Don Juan is Byron’s great satire, – his great epic – unfinished at his death, and condemned as immoral in his lifetime. It was also immensely popular. Byron published the first two cantos anonymously. Neither his friends or publisher were keen on the work; his last mistress, Countess Teresa Guiccioli, pleaded with him to stop writing it. They considered its focus to be beneath Byron’s talent and a waste of his time, as well as deeply offensive. However, we can assume Byron enjoyed writing Don Juan, for he worked on the poem from 1818 until his death in 1824, leaving the 17th canto incomplete.
Don Juan is without doubt a comic masterpiece. Byron’s original intent, included in a letter to Thomas Moore, was to be “a little quietly facetious upon everything.” He was also inspired by a minor poem published in 1817 by John Hookham Frere. Entitled The Monks and the Giants or, alternatively, Whistlecraft, the work was two cantos of a burlesque narrative written in the Italian ‘ottava rima’ style. ‘Ottava rima’ was the standard verse form of Renaissance Italian poetry, and – in its native tongue (Italian) – the verse can be used for powerful comic and tragic effect. But consider the Italian and English languages, – Italian has far more polysyllabic words and natural rhymes than English. When you write ‘ottava rima’ in English, you automatically write a comedy. You need three rhymes for every stanza, with most of the rhymes consisting of two or three syllables. Byron’s choice of the form defined the character of his epic. But it was also a bold and challenging technical choice for him as a poet. He began experimenting with ‘ottava rima’ in 1817, and began writing Don Juan a year later. The rest is poetic history.
The story is a funny twist on the old legend of Don Juan, the great seducer of innocent women. In Byron’s work, Don Juan is actively harassed by one woman after another. His comic misadventures are told with wit, style, and heart. The vigor and power of Byron’s verse is remarkable. His words literally leap from the pages.
There was a fragment of poetry found on the back of the manuscript of the first canto:
I would to Heaven that I were so much clay,
As I am blood, bone, marrow, passion, feeling –
Because at least the past were passed away,
And for the future – (but I write this reeling,
Having got drunk exceedingly to-day,
So that I seem to stand upon the ceiling)
I say – the future is a serious matter –
And so – for God’s sake – hock and soda-water!
Bob Southey! You’re a poet, poet laureate,
And representative of all the race.
Although ’tis true that you turned out a Tory at
Last, yours has lately been a common case.
And now my epic renegade, what are ye at
With all the lakers, in and out of place?
A nest of tuneful persons, to my eye
Like four and twenty blackbirds in a pye,
Which pye being opened they began to sing’
(This old song and new simile holds good),
‘A dainty dish to set before the King’
Or Regent, who admires such kind of food.
And Coleridge too has lately taken wing,
But like a hawk encumbered with his hood,
Explaining metaphysics to the nation.
I wish he would explain his explanation.
You, Bob, are rather insolent, you know,
At being disappointed in your wish
To supersede all warblers here below,
And be the only blackbird in the dish.
And then you overstrain yourself, or so,
And tumble downward like the flying fish
Gasping on deck, because you soar too high,
Bob, And fall for lack of moisture quite a dry Bob.
And Wordsworth in a rather long Excursion
(I think the quarto holds five hundred pages)
Has given a sample from the vasty version
Of his new system to perplex the sages.
‘Tis poetry, at least by his assertion,
And may appear so when the Dog Star rages,
And he who understands it would be able
To add a story to the tower of Babel.
You gentlemen, by dint of long seclusion
From better company, have kept your own
At Keswick, and through still continued fusion
Of one another’s minds at last have grown
To deem, as a most logical conclusion,
That poesy has wreaths for you alone.
There is a narrowness in such a notion,
Which makes me wish you’d change your lakes for ocean.
I would not imitate the petty thought,
Nor coin my self-love to so base a vice,
For all the glory your conversion brought,
Since gold alone should not have been its price.
You have your salary; was’t for that you wrought?
And Wordsworth has his place in the Excise.
You’re shabby fellows—true—but poets still
And duly seated on the immortal hill.
Your bays may hide the baldness of your brows,
Perhaps some virtuous blushes; let them go.
To you I envy neither fruit nor boughs,
And for the fame you would engross below,
The field is universal and allows
Scope to all such as feel the inherent glow.
Scott, Rogers, Campbell, Moore, and Crabbe will try
‘Gainst you the question with posterity.
For me, who, wandering with pedestrian Muses,
Contend not with you on the winged’ steed,
I wish your fate may yield ye, when she chooses,
The fame you envy and the skill you need.
And recollect a poet nothing loses
In giving to his brethren their full meed
Of merit, and complaint of present days
Is not the certain path to future praise.
He that reserves his laurels for posterity
(Who does not often claim the bright reversion)
Has generally no great crop to spare it, he
Being only injured by his own assertion.
And although here and there some glorious rarity
Arise like Titan from the sea’s immersion,
The major part of such appellants go
To—God knows where—for no one else can know.
If fallen in evil days on evil tongues,
Milton appealed to the avenger, Time,
If Time, the avenger, execrates his wrongs
And makes the word Miltonic mean sublime,
He deigned not to belie his soul in songs,
Nor turn his very talent to a crime.
He did not loathe the sire to laud the son,
But closed the tyrant-hater he begun.
Think’st thou, could he, the blind old man, arise
Like Samuel from the grave to freeze once more
The blood of monarchs with his prophecies,
Or be alive again—again all hoar
With time and trials, and those helpless eyes
And heartless daughters—worn and pale and poor,
Would he adore a sultan? He obey
The intellectual eunuch Castlereagh?
Cold-blooded, smooth-faced, placid miscreant!
Dabbling its sleek young hands in Erin’s gore,
And thus for wider carnage taught to pant,
Transferred to gorge upon a sister shore,
The vulgarest tool that tyranny could want,
With just enough of talent and no more,
To lengthen fetters by another fixed
And offer poison long already mixed.
An orator of such set trash of phrase,
Ineffably, legitimately vile,
That even its grossest flatterers dare not praise,
Nor foes—all nations—condescend to smile.
Not even a sprightly blunder’s spark can blaze
From that Ixion grindstone’s ceaseless toil,
That turns and turns to give the world a notion
Of endless torments and perpetual motion.
A bungler even in its disgusting trade,
And botching, patching, leaving still behind
Something of which its masters are afraid,
States to be curbed and thoughts to be confined,
Conspiracy or congress to be made,
Cobbling at manacles for all mankind,
A tinkering slave-maker, who mends old chains,
With God and man’s abhorrence for its gains.
If we may judge of matter by the mind,
Emasculated to the marrow, it
Hath but two objects, how to serve and bind,
Deeming the chain it wears even men may fit,
Eutropius of its many masters, blind
To worth as freedom, wisdom as to wit,
Fearless, because no feeling dwells in ice;
Its very courage stagnates to a vice.
Where shall I turn me not to view its bonds,
For I will never feel them. Italy,
Thy late reviving Roman soul desponds
Beneath the lie this state-thing breathed o’er thee.
Thy clanking chain and Erin’s yet green wounds
Have voices, tongues to cry aloud for me.
Europe has slaves, allies, kings, armies still,
And Southey lives to sing them very ill.
Meantime, Sir Laureate, I proceed to dedicate
In honest simple verse this song to you.
And if in flattering strains I do not predicate,
‘Tis that I still retain my buff and blue;
My politics as yet are all to educate.
Apostasy’s so fashionable too,
To keep one creed’s a task grown quite
Herculean Is it not so, my Tory, ultra-Julian?
CANTO THE FIRST
I want a hero: an uncommon want,
When every year and month sends forth a new one,
Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant,
The age discovers he is not the true one;
Of such as these I should not care to vaunt,
I ‘ll therefore take our ancient friend Don Juan—
We all have seen him, in the pantomime,
Sent to the devil somewhat ere his time.
Vernon, the butcher Cumberland, Wolfe, Hawke,
Prince Ferdinand, Granby, Burgoyne, Keppel, Howe,
Evil and good, have had their tithe of talk,
And fill’d their sign posts then, like Wellesley now;
Each in their turn like Banquo’s monarchs stalk,
Followers of fame, ‘nine farrow’ of that sow:
France, too, had Buonaparte and Dumourier
Recorded in the Moniteur and Courier.
Barnave, Brissot, Condorcet, Mirabeau,
Petion, Clootz, Danton, Marat, La Fayette,
Were French, and famous people, as we know:
And there were others, scarce forgotten yet,
Joubert, Hoche, Marceau, Lannes, Desaix, Moreau,
With many of the military set,
Exceedingly remarkable at times,
But not at all adapted to my rhymes.
Nelson was once Britannia’s god of war,
And still should be so, but the tide is turn’d;
There ‘s no more to be said of Trafalgar,
‘T is with our hero quietly inurn’d;
Because the army ‘s grown more popular,
At which the naval people are concern’d;
Besides, the prince is all for the land-service,
Forgetting Duncan, Nelson, Howe, and Jervis.
