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Christianity and Literature Vol. 55, No.

3 (Spring 2006)

'I am more fit to die than people think": Byron on Immortality

Harold Ray Stevens

"What is Poetry?The Feeling of a Former world and a Future." Byron, Ravenna Journal

Elizabeth Longford affirms a commonly accepted view that Byron "mocked the idea of Christian immortality" by citing one of his best-known letters on the subject: "And our carcases, which are to rise again, are they worth raising? I hope, if mine is, that I shall have a better pair of legs than I have moved on these two-and-twenty years, or I shall be sadly behind in the squeeze into paradise" (44).' That Calvinism shaped Byron's thoughts about the afterlife is as well-known and frequently commented on as his deformed foot; and Longford's observation about Byron's occasional mocking of anthropomorphic views of a contemporary and significant concept of Christian immortality is illustrated in his Vision of Judgment {1822).^ Byron's exploration of visions of immortality, however, is not limited to Calvin's theology, and especially not to those who systematically condemn most of humankind to hell. Because the larger context of immortality is lost when discussing Byron's reaction to Calvinism, it is worthwhile to remember, as Byron did, that perhaps the Calvinists who instructed the young Byron in Aberdeen at the turn of the nineteenth century did not have exclusive rights to Paradise. Consequently, this article will explore the contexts for and reasons behind Byron's fascination with immortality as it is influenced by his interest in both Christian and Islamic perspectives; his reading of the Bible; his inclusion, especially in Manfred (1817) and Childe Harold 7/7(1816) and 7V(1818), of speculation that the immortal substance of humankind resides in the mind; his examination of the specter of death and its aftermath as a consequence of the Fall in the mystery plays Cain (1821) and Heaven



and Earth (1823); and his reaction to Robert Southey, who led Byron to The Vision of Judgment which, like Cain, Heaven and Earth, and Manfred, features spirits, phantoms, and people from religious tradition and accepts a poetic vision of a life that transcends mortality. Byron's interest in the afterlife and his references to eternity, often in biblical contexts,' shape significant portions of his poetry and his poetic theory. On 28 January 1821, before he began writing the scriptural plays, Byron recorded in the Ravenna Journal: "W^hat is Poetry?The feeling of a Former world and a Future" {LJ, VIH, 37); and in The Prophecy of Dante (1821) he observed: "For what is Poesy but to create, / From overfeeling, Cood or 111, and aim / At an external life beyond our fate" (IV, 11-14). Byron also refers to an afterlife in conversations, letters, and journals; and occasionally includes speculations about the state of immortality in seemingly random fashion throughout his poetrywhether in the juvenilia or Don Juan. Byron's attitude toward and belief about immortality varies, but he dismisses the concept as insignificant or irrelevant neither to his worldview nor to his writing. In practice, Calvinisma remnant of indoctrination at Aberdeen by those who subjected Byron as an impressionable child to visions of eternal tormentfunctions best, especially in the scriptural plays and Vision ofJudgment, as a focal point to explore avenues to an afterlife and to question the assumptions of those who taught eternal damnation. During his final illness in Greece, where he was actively involved in the battle for Greek independence, Byron was not tormented by doubt, if reports of his final conversations are to be believed. Dr. Julius Millingen, the physician who attended Byron at Missolonghi, recorded that Byron asked, before losing consciousness for the last time: "Shall I sue for mercy?" Byron then responded to his own question: "Come, come, no weakness! Let's be a man to the last" (Marchand, Biography, III, 1217). Shortly before his death, Byron commented to his valet William Fletcher: "I am not afraid of dying, I am more fit to die than people think" (Marchand, Biography, III, 1221); and on his deathbed he confided to his firemaster W^illiam Parry: "I fancy myself a Jew, a Mahomedan, and a Christian of every profession of faith. Eternity and space are before me; but on this subject, thank God, I am happy and at ease. The thought of living eternally, and of again reviving, is a great pleasure" (Parry, 122-23). To understand how Byron arrived at this point in his life, this article examines Byron's shifting attitudes about immortality and argues thatcomic skepticism, satire, and irony notwithstanding Byron always takes the issue seriously because it is associated with a poetic



vision of life that transcends death. Discussion begins and concludes with Byron's satiric, ironic, and parodic treatment of a traditional pathway to Heaven in The Vision of Judgment, published eighteen months before his death when he was at the height of his creative powers with the ottava rima stanza. In between the two sections on Vision ofJudgment is a chronological exploration of his multiple views of immortality as they evolved from his reaction to Calvinist theology in the juvenilia and early letters through his introduction to Islam; his exploration of the theories that both the mind and the soul might be the immortal essence; his random incorporation of thoughts about immortality in Don Juan; and his use of Old Testament texts to explore death and immortality in the mystery plays.

The Vision of Judgment and the Priesthood of All Believers In Vision of Judgment, Calvinism is presented in contrast to Byron's ironic, satiric, and parodic presentation of a Deity whose "mercy is everlasting." God is not indifferent to the suffering of the creatures he made"not we ourselves" who in biblical metaphor are the "sheep of his pasture.""* Byron does not mock immortality, as Longford suggests. Rather, he satirizes not only the anthropomorphism of those who think "damnation better still" (13) as a way to define eternal life but also mortals who superimpose their judgment on the prerogatives of Deity. This is not to argue that Byron became a pious and traditional Christian late in life, but to assert the obvious: he is preoccupied with immortality to the extent thatin several worksmemory and the function of the mind in seeking to understand the concept of an afterlife become central to his pursuit of a knowledge of life after death. Shelley recognized that in a different context when he referred to Byron as the "Pilgrim of Eternity" {Adonais 30), echoing "there are wanderers o'er Eternity / Whose bark drives on and on, and anchored ne'er shall be" {Harold, III, 70). Of course Byron, a detached observer in Vision of Judgment, keeps both ironic and doctrinal distance by reminding the reader in the concluding stanza that he views the proceedings of Southey's appearance before the gates of heaven objectively through a telescope, which kept his "optics free from all delusion" (106). Byron's parody of Robert Southey's Vision of Judgement is a five-point argument presented in a prose preface and 106 ironic and satiric ottava rima stanzas. First, in the preface, omitted from the first edition of the



poem because John Murray failed to forward it to Leigh Hunt of The Liberal, Byron reverses Southey's attack on him and on the Satanic School of Poetry. He assumes the role of defender of the faith against the blasphemy of Southey's vision, advocating "no doctrinal tenets," and following the acceptable tradition of treating saints with humor outside the gates of Paradise while keeping Deity absent. Second, in stanzas 1-7, the recording angel's inactivity at the preadmittance bureau of the heavenly portals is contrasted to the activity in "the recording angel's black bureau" where the clerk has performed an angelic strip-teasehaving "stripp'd off both his wings in quills, / And yet was in arrear of human ills" (stanza 3)setting the chaos that will be observed telescopically in the denouement. Third, in stanzas 8-84, the debate over the proper way to enter heaven is presented. Fourth, in stanzas 85-103, Southey appears and begins to judge, furthering the chaos observed earlier in the recording angel's black bureau. Fifth, in stanzas 104-106, the comic denouement concludes rapidly as St. Peter uses his keys to the kingdom to knock Southey into the lake into which he fell like Phaetonand rose again to the top, to fulfill the prophesy from Revelation 13:1-7, in contrast to Psalm 100.^ The longest of the five sections of Vision of Judgment (8-84) examines satirically and ironically the proper way to ascend to heaventhe debate that has consumed Christianity from St. Augustine through Pelagius's heresy to the present: does one merit salvation through works, or is it exclusively the prerogative of God's grace? The debate over works, which awaits the testimony of George Washington and John Horn Tooke, is only interrupted when Southey arrives and begins to judge. In Byron's vision Southey standsand falls, into the Lake of the Lake Poetsas the quintessential example of anthropomorphists who presume to judge and who, in doing so, disregard the Vision of Judgment's central and largely silent biblical subtext alluded to in stanza 101: "And thinkest thou this, O Man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?" (Romans 2:3) Byron had already aligned himself with Christian benevolence, as Peter Graham has suggested (70). He hopes that he is "not quite alone" In this small hope of bettering future ill By circumscribing, with some slight restriction. The eternity of hell's hot jurisdiction. (13)



Conversely, by invoking God to "help us all," Byron challenges the Calvinism of his childhood"I know my catechism" (14)and the narrator is. God knows, as helpless as the devil can wish. And not a whit more difficult to damn Than is to bring to land a late-hook'd fish. Or to the butcher to purvey a lamb; Not that I'mfitfor such a noble dish As one day will be that immortal fry Ofalmost everybody born to die. (15)

