Mazeppa AUTHOR Lord Byron By Lord Byron


I have wanted to read Byron and add a book of his to my collection for awhile now. But much of it never grabbed my heart when I browsed through it. Maybe it was my mood, maybe the time, or maybe I simply wasn’t a Byron fan. But, I was always drawn back, partly because of how he lived his life and partly the company he kept. I came to Mazeppa by a roundabout route. It wasn’t the title poem but “A Fragment”, a short piece included when it was first published in 1819. That was my hook. The title poem then exerted its power over me, and the deal was complete with “Ode”, a poem on Venice.

The title poem is a story recounted by a much older Mazeppa, a military commander with a Swedish king, retreating after the Battle of Poltava. He recounts how he learned his horse riding skills during his youth when he was a page in the Polish royal court. At that time, he fell in love with the wife of one of the Counts and they met secretly to make love. They were caught and he was strapped naked to a wild horse and set off into the country, presumably to die. Mazeppa survived the ordeal, but oh the writing as the horse flies through the countryside, forest and water. I felt like I was on the horse, with the language and flow of the meter. A very exciting poem that touches on many Romantic themes. I loved the descriptions of nature, the horse Mazeppa is on as well as a band of wild horses he encounters. Despair, wonder, excitement, passion, loss: all swirl round. Byron was also a vegetarian and his love of animals comes out in one section on the wild horse

With flowing tail, and flying mare,
Wide nostrils– never stretched by pain,
Mouths bloodless to the bit or rein
And feet that iron never shod,
And flanks unscarr’d by spur or rod” (lines 679-683)
“Ode” is an ode on Venice, lamenting the decay of Venice, the loss of freedom and the tyranny of rulers in a post Congress of Vienna world One section that stood out to me was:
“Ye men, who pour your blood for kings as water,
What have they given your children in return?
A heritage of servitude and woes,
A blindfold bondage, where your hire is blows” (lines 67-70)
Finally, “A Fragment” is Byron’s contribution to the ghost writing contest from the summer of 1816 on Lake Geneva. The contest, conceived of by Byron, invited Mary and Percy Shelley, John Polidori and himself to write ghost stories to pass the time during a very rainy summer. Byron only wrote a tiny opening, just over 10 pages. The fragment is dated June 17, 1816 and is one of the first vampire stories. It features a narrator and his companion, Augustus Darvell, who are traveling to the East in the 1700s. The story starts off very slowly, but by the time they reach a cemetery in Turkey, it is flying and I was caught. And then, just as quickly, it ends. Byron never developed it afterwards, and intended the fragment to be published in a magazine, not appended to Mazeppa. John Polidori, inspired by Byron’s fragment, published his own vampire novel in 1819, entitled “The Vampyre.” The main character is modeled on Byron. Interestingly, when Polidori’s work was first published, it was erroneously attributed to Lord Byron. French “I loved her then - I love her still;
And such as I am, love indeed
In fierce extremes - in good and ill.”

a story with a classic wandering hero reeling from a thwarted love… but this time, chained to a horse; loved this poem French I read an excerpt of this poem in a collection last year and of course that taste made me hungry for the rest. What I did not know was that Mazeppa was a real person and that this incident really happened. Not exactly in the way Byron described it (there is a difference in being tied to a thoroughly wild horse and being tied to your own personal mount). But of course I can forgive Byron the exaggerating of detail, because what kind of a poem would it have been if a tame horse had been lashed into a frenzy and then ran full speed to Mazeppa's own house?! This is what happened, according to the wiki article I read about Mazeppa. Sometimes history needs tweaking to become heroically poetic, doesn't it.

In the poem Mazeppa, the King Of Sweden and some other soldiers are retreating from the Russian army after a battle that has gone badly. The King is injured; they all need to rest, so they settle in for the night. Byron makes a point of showing the bond between Mazeppa and his current war-horse:

Among the rest, Mazeppa made
His pillow in an old oak's shade—
Himself as rough, and scarce less old,
The Ukraine's Hetman, calm and bold;
But first, outspent with this long course,
The Cossack prince rubbed down his horse,
And made for him a leafy bed,
And smoothed his fetlocks and his mane,
And slacked his girth, and stripped his rein,
And joyed to see how well he fed;
For until now he had the dread
His wearied courser might refuse
To browse beneath the midnight dews:
But he was hardy as his lord,
And little cared for bed and board;
But spirited and docile too,
Whate'er was to be done, would do.
Shaggy and swift, and strong of limb,
All Tartar-like he carried him;
Obeyed his voice, and came to call,
And knew him in the midst of all:
Though thousands were around,—and Night,
Without a star, pursued her flight,—
That steed from sunset until dawn
His chief would follow like a fawn.

The King praises Mazeppa for all he has done for the army, then goes on to compare Mazeppa's bond with his horse to Alexander The Great and his Bucephalus. And Mazeppa then tells the tale of The school wherein I learned to ride! (Now I don't know about anyone else, but I don't believe that being tied naked face-up on the back of a horse will teach you anything about how to ride or how to bond with the animal. But that's just my opinion, of course.)