Brave men were living before Agamemnon
And since, exceeding valorous and sage,
A good deal like him too, though quite the same none;
But then they shone not on the poet’s page,
And so have been forgotten:—I condemn none,
But can’t find any in the present age
Fit for my poem (that is, for my new one);
So, as I said, I ‘ll take my friend Don Juan.
Most epic poets plunge ‘in medias res’
(Horace makes this the heroic turnpike road),
And then your hero tells, whene’er you please,
What went before—by way of episode,
While seated after dinner at his ease,
Beside his mistress in some soft abode,
Palace, or garden, paradise, or cavern,
Which serves the happy couple for a tavern.
That is the usual method, but not mine—
My way is to begin with the beginning;
The regularity of my design
Forbids all wandering as the worst of sinning,
And therefore I shall open with a line
(Although it cost me half an hour in spinning)
Narrating somewhat of Don Juan’s father,
And also of his mother, if you ‘d rather.
In Seville was he born, a pleasant city,
Famous for oranges and women—he
Who has not seen it will be much to pity,
So says the proverb—and I quite agree;
Of all the Spanish towns is none more pretty,
Cadiz perhaps—but that you soon may see;
Don Juan’s parents lived beside the river,
A noble stream, and call’d the Guadalquivir.
His father’s name was Jose—Don, of course,—
A true Hidalgo, free from every stain
Of Moor or Hebrew blood, he traced his source
Through the most Gothic gentlemen of Spain;
A better cavalier ne’er mounted horse,
Or, being mounted, e’er got down again,
Than Jose, who begot our hero, who
Begot—but that ‘s to come—Well, to renew:
His mother was a learned lady, famed
For every branch of every science known
In every Christian language ever named,
With virtues equall’d by her wit alone,
She made the cleverest people quite ashamed,
And even the good with inward envy groan,
Finding themselves so very much exceeded
In their own way by all the things that she did.
Her memory was a mine: she knew by heart
All Calderon and greater part of Lope,
So that if any actor miss’d his part
She could have served him for the prompter’s copy;
For her Feinagle’s were an useless art,
And he himself obliged to shut up shop—he
Could never make a memory so fine as
That which adorn’d the brain of Donna Inez.
Her favourite science was the mathematical,
Her noblest virtue was her magnanimity,
Her wit (she sometimes tried at wit) was Attic all,
Her serious sayings darken’d to sublimity;
In short, in all things she was fairly what I call
A prodigy—her morning dress was dimity,
Her evening silk, or, in the summer, muslin,
And other stuffs, with which I won’t stay puzzling.
She knew the Latin—that is, ‘the Lord’s prayer,’
And Greek—the alphabet—I ‘m nearly sure;
She read some French romances here and there,
Although her mode of speaking was not pure;
For native Spanish she had no great care,
At least her conversation was obscure;
Her thoughts were theorems, her words a problem,
As if she deem’d that mystery would ennoble ’em.
She liked the English and the Hebrew tongue,
And said there was analogy between ’em;
She proved it somehow out of sacred song,
But I must leave the proofs to those who ‘ve seen ’em;
But this I heard her say, and can’t be wrong
And all may think which way their judgments lean ’em,
”T is strange—the Hebrew noun which means “I am,”
The English always use to govern d–n.’
Some women use their tongues—she look’d a lecture,
Each eye a sermon, and her brow a homily,
An all-in-all sufficient self-director,
Like the lamented late Sir Samuel Romilly,
The Law’s expounder, and the State’s corrector,
Whose suicide was almost an anomaly—
One sad example more, that ‘All is vanity’
(The jury brought their verdict in ‘Insanity’).
In short, she was a walking calculation,
Miss Edgeworth’s novels stepping from their covers,
Or Mrs. Trimmer’s books on education,
Or ‘Coelebs’ Wife’ set out in quest of lovers,
Morality’s prim personification,
In which not Envy’s self a flaw discovers;
To others’ share let ‘female errors fall,’
For she had not even one—the worst of all.
O! she was perfect past all parallel—
Of any modern female saint’s comparison;
So far above the cunning powers of hell,
Her guardian angel had given up his garrison;
Even her minutest motions went as well
As those of the best time-piece made by Harrison:
In virtues nothing earthly could surpass her,
Save thine ‘incomparable oil,’ Macassar!
Perfect she was, but as perfection is
Insipid in this naughty world of ours,
Where our first parents never learn’d to kiss
Till they were exiled from their earlier bowers,
Where all was peace, and innocence, and bliss
(I wonder how they got through the twelve hours),
Don Jose, like a lineal son of Eve,
Went plucking various fruit without her leave.
He was a mortal of the careless kind,
With no great love for learning, or the learn’d,
Who chose to go where’er he had a mind,
And never dream’d his lady was concern’d;
The world, as usual, wickedly inclined
To see a kingdom or a house o’erturn’d,
Whisper’d he had a mistress, some said two—
But for domestic quarrels one will do.
Now Donna Inez had, with all her merit,
A great opinion of her own good qualities;
Neglect, indeed, requires a saint to bear it,
And such, indeed, she was in her moralities;
But then she had a devil of a spirit,
And sometimes mix’d up fancies with realities,
And let few opportunities escape
Of getting her liege lord into a scrape.
This was an easy matter with a man
Oft in the wrong, and never on his guard;
And even the wisest, do the best they can,
Have moments, hours, and days, so unprepared,
That you might ‘brain them with their lady’s fan;’
And sometimes ladies hit exceeding hard,
And fans turn into falchions in fair hands,
And why and wherefore no one understands.
‘T is pity learned virgins ever wed
With persons of no sort of education,
Or gentlemen, who, though well born and bred,
Grow tired of scientific conversation:
I don’t choose to say much upon this head,
I ‘m a plain man, and in a single station,
But—Oh! ye lords of ladies intellectual,
Inform us truly, have they not hen-peck’d you all?
Don Jose and his lady quarrell’d—why,
Not any of the many could divine,
Though several thousand people chose to try,
‘T was surely no concern of theirs nor mine;
I loathe that low vice—curiosity;
But if there ‘s anything in which I shine,
‘T is in arranging all my friends’ affairs,
Not having of my own domestic cares.
And so I interfered, and with the best
Intentions, but their treatment was not kind;
I think the foolish people were possess’d,
For neither of them could I ever find,
Although their porter afterwards confess’d—
But that ‘s no matter, and the worst ‘s behind,
For little Juan o’er me threw, down stairs,
A pail of housemaid’s water unawares.
A little curly-headed, good-for-nothing,
And mischief-making monkey from his birth;
His parents ne’er agreed except in doting
Upon the most unquiet imp on earth;
Instead of quarrelling, had they been but both in
Their senses, they ‘d have sent young master forth
To school, or had him soundly whipp’d at home,
To teach him manners for the time to come.
Don Jose and the Donna Inez led
For some time an unhappy sort of life,
Wishing each other, not divorced, but dead;
They lived respectably as man and wife,
Their conduct was exceedingly well-bred,
And gave no outward signs of inward strife,
Until at length the smother’d fire broke out,
And put the business past all kind of doubt.
For Inez call’d some druggists and physicians,
And tried to prove her loving lord was mad;
But as he had some lucid intermissions,
She next decided he was only bad;
Yet when they ask’d her for her depositions,
No sort of explanation could be had,
Save that her duty both to man and God
Required this conduct—which seem’d very odd.
She kept a journal, where his faults were noted,
And open’d certain trunks of books and letters,
All which might, if occasion served, be quoted;
And then she had all Seville for abettors,
Besides her good old grandmother (who doted);
The hearers of her case became repeaters,
Then advocates, inquisitors, and judges,
Some for amusement, others for old grudges.
And then this best and weakest woman bore
With such serenity her husband’s woes,
Just as the Spartan ladies did of yore,
Who saw their spouses kill’d, and nobly chose
Never to say a word about them more—
Calmly she heard each calumny that rose,
And saw his agonies with such sublimity,
That all the world exclaim’d, ‘What magnanimity!’
No doubt this patience, when the world is damning us,
Is philosophic in our former friends;
‘T is also pleasant to be deem’d magnanimous,
The more so in obtaining our own ends;
And what the lawyers call a ‘malus animus’
Conduct like this by no means comprehends;
Revenge in person ‘s certainly no virtue,
But then ‘t is not my fault, if others hurt you.
And if your quarrels should rip up old stories,
And help them with a lie or two additional,
I ‘m not to blame, as you well know—no more is
Any one else—they were become traditional;
Besides, their resurrection aids our glories
By contrast, which is what we just were wishing all:
And science profits by this resurrection—
Dead scandals form good subjects for dissection.
Their friends had tried at reconciliation,
Then their relations, who made matters worse.