Having identified himself as merciful"not one am I / Of those who think damnation better still" (13)Byron's affirmation of Christian benevolism is confirmed later in Vision ofJudgment when Southey becomes the quintessential anthropomorphist by presuming to judge George Ill's fitness to enter heaven. Byron thus adopts a traditional Christian concept of the final judgment to develop his parody, just as he resolves ironically given that he affirms through Psalm 100 that God's "mercy is everlasting" to allow George III entry into heaven. By rej ecting authoritarian prescriptions ofmortals who "thinkdamnation better still," Byron evolves, advertently or inadvertently, toward the tradition of the priesthood of all believers central to Protestant Christianity: it is the responsibility of all Christians to interpret the Bible, using the "true vision" given by Deity. One needs neither priest, vicar, pastor, Calvinist saint, and certainly not Robert Southey to interpret the Bible, and consequently the Christian faith. In the preface to Cain in 1821, Byron emphasizes his awareness of the need for personal, not doctrinal, interpretation of scripture by quoting Richard Watson, the Bishop of Llandaff, who resolved "to study nothing but my Bible. ... I had no prejudice against the Church of England ... but a sincere regard for the Church of Christ, and an insuperable objection to every degree of dogmatical intolerance." Watson continues to argue that he would hold the New Testament in his hand and say to those who questioned his belief: "Here is the foundation of truth."* Byron's 1821 view of activities at the portals of Paradise is more genial than those of contemporary Calvinists even though Byron uses identical principles of theology that Calvinists use, except that Byron's purpose is ironic: biblical texts variously adapted to confirm his argument; a discussion



of faith vs. workscentral to understanding the debate about the Christian way to Paradise; singing praises; using the Christian homiletic practice of choosing two biblical textsone each from Old and New Testaments, Psalm 100 and Rev. 13:1-7to resolve his thesis. He follows Christian typology, confirming New Testament theology with Old Testament texts. Which biblical texts to choose when Byron uses so many in Vision of Judgment is a conundrum to be resolved at the conclusion of this article.

Intimations of Immortality from Letters and Juvenilia Byron's letters frequently comment on an afterlife. Especially notable in one to Edward Noel Long on 16 April 1807 is a reference to the doctrine of works and a desire for a benevolent Deity in which he says he has been "stampt ... with the Die oi Indifference." "All the virtues and pious Deeds performed on Earth can never entitle a man to Everlasting happiness in a future State: nor on the other hand can such a Scene as a seat of eternal punishment exist, [51c.] it is incompatible with the benign attributes of a Deity to suppose so. I am surrounded here by parsons & Methodists, but, as you will see, not infected with the Mania. I have lived a Deist, what I shall die I know not; however, come what may, 'ridens moriar"' {LJ, I, 11415). He later wrote to Robert Charles Dallas: "I believe ... Death an eternal Sleep, at least of the Body" {LJ, 1,148). It should be remembered that Byron wrote these before his twentieth birthday, not after his thirty-sixth. Four years later, shortly after returning from his first pilgrimage, four people close to him died. Speaking of a "curse [that] hangs over me and mine,"^ he wrote to Francis Hodgson that he would have nothing to do with your immortality. ... If men are to live, why die at all? And if they die, why disturb the sweet and sound sleep that 'knows no waking'? ... who will believe that God will damn men for not knowing what they were never taught? ... I am no Platonist, I am nothing at all; but I would sooner be a Paulician, Manichean, Spinozist, Gentile, Pyrrhonian, Zoroastrian, than one of the seventy-two villainous sects who are tearing each other to pieces for the love of the Lord and the hatred of each other. Talk of Galileeism? Show me the effectsare you better, wiser, kinder by your precepts? I will bring you ten Mussulmans shall shame you in all good-will towards men, prayer to God, and duty to their neighbours.... But I will say no more on this



endless theme; let me live, well if possible, and die without pain. The rest is with God, who assuredly, had He come or sent, would have made Himself manifest to nations, and intelligible to all. {LJ, II, 88-89)

Byron attacks assumptions that men make about Deity, not Deity itself. Likewise, a variety of early poems address the afterlife and related themes, some orthodox, some not. Comments range from "I'll ne'er submission to my God refuse" ("On the Death of a Young Lady," 1802); to associations of death with dreamlessness and sleep ("To Caroline," 1805, and "The Tear," 1806); to immortality in remembrance through the power of the mind and memory ("Answer to a Beautiful Poem, Written by Montgomery," 1806), anticipating suggestions that the soul and the mind might be synonymous in Manfred a decade later; to speculating ("Love's Last Adieu!"1806) that one's mortal life is "this life of probation" where "some penance is due" to prepare "for rapture divine" if one "kneels to the Cod, on his altar of light"; to questioning ("To a Youthful Friend," 1808) why he, having been taught that man is born in sin, must wrestle with sin throughout life to be culminated by arbitrary damnation; and to suggesting ("To Caroline," 1805) that we "Will sleep in the grave, till the blast shall awake us, / When calling the dead, in Earth's bosom laid low"referring to corporeal resurrection. "The Prayer of Nature" (1806) is notable because Byron unites various themes. He asserts guilt (5-8, 37-40, 61-64) but questions the concept of original sin; admits that there might be no afierlife (57-60), but hopes that there is (53-64); questions the proper way to attain salvation (9-36); but affirms that it must be done through prayer and living nature's laws (37-40), but nature's laws modified because he needs a personal Savior:

To Thee I breathe my humble strain. Grateful for all thy mercies past. And hope, my God, to thee again. This erring life may fly at last.* Eight years later, Byron wrote three poems discussing immortality that eventually would be published in Hebrew Melodies. In thefirst,"If That High World" (1814), which "lies beyond / Our own, surviving Love endears," he anticipates an eternity where earth's loved ones will "hold each heart the



heart that shares, / With them the immortal waters drink, / And soul in soul grow deathless theirs ..." suggesting corporeal immortality. In the second, "When Coldness Wraps This Suffering Clay," Byron questions "whither strays the immortal mind," which is "Eternal, boundless, undecay'd. ... / A nameless and eternal thing, / Forgetting what it was to die"an apparently incorporeal spirit that anticipates Harold III and Manfred. In the third, "From Job," "A spirit pass'd before me: I beheld / The face of Immortality unveil'd /... all formlessbut divine." A personified immortality reminds "Creatures of clay" that they are but "Things of a day" who will wither soon "Heedless and blind to Wisdom's wasted light" not, apparently, to become the disembodied mind of the preceding poem. Finally, in a poem published first in the Examiner {ll June 1815), Byron writes of one recently deceased, suggesting as Milton does an eternity of light for the blessed: "Bright Be the Place of Thy Soul." The dead one was "divine" on earth, "As thy soul shall immortally be ... / When we know that thy God is with thee."

Christians and Mussulmen Byron's attitude toward Muslims was shaped primarily by experience with Islam during hisfirstpilgrimage of 1810-11, primarily through contacts that led to the Turkish Tales and stanzas in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage I and // (1812). He did, however, laugh genially at the contrast of Christian and Islamic concepts of women in the afterlife before his journey. Referring to the charms of Ehza ("To Miss E[Hzabeth]P[igot]," 1806)Byron prefers the Christian version to that of the "Mussulman sect, / Who to woman, deny the soul's future existence." Had Muhammad known Eliza, the Islamic view of Paradise would have been altered: Had their prophet possess'd half an atom of sense. He ne'er would have woman from Paradise driven; Instead of his Houris a flimsy pretence. With woman alone, he had peopled his Heaven. (2)

Byron's humor and gentle satire anticipate the uproar before the gates of heaven in Vision of Judgment fifteen years later by introducing marital disharmony before heaven while adapting a central passage from St.



