DON JUAN, by Lord Byron: Canto I

Canto I, st. 166 to end

CLXVI He had been hid--I don't pretend to say How, nor can I indeed describe the where-- Young, slender, and pack'd easily, he lay, No doubt, in little compass, round or square; But pity him I neither must nor may His suffocation by that pretty pair; 'Twere better, sure, to die so, than be shut With maudlin Clarence in his Malmsey butt.

CLXVII And, secondly, I pity not, because He had no business to commit a sin, Forbid by heavenly, fined by human laws; At least 'twas rather early to begin; But at sixteen the conscience rarely gnaws So much as when we call our old debts in At sixty years, and draw the accompts of evil, And find a deuced balance with the devil.

CLXVIII Of his position I can give no notion: 'Tis written in the Hebrew Chronicle, How the physicians, leaving pill and potion, Prescribed, by way of blister, a young belle, When old King David's blood grew dull in motion, And that the medicine answer'd very well' Perhaps 'twas in a different way applied, For David lived, but Juan nearly died.

CLXIX What's to be done? Alfonso will be back The moment he has sent his fools away. Antonia's skill was put upon the rack, But no device could be brought into play-- And how to parry the renew'd attack? Besides, it wanted but few hours of day: Antonia puzz;ed; Julia did not speak, But press'd her bloodless lip to Juan's cheek.

CLXX He turn'd his lip to hers, and with his hand Call'd back the tangles of her wandering hair; Even then their love they could not all command, And half forgot their danger and despair: Antonia's patience now was at a stand-- 'Come, come, 'tis no time now for fooling there,' She whisper'd, in great wrath--'I must depost The pretty gentlman within the closet:

CLXXI 'Pray, keep your nonsense for some luckier night-- Who can have put my master in this mood? What will become on't--I'm in such a fright, The devil's in the urchin, and no good-- Is this a time for giggling? this a plight? Why, don't you know that it may end in blood? You'll lose your life, and I shall lose my place, My mistress all, for that half-girlish face.

CLXXII 'Had it but been for a stout cavalier Of twenty-five or thirty--(come, make haste) But for a child, what piece of work is here! I really, madam, wonder at your taste-- (Come, sir, get in)--my master must be near: There, for the present, at the least, he's fast, And if we can but till the morning keep Our counsel--(Juan, mind, you must not sleep).'

CLXXIII Now, Don Alfonso entering, but alone, Closed the oration of the trusty maid: She loiter'd, and he told her to be gone, An order somewhat sullenly obey'd; However, present remedy was none, And no great good seem'd answer'd if she staid; Regarding both with slow and sidelong view, She snuff'd the candle, curtsied, and withdrew.

CLXXIV Alfonso paused a minute--then begun Some strange excuses for his late proceeding; He would not justify what he had done, To say the best, it was extreme ill-breeding; But there were ample reasons for it, none Of which he specified in this his pleading: His speech was a fine sample, on the whole, Of rhetoric, which the learn'd call 'rigmarole.'

CLXXV Julia said nought; though all the while there rose A ready answer, which at once enables A matron, who her husband's foible knows, By a few timely words to turn the tables, Which, if it does not silence, still must pose,-- Even if it should comprise a pack of fables; 'Tis to retort with firmness, and when he Suspects with one do you reproach with three.

CLXXVI Julia, in fact, had tolerable grounds,-- Alfonso's loves with Inez were well known; But whether 'twas that one's own guilt confounds-- But that can't be, as has been often shown, A lady with apologies abounds;-- It might be that her silence sprang alone From delicacy to Don Juan's ear, To whom she knew his mother's fame was dear.

CLXXVII There might be one more motive, which makes two, Alfonso ne'er to Juan had alluded,-- Mentioned his jealousy, but never who Had been the happy lover, he concluded, Conceal'd amongst his premises; 'tis true, His mind the more o'er this its mystery booded To speak of Inez now were, one may say, Like throwing Juan in Alfonso's way.

CLXXVIII A hint, in tender cases, is enough; Silence is best: besides there is a tact-- (That modern phrase appears to me sad stuff, But it will serve to keep my verse compact)-- Which keeps, when push'd by questions rather rough, A lady always distant from the fact: The charming creatures lie with such a grace, There's nothing so becoming to the face.

CLXXIX They blush, and we believe them, at least I Have always done so; 'tis of no great use, In any case, attempting a reply, For then their eloquence grows quite profuse; And when at length they're out of breath, they sigh, And cast their languid eyes down, and let loose A tear or two, and then we make it up; And then--and then--and then--sit down and sup.