(‘T were hard to tell upon a like occasion
To whom it may be best to have recourse—
I can’t say much for friend or yet relation):
The lawyers did their utmost for divorce,
But scarce a fee was paid on either side
Before, unluckily, Don Jose died.
He died: and most unluckily, because,
According to all hints I could collect
From counsel learned in those kinds of laws
(Although their talk ‘s obscure and circumspect),
His death contrived to spoil a charming cause;
A thousand pities also with respect
To public feeling, which on this occasion
Was manifested in a great sensation.
But, ah! he died; and buried with him lay
The public feeling and the lawyers’ fees:
His house was sold, his servants sent away,
A Jew took one of his two mistresses,
A priest the other—at least so they say:
I ask’d the doctors after his disease—
He died of the slow fever call’d the tertian,
And left his widow to her own aversion.
Yet Jose was an honourable man,
That I must say who knew him very well;
Therefore his frailties I ‘ll no further scan
Indeed there were not many more to tell;
And if his passions now and then outran
Discretion, and were not so peaceable
As Numa’s (who was also named Pompilius),
He had been ill brought up, and was born bilious.
Whate’er might be his worthlessness or worth,
Poor fellow! he had many things to wound him.
Let ‘s own—since it can do no good on earth—
It was a trying moment that which found him
Standing alone beside his desolate hearth,
Where all his household gods lay shiver’d round him:
No choice was left his feelings or his pride,
Save death or Doctors’ Commons—so he died.
Dying intestate, Juan was sole heir
To a chancery suit, and messuages, and lands,
Which, with a long minority and care,
Promised to turn out well in proper hands:
Inez became sole guardian, which was fair,
And answer’d but to nature’s just demands;
An only son left with an only mother
Is brought up much more wisely than another.
Sagest of women, even of widows, she
Resolved that Juan should be quite a paragon,
And worthy of the noblest pedigree
(His sire was of Castile, his dam from Aragon):
Then for accomplishments of chivalry,
In case our lord the king should go to war again,
He learn’d the arts of riding, fencing, gunnery,
And how to scale a fortress—or a nunnery.
But that which Donna Inez most desired,
And saw into herself each day before all
The learned tutors whom for him she hired,
Was, that his breeding should be strictly moral;
Much into all his studies she inquired,
And so they were submitted first to her, all,
Arts, sciences, no branch was made a mystery
To Juan’s eyes, excepting natural history.
The languages, especially the dead,
The sciences, and most of all the abstruse,
The arts, at least all such as could be said
To be the most remote from common use,
In all these he was much and deeply read;
But not a page of any thing that ‘s loose,
Or hints continuation of the species,
Was ever suffer’d, lest he should grow vicious.
His classic studies made a little puzzle,
Because of filthy loves of gods and goddesses,
Who in the earlier ages raised a bustle,
But never put on pantaloons or bodices;
His reverend tutors had at times a tussle,
And for their AEneids, Iliads, and Odysseys,
Were forced to make an odd sort! of apology,
For Donna Inez dreaded the Mythology.
Ovid ‘s a rake, as half his verses show him,
Anacreon’s morals are a still worse sample,
Catullus scarcely has a decent poem,
I don’t think Sappho’s Ode a good example,
Although Longinus tells us there is no hymn
Where the sublime soars forth on wings more ample:
But Virgil’s songs are pure, except that horrid one
Beginning with ‘Formosum Pastor Corydon.’
Lucretius’ irreligion is too strong,
For early stomachs, to prove wholesome food;
I can’t help thinking Juvenal was wrong,
Although no doubt his real intent was good,
For speaking out so plainly in his song,
So much indeed as to be downright rude;
And then what proper person can be partial
To all those nauseous epigrams of Martial?
Juan was taught from out the best edition,
Expurgated by learned men, who place
Judiciously, from out the schoolboy’s vision,
The grosser parts; but, fearful to deface
Too much their modest bard by this omission,
And pitying sore his mutilated case,
They only add them all in an appendix,
Which saves, in fact, the trouble of an index;
For there we have them all ‘at one fell swoop,’
Instead of being scatter’d through the Pages;
They stand forth marshall’d in a handsome troop,
To meet the ingenuous youth of future ages,
Till some less rigid editor shall stoop
To call them back into their separate cages,
Instead of standing staring all together,
Like garden gods—and not so decent either.
The Missal too (it was the family Missal)
Was ornamented in a sort of way
Which ancient mass-books often are, and this all
Kinds of grotesques illumined; and how they,
Who saw those figures on the margin kiss all,
Could turn their optics to the text and pray,
Is more than I know—But Don Juan’s mother
Kept this herself, and gave her son another.
Sermons he read, and lectures he endured,
And homilies, and lives of all the saints;
To Jerome and to Chrysostom inured,
He did not take such studies for restraints;
But how faith is acquired, and then ensured,
So well not one of the aforesaid paints
As Saint Augustine in his fine Confessions,
Which make the reader envy his transgressions.
This, too, was a seal’d book to little Juan—
I can’t but say that his mamma was right,
If such an education was the true one.
She scarcely trusted him from out her sight;
Her maids were old, and if she took a new one,
You might be sure she was a perfect fright;
She did this during even her husband’s life—
I recommend as much to every wife.
Young Juan wax’d in goodliness and grace;
At six a charming child, and at eleven
With all the promise of as fine a face
As e’er to man’s maturer growth was given:
He studied steadily, and grew apace,
And seem’d, at least, in the right road to heaven,
For half his days were pass’d at church, the other
Between his tutors, confessor, and mother.
At six, I said, he was a charming child,
At twelve he was a fine, but quiet boy;
Although in infancy a little wild,
They tamed him down amongst them: to destroy
His natural spirit not in vain they toil’d,
At least it seem’d so; and his mother’s joy
Was to declare how sage, and still, and steady,
Her young philosopher was grown already.
I had my doubts, perhaps I have them still,
But what I say is neither here nor there:
I knew his father well, and have some skill
In character—but it would not be fair
From sire to son to augur good or ill:
He and his wife were an ill-sorted pair—
But scandal ‘s my aversion—I protest
Against all evil speaking, even in jest.
For my part I say nothing—nothing—but
This I will say—my reasons are my own—
That if I had an only son to put
To school (as God be praised that I have none),
‘T is not with Donna Inez I would shut
Him up to learn his catechism alone,
No—no—I ‘d send him out betimes to college,
For there it was I pick’d up my own knowledge.
For there one learns—’t is not for me to boast,
Though I acquired—but I pass over that,
As well as all the Greek I since have lost:
I say that there ‘s the place—but ‘Verbum sat.’
I think I pick’d up too, as well as most,
Knowledge of matters—but no matter what—
I never married—but, I think, I know
That sons should not be educated so.
Young Juan now was sixteen years of age,
Tall, handsome, slender, but well knit: he seem’d
Active, though not so sprightly, as a page;
And everybody but his mother deem’d
Him almost man; but she flew in a rage
And bit her lips (for else she might have scream’d)
If any said so, for to be precocious
Was in her eyes a thing the most atrocious.
Amongst her numerous acquaintance, all
Selected for discretion and devotion,
There was the Donna Julia, whom to call
Pretty were but to give a feeble notion
Of many charms in her as natural
As sweetness to the flower, or salt to ocean,
Her zone to Venus, or his bow to Cupid
(But this last simile is trite and stupid).
The darkness of her Oriental eye
Accorded with her Moorish origin
(Her blood was not all Spanish, by the by;
In Spain, you know, this is a sort of sin);
When proud Granada fell, and, forced to fly,
Boabdil wept, of Donna Julia’s kin
Some went to Africa, some stay’d in Spain,
Her great-great-grandmamma chose to remain.
She married (I forget the pedigree)
With an Hidalgo, who transmitted down
His blood less noble than such blood should be;
At such alliances his sires would frown,
In that point so precise in each degree
That they bred in and in, as might be shown,
Marrying their cousins—nay, their aunts, and nieces,
Which always spoils the breed, if it increases.
This heathenish cross restored the breed again,
Ruin’d its blood, but much improved its flesh;
For from a root the ugliest in Old Spain
Sprung up a branch as beautiful as fresh;
The sons no more were short, the daughters plain:
But there ‘s a rumour which I fain would hush,
‘T is said that Donna Julia’s grandmamma
Produced her Don more heirs at love than law.
However this might be, the race went on
Improving still through every generation,
Until it centred in an only son,
Who left an only daughter; my narration
May have suggested that this single one
Could be but Julia (whom on this occasion
I shall have much to speak about), and she
Was married, charming, chaste, and twenty-three.
Her eye (I ‘m very fond of handsome eyes)
Was large and dark, suppressing half its fire
Until she spoke, then through its soft disguise
Flash’d an expression more of pride than ire,
And love than either; and there would arise
A something in them which was not desire,
But would have been, perhaps, but for the soul
Which struggled through and chasten’d down the whole.