Matthew that addresses both entry into heaven and the nature of life there. Byron places the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers in ironic context, suggesting that he can help even the Benedictines understand Jesus' message: This terrible truth, even Scripture has told. Ye Benedicks! hear me, and listen with rapture; If a glimpse of redemption you wish to behold. Of ST. MATT.read the second and twentieth chapter. (5)

Byron then cites the passage that inspires his romp through conjugal relationships in heaven and on earth: "'But in Heaven' (so runs the Evangelist's Text,) / 'We neither have giving in marriage, or wedding'" (6). Byron chooses Jesus' direct words (in King James's English) to reinforce his quarrel with Calvinists and others of the "seventy-two sects" who anthropomorphize scripture and restrict entry into Paradise. He cites Jesus' words to doubtersprimarily Sadducees and Phariseeswho try to entrap Him: "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matt. 22:29-32). Byron confided to his artilleryman William Parry at Missolonghi late in life: "I am sure that no man reads the bible with more pleasure than I do; I read a chapter every day, and in a short time shall be able to beat the canters with their own weapons" (Parry, 153). Byron was well on his way to defeating canters with their own weapons at the age of eighteen, however, as he demonstrates by selecting Matthew 22 to address matters immortal, foreshadowing his choice of Psalm 100 to seal the fate of Southey in Vision of Judgment. It is also advice Byron gives to his readers in Don Juan 1,220: "So thank your stars that matters are no worse, / And read your Bible, sir, and mind your purse," immediately before he ridicules the poetry of Southey to conclude canto I. Byron quotes only from Matt. 22:29-32 in "To Miss E P," but his specific reference to all of Matthew 22 invokes three other passages central to Christian theology. These passages are the recorded words of Jesus, giving



instructions to prepare for entry into his eternal presence, and are of especial relevance given the fact that Jesus was challenged by doubters. Even though the context of the poem is satiric in its presentation of conflicting views of the role of women in Christian and Islamic paradises, it is appropriate to comment on the full text of Matthew 22. The chapter opens with the parable of the wedding feast, the main lesson of which is God's acceptance of all who "clothe" themselves for his presencea metaphor for belief (22:13). In addition to the passage that Byron cites in the poem, in which it is recorded that those who enter heaven will be more angelic than anthropomorphic, Matthew 22 also addresses the proper relationship of Christians to the state and to each other. The first guides church-state relationships: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (22:21). The second issues the two "great commandments" about human relationships: "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart ... soul, and ... mind" and "love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matt: 22:38-40). As Byron might have said in reference to confusion about predestination and the proper way to attain immortal peace and harmony: "It doesn't get much clearer than that." Byron returns to Islam in Harold I and // and the Turkish Tales, especially in "The Giaour," where he contrasts Christian and Islamic beliefs about love, death, and the afterlife, and addresses in a footnote a misconception in "To Miss E P" and again in "The Giaour" about the place of Muslim women in Paradise, as A. R. Kidwai has noted (87-88). Love, death, and paradise conjoin in the face of Leila, as the narrator questions how any Muslim who saw Leila's "glance could read / And keep that portion of his creed / Which saith, that woman is but dust, / A soulless toy for tyrant's lust?" (48790). Byron moves from the humor of "To Miss E P" to the serious in "The Giaour" as he corrects the misconception, from both Islamic and Western perceptions, in one of several notes on Islam:

A vulgar error: the Koran allots at least a third of Paradise to wellbehaved women; but by far the greater number of Mussulmans interpret the text their own way, and exclude their moieties from heaven. Being enemies to Platonics, they cannot discern "anyfitnessof things" in the souls of the other sex, conceiving them to be superseded by the Houris. (McGann, Works, III, 419, 488n)



The Muslim Hassan believes that he can pass happily into the afterlife with the knowledge that Houris, "the maids of Paradise," await those who "fall in battle 'gainst a Giaour" and are consequently "worthiest an immortal bower" (739-46), returning to the harem image of Paradise that Byron had written about seven years earlier. The Giaour is not so fortunate: not only is he evil (912-13), but he has also been cursed by a Muslim fishermanfor some 40 lines (747-86)who describes hell in terms that even the most stereotypical late eighteenth century Calvinist could approve of: "And fire unquench'd, unquenchable / Aroundwithinthy heart shall dwell, / Nor ear can hear, nor tongue can tell / The tortures of that inward hell!" (751-54).' The Giaour's curse differs from Love given by "Alia":

Yes, Love indeed is a light from heaven A spark of that immortal fire With angels shar'dby Alia given.... A Ray of him who form'd the whole A Glory circling round the soul! (1131-41)

The conclusion is ambiguous even though the alienated Giaour earlier had declined to kneel in worship with monks (887-88) and has told his Confessor that he does not seek forgiveness unless Leila lives (1208-17). The Giaour's final comment to the Confessor mitigates the curse: he envisions his soul "fieeting towards the final goal" (1282) and perhaps sees his beloved Leila's altered presence in an afterlife (1283-1315). He alternates a desire for repose ("I want no paradisebut rest." [1270]) with a vision of Leila as "shape or shade!what'er thou art, / In mercy, ne'er again depart / Or farther with thee bear my soul ..." (1315-17). But neither Confessor nor Giaour nor Byron resolves the veiled vision because the tale concludes in the secrecy of confession and on the sealed lips of the Confessor who "shrived him on his dying day" (1332). The Giaour remains a giaour, apparently confirmed in the belief that Christian practice is better preparation for eternity than Islam, despite the fact that he requests no cross above his grave (1325). Byron leaves unsaid whether the Confessor only received the Giaour's confession; whether he prescribed penance; or whether, through the Confessor's office as intermediary, he could sense that the Giaour's final expression of remorse and humility was sincere enough that he could voice hope that God might grant absolution. The Giaour's confession suggests



that of Coleridge's ancient mariner, both of which rely on the Catholic tradition. Byron often expressed sympathy for the tenets of Catholicism. Suffice it here to record that Byron confided to Thomas Medwin: "I often wish I had been born a Catholic. That purgatory of theirs is a comfortable doctrine. ..." {LJ, I, 15); mused to Thomas Moore that Catholicism has not only the "most elegant worship" but also "leaves no possibility of doubt; for those who swallow their Deity ... in transubstantiation, can hardly find anything else otherwise than ease of digestion" {LJ, IX, 123); finally, he raised his daughter by Claire Claremont as a "strict Catholic" {LJ, IX, 119). Immortality of the Mind and of the Soul By 1816, when Byron left England, primarily because of the scandal associated with his separation from Lady Byron, he had begun to shift focus on the nature of immortality and its relationship to life in this world rather than the next. In an early example, Byron writes about the immortality of remembrance, blending two approaches to immortality in "Churchill's Grave" (1816). In the first, recalling a tradition that immortality exists in remembrance, Byron presents ironically and paradoxically a church sexton wholeading the poet to the graveyard where Churchill liesvaguely remembers that he was a "most famous writer in his day." In the second the poet questions mortal and immortal aspirations by invoking the rending of the veil at Christ's crucifixion (Matt. 27:51-53) when spirits who rose from the grave were recognized:

And is this all? I thought,and do we rip The veil of Immortality, and crave I know not what of honour and of light Through unborn ages, to endure this blight.'' So soon, and so successless? (15-19)'"

Further, on the vanity of human wishes and the role of monuments and memory in ensuring immortality, one should not forget Don Juan's remembrance of "old Egypt's King Cheops," who erected the first and largest pyramid "thinking it was just the thing / to keep his memory whole, and mummy hid." Byron reminds readers: "Let not a monument give you or me hopes / Since not a pinch of dust remains of Cheops" {Don Juan, I, 219).



Memorable lines in Harold III and Manfred recall the world of

transcendence in nature as central to immortality and remembrance, emphasizing the human soul" in varying contexts:

I live not in myself, but I become Portion of that around me; and to me. High mountains are a feeling, but the hum Of human cities torture: I can see Nothing to loathe in nature, save to be A link reluctant in a fleshly chain, Class'd among creatures, when the soul can flee. And with the sky, the peak, the heaving plain Of ocean, or the stars, mingle, and not in vain. {Harold, III, 72)

Twenty-four stanzas later, Byron speculates both about the soul of nature and the human soul within the context of the four elementsearth, air, fire, waterof antiquity: Sky, mountains, river, winds, lake, lightnings! ye! With night, and cloud, and thunder, and a soul To make these felt and feeling, well may be Things that have made me watchful.... But where of ye, oh tempests! is the goal? Are ye, like those with the human breast? {Harold, III, 96)

In the next stanza, the poet would like to "throw / Soul, heart, mind, passions, feelings, strong or weak, / All that I would have sought, and all I seek" to become as "Lightning"heat and light and power. Unable to do so, he asserts that he will "live and die unheard, / With a most voiceless thought...." (Ill, 97). Drummond Bone argues that these stanzas emphasize "man's alienated existence" and his fear that he will "live and die unheard" (42), but the references to "soul" throughout Canto III imply a life beyond the physical, and Byron incorporates that assumption because in most Christian traditions, which Byron draws on, the soul is a mortal's immortal substance. According to the Catholic tradition, the soul is mystically united with a human's mortality at the moment of conception or, as some



argue, sometime later on the path to birth. Of course Byron calls on other
traditions to explain a condition that he cannot easily dismiss, because Lucifer suggests Manichaean origins in Cain. Nevertheless, the presence of the soul is constant in Harold III,

