DON JUAN, by Lord Byron: Canto I

Canto I, st. 110 - 165

CX Unconsciously she lean'd upon the other, Which play'd within the tangles of her hair; And to contend with thoughts she could not smother She seem'd, by the distraction of her air. 'Twas surely very wrong in Juan's mother To leave together this imprudent pair, She who for many years had watch'd her son so-- I'm very certain mine would not have done so.

CXI The hand which still held Juan's by degrees Gently, but palpably confirm'd its grasp, As if it said, 'Detain me, if you please'; Yet there's no doubt she only meant to clasp His fingers with a pure Platonic squeeze; She would have shrunk as from a toad, or asp, Had she imagined such a thing could rouse A feeling dangerous to a prudent spouse.

I cannot know what Juan thought of this, But what he did, is much what you would do; His young lip thank'd it with a grateful kiss, And then, abash'd at its own joy, withdrew In deep despair, lest he had done amiss,-- Love is so very timid when 'tis new: She blush'd, and frown'd not, but she strove to speak, And held her tongue, her voice was grown so weak.

CXIII The sun set, and up rose the yellow moon: The devil's in the moon for mischief; they Who call'd her CHASTE, methinks, began too soon Their nomenclature; there is not a day, The longest, not the twenty-first of June, Sees half the business in a wicked way, On which three single hours of moonshine smile-- And then she looks so modest all the while.

CXIV There is a dangerous silence in that hour, A stillness, which leaves room for the full soul To open all itself, without the power Of calling wholly back its self-controul; The silver light which, hallowing tree and tower, Sheds beauty and deep softness o'er the whole, Breathes also to the heart, and o'er it throws A loving languor, which is not repose.

CXV And Julia sate with Juan, half embraced And half retiring from the glowing arm, Which trembled like the bosom where 'twas placed; Yet still she must have thought there was no harm, Or else 'twere easy to withdraw her waist; But then the situation had its charm, And then----God knows what next--I can't go on; I'm almost sorry that I e'er begun.

CXVI How beautiful she look'd! her conscious heart Glow'd in her cheek, and yet she felt no wrong, Oh Love! how perfect is thy mystic art, Strengthening the weak, and trampling on the strong! How self-deceitful is the sagest part Of mortals whom thy lure hath led along!-- The precipice she stood on was immense, So was her creed in her own innocence.

CXVII And Julia's voice was lost, except in sighs, Until too late for useful conversation; The tears were gushing from her gentle eyes, I wish, indeed, they had not had occasion; But who, alas! can love, and then be wise? Not that remorse did not oppose temptation; A little still she strove, and much repented, And whispering 'I will ne'er consent'--consented.

CXVIII 'Tis said that Xerxes offer'd a reward To those who could invent him a new pleasure. Methinks the requisition's rather hard, And must have cost his majesty a treasure: For my part, I'm a modernate-minded bard, Fond of a little love (which I call leisure); I care not for new pleasure, as the old Are quite enough for me, so they but hold.

CXIX Oh Pleasure! you're indeed a pleasant thing, Although one must be damn'd for you, no doubt: I make a resolution every spring Of reformation, ere the year run out, But somehow, this my vestal vow takes wing, Yet still, I trust, it may be kept throughout: I'm very sorry, very much ashamed, And mean, next winter, to be quite reclaim'd.

CXX Here my chaste Muse a liberty must take-- Start not! still chaster reader--she'll be nice hence-- Forward, and there is no great cause to quake; This liberty is a poetic licence, In the design, and as I have a high sense Of Aristotle and the Rules, 'tis fit To beg his pardon when I err a bit.

CXXI This licence is to hope the reader will Suppose from June the sixth (the fatal day Without whose epock my poetic skill For want of facts would all be thrown away), But keeping Julia and Don Juan still In sight, that several months have pass'd; we'll say 'Twas in November, but I'm not so sure About the day--the era's more obscure.

CXXII We'll talk of that anon.--'Tis sweet to hear At midnight on the blue and moonlit deep The song and oar of Adria's gondolier, By distance mellow'd, o'er the waters sweep; 'Tis sweet to see the evening star appear; 'Tis sweet to listen as the night-winds creep From leaf to leaf; 'tis sweet to view on high The rainbow, based on ocean, span the sky.

CXXIII 'Tis sweet to hear the watch-dog's honest bark Bay deep-mouth'd welcome as we draw near home; 'Tis sweet to know there is an eye will make Our coming, and look brighter when we come; 'Tis sweet to be awaken'd by the lark, Or lull'd by falling waters; sweet the hum Of bees, the voice of girls, the song of birds, The lisp of children, and their earliest words.