Her glossy hair was cluster’d o’er a brow
Bright with intelligence, and fair, and smooth;
Her eyebrow’s shape was like th’ aerial bow,
Her cheek all purple with the beam of youth,
Mounting at times to a transparent glow,
As if her veins ran lightning; she, in sooth,
Possess’d an air and grace by no means common:
Her stature tall—I hate a dumpy woman.
Wedded she was some years, and to a man
Of fifty, and such husbands are in plenty;
And yet, I think, instead of such a ONE
‘T were better to have TWO of five-and-twenty,
Especially in countries near the sun:
And now I think on ‘t, ‘mi vien in mente,’
Ladies even of the most uneasy virtue
Prefer a spouse whose age is short of thirty.
‘T is a sad thing, I cannot choose but say,
And all the fault of that indecent sun,
Who cannot leave alone our helpless clay,
But will keep baking, broiling, burning on,
That howsoever people fast and pray,
The flesh is frail, and so the soul undone:
What men call gallantry, and gods adultery,
Is much more common where the climate ‘s sultry.
Happy the nations of the moral North!
Where all is virtue, and the winter season
Sends sin, without a rag on, shivering forth
(‘T was snow that brought St. Anthony to reason);
Where juries cast up what a wife is worth,
By laying whate’er sum in mulct they please on
The lover, who must pay a handsome price,
Because it is a marketable vice.
Alfonso was the name of Julia’s lord,
A man well looking for his years, and who
Was neither much beloved nor yet abhorr’d:
They lived together, as most people do,
Suffering each other’s foibles by accord,
And not exactly either one or two;
Yet he was jealous, though he did not show it,
For jealousy dislikes the world to know it.
Julia was—yet I never could see why—
With Donna Inez quite a favourite friend;
Between their tastes there was small sympathy,
For not a line had Julia ever penn’d:
Some people whisper but no doubt they lie,
For malice still imputes some private end,
That Inez had, ere Don Alfonso’s marriage,
Forgot with him her very prudent carriage;
And that still keeping up the old connection,
Which time had lately render’d much more chaste,
She took his lady also in affection,
And certainly this course was much the best:
She flatter’d Julia with her sage protection,
And complimented Don Alfonso’s taste;
And if she could not (who can?) silence scandal,
At least she left it a more slender handle.
I can’t tell whether Julia saw the affair
With other people’s eyes, or if her own
Discoveries made, but none could be aware
Of this, at least no symptom e’er was shown;
Perhaps she did not know, or did not care,
Indifferent from the first or callous grown:
I ‘m really puzzled what to think or say,
She kept her counsel in so close a way.
Juan she saw, and, as a pretty child,
Caress’d him often—such a thing might be
Quite innocently done, and harmless styled,
When she had twenty years, and thirteen he;
But I am not so sure I should have smiled
When he was sixteen, Julia twenty-three;
These few short years make wondrous alterations,
Particularly amongst sun-burnt nations.
Whate’er the cause might be, they had become
Changed; for the dame grew distant, the youth shy,
Their looks cast down, their greetings almost dumb,
And much embarrassment in either eye;
There surely will be little doubt with some
That Donna Julia knew the reason why,
But as for Juan, he had no more notion
Than he who never saw the sea of ocean.
Yet Julia’s very coldness still was kind,
And tremulously gentle her small hand
Withdrew itself from his, but left behind
A little pressure, thrilling, and so bland
And slight, so very slight, that to the mind
‘T was but a doubt; but ne’er magician’s wand
Wrought change with all Armida’s fairy art
Like what this light touch left on Juan’s heart.
And if she met him, though she smiled no more,
She look’d a sadness sweeter than her smile,
As if her heart had deeper thoughts in store
She must not own, but cherish’d more the while
For that compression in its burning core;
Even innocence itself has many a wile,
And will not dare to trust itself with truth,
And love is taught hypocrisy from youth.
But passion most dissembles, yet betrays
Even by its darkness; as the blackest sky
Foretells the heaviest tempest, it displays
Its workings through the vainly guarded eye,
And in whatever aspect it arrays
Itself, ‘t is still the same hypocrisy;
Coldness or anger, even disdain or hate,
Are masks it often wears, and still too late.
Then there were sighs, the deeper for suppression,
And stolen glances, sweeter for the theft,
And burning blushes, though for no transgression,
Tremblings when met, and restlessness when left;
All these are little preludes to possession,
Of which young passion cannot be bereft,
And merely tend to show how greatly love is
Embarrass’d at first starting with a novice.
Poor Julia’s heart was in an awkward state;
She felt it going, and resolved to make
The noblest efforts for herself and mate,
For honour’s, pride’s, religion’s, virtue’s sake;
Her resolutions were most truly great,
And almost might have made a Tarquin quake:
She pray’d the Virgin Mary for her grace,
As being the best judge of a lady’s case.
She vow’d she never would see Juan more,
And next day paid a visit to his mother,
And look’d extremely at the opening door,
Which, by the Virgin’s grace, let in another;
Grateful she was, and yet a little sore—
Again it opens, it can be no other,
‘T is surely Juan now—No! I ‘m afraid
That night the Virgin was no further pray’d.
She now determined that a virtuous woman
Should rather face and overcome temptation,
That flight was base and dastardly, and no man
Should ever give her heart the least sensation;
That is to say, a thought beyond the common
Preference, that we must feel upon occasion
For people who are pleasanter than others,
But then they only seem so many brothers.
And even if by chance—and who can tell?
The devil ‘s so very sly—she should discover
That all within was not so very well,
And, if still free, that such or such a lover
Might please perhaps, a virtuous wife can quell
Such thoughts, and be the better when they ‘re over;
And if the man should ask, ‘t is but denial:
I recommend young ladies to make trial.
And then there are such things as love divine,
Bright and immaculate, unmix’d and pure,
Such as the angels think so very fine,
And matrons who would be no less secure,
Platonic, perfect, ‘just such love as mine;’
Thus Julia said—and thought so, to be sure;
And so I ‘d have her think, were I the man
On whom her reveries celestial ran.
Such love is innocent, and may exist
Between young persons without any danger.
A hand may first, and then a lip be kist;
For my part, to such doings I ‘m a stranger,
But hear these freedoms form the utmost list
Of all o’er which such love may be a ranger:
If people go beyond, ‘t is quite a crime,
But not my fault—I tell them all in time.
Love, then, but love within its proper limits,
Was Julia’s innocent determination
In young Don Juan’s favour, and to him its
Exertion might be useful on occasion;
And, lighted at too pure a shrine to dim its
Ethereal lustre, with what sweet persuasion
He might be taught, by love and her together—
I really don’t know what, nor Julia either.
Fraught with this fine intention, and well fenced
In mail of proof—her purity of soul—
She, for the future of her strength convinced.
And that her honour was a rock, or mole,
Exceeding sagely from that hour dispensed
With any kind of troublesome control;
But whether Julia to the task was equal
Is that which must be mention’d in the sequel.
Her plan she deem’d both innocent and feasible,
And, surely, with a stripling of sixteen
Not scandal’s fangs could fix on much that ‘s seizable,
Or if they did so, satisfied to mean
Nothing but what was good, her breast was peaceable—
A quiet conscience makes one so serene!
Christians have burnt each other, quite persuaded
That all the Apostles would have done as they did.
And if in the mean time her husband died,
But Heaven forbid that such a thought should cross
Her brain, though in a dream! (and then she sigh’d)
Never could she survive that common loss;
But just suppose that moment should betide,
I only say suppose it—inter nos.
(This should be entre nous, for Julia thought
In French, but then the rhyme would go for naught.)
I only say suppose this supposition:
Juan being then grown up to man’s estate
Would fully suit a widow of condition,
Even seven years hence it would not be too late;
And in the interim (to pursue this vision)
The mischief, after all, could not be great,
For he would learn the rudiments of love,
I mean the seraph way of those above.
So much for Julia. Now we ‘ll turn to Juan.
Poor little fellow! he had no idea
Of his own case, and never hit the true one;
In feelings quick as Ovid’s Miss Medea,
He puzzled over what he found a new one,
But not as yet imagined it could be
Thing quite in course, and not at all alarming,
Which, with a little patience, might grow charming.
Silent and pensive, idle, restless, slow,
His home deserted for the lonely wood,
Tormented with a wound he could not know,
His, like all deep grief, plunged in solitude:
I ‘m fond myself of solitude or so,
But then, I beg it may be understood,
By solitude I mean a sultan’s, not
A hermit’s, with a haram for a grot.
‘Oh Love! in such a wilderness as this,
Where transport and security entwine,
Here is the empire of thy perfect bliss,
And here thou art a god indeed divine.’
The bard I quote from does not sing amiss,
With the exception of the second line,
For that same twining ‘transport and security’
Are twisted to a phrase of some obscurity.