But quiet to quick bosoms is a hell. And there hath been thy bane; there is a fire And motion of the soul which will not dwell In its own narrow being, but aspire Beyond the fitting medium of desire; And, but once kindled, quenchless evermore.... (42)

Earlier, in Canto II, Byron had suggested lugubriously that the soul resides, not in the bosom, but in the head. Observing a skull on the Acropolis, the narrator asks: "Is that a temple where a God may dwell?" (5)
Look on its broken arch, its ruin'd wall. Its chambers desolate, and portals foul: Yes, this was once Ambition's airy hall. The dome of Thought, the palace of the Soul.... (6)

There are multiple references to Harold's soul in the opening stanzas of Canto III: the "soul's haunted cell" (5); "What am I? Nothing; but not so art thou, / Soul of my thought! with whom I traverse earth, / Invisible but gazing, as I glow / Mix'd with thy spirit, blended with thy birth. ..." (6); "Yet Time ... had altered him / In soul and aspect as in age" (8); "his soul was quell'd / In youth by his own thoughts ..." (12). After having referred to the "wonder-works of God and Nature's hand" (10), the poet remarks that if Harold could

have kept his spirit to that flight He had been happy; but this clay will sink Its spark immortal, envying it the light To which it mounts as if to break the link That keeps us from yon heaven which woos us to its brink. (14)



But Harold "wanders forth again" (16) like a "wild-born falcon with dipt wing" lest "the heat / Of his impeded soul would through his bosom eat" (15). There is more to immortality than meets the doubter's eye in Harold because Byron affirms, lest we doubt, that "there is that within me which shall tire / Torture and Time, and breathe when I expire; / Something unearthly, which they deem not of, / Like the remembered tone of a mute lyre ..." (IV, 137). Byron once commented to Moore that one "certainly has a soul; but how it came to allow itself to be enclosed in a body is more than I can imagine" {LJ, I, 15). Finally in Harold IV, Byron views St. Peter's in Rome, affirming that the mind is central to understanding immortality: Enter: its grandeur overwhelms thee not; And why? it is not lessened; but thy mind. Expanded by the genius of the spot. Has grown colossal, and can only find Afitabode wherein appear enshrined Thy hopes of immortality; and thou Shalt one day, if found worthy, so deflned. See that God face to face, as thou dost now His Holy of Holies, nor be blasted by his brow. (155)

Byron's observations about the immortality of the mind are best expressed in Manfred. When Manfred tells the First Spirit that he seeks "Forgetfulness. ... Oblivionself-oblivion!" (I, i, 136, 145), the Spirit confronts him with the spirit world's immortality. "We are immortal, and do not forget. / W^e are eternal, and to us the past / Is, as the future, present" (I, i, 149-51). Later, Manfred tries to consign the Spirit "Back to thy hell!": "Slaves! scoff not at my will! / The mindthe spiritthe Promethean spark, / The lightning of my being ... / shall not yield to yours, though coop'd in clay" (1, i, 153-57). Byron had linked "mind" with "soul" in the manuscript: "The Mind which is my Spiritthe High Soul"but omitted it in the revision.'^ Later, an affirmation:

The mind which is immortal makes itself Requital for its good or evil thoughts Is its own origin of ill and end



And its own place and timeits innate sense. When stripp'd of this mortality, derives No colour from the fleeting things without. But is absorb'd in sufferance or in joy. Born from the knowledge of its own desert.... I... was my own destroyer, and will be My own hereafter. {Manfred, III, iv, 129-40)

Whatever the ultimate state of an afterlife, the Mind is destined to keep the thought alive. Manfred's final words to the abbot, who implores Manfred to pray as he dies, are

Old man! 'tis not so difficult to die. Abbot. He's gonehis soul hath ta'en its earthless flightWhither? I dread to thinkbut he is gone. (Ill, iv, 151-153)

Because Manfred assumes responsibility for his actions ("my own destroyer, and will be / My own hereafter" [III, iv, 139-40]) he rejects a predestined eternity. If, however, the voice from the Incantation is correct"Nor to slumber, nor to die, / Shall be in thy destiny" (I, i, 254-55),'^ Manfred will not find the self-forgetfulness or oblivion that he sought early in the drama. The abbot's concern for Manfred's soul is more vocal than that of the Giaour's confessor, but Byron wrote no more about that uncertainty in Manfred. Rather, he returned to Harold IV after completing Manfred and rediscovered images of eternity in nature in the concluding stanzas on the ocean (179-84), "where the Almighty's form / Glasses itself in tempests ... / Dark-heaving; boundless, endless, and sublime / The image of Eternitythe throne / Of the Invisible. ..." (IV, 183)

Random References to Immortality in Don Juan Byron occasionally expresses unconventional interest in immortality. Take for example the way the theory of predestination informs Haidee's death in Don Juan. She "died, but not alone; she held within / A second principle of life, which might / Have dawn'd a fair and sinless child of sin" (IV, 70).



Almost hidden in Byron's pathos and verbal play are the consequences of original sin: that somehow Haidee's innocent child might have been spared the burden of sin from an earlier fall in a more innocent paradise.''' Byron assumes, but leaves unmentioned, the doctrine of ensoulment. He refers to immortality early in the Haidee stanzas, when Haidee and Zoe first discover Juan. And thus they left him to his lone repose: Juan slept like a top, or like the dead. Who sleep at last, perhaps, (God only knows) lust for the present. ... (II, 134)

Depending on the religious tradition one accepts, "repose" might refer to the sleep that comes with death as one awaits the second coming, or to the repose of the soul, or simply to the state of death itself. Byron pointedly notes that "God only knows"a concept explored extensively in Manfred, Cain, and Heaven and Earth. We attempt to understand the afterlife now only through glimpses, suppositions, and imperfect vision, accepting the affirmation of 1 Cor. 13:12 that "now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." Images of an afterlife also appear in the shipwreck of II, 86, and elsewhere in references to the sea (V, 6; XV, 99). Another example is a passing apocryphal allusion to the harrowing of hell, which informs the actions of the Russian General Suwarrow"the greatest Chief / That ever peopled hell with heroes slain" (VII, 68) at Ismail, who slaughters for the sake of rehgion: "I have vowed / To several saints, that shortly plough or harrow / Shall pass o'er what was Ismail, and its tusk / Be unimpeded by the proudest mosque" (VII, 63). The cross, symbolizing the Atonement, becomes ironically its antithesis: "The crimson cross glared o'er the field; / But red with no redeeming gore" (VIII, 122); and a reference to immortality earlier in the stanzas devoted to Suwarrow is scathingly ironic (VII, 84). Byron also reverts to traditional images of heaven in impious context in the "Ava Maria" stanzas (III, 101-103), where "the heavenliest hour of Heaven is worthiest thee!" (Ill, 101), where "our spirits dare / Look up to thine [Ave Maria's] and to thy Son's above!" (Ill, 103).'=



Canto XIV opens with a meditation on death and evolves six stanzas later into the quandary of a potential suicide approaching the uncertainty of death, an uncertainty that Byron also addresses in Cain. The narrator professes that he, like the reader, does not know what is beyond life. In fact, even the knowledge that "you were born to die" might be untrue because "An age may come. Font of Eternity, / When nothing shall be either old or new" (XIV, 3). Byron concludes the passage equivocally because the suicide faces his moment of decision "shuddering at the mirror" of his thoughts and "all their self confession"

The lurking bias, be it truth or error. To the unknown; a secret prepossession. To plunge with all your fearsbut where? You know not. And that's the reason why you do [commit suicide]or do not. (XIV, 6)

Byron had written earlier, to begin Canto VII, a series of stanzas on the reception of Don Juan. Professing that he hoped that "it is no crime / To laugh at all things" (VII, 2), he cites many who had done similar things among them Socrates, Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Dante, Swift, Luther, and Wesleyand concludes, as he did in Canto XIV, with uncertainty about death and what might exist beyond: "We live and die, / But which is best, you know no more than I" (VII, 4). When he wishes, Byron returns to his confiicts with "some casuists" who think that he has "no devotion" by challenging them to pray with him: And you shall see who has the properest notion Of getting into Heaven the shortest way; My altars are the mountains and the ocean. Earth, air, stars,all that springs from the great Whole, Who hath produced and will receive the soul. (Ill, 104)

In a simple digression, Byron combines the classical elements with the idea of soul and immortality into a union with eternal nature. These random illustrations from Don Juan, by no means a complete catalogue, are cited primarily to suggest the wealth of recurrent references to the afi;erlife



throughout Byron's poetry. Any attempt to study comprehensively the implications of the 447 scriptural references235 from the Old Testament, 212 from the New Testamentthat Looper (56-89, 199-222) finds in Don Juan would require an independent essay.