CLXXX Alfonso closed his speech, and begg'd her pardon, Which Julia half withheld, and then half granted, And laid conditions, he thought very hard, on, Denying several little things he wanted: He stood like Adam lingering near his garden, With useless penitence perplex'd and haunted, Beseeching she no further would refuse, When, lo! he stumbled o'er a pair of shoes.

CLXXXI A pair of shoes!--what then? not much, if they Are such as fit with ladies' feet, but these (No one can tell how much I grieve to say) Were masculine; to see them, and to seize, Was but a moment's act.--Ah! well-a-day! My teeth begin to chatter, my veins freeze-- Alfonso first examined well their fashion, And then flew out into another passion.

CLXXXII He left the room for his reliquish'd sword. And Julia instant to the closet flew. 'Fly, Juan, fly! for heaven's sake--not a word-- The door is open--you may yet slip through The passage you so often have explored-- Here is the garden-key--Fly--fly--Adieu! Haste--haste! I hear Alfonso's hyrring feet-- Day has not broke--there's no one in the street.'

CLXXXIII None can say that this was not good advice, The only mischief was, it came too late; Of all experience 'tis the usual price, A sort of income-tax laid on by fate: Juan had reach'd the room-door in a trice, And might have done so by the garden-gate, But met Alfonso in his dressing-gown, Who theaten'd death--so Juan knock'd him down.

CLXXXIV Dire was the scuffle, and out went the light; Antonia cried out 'Rape!' and Julia 'Fire!' But not a servant stirr'd to aid the fight. Alfonso, pommell'd to his heart's desire, Swore lustily he'd be revenged this night; And Juan, too, blasphemed an octave higher; His blook was up: though young, he was a Tartar, And not at all disposed to prove a martyr.

CLXXXV Alfonso's sword had dropp'd ere he could draw it, And they continued battling hand to hand, For Juan very luckily ne'er saw it; His temper not being under great command, If at the moment he had chanced to claw it, Alfonso's days had not been in the land Much longer.--Think of husbands', lover's lives! And how ye may be doubly widows--wives!

CLXXXVI Alfonso grappled to detain the foe, And Juan throttled him to get away, And blood ('twas from the nose) began to flow; At last, as they more faintly wrestling lay, Juan contrived to give an awkward blow, And thenhis only garment quite gave way; He fled, like Joseph, leaving it; but there, I doubt, all likeness ends between the pair.

CLXXXVII Lights came at length, and men, and maids, who found An awkward spectacle their eyes before; Antonia inhysterics, Julia swoon'd, Alfonso leaning, breathless, by the door; Some half-torn drapery scatter'd on the ground, Some blood, and several footsteps, but no more: Juan the gate gain'd, turn'd the key about, And liking not the inside,lock'd the out.

CLXXXVIII Here ends this canto.--Need I sing, or say, How Juan, naked, favour'd by the night, Who favours what she should not, found his way, And reach'd his home in an unseemly plight? The pleasant scandal which arose next day, The nine days' wonder which was brought to light, And how Alfonso sued for a divorce, Were in the English newspapers, of course.

CLXXXIX If you would like to see the whole proceedings, The depositions and the cause at full, The names of all the witnesses, the pleadings Of counsel to nonsuit, or to annul, There's more than one edition, and the readings Are various, but they none of them are dull; The best is that in short-hand ta'en by Gurney, Who to Madrid on purpose made a journey.

CXC But Donna Inez, to divert the train Of one of the most circulating scandals That had for centuries been known in Spain, At least since the retirement of the Vandals, First vow'd (and never had she vow'd in vain) To Virgin Mary several pounds of candles; And then, by the advice of some old ladies, She sent her son to be shipp'd off from Cadiz.

CXCI She had resolved that he should travel through All European climes, by land or sea, To mend his former morals, and get new, Especially in France and Italy (At least this is the thing most people do). Julia was sent into a convent: she Grieved, but, perhaps, her feelings may be better Shown in the following copy of her Letter:--

CXCII 'They tell me 'tis decided; you depart: 'Tis wise--'tis well, but not the less a pain; I have no further claim on your young heart, Mine is the victim, and would be again: To love too much has been the only art I used;--I write in haste, and if a stain Be on this sheet, 'tis not what it appears; My eyeballs burn and throb, but have no tears.

CXCIII 'I loved, I love you, for this love have lost State, station, heaven, mankind's, my own esteem, And yet cannot regret what it hath cost, So dear is still the memory of that dream; Yet, if I name my guilt, 'tis not to boast, None can deem harshlier of me than I deem: I trace this scrawl because I cannot rest-- I've nothing to reproach or to request.