The poet meant, no doubt, and thus appeals
To the good sense and senses of mankind,
The very thing which every body feels,
As all have found on trial, or may find,
That no one likes to be disturb’d at meals
Or love.—I won’t say more about ‘entwined’
Or ‘transport,’ as we knew all that before,
But beg ‘Security’ will bolt the door.
Young Juan wander’d by the glassy brooks,
Thinking unutterable things; he threw
Himself at length within the leafy nooks
Where the wild branch of the cork forest grew;
There poets find materials for their books,
And every now and then we read them through,
So that their plan and prosody are eligible,
Unless, like Wordsworth, they prove unintelligible.
He, Juan (and not Wordsworth), so pursued
His self-communion with his own high soul,
Until his mighty heart, in its great mood,
Had mitigated part, though not the whole
Of its disease; he did the best he could
With things not very subject to control,
And turn’d, without perceiving his condition,
Like Coleridge, into a metaphysician.
He thought about himself, and the whole earth
Of man the wonderful, and of the stars,
And how the deuce they ever could have birth;
And then he thought of earthquakes, and of wars,
How many miles the moon might have in girth,
Of air-balloons, and of the many bars
To perfect knowledge of the boundless skies;—
And then he thought of Donna Julia’s eyes.
In thoughts like these true wisdom may discern
Longings sublime, and aspirations high,
Which some are born with, but the most part learn
To plague themselves withal, they know not why:
‘T was strange that one so young should thus concern
His brain about the action of the sky;
If you think ‘t was philosophy that this did,
I can’t help thinking puberty assisted.
He pored upon the leaves, and on the flowers,
And heard a voice in all the winds; and then
He thought of wood-nymphs and immortal bowers,
And how the goddesses came down to men:
He miss’d the pathway, he forgot the hours,
And when he look’d upon his watch again,
He found how much old Time had been a winner—
He also found that he had lost his dinner.
Sometimes he turn’d to gaze upon his book,
Boscan, or Garcilasso;—by the wind
Even as the page is rustled while we look,
So by the poesy of his own mind
Over the mystic leaf his soul was shook,
As if ‘t were one whereon magicians bind
Their spells, and give them to the passing gale,
According to some good old woman’s tale.
Thus would he while his lonely hours away
Dissatisfied, nor knowing what he wanted;
Nor glowing reverie, nor poet’s lay,
Could yield his spirit that for which it panted,
A bosom whereon he his head might lay,
And hear the heart beat with the love it granted,
With—several other things, which I forget,
Or which, at least, I need not mention yet.
Those lonely walks, and lengthening reveries,
Could not escape the gentle Julia’s eyes;
She saw that Juan was not at his ease;
But that which chiefly may, and must surprise,
Is, that the Donna Inez did not tease
Her only son with question or surmise:
Whether it was she did not see, or would not,
Or, like all very clever people, could not.
This may seem strange, but yet ‘t is very common;
For instance—gentlemen, whose ladies take
Leave to o’erstep the written rights of woman,
And break the—Which commandment is ‘t they break?
(I have forgot the number, and think no man
Should rashly quote, for fear of a mistake.)
I say, when these same gentlemen are jealous,
They make some blunder, which their ladies tell us.
A real husband always is suspicious,
But still no less suspects in the wrong place,
Jealous of some one who had no such wishes,
Or pandering blindly to his own disgrace,
By harbouring some dear friend extremely vicious;
The last indeed ‘s infallibly the case:
And when the spouse and friend are gone off wholly,
He wonders at their vice, and not his folly.
Thus parents also are at times short-sighted;
Though watchful as the lynx, they ne’er discover,
The while the wicked world beholds delighted,
Young Hopeful’s mistress, or Miss Fanny’s lover,
Till some confounded escapade has blighted
The plan of twenty years, and all is over;
And then the mother cries, the father swears,
And wonders why the devil he got heirs.
But Inez was so anxious, and so clear
Of sight, that I must think, on this occasion,
She had some other motive much more near
For leaving Juan to this new temptation;
But what that motive was, I sha’n’t say here;
Perhaps to finish Juan’s education,
Perhaps to open Don Alfonso’s eyes,
In case he thought his wife too great a prize.
It was upon a day, a summer’s day.—
Summer’s indeed a very dangerous season,
And so is spring about the end of May;
The sun, no doubt, is the prevailing reason;
But whatsoe’er the cause is, one may say,
And stand convicted of more truth than treason,
That there are months which nature grows more merry in,—
March has its hares, and May must have its heroine.
‘T was on a summer’s day—the sixth of June:—
I like to be particular in dates,
Not only of the age, and year, but moon;
They are a sort of post-house, where the Fates
Change horses, making history change its tune,
Then spur away o’er empires and o’er states,
Leaving at last not much besides chronology,
Excepting the post-obits of theology.
‘T was on the sixth of June, about the hour
Of half-past six—perhaps still nearer seven—
When Julia sate within as pretty a bower
As e’er held houri in that heathenish heaven
Described by Mahomet, and Anacreon Moore,
To whom the lyre and laurels have been given,
With all the trophies of triumphant song—
He won them well, and may he wear them long!
She sate, but not alone; I know not well
How this same interview had taken place,
And even if I knew, I should not tell—
People should hold their tongues in any case;
No matter how or why the thing befell,
But there were she and Juan, face to face—
When two such faces are so, ‘t would be wise,
But very difficult, to shut their eyes.
How beautiful she look’d! her conscious heart
Glow’d in her cheek, and yet she felt no wrong.
O 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.
She thought of her own strength, and Juan’s youth,
And of the folly of all prudish fears,
Victorious virtue, and domestic truth,
And then of Don Alfonso’s fifty years:
I wish these last had not occurr’d, in sooth,
Because that number rarely much endears,
And through all climes, the snowy and the sunny,
Sounds ill in love, whate’er it may in money.
When people say, ‘I’ve told you fifty times,’
They mean to scold, and very often do;
When poets say, ‘I’ve written fifty rhymes,’
They make you dread that they ‘ll recite them too;
In gangs of fifty, thieves commit their crimes;
At fifty love for love is rare, ‘t is true,
But then, no doubt, it equally as true is,
A good deal may be bought for fifty Louis.
Julia had honour, virtue, truth, and love,
For Don Alfonso; and she inly swore,
By all the vows below to powers above,
She never would disgrace the ring she wore,
Nor leave a wish which wisdom might reprove;
And while she ponder’d this, besides much more,
One hand on Juan’s carelessly was thrown,
Quite by mistake—she thought it was her own;
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.
‘T was 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.
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 ‘t is new:
She blush’d, and frown’d not, but she strove to speak,
And held her tongue, her voice was grown so weak.
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.
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-control;
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.
And Julia sate with Juan, half embraced
And half retiring from the glowing arm,
Which trembled like the bosom where ‘t was placed;
Yet still she must have thought there was no harm,
Or else ‘t were 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.
O Plato! Plato! you have paved the way,
With your confounded fantasies, to more
Immoral conduct by the fancied sway
Your system feigns o’er the controulless core
Of human hearts, than all the long array
Of poets and romancers:—You ‘re a bore,
A charlatan, a coxcomb—and have been,
At best, no better than a go-between.
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.
‘T is 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 moderate-minded bard,
Fond of a little love (which I call leisure);
I care not for new pleasures, as the old
Are quite enough for me, so they but hold.
O Pleasure! you are 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.
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,
Which some irregularity may make
In the design, and as I have a high sense
Of Aristotle and the Rules, ‘t is fit
To beg his pardon when I err a bit.
This licence is to hope the reader will
Suppose from June the sixth (the fatal day,
Without whose epoch 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
‘T was in November, but I ‘m not so sure
About the day—the era ‘s more obscure.
We ‘ll talk of that anon.—’T is 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;
‘T is sweet to see the evening star appear;
‘T is sweet to listen as the night-winds creep
From leaf to leaf; ‘t is sweet to view on high
The rainbow, based on ocean, span the sky.
‘T is sweet to hear the watch-dog’s honest bark
Bay deep-mouth’d welcome as we draw near home;
‘T is sweet to know there is an eye will mark
Our coming, and look brighter when we come;
‘T is 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.
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.
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 Israelites are fit to mob its
Next owner for their double-damn’d post-obits.
‘T is sweet to win, no matter how, one’s laurels,
By blood or ink; ‘t is sweet to put an end
To strife; ‘t is 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 schoolboy spot
We ne’er forget, though there we are forgot.
But sweeter 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.
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.
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.
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.
‘T is said the great came from America;
Perhaps it may set out on its return,—
The population there so spreads, they say
‘T is 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?
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.
Man ‘s a phenomenon, one knows not what,
And wonderful beyond all wondrous measure;
‘T is 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—
What then?—I do not know, no more do you—
And so good night.—Return we to our story:
‘T was 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.