Immortality and the Old Testamentthe Mystery Plays Because Byron anticipated the furor that would be caused by the publication of Cain, he justified his approach to the subject matter in the Preface by referring to precedent, especially on the topic of immortality: "there is no allusion to a future state in any of the books of Moses, nor indeed in the Old Testament." Consequently he believes his discussion of it new to Cain.^^ He also notes that any reference to the New Testament would be anachronistic, even though he alludes to the atonement (I, i, 163-66), the descent into hell (I, i, 540-42), and Jesus walking on the water (II, i, 16-20). In addition he justifies incorporating the catastrophic theories of Cuvier, noting that they do not contradict the Genesis record. Einally, Byron asserts that he takes biblical texts as they exist, despite how "Rabbins and Eathers" might interpret them: he follows the practice of the Bishop of Llandaff because he relies on biblical texts rather than biblical commentary. That said, Byron makes immortality important in Cain and Heaven and Earth, originating the discussion through the confused mind of Cain and the Manichaean dualities of body and soul introduced by Lucifer. He questions the justice of the consequences of original sin and pursues an unsuccessful quest for knowledge about the condition of immortality, especially important after he kills Abel. When Byron turns to Heaven and Earth, he applies Christian typology to wrestle with the matter of salvation in the record of the fiood: why God chose Noah to "Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation" (Gen. 7:1). To assure that he had a sound text for reference while writing the scriptural plays, Byron wrote to Murray on 9 October 1821 asking for a well-bound Bible to replace the one given to him by Augusta: Send ... [a] common bible of a good legible print (bound in Russia) I have onebut as it was the last gift of my Sister ... I can only use it carefullyand less frequentlybecause I like to keep it in good order.Don't forget thisfor I am a great reader and admirer of those



booksand had read them through & through before I was eight years oldthat is to say the old Testamentfor the New struck me as a taskbut the other as a pleasureI speak as a to^from the recollected impression of that period at Aberdeen in 1796. {LJ, VIII, 238n)

Murray sent the Bible, and a volume of Bible commentary, a month later. Many have commented on Byron's life-long reading of the Bible. Theresa Guiccioli, in her Recollections of Lord Byron, wrote: "The Bible ... constituted his favorite reading. Often did he find in the magnificent poetry of the Bible matter for inspiration" (131). The Methodist James Kennedy recorded that Byron read the Bible daily and that he would occasionally correct Kennedy when Kennedy cited a scriptural passage erroneously. Further, Byron confided to V^illiam Parry: "I am sure that no man reads the bible with more pleasure than I do; I read a chapter every day, and in a short time shall be able to beat the Canters with their own weapons" (Parry, 153). Finally, he told his valet William Fletcher on his death-bed: "I am not afraid of dying, I am more fit to die than people think."'^ Certainly, if the ability to cite the Bible is any sign of religiosity, Byron ranks with the best because Looper records 1,063 references to the Old and 643 to the New Testament in his poetry, and that does not include the many references to topics of biblical concern in the letters and journals and to allusionsoften nuances of phrasingthat Looper does not record. Byron never joined the ranks of the canters; nor did he become a doctrinaire advocate of the priesthood of all believers. But it was not because he was unprepared textually. Given the undeniable evidence of Byron's life-long interest in the biblical record, his objections to the way practitioners of the "seventy-two sects" manipulate texts, and his interest in drama, it seems only natural that Byron would use the mystery play to examine two Old Testament texts that inform New Testament concerns. Milton had explored the fall in Paradise Lost; Byron wanted rather to examine the entrance of death into the world after the exile from Eden. Both Cain and Heaven and Earth refer to original sin while casting doubt on the efficacy of the doctrine of the elect. Cain questions early in the drama: What had I done in this?I was unborn, I sought not to be born.... I judge but by the fruitsand they are bitter Which I must feed on for a fault not mine. (I, i, 67-68, 78-79)



The questioning continues in Heaven and Earth; but Byron insists that, if a playwright has a character raise questions in a drama, it does not necessarily mean that heor any playwrightis that character. Byron addressed this in a letter to Thomas Moore on 4 March 1822, three months after Cain was published:

... can I never convince you that I have no such opinions as the characters in that drama, which seems to have frightened every body? ... My ideas of a character may run away with me: like all imaginative men, I, of course, embody myself with the character while I draw it, but not a moment after the pen is from off the paper. I am no enemy to religion. ... I incline, myself, very much to the Catholic doctrines; but if I am to write a drama, I must make my characters speak as I conceive them likely to argue. {LJ, IX, 118-19)

By choosing Adam and Eve as his charactersand by contrasting the affirmations of faith and acceptance of God's will by the family of Adam to the questions of the outcast Cain and to the manipulative provocations of LuciferByron examines from varying perspectives both traditionally developed theories of the consequences of original sin and the implications of that original sin for eternity. He continues this in Heaven and Earth because, while the main actors in the mystery approach the doctrine variously, underlying alleven the fiood itselfis the question of divine justice and its consequences for future life. In a drama with frequent references to immortal creaturesLucifer, seraphs, angels, archangels, cherubsCain introduces immortality by referring to the presence of Lucifer, who has a "sterner and sadder aspect / Of spiritual essence ... sorrow seems / Half of his immortality" (I, i, 81-82, 95-96). Lucifer teases Cain almost out of thought with comments, such as those echoing Psalm 90:4, that immortal spirits

Can crowd eternity into an hour. Or stretch an hour into eternity: We breathe not by a mortal measurement But that's a mystery (I, i, 536-39)



Lucifer addresses Cain's eternal yearnings by adapting the Manichaean duality of an immortal soul in an alien bodycomparable in some ways to ensoulmentand uniting it with Byron's earlier explorations of the mind as immortal: "They are the thoughts of all / Worthy of thought;'tis your immortal part / Which speaks within you" (I, i, 102-04). Until this point Cain has focused only on death as the end of an unwanted life, and in his view of the meaninglessness of life and his parents' conviction that the pursuit of knowledge is sinful, sees no reason to live: he echoes Manfred's view that it would probably be not so difficult to die (I, i, 111 -115). Lucifer assures him that is not so: "Thou livestand must live forever" when Earth's covering is gone, and when Cain will be "No less than thou art now" (I, i, 118). Lucifer then uses the appeal of eternity to entice Cain to join him in challenging a Deity who, in a negative allusion to the atonement, might create a son whom God will sacrifice (I, i, 163-66). Thus Lucifer, appealing to Cain's anger, offers immortality through defiance:

Souls who dare use their immortality Souls who dare look the Omnipotent tyrant in His everlasting face, and tell him, that His evil is not good! (I, i, 137-40)

When Cain informs Lucifer that he would "rather consort with spirits," Lucifer affirms that Cain's "own soul" is prepared for such consorting. Cain's primary affirmation of immortality comes from Lucifer in the absence of Paradise, but Cain's quest is mental, continuing the knowledge-mind continuum (I, i, 213-14) in Byron's desire to understand immortality The irony of the human knowledge of immortality, however, begins with its antithesis, which has tormented Cain's mind, and which Lucifer uses to lure Cain. Lucifer continues:

all things are Divided with me; life and deathand time Eternityand heaven and earthand that Which is not heaven nor earth, but peopled with Those who once peopled or shall people both These are my realms! So that I do divide His, and possess a kingdom which is not



