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OWC NewsMarch 8, 2017
The bicentennial anniversary of Manfred: A Dramatic Poem by Lord Byron
The publication of the first two cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage in 1812 after his return from the Grand Tour earned Lord Byron (George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, FRS, b. 1788 - d. 1824) instant glory. However, numerous love affairs and his incestuous love for his half-sister Augusta Leigh made him a reprobate and he found himself ostracized from the 19th century London high society. In 1816, Byron fled England for Switzerland in a stormy atmosphere of scandal having separated from his wife just a year after marriage. Manfred: A Dramatic Poem was written immediately after this (1816-1817) and because of the themes of guilt and forbidden passion, readers and critics consider it to be autobiographical.
Byron’s influence on European literature, visual and performing arts has been immense. Most notably, Robert Schumann (1810-1856) adapted the poem in an incidental music entitled Manfred: Dramatic Poem with Music in Three Parts (Op. 115). The composition—a powerful overture and fifteen subsequent numbers—was written in November 1848 and was presented by Franz Lists in Weimar in 1852. The well-known overture is considered by some commentators the composer’s finest orchestral work. Later in 1885, Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) composed a programmatic symphony entitled Manfred Symphony in B minor (Op. 58). Tchaikovsky's only unnumbered symphony, this work had its premiere at a concert of the Russian Musical Society in March 1886, but remains a rare piece to be performed live in concert halls due to its length and complexity.
In the Oxford World’s Classics series, Manfred is made available both in Lord Byron – The Major Works and Selected Poetry: The first is an authoritative edition originally published in the acclaimed ‘Oxford authors’ series under the editorship of Frank Kermode, and brings together all major poems, such as Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Don Juan, and Cain, complemented by other writings.
- Teenage Writings
- The Italian 3rd edition
- The Jewish War
- On Life and Death