‘T was, 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.
‘T was 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!
‘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 curst disaster!
‘T is 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!’
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.
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.
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 weep;
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.
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.’
Now Julia found at length a voice, and cried,
‘In heaven’s name, Don Alfonso, what d’ ye mean?
Has madness seized you? would that I had died
Ere such a monster’s victim I had been!
What may this midnight violence betide,
A sudden fit of drunkenness or spleen?
Dare you suspect me, whom the thought would kill?
Search, then, the room!’—Alfonso said, ‘I will.’
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.
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 other’s faces round:
‘T is 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.
During this inquisition, 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.
‘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?
‘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!
‘Was it for this that no Cortejo 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 favor’d none—nay, was almost uncivil?
Is it for this that General Count O’Reilly,
Who took Algiers, declares I used him vilely?
‘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.
‘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—
O, valiant man! with sword drawn and cock’d trigger,
Now, tell me, don’t you cut a pretty figure?
‘Was it for this you took your sudden journey.
Under pretence of business indispensable
With that sublime of rascals your 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, ‘t was for his dirty fee,
And not from any love to you nor me.
‘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 every thing 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.’
‘There is the closet, there the toilet, there
The antechamber—search them under, over;
There is the sofa, there the great arm-chair,
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 ‘t is found, let me, too, have that pleasure.
‘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 cal
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
My honour thus, it shall not be in vain.
‘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.
‘Perhaps ‘t is 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.
‘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,
‘T will one day ask you why you used me so?
God grant you feel not then the bitterest grief!-
Antonia! where ‘s my pocket-handkerchief?’
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.
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.
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.
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 thunder-shower.
At first he tried to hammer an excuse,
To which the sole reply was 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.
He stood in act to speak, or rather stammer,
But sage Antonia cut him short 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.
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 ‘hiatus’
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.
No sooner was it bolted, than—Oh shame!
O sin! Oh sorrow! 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 is more behind:
With much heartfelt reluctance be it said,
Young Juan slipp’d half-smother’d, from the bed.
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;
‘T were better, sure, to die so, than be shut
With maudlin Clarence in his Malmsey butt.
And, secondly, I pity not, because
He had no business to commit a sin,
Forbid by heavenly, fined by human laws,
At least ‘t was 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.
Of his position I can give no notion:
‘T is 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 ‘t was in a different way applied,
For David lived, but Juan nearly died.
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 puzzled; Julia did not speak,
But press’d her bloodless lip to Juan’s cheek.
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, ‘t is no time now for fooling there,’
She whisper’d, in great wrath—’I must deposit
This pretty gentleman within the closet:
‘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.
‘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).’
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 stay’d:
Regarding both with slow and sidelong view,
She snuff’d the candle, curtsied, and withdrew.
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.’
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;
‘T is to retort with firmness, and when he
Suspects with one, do you reproach with three.
Julia, in fact, had tolerable grounds,—
Alfonso’s loves with Inez were well known,
But whether ‘t was 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.
There might be one more motive, which makes two;
Alfonso ne’er to Juan had alluded,—
Mention’d his jealousy but never who
Had been the happy lover, he concluded,
Conceal’d amongst his premises; ‘t is true,
His mind the more o’er this its mystery brooded;
To speak of Inez now were, one may say,
Like throwing Juan in Alfonso’s way.
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.
They blush, and we believe them; at least I
Have always done so; ‘t is 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.
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.
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.
He left the room for his relinquish’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 hurrying feet—
Day has not broke—there ‘s no one in the street:
None can say that this was not good advice,
The only mischief was, it came too late;
Of all experience ‘t is 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 threaten’d death—so Juan knock’d him down.
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 blood was up: though young, he was a Tartar,
And not at all disposed to prove a martyr.
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 that moment he had chanced to claw it,
Alfonso’s days had not been in the land
Much longer.—Think of husbands’, lovers’ lives!
And how ye may be doubly widows—wives!
Alfonso grappled to detain the foe,
And Juan throttled him to get away,
And blood (‘t was from the nose) began to flow;
At last, as they more faintly wrestling lay,
Juan contrived to give an awkward blow,
And then his only garment quite gave way;
He fled, like Joseph, leaving it; but there,
I doubt, all likeness ends between the pair.
Lights came at length, and men, and maids, who found
An awkward spectacle their eyes before;
Antonia in hysterics, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:—
‘They tell me ‘t is decided; you depart:
‘T is wise—’t is 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, ‘t is not what it appears;
My eyeballs burn and throb, but have no tears.
‘I loved, I love you, for this love have lost
State, station, heaven, mankind’s, my own esteem,
And yet can not regret what it hath cost,
So dear is still the memory of that dream;
Yet, if I name my guilt, ‘t is 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.
‘Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart,
‘T is 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.
‘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.
‘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.
‘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!’
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.
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 mischief ‘s done by their caprice;
And if their approbation we experience,
Perhaps they ‘ll have some more about a year hence.
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.
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.
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 ‘t is quite a bore
Their labyrinth of fables to thread through,
Whereas this story ‘s actually true.
If any person doubt it, I appeal
To history, tradition, and to facts,
To newspapers, whose 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.
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.’
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.
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;
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.
If, after all, there should be some so blind
To their own good this warning to despise,
Led 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 captains the remark, or critics, make,
They also lie too—under a mistake.
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 readers should grow skittish,
I ‘ve bribed my grandmother’s review—the British.
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 he please to roast,
And break a promise after 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.
I think that with this holy new alliance
I may ensure the public, and defy
All other magazines of art or science,
Daily, or monthly, or three monthly; I
Have not essay’d to multiply their clients,
Because they tell me ‘t were in vain to try,
And that the Edinburgh Review and Quarterly
Treat a dissenting author very martyrly.
‘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 from the Brenta)
I was most ready to return a blow,
And would not brook at all this sort of thing
In my hot youth—when George the Third was King.
But now at thirty years my hair is grey
(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 ‘t was 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.
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! ‘t was not in them, but in thy power
To double even the sweetness of a flower.
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 judgment,
Though heaven knows how it ever found a lodgment.
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.
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.
What is the end of Fame? ‘t is 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.
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.
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—’t would pass—
So thank your stars that matters are no worse,
And read your Bible, sir, and mind your purse.’
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-b’ye!’
We meet again, if we should understand
Each other; and if not, I shall not try
Your patience further than by this short sample—
‘T were well if others follow’d my example.
‘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! take them not for mine.
CANTO THE SECOND.
O ye! who teach the ingenuous youth of nations,
Holland, France, England, Germany, or Spain,
I pray ye flog them upon all occasions,
It mends their morals, never mind the pain:
The best of mothers and of educations
In Juan’s case were but employ’d in vain,
Since, in a way that ‘s rather of the oddest, he
Became divested of his native modesty.
Had he but been placed at a public school,
In the third form, or even in the fourth,
His daily task had kept his fancy cool,
At least, had he been nurtured in the north;
Spain may prove an exception to the rule,
But then exceptions always prove its worth—
A lad of sixteen causing a divorce
Puzzled his tutors very much, of course.
I can’t say that it puzzles me at all,
If all things be consider’d: first, there was
His lady—mother, mathematical,
A—never mind; his tutor, an old ass;
A pretty woman (that ‘s quite natural,
Or else the thing had hardly come to pass);
A husband rather old, not much in unity
With his young wife—a time, and opportunity.
Well—well, the world must turn upon its axis,
And all mankind turn with it, heads or tails,
And live and die, make love and pay our taxes,
And as the veering wind shifts, shift our sails;
The king commands us, and the doctor quacks us,
The priest instructs, and so our life exhales,
A little breath, love, wine, ambition, fame,
Fighting, devotion, dust,—perhaps a name.
I said that Juan had been sent to Cadiz—
A pretty town, I recollect it well—
‘T is there the mart of the colonial trade is
(Or was, before Peru learn’d to rebel),
And such sweet girls—I mean, such graceful ladies,
Their very walk would make your bosom swell;
I can’t describe it, though so much it strike,
Nor liken it—I never saw the like:
An Arab horse, a stately stag, a barb
New broke, a cameleopard, a gazelle,
No—none of these will do;—and then their garb!
Their veil and petticoat—Alas! to dwell
Upon such things would very near absorb
A canto—then their feet and ankles,—well,
Thank Heaven I ‘ve got no metaphor quite ready
(And so, my sober Muse—come, let ‘s be steady—
Chaste Muse!—well, if you must, you must)—the veil
Thrown back a moment with the glancing hand,
While the o’erpowering eye, that turns you pale,
Flashes into the heart:—All sunny land
Of love! when I forget you, may I fail
To—say my prayers—but never was there plann’d
A dress through which the eyes give such a volley,
Excepting the Venetian Fazzioli.