His. If I were not that which I have said. Could I stand here? His angels are within Your vision. (I, i, 547-56) Lucifer asks Cain about his desire for immortality: "I am angelic: wouldst thou be as I am?" (II, i, 78), recalling Matt. 22:30, in which Jesus tells doubters that people "are as the angels of God in heaven." Cain responds: "Let me, or happy or unhappy, learn / To anticipate my immortality" (II, i, 93-94). Lucifer then suggests that Cain's immortality will be much like his life: suffering (II, i, 96); and Lucifer replies to Cain's query "And must torture be immortal?": "We and thy sons will try" (II, i, 96-97). During the fiight to Hades, which Lucifer identifies as "the realm / Of Death" (II, ii, 13-14), Cain curses Adam who gave him life. Questioning Cain's curse, Lucifer provokes Cain's predestinarian reply: "Cursed he not me in giving me my birth? / Cursed he not me before my birth, in daring / To pluck the fruit forbidden?" (II, ii, 22-25). Cain is not satisfied with the knowledge of life after death that Lucifer has shown through phantoms. Lucifer in turn consoles Cain, reminding him that he now knows that there are multiple states after death, which will seem "clearer to thine immortality" (II, ii, 177). In the remainder of the scene leading up to Cain's murder of Abel in Act III, there are multiple references to "immortality," to "eternity," and to "Paradise,"'* the last identified as the eternal abode of God, but Cain can resolve nothing further about immortality. Even though Cain's experience has confirmed the existence of some type of immortality, the drama concludes with Cain expressing ignorance of the eternity that he had defiantly sought with Lucifer. Cain no longer looks forward to eternal life, however, as his final words over the body of Abel affirm: "what thou now art, /1 know not! but if thou seest what / am, / I think thou wilt forgive him, whom his God / Can ne'er forgive, nor his own soul... !" (Ill, i, 530-33)." At the conclusion of Heaven and Earth, Japhet continues to question the uncertainty about immortality that Cain had introduced in Byron's first mystery. The saved Japhet asks: "Why, when all perish, why must I remain?" (I, iii, 929) as Noah's ark comes to rescue him from the flood that has already destroyed most of humankind. Reverberating in Japhet's mind are the preceding comments about fieeing from the consuming fiood, which echoes Psalm 139:7, "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall Ifieefrom thy presence?" Even though references to fiight are frequent



in scene three (lines 266-71, 594-99, 643-45, 877-82, 905-10), Byron is curiously silent about the verses of Psalm 139 that follow, which might have meliorated the gloom:

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. ... Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Ps. 139:8-11, 23-24)

Perhaps Byron does not allude to this because it seems inconsistent with the predestinarian argument of Heaven and Earth, suggesting as the psalm does a benevolent God with a sustaining hand and an affirmation of the "way everlasting." Some exegetes argue that Psalm 139 refers to immortality in the Old Testamentwhich Byron had commented in the preface to Cain did not exist. Byron is also silent about the context of Psalm 55, which he alludes to in I, iii, 643-45: "Fly! / And as your pinions bear ye back to Heaven, / Think that my love still mounts with thee on high." "Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fiy away, and be at rest. ... I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest. ... Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved" (Psalm 55:6, 8, 22). According to these texts, not only does God not destroy, but he also sustains everlastingly Psalm 139 refers both to an omnipresent, warm, and personal God and to everlasting life. Byron must have questioned how one resolves stereotypical Calvinism in the face of contradictory evidence, not only in the psalms but elsewhere, especially in "ST. MATT the second and twentieth chapter," the text that Byron had incorporated in "To Miss E P" in 1806. The second coming of Christ does enter by allusion, however, when Japhet, answering the "Chorus of Spirits issuing from the cavern," responds that the "eternal V^ill" will

redeem ... all times, all things ... Abolish Hell! And to the expiated Earth Restore ... Her Eden in an endless paradise.... When the Redeemer cometh;firstin pain. And then in glory (I, iii, 193-206,passim.)



The subject is dropped because of the sense of doom growing as the flood gathers. But the general theme of immortality central to Heaven and Earth remains, because Byron's inscription to the mystery is from Genesis 6:1-2: "the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose." The mystery of the union of mortality and immortality is addressed early in the drama in human terms as Anah and Aholibamahmortal womenand Azaziel and Samiasatheir immortal angel loversdiscuss immortality. Random passages emphasize it: Anah refers to Azaziel's "immortal wings" in contrast to her "clay" (I, i, 21-23), the "eternal depths of heaven" (I, i, 39), Azaziel's "eternity" (I, i, 64), and "immortal essence" (I, i, 66). The more defiant Aholibamah, contrasting her lover Samiasa's "immortality" to her "clay," professes her immortality:

Thou art immortalso am I: I feel I feel my immortality o'ersweep All pains. .. ."Thou livest forever!" But if it be in joy, I know not, nor would know; That secret rests with the Almighty giver. Who folds in clouds the fonts of bliss and woe. But thee and me he never can destroy; Change us he may, but not o'erwhelm; we are Of as eternal essence and must war With him if he will war with us; with thee I can share all things, even immortal sorrow; For thou hast ventured to share life with me. And shall Z shrink from thine eternity? (I. i, 110-126)

In both mystery plays, the most rebellious mortals, man and womanCain and Aholibamahare most pointed in affirming not only the existence of an immortal state but also of a personal immortalityCain with Lucifer's assistance. The words of the two fallen women are important, but so is the concept of typology, which many exegetes use to interpret the story of Noah. A good example is C. I. Scofield, famous to twentieth-century students as the creator of the Scofield chain reference Bible (14):



In strictness of application this speaks of the preservation through the "great tribulation" (Mt. 24:21-22) of the remnant of Israel who will turn to the Lord after the Church (typified by Enoch, who was translated to Heaven before the judgment of the Flood) has been caught up the meet the Lord (Gen. 5:22-24; I Thes. 4:15-17; Heb. 11:5; Isa. 2:10-11; 26:20-21). But the type has also a present reference to the position of the believer "in Christ" (Eph. 1) etc. It should be noted that the word translated "pitch" in Gen 6:14 is the same word translated "atonement" in Lev. 17:11, etc. It is atonement that keeps out the waters of judgment and makes the believer's position "in Christ" safe and blessed.

The ark of Noah becomes a type of Christ, serving as refuge of His people from judgment (Heb. 11:7; 1 Pet. 3:20-21). Consequently Japhets unsuccessful attempt to get Anah aboard and Noah's more successful saving of Japhet become metaphors of salvation as type of eternity.^" Marchand suggests that Heaven and Earth struggles with the familiar Byronic theme of the "ineffable longing for a celestial life and love free from fhe imperfections of the earthly stafe" (Critical Introduction, 91). Byron does this within fhe context of his struggle wifh the doctrine of the elect, however, despite the flood as type of baptism. Within the context of the principal beings in fhe drama, Byron adopts a peculiarly utilitarian stance to character development, made more meaningful by his comment f o Moore in reference fo Cain fhat, even though his characters do nof speak as Byron, he becomes fhem when creating fheir thoughts and actions. Thus Byron examines the doctrine of the elecf and its relationship fo the afterlife in his penultimate drama from six points of view. First, fhe doctrinal Noah, whom E. H. Coleridge complained that "Byron had faik like a street preacher" (V, 309), affirms the doctrine of fhe elecf in various ways; second, Anah, who sins wifh a fallen angel, seems fo be religious and is, from Japhef s point of view, worthy of salvafion (I, iii, 426-27, 467-70); fhird, Aholibamah, also in love with an angel, challenges Noah and remains unrepenfanf as a defianf seed of Cain's lineage (I, i, 110 fF.); fourth, Samiasa and Azaziel, fwo fallen angel-lovers, paradoxically seem above the froubles of mere mortals; fifth, Raphael is fhe angelic and unquestioning emissary of Cod's will ("Farewell, fhou earth! ye wretched sons of clay, / I cannot, must not, aid you. 'Tis decreed" [I, iii, 804-05]); and sixth, Japhet, Noah's son and focal character of the drama, is elect and cannot understand why, even though he comprehends Cod's plan for Noah in succincf biblical fashion by paraphrasing Cenesis