CXXIV Sweet is the vintage, when the showering grapes In Bacchanal profusion reel to earth, Purple and gushing; sweet are our escapes From civic revelry to rural mirth; Sweet to the miser are his glittering heaps, Sweet to the father is his first-born's birth, Sweet is revenge--especially to women, Pillage to soldiers, prize-money to seamen.

CXXV Sweet is a legacy, and passing sweet The unexpected death of some old lady Or gentleman of seventy years complete, Who've made 'us youth' wait too--too long already For an estate, or cash, or country seat, Still breaking, but with stamina so steady That all the Isrealites are fit to mob its Next owner for their double-damn'd post-obits.

CXXVI 'Tis sweet to win no matter how, one's laurels, By blood or ink; 'tis sweet to put an end To strife; 'tis sometimes sweet to have our quarrels, Particularly with a tiresome friend: Sweet is old wine in bottles, ale in barrels; Dear is the helpless creature we defend Against the world; and dear the shcoolboy spot We ne'er forget, though there we are forgot.

CXXVII But sweet still than this, than these, than all, Is first and passionate love--it stands alone, Like Adam's recollection of his fall; The tree of knowledge has been pluck'd--all's known-- And life yields nothing further to recall Worthy of this ambrosial sin, so shown, No doubt in fable, as the unforgiven Fire which Prometheus filch'd for us from heaven.

CXXVIII Man's a strange animal, and makes strange use Of his own nature, and the various arts, And likes particularly to produce Some new experiment to show his parts; This is the age of oddities let loose, Where different talents find their different marts; You'd best begin with truth, and when you've lost your Labour, there's a sure market for imposture.

CXXIX What opposite discoveries we have seen! (Signs of true genius, and of empty pockets.) One makes new noses, one a guillotine, One breaks your bones, one sets them in their sockets; But vaccination certainly has been A kind antithesis to Congreve's rockets, With which the Doctor paid off an old pox, By borrowing a new one from an ox.

CXXX Bread has been made (indifferent) from potatoes; And galvanism has set some corpses grinning, But has not answer'd like the apparatus Of the Humane Society's beginning, By which men are unsuffocated gratis: What wondrous new machines have late been spinning! I said the small pox has gone out of late; Perhaps it may be follow'd by the great.

CXXXI 'Tis said the great came from America; Perhaps it may set out on its return,-- The population there so spreads, they say 'Tis grown high time to thin it in its turn, With war, or plague, or famine, any way, So that civilisation they may learn; And which in ravage the more loathsome evil is-- Their real lues, or our pseudo-syphilis?

CXXXII This is the patent age of new inventions For killing bodies, and for saving souls, All propagated with the best intentions; Sir Humphry Davy's lantern, by which coals Are safely mined for in the mode he mentions, Tombuctoo travels, voyages to the Poles, Are ways to benefit mankind, as true, Perhaps, as shooting them at Waterloo.

CXXXIII Man's a phenomenon, one knows not what, And wonderful beyond all wondrous measure; 'Tis pity though, in this sublime world, that Pleasure's a sin, and sometimes sin's a pleasure; Few mortals know what end they would be at, But whether glory, power, or love, or treasure, The path is through perplexing ways, and when The goal is gain'd, we die,you know--and then----

CXXXIV What then?--I do not know, no more do you-- And so good night.--Return we to our story: 'Twas in November, when fine days are few, And the far mountains wax a little hoary, And clap a white cape on their mantles blue; And the sea dashes round the promontory, And the loud breaker boils against the rock, And sober suns must set at five o'clock.

CXXXV 'Twas, as the watchmen say, a cloudy night; No moon, no stars, the wind was low or loud By gusts, and many a sparkling hearth was bright With the piled wood, round which the family crowd; There's something cheerful in that sort of light, Even as a summer sky's without a cloud: I'm fond of fire, and crickets, and all that, A lobster salad, and champagne, and chat.

CXXXVI 'Twas midnight--Donna Julia was in bed, Sleeping, most probably,--when at her door Arose a clatter might awake the dead, If they had never been awoke before, And that they have been so we all have read, And are to be so, at the least once more;-- The door was fasten'd, but with voice and fist First knocks were heard, then 'Madam--Madam--hist!

CXXXVII 'For God's sake, Madam--Madam--here's my master, With more than half the city at his back-- Was ever heard of such a crust disaster! 'Tis not my fault--I kept good watch--Alack! Do pray undo the bolt a little faster-- They're on the stair just now, and in a crack Will all be here; perhaps he yet may fly-- Surely the window's not so very high!'