But to our tale: the Donna Inez sent
Her son to Cadiz only to embark;
To stay there had not answer’d her intent,
But why?—we leave the reader in the dark—
‘T was for a voyage that the young man was meant,
As if a Spanish ship were Noah’s ark,
To wean him from the wickedness of earth,
And send him like a dove of promise forth.
Don Juan bade his valet pack his things
According to direction, then received
A lecture and some money: for four springs
He was to travel; and though Inez grieved
(As every kind of parting has its stings),
She hoped he would improve—perhaps believed:
A letter, too, she gave (he never read it)
Of good advice—and two or three of credit.
In the mean time, to pass her hours away,
Brave Inez now set up a Sunday school
For naughty children, who would rather play
(Like truant rogues) the devil, or the fool;
Infants of three years old were taught that day,
Dunces were whipt, or set upon a stool:
The great success of Juan’s education,
Spurr’d her to teach another generation.
Juan embark’d—the ship got under way,
The wind was fair, the water passing rough:
A devil of a sea rolls in that bay,
As I, who ‘ve cross’d it oft, know well enough;
And, standing upon deck, the dashing spray
Flies in one’s face, and makes it weather-tough:
And there he stood to take, and take again,
His first—perhaps his last—farewell of Spain.
I can’t but say it is an awkward sight
To see one’s native land receding through
The growing waters; it unmans one quite,
Especially when life is rather new:
I recollect Great Britain’s coast looks white,
But almost every other country ‘s blue,
When gazing on them, mystified by distance,
We enter on our nautical existence.
So Juan stood, bewilder’d on the deck:
The wind sung, cordage strain’d, and sailors swore,
And the ship creak’d, the town became a speck,
From which away so fair and fast they bore.
The best of remedies is a beef-steak
Against sea-sickness: try it, sir, before
You sneer, and I assure you this is true,
For I have found it answer—so may you.
Don Juan stood, and, gazing from the stern,
Beheld his native Spain receding far:
First partings form a lesson hard to learn,
Even nations feel this when they go to war;
There is a sort of unexprest concern,
A kind of shock that sets one’s heart ajar:
At leaving even the most unpleasant people
And places, one keeps looking at the steeple.
But Juan had got many things to leave,
His mother, and a mistress, and no wife,
So that he had much better cause to grieve
Than many persons more advanced in life;
And if we now and then a sigh must heave
At quitting even those we quit in strife,
No doubt we weep for those the heart endears—
That is, till deeper griefs congeal our tears.
So Juan wept, as wept the captive Jews
By Babel’s waters, still remembering Sion:
I ‘d weep,—but mine is not a weeping Muse,
And such light griefs are not a thing to die on;
Young men should travel, if but to amuse
Themselves; and the next time their servants tie on
Behind their carriages their new portmanteau,
Perhaps it may be lined with this my canto.
And Juan wept, and much he sigh’d and thought,
While his salt tears dropp’d into the salt sea,
‘Sweets to the sweet’ (I like so much to quote;
You must excuse this extract, ‘t is where she,
The Queen of Denmark, for Ophelia brought
Flowers to the grave); and, sobbing often, he
Reflected on his present situation,
And seriously resolved on reformation.
‘Farewell, my Spain! a long farewell!’ he cried,
‘Perhaps I may revisit thee no more,
But die, as many an exiled heart hath died,
Of its own thirst to see again thy shore:
Farewell, where Guadalquivir’s waters glide!
Farewell, my mother! and, since all is o’er,
Farewell, too, dearest Julia!—(Here he drew
Her letter out again, and read it through.)
‘And, oh! if e’er I should forget, I swear—
But that ‘s impossible, and cannot be—
Sooner shall this blue ocean melt to air,
Sooner shall earth resolve itself to sea,
Than I resign thine image, oh, my fair!
Or think of any thing excepting thee;
A mind diseased no remedy can physic
(Here the ship gave a lurch, and he grew sea-sick).
‘Sooner shall heaven kiss earth (here he fell sicker),
O, Julia! what is every other wo?
(For God’s sake let me have a glass of liquor;
Pedro, Battista, help me down below.)
Julia, my love! (you rascal, Pedro, quicker)—
O, Julia! (this curst vessel pitches so)—
Beloved Julia, hear me still beseeching!’
(Here he grew inarticulate with retching.)
He felt that chilling heaviness of heart,
Or rather stomach, which, alas! attends,
Beyond the best apothecary’s art,
The loss of love, the treachery of friends,
Or death of those we dote on, when a part
Of us dies with them as each fond hope ends:
No doubt he would have been much more pathetic,
But the sea acted as a strong emetic. I
Love ‘s a capricious power: I ‘ve known it hold
Out through a fever caused by its own heat,
But be much puzzled by a cough and cold,
And find a quincy very hard to treat;
Against all noble maladies he ‘s bold,
But vulgar illnesses don’t like to meet,
Nor that a sneeze should interrupt his sigh,
Nor inflammations redden his blind eye.
But worst of all is nausea, or a pain
About the lower region of the bowels;
Love, who heroically breathes a vein,
Shrinks from the application of hot towels,
And purgatives are dangerous to his reign,
Sea-sickness death: his love was perfect, how else
Could Juan’s passion, while the billows roar,
Resist his stomach, ne’er at sea before?
The ship, call’d the most holy ‘Trinidada,’
Was steering duly for the port Leghorn;
For there the Spanish family Moncada
Were settled long ere Juan’s sire was born:
They were relations, and for them he had a
Letter of introduction, which the morn
Of his departure had been sent him by
His Spanish friends for those in Italy.
His suite consisted of three servants and
A tutor, the licentiate Pedrillo,
Who several languages did understand,
But now lay sick and speechless on his pillow,
And rocking in his hammock, long’d for land,
His headache being increased by every billow;
And the waves oozing through the port-hole made
His berth a little damp, and him afraid.
‘T was not without some reason, for the wind
Increased at night, until it blew a gale;
And though ‘t was not much to a naval mind,
Some landsmen would have look’d a little pale,
For sailors are, in fact, a different kind:
At sunset they began to take in sail,
For the sky show’d it would come on to blow,
And carry away, perhaps, a mast or so.
At one o’clock the wind with sudden shift
Threw the ship right into the trough of the sea,
Which struck her aft, and made an awkward rift,
Started the stern-post, also shatter’d the
Whole of her stern-frame, and, ere she could lift
Herself from out her present jeopardy,
The rudder tore away: ‘t was time to sound
The pumps, and there were four feet water found.
One gang of people instantly was put
Upon the pumps and the remainder set
To get up part of the cargo, and what not;
But they could not come at the leak as yet;
At last they did get at it really, but
Still their salvation was an even bet:
The water rush’d through in a way quite puzzling,
While they thrust sheets, shirts, jackets, bales of muslin,
Into the opening; but all such ingredients
Would have been vain, and they must have gone down,
Despite of all their efforts and expedients,
But for the pumps: I ‘m glad to make them known
To all the brother tars who may have need hence,
For fifty tons of water were upthrown
By them per hour, and they had all been undone,
But for the maker, Mr. Mann, of London.
As day advanced the weather seem’d to abate,
And then the leak they reckon’d to reduce,
And keep the ship afloat, though three feet yet
Kept two hand and one chain-pump still in use.
The wind blew fresh again: as it grew late
A squall came on, and while some guns broke loose,
A gust—which all descriptive power transcends—
Laid with one blast the ship on her beam ends.
There she lay motionless, and seem’d upset;
The water left the hold, and wash’d the decks,
And made a scene men do not soon forget;
For they remember battles, fires, and wrecks,
Or any other thing that brings regret,
Or breaks their hopes, or hearts, or heads, or necks:
Thus drownings are much talk’d of by the divers,
And swimmers, who may chance to be survivors.
Immediately the masts were cut away,
Both main and mizen; first the mizen went,
The main-mast follow’d: but the ship still lay
Like a mere log, and baffled our intent.
Foremast and bowsprit were cut down, and they
Eased her at last (although we never meant
To part with all till every hope was blighted),
And then with violence the old ship righted.
It may be easily supposed, while this
Was going on, some people were unquiet,
That passengers would find it much amiss
To lose their lives, as well as spoil their diet;
That even the able seaman, deeming his
Days nearly o’er, might be disposed to riot,
As upon such occasions tars will ask
For grog, and sometimes drink rum from the cask.
There ‘s nought, no doubt, so much the spirit calms
As rum and true religion: thus it was,
Some plunder’d, some drank spirits, some sung psalms,
The high wind made the treble, and as bas
The hoarse harsh waves kept time; fright cured the qualms
Of all the luckless landsmen’s sea-sick maws:
Strange sounds of wailing, blasphemy, devotion,
Clamour’d in chorus to the roaring ocean.
Perhaps more mischief had been done, but for
Our Juan, who, with sense beyond his years,
Got to the spirit-room, and stood before
It with a pair of pistols; and their fears,
As if Death were more dreadful by his door
Of fire than water, spite of oaths and tears,
Kept still aloof the crew, who, ere they sunk,
Thought it would be becoming to die drunk.