7:1: "And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation" (I, iii, 38082). As Raphael tells Noah: "Thy son, despite his folly, shall not sink: / He knows not what he says, yet shall not drink / With sobs the salt foam of the swelling waters ..." (I, iii, 765-67). Obviously these comments confiict with Fairchild's one-paragraph dismissal of Heaven and Earth as "the sole work in which Byron is consciously dishonest" (III, 433). "What is Poetry?The feeling of a Former world and a Future" While reading Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel's lectures on literary criticism^' on 29 January 1821, Byron paused to write in his "Ravenna Journal": Why there is gentleness in Dante beyond all gentleness, when he is tender. It is true that, treating of the Christian Hades, or Hell, there is not much scope or site for gentlenessbut who but Dante could have introduced any "gentleness" at all into HelU Is there any in Milton's? Noand Dante's Heaven is all love, and glory, and majesty. (I/, VIII, 39-40) Like Dante and Milton, Byron writes primarily about Judeo-Christian concepts of an afterlife, examining the biblical record and questioning through serious commentary in his letters, journals, conversations and poetry in manners comic, serious, satiric, ironic, and parodic the challenges to the biblical record by his childhood teachers and by exegetes of his infamous "seventy two sects." Responses to his questions about the existence of an afterlife, its nature, and ways to attain it come in various contexts. Among them are perfunctory affirmation, even to corporeal resurrection, in some juvenilia while doubting the existence of an afterlife in letters from the same time; contrasting alternative Islamic and Christian visions of paradise in both comic and tragic contexts ("To Miss E P" and The Giaour); questioning its nature and justification, and speculating about its physical presence (Manfred, Cain, Heaven and Earth and letters and journals); referring to it in passing (Don Juan); examining it from Calvinist, Methodist, Anglican, Catholic, Manichaean, and other approaches; and



dissolving anthropomorphic dicta and conflicts about eternity in laughter in The Vision of Judgment. Or, as Peter Cochran comments, in Byron's ottava rima period redemption is "comically redefined" (48) as Ceorge III ascends into heaven and Southey sinks into the abyss of the Lake District because Byron circumscribes "with some slight restriction, / The eternity of hell's hot jurisdiction" (13). This is despite the fact that he will be labeled "unpopular," "blasphemous," and perhaps "damn'd / For hoping no one else may e'er be so." Like others, he has been "cramm'd" with the best doctrines, knows that all "save England's church have shamm'd / And that the other twice two hundred churches / And synagogues have made a damn'd bad purchase" (14). Byron questions neither the existence of Cod nor an afterlife in Vision of Judgment, because he affirms that he has intentionally kept God out of the confrontation before the gates of Heaven. Further, he records that he sees his parodic and quintessentially ironic vision not "through a glass darkly" (I Cor. 13:12) but clearly from the distance of a detached observer through a telescopic lensit can't get much clearer and more ironically objective and affirmative than that. In two ironic biblical allusions in Vision of Judgment, however, Byron returns joyfully to the practice of the sectarians whom he criticizes by selecting two texts, one from the Old Testament and one from the New, to conclude his version of a homily, which is complete with exemplasome of which are inspired by the 75 biblical texts, 32 from the Old Testament, and 43 from the New,^^ that Looper identifies (161-65, 26066). The Old Testament text is Psalm 100; the New Testament text is Rev. 13:1-7. In Byron's ironic vision, the Old Testament text gives the traditional New Testament message; the New Testament conveys the traditional Old Testament avenue to confirm the message. The first appears in stanza seven, where Byron introduces the beast from Revelation who came out of the sea with "seven heads and ten horns." On the beast's heads was written "blasphemy" (13:1), and "it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them" (13:7). Such seems to be Southey's case when he arrives on the scene in stanza 85 and begins to bray like "Balaam's ass" (Num. 22:21-34). The rest of the parody becomes both apocalyptic and homiletic: St. Peter knocks Southey out of heaven with the keys to the kingdom (104), but Byron ironically gives historical and biblical context because Peter "has hitherto been known / For an impetuous saint"; and St. Michael cannot fulfill biblical prophecy by giving the trumpet call because his "teeth were set on edge, he could not blow." Thus Southey



falls, like Phaeton, into the lake of the Lake District. Why "like Phaeton"? Phaeton, the son of Helios, tried unsuccessfully to drive his father's golden chariot. Undisciplined and presumptuous like Southey, he would have set the world onfirehad Zeus not knocked him from heaven with a thunderbolt. In like apocalyptic manner, had Southey not been knocked from Heaven by another type of thunderboltthe keys to the kingdomhe too might have brought fire to the world if Michael had been composed enough to sound the trumpet of the Lord (Rev. 8:6-13) to signify the coming of the Apocalypse. Ironically, in the absence of Deity, Peter's impetuosity and Michael's inability to sound the trumpet keeps the world safe as Southey descends to the lake, not of fire but of the Lake District, where he will be able to live up to the promise of Revelation 13, and Ceorge III can enter heaven to sing praises.^^ V^ich brings usfinallyto a subtext of Vision ofJudgment, and perhaps of this article as well. Ceorge III is left practicing Psalm 100. Why that, rather than any of a dozen other psalms or passages of scripture? The answer is in the exegesis. After Psalm 23, Psalm 100 is perhaps the best known, and Byron enhances his irony by suggesting that Ceorge III might not have known it outside the gates. The answer is not in Ceorge III slipping through in a Southey-inspired confusion, but in searching the scriptureswhich is the record in the Judaeo-Christian traditionto resolve the essentially Christian enigma that Byron focuses on in his prose and poetry. As he had discovered at the age of sixteen, Matthew 22 might be an answer. In laughter at the improbability of sinful man's entry into heaven, however, Byron returns to the Psalmsas he does without laughter in Heaven and Earthto suggest possibilities that even Ceorge III and by association all canters culminating in Southey might understand. If an essayist might be allowed to turn exegete for a moment, Byron chose Psalm 100 to conclude his final unified poem devoted to the problem of immortality; and in doing so he chose the Old Testament as testimony to his exploration of Christian benevolism.^'' Like Matthew 22, Psalm 100 addresses distinct topics relating to Byron's quest. The theme of the psalm is to praise and serve the Lord joyfully "all ye lands": consequently, because access is not limited by artificial boundaries, the "seventy-two sects" or the "twice two hundred churches" become superfiuous. Entrants should therefore "come before his presence with singing," as Ceorge III does after he slips through the gates. Cod made us, "not we ourselves"; thus, anthropomorphism becomes irrelevant. Further, because we "are



his people, and the sheep of his pasture," man is in Cod's hands, not Cod in man's; consequently Southey and all canters are dismissed. Ceorge III does precisely what worshipers are supposed to do by entering "into his gates with thanksgiving ... bless his name." Finally, because "his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations," there is perhaps hope for all. Even though Byron's inquiries into the nature of immortality connote uncertainty at various stages of life, his critique of cantersespecially Southeywas effective long before he confided to Parry that "in a short time [I] shall be able to beat the canters with their own weapons." During his final illness at Missolonghi, Byron was not tormented by doubt. Perhaps Byron's comments to two associates in Creece best illustrate hisfinalthoughts about death and an afterlifewhen he was not creating the personae of Childe Harold, Manfred, Cain, Aholibamah, or Southey. He told Parry: "I fancy myself a Jew, a Mahomedan, and a Christian of every profession of faith. Eternity and space are before me; but on this subject, thank Cod, I am happy and at ease. The thought of living eternally, of again reviving, is a great pleasure" (122-23). Finally, he confided to Fletcher: "I am not afraid of dying, I am more fit to die than people think" (Marchand, III, 1221). The record of Byron's comments on immortalityChristian or otherwisein his mature writings and in observations late in life ought, perhaps, to be juxtaposed to comments which assert that he "mocked the idea of Christian immortality" with evidence based primarily on letters written in his youth.

McDaniel College

NOTES 'The full passage can be read in Leslie Marchand's Byron's Letters and Journals, II, 98 (LJ). Marchand discusses Byron's views on immortality briefly in LJ, 1,14-16. Drummond Bone (2) and others have commented on the Calvinist superstition that deformities such as Byron's lameness are, hke the mark of Cain, a sign of damnation. Hoxie Neale Fairchild, in his chapter on Byron in Religious Trends In Englisia Poetry (III, 388-451), surveys Byron's association with Christian thought, as does Edward Wayne Marjarum, especially in his chapters on "Doctrinal Christianity" and "Roman Catholicism."