CXXXVIII By this time Don Alfonso was arrived, With torches, friends, and servants in great number; The major part of them had long been wived, And therefore paused not to disturb the slumber Of any wicked woman, who contrived By stealth her husband's temples to encumber: Examples of this kind are so contagious, Were one not punish'd, all would be outrageous.

CXXXXIX I can't tell how, or why, or what suspicion Could enter into Don Alfonso's head; But for a cavalier of his condition It surely was exceedingly ill-bred, Without a word of previous admonition, To hold a levee round his lady's bed, And summon lackeys, arm'd with fire and sword, To prove himself the thing he most abhorr'd.

CXL Poor Donna Julia! starting as from sleep (Mind--that I do not say--she had not slept), Began at once to scream, and yawn, and seep; Her maid, Antonia, who was an adept, Contrived to fling the bed-clothes in a heap, As if she had just now from out them crept: I can't tell why she should take all this trouble To prove her mistress had been sleeping double.

CXLI But Julia mistress, and Antonia maid, Appear'd like two poor harmless women, who Of goblins, but still more of men afraid, Had thought one man might be deterr'd by two, And therefore side by side were gently laid, Until the hours of absence should run through, And truant husband should return, and say, 'My dear, I was the first who came away.'

CXLII Now Julia found at length a voice, and cried, 'In heaven's name, Don Alfonso, what d'ye mean? Had madness seized you? would that I had died Ere such a monster's victim I had been! What may this midnight violence betide, Dare you suspect me, whom the thought would kill? Search, then, the room!'--Alfonso said, 'I will.'

CXLIII He search'd, they search'd, and rummaged everywhere, Closet and clothes-press, chest and window-seat, And found much linen, lace, and several pair Of stockings, slippers, brushes, combs, complete, With other articles of ladies fair, To keep them beautiful, or leave them neat: Arras they prick'd and curtains with their swords, And wounded several shutters, and some boards.

CXLIV Under the bed they search'd, and there they found-- No matter what--it was not that they sought; They open'd windows, gazing if the ground Had signs or footmarks, but the earth said nought; And then they stared each others' faces round: 'Tis odd, not one of all these seekers thought, And seems to me almost a sort of blunder, Of looking in the bed as well as under.

CXLV During this inquisiton Julia's tongue Was not asleep--'Yes, search and search,' she cried, 'Insult on insult heap, and wrong on wrong! It was for this that I became a bride! For this in silence I have suffer'd long A husband like Alfonso at my side; But now I'll bear no more, nor here remain, If there be law or lawyers in all Spain.

CXLVI 'Yes, Don Alfonso! husband now no more, If ever you indeed deserved the name, Is't worthy of your years?--you have threescore-- Fifty, or sixty, it is all the same-- Is't wise or fitting, causeless to explore For facts against a virtuous woman's fame? Ungrateful, perjured, barbarous Don Alfonso, How dare you think your lady would go on so?

CXLVII 'Is it for this I have disdain'd to hold The common privileges of my sex? That I have chosen a confessor so old And deaf, that any other it would vex, And never once he has had cause to scold, But found my very innocence perplex So much, he always doubted I was married-- How sorry you will be when I've miscarried!

CXLVIII 'Was it for this that no Cortego e'er I yet have chosen from out the youth of Seville? Is it for this I scarce went anywhere, Except to bull-fights, mass, play, rout, and revel? Is it for this, whate'er my suitors were, I favour'd none--nay, was almost uncivil? Is if gor this that General Count O'Reilly, Who took Algiers, declares I used him vilely?

CXLIX 'Did not the Italian Musico Cazzani Sing at my heart six months at least in vain? Did not his countryman, Count Corniani, Call me the only virtuous wife in Spain? Were there not also Russians, English, many? The Count Strongstroganoff I put in pain, And Lord Mount Coffeehouse, the Irish peer, Who kill'd himself for love (with wine) last year.

CL 'Have I not had two bishops at my feet? The Duke of Ichar, and Don Fernan Nunez? And is it thus a faithful wife you treat? I wonder in what quarter now the moon is: I praise your vast forbearance not to beat Me also, since the time so opportune is-- Oh, valiant man! with sword drawn and cock'd trigger, Now, tell me, don't you cut a pretty figure?

CLI 'Was it for this you took your sudden journey, Under pretence of business indispensable, With that sublime of rascals yur attorney, Whom I see standing there, and looking sensible Of having play'd the fool? though both I spurn, he Deserves the worst, his conduct's less defensible, Because, no doubt, 'twas for his dirty fee And not from love to you nor me.

