it " (Byron to Murray, Aug. 12, 1819).