^Unless noted otherwise, all citations to Byron's poetry are from lerome McGann, ed.. Lord Byron: The Complete Poetical Worics, (7 vols. 1980-83). Ernest Hartley Coleridge's 7-volume The Woriis of Lord Byron (1898-1904) is cited as Coleridge, Worics. The standard practice of citing stanza/line references in poems and dramas rather than pages in specific volumes will he followed. ^Three doctoral dissertations and one published volume are devoted to Byron's use of the Bihle in his poetry: Arthur Ponitz, Byron und die Bibel; Harold Ray Stevens, Byron and the Bible: A Study of Poetic and Philosophic Development; and Travis Looper, whose study was published as Byron and the Bible: A Compendium of Biblical Usage in the Poetry of Lord Byron. Other studies, such as Byron, The Bible, and Religion: Essays from the Twelfth International Byron Seminar, edited by Hirst, also address biblical topics. None, however, focuses systematically on Byron's thoughts about immortality. The index to volume VII of McGann's edition of Byron cites "immortality" only as a cross-reference. Philip Davis (268) argues that "so strong is the sense of something like predestination in Byron that for an instant it impersonally almost frees the minds of his protagonists in the very sight of what is still personally determined for and by them." 'For a more detailed discussion of this, see Stevens, "Southey and the Satanic School of Poetry: The Apocalyptic Tradition in Byron's Vision of Judgment'' 'Cited by Coleridge, Works, V, 208n. The quotation comes from Anecdotes of the Life of Richard Watson (1817), 39. 'Letter to Scrope Berdmore Davis, 7 August 1811, LJ, II, 68. As Byron wrote, his mother's corpse lay unburied in Newstead Abbey, and his friend Charles Skinner Matthews had recently drowned in the Cam. lohn Wingfield and lohn Eddleston were the others. *For further development of this, and Byron's indebtedness to the Christian hymn, see Stevens, "Christian Elements in Byron's 'Prayer of Nature'" (18-20). 'Byron continues in a footnote, commenting on a reference in the poem to Monkir, who along with Nekir are inquisitors of the dead before whom a corpse "undergoes ... preparatory training for damnation" (McGann, Worfcs, III, 420, note to line 748). For a more complete discussion of Byron's contrast of Islamic and Christian traditions, see Marilyn Butler, "The Orientalism of Byron's 'Giaour'" (78-96). For a discussion of a misreading of Byron's knowledge about the place of women in an Islamic Paradise, see A. R. Kidwai and Vincent Newey, "'A Vulgar Error': Byron on Women and Paradise" (87-88). Because the focus of this essay is on the afterlife rather than the culture of Islam in generalespecially as Byron observed it in Childe Harold I and II in Greece, Albania, and TurkeyI will mention only that, in a note on the Turks (appended to Harold II, 73) Byron generalizes about their religious nature and cites a text written in French that discusses various sects of Islam (McGann, Works, II, 210). '"For an extended discussion of Byron's aesthetic development of "Churchill's Grave," see Terrance Riley, "'Churchill's Grave': Byron and the Monumental Style" (37-53).



"lerome I. McGann in Fiery Dust argues that the "fusion in man's nature" of body and soul "is mirrored in Byron's paradoxical coordination of his liberal Socinian thought with his Catholicism" (252). ''McGann, Works, IV, 58,154n. "For a discussion of the biblical context oi Manfred, see Stevens, "Theme and Structure in Byron's Manfred: The Biblical Basis." '"Eden and the ruins of paradise, especially within the context of typology, are central both to Byron's poetry and to his thoughts about immortality. Among the studies that address the themes of Eden and the exile are Robert R Gleckner's Byron and the Ruins of Paradise and the more recent "Fiction's Limit and Eden's Door" by Bernard Beatty. ''lames Kennedy records Byron's comment that Catholics believed "the sins of the heart were easily forgiven.. .by a merciful God" (104). Kennedy's conversations on religion with Byron in Missolonghi are informative but not necessarily definitive or final. Among other things, Kennedy records that Byron professed a desire to believe and was not satisfied with his "unsettled notions on religion," objected to Christians feuding over doctrine, questioned the doctrine of the trinity and debated Socinian doctrine with Kennedy, professed to daily reading of the Bible, and occasionally corrected Kennedy on biblical matters. For a critical appraisal of Kennedy's record of Byron's thoughts about religion, see Doris Langley Moore (338-52). Ernest Lovell also records some of Byron's conversations on religion. Especially relevant is Byron's comment to Isaac Nathan: "they accuse me of atheisman atheist I could never beno man of reflection, can feel otherwise than doubtful and anxious, when refiecting on futurity" (83). G. Wilson Knight, on the other hand, emphasizes Byron's Christian Virtues rather than consequences for a future existence. "Byron cites Bishop Warburton's The Divine Legation of Moses Demonstrated on the Principles of a Religious Deist; from the Omission of the Doctrine of a Future State of Reward and Punishment in the Jewish Dispensation, asserting Warburton to be the best text on the subject. Cited in Coleridge, Works, V, 209-lOn. "Westminster Review, II (luly 1824), 255. Cited in Marchand, Byron: A Biography, III, 122ln. "See for example "immortality" relating specifically to Cain's quest: II, i, 131; II, ii, 177, 386, 441; and "eternity": II, i, 150; II, ii, 84, 389, 432. In II, ii, references to "Paradise" are primarily to lehovah's otherworldly place, as in II, ii, 366-67. "The literature discussing Cain's various themes is extensive. Central is Truman Guy Steffan's Lord Byron's Cain: Twelve Essays and a Text with Variants and Annotations, who collects numerous nineteenth-century reviews and other more recent studies. Maria Emanuela Eisl suggests that Cain denies the idea of salvation because it would be unjust for God to sacrifice the innocent son of God for sinful mankind, leaving it to Lucifer to affirm the existence of an afterlife (32). Peter A. Schock, in turn, has argued that, after Byron had examined the proposition that the



mind is immortal in Manfred, he goes the next step in Cain to proclaim his "solitary apotheosis, his entrance into an afterlife created by his own will" (214). ^"For a more comprehensive discussion, see Stevens, "Scripture and the Literary Imagination: Biblical Allusions in Byron's Heaven and Earth" (118-35). Gordon Spence, who misreads a comment I made discussing Byron's use of scripture in working with the doctrine of the elect, has also written on the topic in "Byron, Enoch, Calvin and the Deluge" (66-75). lerome McGann discusses Cain and Heaven and Earth with emphasis on "his Socinian thought" that is "paradoxically coordinated ... with his Catholicism" (Fiery Dust, 252) but which he moved away from as he matured. McGann examines Byron's use of biblical texts, especially his detailed knowledge of the realm of angels, noting that Byron differentiated between cherubs (associated with knowledge) and seraphs (associated with love) (245). Azaziel and Samiasa are seraphs. ^'History of Literature (Edinburgh 1818). Cited in LJ, VIII, 38-40. ^^Looper divides Byron's use of the Bible into various categoriessuch as exact and approximate quotations, allusions, and parodies (161-65,260-66). Conversely, Dieter A. Berger argues that the "comic kaleidoscope ... expresses Byron's fundamental doubts of an existence after death" (76). "For a more complete discussion of this, see Stevens, "Southey and the Satanic School of Poetry" (43-46). "Graham (70) suggests that "Christian immortality before God seems to prevail" and that Byron expects his readers to supply the relevant verses from Psalm 100.

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Ponitz, Arthur. Byron und die Bibel. Wieda I, Th: Thomas & Hubert, 1906. Riley, Terrance. "'Churchill's Grave': Byron and the Monumental Style." Contemporary Studies on Lord Byron. Ed. William D. Brewer. Lewiston, Wales: Edwin Mellen, 2001. Schock, Peter A. "The Satanism of Cain in Context: Byron's Lucifer and the War Against Blasphemy." Keats-Shelley Journal 44 (1995): 182-215. Scofield, C. L, ed. The Holy Bible: Authorized King James Version. New York: Oxford UP, 1909. Shelley, Percy Bysshe. Adonais. English Romantic Writers. Ed. David Perkins. San Diego: Harcourt, Brace, lovanovich, 1967. 1050. Spence, Gordon. "Byron, Enoch, Calvin, and the Deluge." Byron Journal 27 (1999): 66-75. Stefi^an, Truman Guy. Lord Byron's Cain: Twelve Essays and a Text with Variants and Annotations. Austin: U of Texas P, 1968. Stevens, Harold Ray. Byron and the Bible: A Study of Poetic and Philosophic Development. U of Pennsylvania Dissertation, 1964. . "Christian Elements in Byron's 'Prayer of Nature?' Christianity and Literature 25:3 (1976): 18-20. . "Scripture and the Literary Imagination: Biblical Allusions in Byron's Heaven and Earth" Byron, The Bible, And Religion. Ed. Wolf Z. Hirst. Newark: Delaware UP, 1991. 118-35. . "Southey and the Satanic School of Poetry: The Apocalyptic Tradition in Byron's Vision of Judgment" UNISA English Studies 3 (September 1968): 37-46. . "Theme and Structure in Byron's Manfred: The Biblical Basis." UNISA English Studies 11:2 (1973): 15-22.