The reason this happened to Mazeppa was that he had an affair with a woman he should have stayed away from, and the husband discovered them together. Nothing is said of what became of the woman, by the way. Surely someone could have written a poem about her fate?

Anyway, the husband orders:

'Bring forth the horse!'—the horse was brought!
In truth, he was a noble steed,
A Tartar of the Ukraine breed,
Who looked as though the speed of thought
Were in his limbs; but he was wild,
Wild as the wild deer, and untaught,
With spur and bridle undefiled—
'Twas but a day he had been caught;
And snorting, with erected mane,
And struggling fiercely, but in vain,
In the full foam of wrath and dread
To me the desert-born was led:
They bound me on, that menial throng,
Upon his back with many a thong;
They loosed him with a sudden lash—
Away!—away!—and on we dash!—
Torrents less rapid and less rash.

The rest of the poem is the tale of the wild ride and what happens to Mazeppa when the horse collapses beneath him and dies. Of course we know that Mazeppa survives, since he is telling the story himself, but still, it was a quite dramatic episode, told in stirring Byronic style.

I just have to point out that in my opinion, any horse that has something on its back that it cannot get free of will eventually drop and roll to try to rid itself of the burden. Horses are prey animals and their greatest fear is to have Something Unknown latch onto them from above. Byron's extremely wild horse would not have simply run itself to death, it would have done anything it could have done to dislodge what for it was a monster. Roll on the ground, scrape itself against trees or rocks, rear up and let itself fall over backwards. The survival instinct in this horse would have triggered these activities, and then Mazeppa would have been toast. Crumbs, even.

But, once again, that way of ending the story would not have been nearly as poetic, right? So I will make the horsewoman side of my brain keep quiet when I read this poem through again before closing the link, and simply enjoy the poem itself once more.

French Movido por la historia natural, Mazeppa no cede ante el desaliento de la ruina política. French 3 Stars French

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Había olvidado que un poema puede contarte una historia, y la que cuenta Byron es la de Mazeppa a través de su misma voz. Después de la derrota del ejército de Carlos XII, los soldados restantes se retiran y dentro de su desdicha, se reúnen a escuchar un amor de antaño que tuvo Mazeppa hace 6 décadas. La historia maneja las temáticas del amor cortés y la Fortuna que se manejaban dentro de los libros de caballería. Pensé que iba a encontrar más elementos propios de la época de Byron, pero lo único que encontré es esta idealización a tiempos pasados y sobre todo a lo medieval. French В цій книзі мене підкорили ілюстрації, вони дуже тонко передають дух Байрона у дивовижному поєднанні із козацьким. Сам твір, безперечно, дуже глибокий, і, на мою думку, динамічний, бо все те, що відбувається в голові протагоніста інакше й не назвеш.
П.С. Очікуйте мою наукову дисертацію з детальним аналізом «Мазепи». ☺️ French Never cared much for poetry. I read Mazeppa anyways and I really like it. The tale of a man strapped to a horse who runs with an almost endless energy is great. But I hunted this down for the ”Fragment of a novel included. It's cited as the first vampire tale in literature. I'm interested in reading Bram Stoker and Prest's tales of Varney the Vampire so I figured I'd start at the beginning. But it really is only an unfinished fragment and we only know that it's about a vampire because the author said so. His publisher apparently printed it, without permission, combined with Mazeppa to pad the volume out. It's very slight and there's not much to say, but what's there is good.

What's perhaps most fascinating is that Byron wrote this fragment during the same ghost story competition held with Percy and Mary Shelley, out of which Frankenstein also came. History. Get it. French The poem does not quite rise to the level of The Prisoner of Chillon, yet it is highly readable and somewhat less gloomy. A touch of irony compensates for some historical inaccuracies, which Byron most likely borrowed from Voltaire.
Ivan Mazepa is a real historical figure, Ukrainian hetman fighting for independence of Ukraine from Moscow a bit over 300 years ago. He sided with Charles XII of Sweden and their combined army was soundly defeated by a much bigger army of Peter the First at Poltava. Early life of Mazepa is shrouded in mystery, a stuff of a folk legend thus making him a suitable hero for a Romantic poetic narration. French El poema en si no me pareció la gran cosa, la edición por suerte trae la versión original en ingles y su traducción al español. Es esta traducción la que me impresiono, ciertamente.

Al ser un poema narrativo, el autor, más allá del uso de una rima exquisita, decidió prescindir de cualquier forma de separación estrófica, en cambio, el traductor, enriqueció enormemente la traducción al adaptar el poema a las distintas formas de versificación estrófica del español, dando así un poema casi de composición propia. Encontramos así sonetos, romances, una suerte de silva, tercetos encadenados o terza rima, entre otros que, tal vez, no logré identificar. La verdad que el trabajo que se tomó este traductor es, sinceramente, increíble. French