CXCIV 'Man's love is of man's life a thing apart, 'Tis woman's whole existence; man may range The court, camp, church, the vessel, and the mart; Sword, gown, gain, glory, offer in exchange Pride, fame, ambition, to fill up his heart, And few there are whom these cannot estrange; Men have all these resources, we but one, To love again, and be again undone.

CXCV 'You will proceed in pleasure, and in pride, Beloved and loving many; all is o'er For me on earth, except some years to hide My shame and sorrow deep in my heart's core: These I could bear, but cannot cast aside The passion which still rages as before,-- And so farewell--forgive me, love me--No, That word is idle now--but let it go.

CXCVI 'My breast has been all weakness, is so yet; But still I think I can collect my mind; My blood still rushes where my spirit's set, As roll the waves before the settled wind; My heart is feminine, nor can forget-- To all, except one image, madly blind; So shakes the needle, and so stands the pole, As vibrates my fond heart to my fix'd soul.

CXCVII 'I have no more to say, but linger still, And dare not set my seal upon this sheet, And yet I may as well the task fulfil. My misery can scarce be more complete: I had not lived till now, could sorrow kill; Death shuns the wretch who fain the blow would meet, And I must even survive this last adieu, And bear with life to love and pray for you!'

CXCVIII This note was written upon gilt-edged paper With a neat little crow-quill, slight and new; Her small white hand could hardly reach the taper, It trembled as magnetic needles do, And yet she did not let one tear escape her; The seal a sun-flower; 'Elle vous suit partout,' The motto, cut upon a white cornelian; The wax was superfine, its hue vermilion.

CXCIX This was Don Juan's earliest scrape; but whether I shall proceed with his adventures is Dependent on the public altogether; We'll see, however, what they say to this, Their favour in an author's cap's a feather, And no great mishief's done by their caprice; And if their approbation we experience, Perhaps they'll have some more about a year hence.

CC My poem's epic, and is meant to be Divided in twelve books; each book containing, With love, and war, a heavy gale at sea, A list of ships, and captains, and kings reigning, New characters; the episodes are three: A panoramic view of hell's in training, After the style of Virgil and of Homer, So that my name of Epic's no misnomer.

CCI All these things will be specified in time, With strict regard to Aristotle's rules, The Vade Mecum of the true sublime, Which makes so many poets, and some fools: Prose poets like blank-verse, I'm fond of rhyme, Good workmen never quarrel with their tools; I've got new mythological machinery, And very handsome supernatural scenery.

CCII There's only one slight difference between Me and my epic brethren gone before, And here the advantage is my own, I ween (Not that I have not several merits more, But this will more peculiarly be seen); They so embellish, that 'tis quite a bore Their labyrinth of fables to thread through, Whereas this story's actually true.

CCIII If any person doubt it, I appeal To history, tradition, and to facts, To newspapers, who truth all know and feel, To plays in five, and operas in three acts; All these confirm my statement a good deal, But that which more completely faith exacts Is, that myself, and several now in Seville, Saw Juan's last elopement with the devil.

CCIV If ever I should condescend to prose, I'll write poetical commandments, which Shall supersede beyond all doubt all those That went before; in these I shall enrich My text with many things that no one knows, And carry precept to the highest pitch: I'll call the work 'Longinus o'er a Bottle, Or, Every Poet his own Aristotle.'

CCV Thou shalt believe in Milton, Dryden, Pope; Thou shalt not set up Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey; Because the first is crazed beyond all hope, The second drunk, the third so quaint and mouthy: With Crabbe it may be difficult to cope, And Campbell's Hippocrene is somewhat drouthy: Thou shalt not steal from Samuel Rogers, nor Commit--flirtation with the muse of Moore.

CCVI Thou shalt not covet Mr. Sotheby's Muse, His Pegasus, nor anything that's his; Thou shalt not bear false witness like 'the Blues'-- (There's one, at least is very fond of this); Thou shalt not write, in short,but what I choose; This is true criticism, and you may kiss-- Exactly as you please, or not,--the rod; But if you don't, I'll lay it on, by G--d!

CCVII If any person should presume to assert This story is not moral, first, I pray, That they will not cry out before they're hurt, Then that they'll read it o'er again, and say (But, doubtless, nobody will be so pert), That this is not a moral tale, though gay; Besides, in Canto Twelfth, I mean to show The very place where wicked people go.

CCVIII If, after all, there should be some so blind To their own good this warning to despise, Let by some tortuosity of mind, Not to believe my verse and their own eyes, And cry that they 'the moral cannot find,' I tell him, if a clergyman, he lies; Should captians the remark, or critics, make, They also lie too--under a mistake.