CLII 'If he comes here to take a deposition, By all means let the gentleman proceed; You've made the apartment in a fit condition:-- There's pen and ink for you, sir, when you need- Let everything be noted with precision, I would not you for nothing should be fee'd-- But as my maid's undrest, pray turn your spies out.' 'Oh!' sobb'd Antonia, 'I could tear their eyes out.'

CLIII 'There is the closet, there the toilet, there The antechamber--search them under, over; There is the sofa, there the great armchair, The chimney--which would really hold a lover. I wish to sleep, and beg you will take care And make no further noise, till you discover The secret cavern of this lurking treasure-- And when 'tis found, let me, too, have that pleasure.

CLIV 'And now, Hidalgo! now that you have thrown Doubt upon me, confusion over all, Pray have the courtesy to make it known Who is the man you search for? how d'ye call Him? what's his lineage? let him but be shown-- I hope he's young and handsome--is he tall? Tell me--and be assured, that since you stain Mine honour thus, it shal not be in vain.

CLV 'At least, perhaps, he has not sixty years, At that age he would be too old for slaughter, Or for so young a husband's jealous fears-- (Antonia! let me have a glass of water.) I am ashamed of having shed these tears, They are unworthy of my father's daughter; My mother dream'd not in my natal hour, That I should fall into a monster's power.

CLVI 'Perhaps 'tis of Antonia you are jealous, You saw that she was sleeping by my side, When you broke in upon us with your fellows; Look where you please--we've nothing, sir, to hide; Only another time, I trust, you'll tell us, Or for the sake of decency abide A moment at the door, that we may be Drest to receive so much good company.

CLVII 'And now, sir, I have done, and say no more; The little I have said may serve to show The guileless heart in silence may grieve o'er The wrongs to whose exposure it is slow:-- I leave you to your conscience as before, 'Twill one day ask you, why you used me so? God grant you feel not then the bitterest grief! Antonia! where's my pocket-handkerchief?

CLVIII She ceased, and turn'd upon her pillow; pale She lay, her dark eyes flashing through their tears, Like skies that rain and lighten; as a veil, Waved and o'ershading her wan cheek, appears Her streaming hair; the black curls strive, but fail, To hide the glossy shoulder, which uprears Its snow through all;--her soft lips lie apart, And louder than her breathing beats her heart.

CLIX The Senhor Don Alfonso stood confused; Antonia bustled round the ransack'd room And, turning up her nose, with looks abused Her master, and his myrmidons, of whom Not one, except the attorney, was amused; He, like Achates, faithful to the tomb, So there were quarrels, cared not for the cause, Knowing they must be settled by the laws.

CLX With prying snub-nose, and small eyes, he stood, Following Antonia's motions here and there, With much suspicion in his attitude; For reputations he had little care; So that a suit or action were made good, Small pity had he for the young and fair, And ne'er believed in negatives, till these Were proved by competent false witnesses.

CLXI But Don Alfonso stood with downcast looks, And, truth to say, he made a foolish figure; When, after searching in five hundred nooks, And treating a young wife with so much rigour, He gain'd no point, except some self-rebukes, Added to those his lady with such vigour Had pour'd upon him for the last half hour, Quick, thick, and heavy--as a thundershower.

CLXII At first he tried to manner an excuse, To which the sole reply were tears and sobs, And indications of hysterics, whose Prologue is always certain throes, and throbs, Gasps, and whatever else the owners choose: Alfonso saw his wife, and thought of Job's; He saw too, in perspective, her relations, And then he tried to muster all his patience.

CLXIII He stood in act to speak, or rather stammer, But sage Antonia cut him sort before The anvil of his speech received the hammer, With 'Pray, sir, leave the room, and say no more, Or madam dies.'--Alfonso mutter'd, 'D---n her,' But nothing else, the time of words was o'er; He cast a rueful look or two, and did, He knew not wherefore, that which he was bid.

CLXIV With him retired his 'posse comitatus,' The attorney last, who linger'd near the door Reluctantly, still tarrying there as late as Antonia let him--not a little sore At this most strange and unexplain'd 'haitus' In Don Alfonso's facts, which just now wore An awkward look; as he revolved the case, The door was fasten'd in his legal face.

CLXV No sooner was it bolted,than--Oh shame! Oh sin! Oh soorw! and Oh womankind! How can you do such things and keep your fame, Unless this world, and t'other too, be blind? Nothing so dear as an unfilch'd good name! But to proceed--for there ismore behind: With much heartfelt reluctance be it said, Young Juan slipp'd, half-smother'd, from the bed.

Don Juan, Canto I (1819), Byron

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