CCIX The public approbation I expect, And beg they'll take my word about the moral, Which I with their amusement will connect (So children cutting teeth receive a coral); Meantime they'll doubtless please to recollect My epical pretensions to the laurel: For fear some prudish reader should grow skittish, I've bribed my Grandmother's Review--the British.

CCX I sent it in a letter to the Editor, Who thank'd me duly by return of post-- I'm for a handsome article his creditor; Yet, if my gentle Muse be please to roast, And break a promise of having made it her, Denying the receipt of what it cost, And smear his page with gall instead of honey, All I can say is--that he had the money.

CCXI I think that with this holy new alliance I may ensure the public, and defy All other magazines of art of science, Daily, or monthly, or three monthly; I Have not essay'd to multiply their clients, Because they tell me 'twere in vain to try, And that the Edinburgh Review and Quarterly Treat a dissenting author very martyrly.

CCXII 'Non ego hoc ferrem calida juventa Consule Planco,' Horace said, and so Say I; by which quotation there is meant a Hint that some six or seven good years ago (Long ere I dreamt of dating fromthe Brenta) I was most ready to return a blow, And would not brook at all this sort of thing In myhotyouth--when George the Third was King.

CCXIII But now at thrity years my hair is gray-- (I wonder what it will be like at forty? I thought of a peruke the other day--) My heart is not much greener; and, in short, I Have squander'd my whole summer while 'twas May, And feel no more the spirit to retort; I Have spent my life, both interest and principal, And deem not, what I deem'd, my soul invincible.

CCXIV No more--no more--Oh! never more on me The freshness of the heart can fall like dew, Which out of all the lovely things we see Extracts emotions beautiful and new; Hived in our bosoms like the bag o' the bee. Think'st thou the honey with those objects grew? Alas! 'twas not in them, but in thy power To double even the sweetness of a flower.

CCXV No more--no more--Oh! never more, my heart, Canst thou be my sole world, my universe! Once all in all, but now a thing apart, Thou canst not be my blessing or my curse: The illusion's gone for ever, and thou art Insensible, I trust, but none the worse, And in thy stead I've got a deal of judgement, Through heaven knows how it ever found a lodgment.

CCXVI My days of love are over; me no more The charms of maid, wife, and still less of widow, Can make the fool of which they made before,-- In short, I must not lead the life I did do; The credulous hope of mutual minds is o'er, The copious use of claret is forbid too, So for a good old-gentlemanly vice, I think I must take up with avarice.

CCXVII Ambition was my idol, which was broken Before the shrines of Sorrow, and of Pleasure; And the two last have left me many a token O'er which reflection may be made at leisure; Now, like Friar Bacon's brazen head, I've spoken 'Time is, Time was, Time's past':-a chymic treasure Is glittering youth, which I have spent betimes-- My heart in passion, and my head on rhymes.

CCXVIII What is the end of fame? 'tis but to fill A certain portion of uncertain paper: Some liken it to climbing up a hill, Whose summit, like all hills, is lost in vapour; For this men write, speak, preach, and heroes kill And bards burn what they call their 'midnight taper,' To have, when the original is dust, A name, a wretched picture, and worse bust.

CCXIX What are the hopes of man? Old Egypt's King Cheops erected the first pyramid And largest, thinking it was just the thing To keep his memory whole, and mummy hid: But somebody or other rummaging, Burglariously broke his coffin's lid: Let not a monument give you or me hopes, Since not a pinch of dust remains of Cheops.

CCXX But I, being fond of true philosophy, Say very often to myself, 'Alas! All things that have been born were born to die, And flesh (which Death mows down to hay) is grass; You've pass'd your youth not so unpleasantly, And if you had it o'er again--'twould pass-- So thank your stars that matters are no worse, And read your Bible, sir, and mind your purse.'

CCXXI But for the present, gentle reader! and Still gentler purchaser! the bard--that's I-- Must, with permission, shake you by the hand, And so your humble servant, and good-bye! We meet again, if we should understand Each other; and if not, I shall not try Your patience further than by this short sample-- 'Twere well if others follow'd my example.

CCXXII 'Go, little book, from this my solitude! I cast thee on the waters--go thy ways! And if, as I believe, thy vein be good, The world will find thee after many days.' When Southey's read, and Wordsworth understood, I can't help putting in my claim to praise-- The four first rhymes are Southey's every line: For God's sake, reader! taken them not for mine!

Don Juan, Canto I (1819), Byron

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