‘Give us more grog,’ they cried, ‘for it will be
All one an hour hence.’ Juan answer’d, ‘No!
‘T is true that death awaits both you and me,
But let us die like men, not sink below
Like brutes;’—and thus his dangerous post kept he,
And none liked to anticipate the blow;
And even Pedrillo, his most reverend tutor,
Was for some rum a disappointed suitor.
The good old gentleman was quite aghast,
And made a loud and pious lamentation;
Repented all his sins, and made a last
Irrevocable vow of reformation;
Nothing should tempt him more (this peril past)
To quit his academic occupation,
In cloisters of the classic Salamanca,
To follow Juan’s wake, like Sancho Panca.
But now there came a flash of hope once more;
Day broke, and the wind lull’d: the masts were gone,
The leak increased; shoals round her, but no shore,
The vessel swam, yet still she held her own.
They tried the pumps again, and though before
Their desperate efforts seem’d all useless grown,
A glimpse of sunshine set some hands to bale—
The stronger pump’d, the weaker thrumm’d a sail.
Under the vessel’s keel the sail was past,
And for the moment it had some effect;
But with a leak, and not a stick of mast,
Nor rag of canvas, what could they expect?
But still ‘t is best to struggle to the last,
‘T is never too late to be wholly wreck’d:
And though ‘t is true that man can only die once,
‘T is not so pleasant in the Gulf of Lyons.
There winds and waves had hurl’d them, and from thence,
Without their will, they carried them away;
For they were forced with steering to dispense,
And never had as yet a quiet day
On which they might repose, or even commence
A jurymast or rudder, or could say
The ship would swim an hour, which, by good luck,
Still swam—though not exactly like a duck.
The wind, in fact, perhaps was rather less,
But the ship labour’d so, they scarce could hope
To weather out much longer; the distress
Was also great with which they had to cope
For want of water, and their solid mess
Was scant enough: in vain the telescope
Was used—nor sail nor shore appear’d in sight,
Nought but the heavy sea, and coming night.
Again the weather threaten’d,—again blew
A gale, and in the fore and after hold
Water appear’d; yet, though the people knew
All this, the most were patient, and some bold,
Until the chains and leathers were worn through
Of all our pumps:—a wreck complete she roll’d,
At mercy of the waves, whose mercies are
Like human beings during civil war.
Then came the carpenter, at last, with tears
In his rough eyes, and told the captain he
Could do no more: he was a man in years,
And long had voyaged through many a stormy sea,
And if he wept at length, they were not fears
That made his eyelids as a woman’s be,
But he, poor fellow, had a wife and children,—
Two things for dying people quite bewildering.
The ship was evidently settling now
Fast by the head; and, all distinction gone,
Some went to prayers again, and made a vow
Of candles to their saints—but there were none
To pay them with; and some look’d o’er the bow;
Some hoisted out the boats; and there was one
That begg’d Pedrillo for an absolution,
Who told him to be damn’d—in his confusion.
Some lash’d them in their hammocks; some put on
Their best clothes, as if going to a fair;
Some cursed the day on which they saw the sun,
And gnash’d their teeth, and, howling, tore their hair;
And others went on as they had begun,
Getting the boats out, being well aware
That a tight boat will live in a rough sea,
Unless with breakers close beneath her lee.
The worst of all was, that in their condition,
Having been several days in great distress,
‘T was difficult to get out such provision
As now might render their long suffering less:
Men, even when dying, dislike inanition;
Their stock was damaged by the weather’s stress:
Two casks of biscuit and a keg of butter
Were all that could be thrown into the cutter.
But in the long-boat they contrived to stow
Some pounds of bread, though injured by the wet;
Water, a twenty-gallon cask or so;
Six flasks of wine; and they contrived to get
A portion of their beef up from below,
And with a piece of pork, moreover, met,
But scarce enough to serve them for a luncheon—
Then there was rum, eight gallons in a puncheon.
The other boats, the yawl and pinnace, had
Been stove in the beginning of the gale;
And the long-boat’s condition was but bad,
As there were but two blankets for a sail,
And one oar for a mast, which a young lad
Threw in by good luck over the ship’s rail;
And two boats could not hold, far less be stored,
To save one half the people then on board.
‘T was twilight, and the sunless day went down
Over the waste of waters; like a veil,
Which, if withdrawn, would but disclose the frown
Of one whose hate is mask’d but to assail,
Thus to their hopeless eyes the night was shown,
And grimly darkled o’er the faces pale,
And the dim desolate deep: twelve days had Fear
Been their familiar, and now Death was here.
Some trial had been making at a raft,
With little hope in such a rolling sea,
A sort of thing at which one would have laugh’d,
If any laughter at such times could be,
Unless with people who too much have quaff’d,
And have a kind of wild and horrid glee,
Half epileptical and half hysterical:—
Their preservation would have been a miracle.
At half-past eight o’clock, booms, hencoops, spars,
And all things, for a chance, had been cast loose,
That still could keep afloat the struggling tars,
For yet they strove, although of no great use:
There was no light in heaven but a few stars,
The boats put off o’ercrowded with their crews;
She gave a heel, and then a lurch to port,
And, going down head foremost—sunk, in short.
Then rose from sea to sky the wild farewell—
Then shriek’d the timid, and stood still the brave,
Then some leap’d overboard with dreadful yell,
As eager to anticipate their grave;
And the sea yawn’d around her like a hell,
And down she suck’d with her the whirling wave,
Like one who grapples with his enemy,
And strives to strangle him before he die.
And first one universal shriek there rush’d,
Louder than the loud ocean, like a crash
Of echoing thunder; and then all was hush’d,
Save the wild wind and the remorseless dash
Of billows; but at intervals there gush’d,
Accompanied with a convulsive splash,
A solitary shriek, the bubbling cry
Of some strong swimmer in his agony.
The boats, as stated, had got off before,
And in them crowded several of the crew;
And yet their present hope was hardly more
Than what it had been, for so strong it blew
There was slight chance of reaching any shore;
And then they were too many, though so few—
Nine in the cutter, thirty in the boat,
Were counted in them when they got afloat.
All the rest perish’d; near two hundred souls
Had left their bodies; and what ‘s worse, alas!
When over Catholics the ocean rolls,
They must wait several weeks before a mass
Takes off one peck of purgatorial coals,
Because, till people know what ‘s come to pass,
They won’t lay out their money on the dead—
It costs three francs for every mass that ‘s said.
Juan got into the long-boat, and there
Contrived to help Pedrillo to a place;
It seem’d as if they had exchanged their care,
For Juan wore the magisterial face
Which courage gives, while poor Pedrillo’s pair
Of eyes were crying for their owner’s case:
Battista; though (a name call’d shortly Tita),
Was lost by getting at some aqua-vita.
Pedro, his valet, too, he tried to save,
But the same cause, conducive to his loss,
Left him so drunk, he jump’d into the wave
As o’er the cutter’s edge he tried to cross,
And so he found a wine-and-watery grave;
They could not rescue him although so close,
Because the sea ran higher every minute,
And for the boat—the crew kept crowding in it.
A small old spaniel,—which had been Don Jose’s,
His father’s, whom he loved, as ye may think,
For on such things the memory reposes
With tenderness—stood howling on the brink,
Knowing (dogs have such intellectual noses!),
No doubt, the vessel was about to sink;
And Juan caught him up, and ere he stepp’d
Off, threw him in, then after him he leap’d.
He also stuff’d his money where he could
About his person, and Pedrillo’s too,
Who let him do, in fact, whate’er he would,
Not knowing what himself to say, or do,
As every rising wave his dread renew’d;
But Juan, trusting they might still get through,
And deeming there were remedies for any ill,
Thus re-embark’d his tutor and his spaniel.
‘T was a rough night, and blew so stiffly yet,
That the sail was becalm’d between the seas,
Though on the wave’s high top too much to set,
They dared not take it in for all the breeze:
Each sea curl’d o’er the stern, and kept them wet,
And made them bale without a moment’s ease,
So that themselves as well as hopes were damp’d,
And the poor little cutter quickly swamp’d.
Nine souls more went in her: the long-boat still
Kept above water, with an oar for mast,
Two blankets stitch’d together, answering ill
Instead of sail, were to the oar made fast:
Though every wave roll’d menacing to fill,
And present peril all before surpass’d,
They grieved for those who perish’d with the cutter,
And also for the biscuit-casks and butter.
The sun rose red and fiery, a sure sign
Of the continuance of the gale: to run
Before the sea until it should grow fine,
Was all that for the present could be done:
A few tea-spoonfuls of their rum and wine
Were served out to the people, who begun
To faint, and damaged bread wet through the bags,
And most of them had little clothes but rags.
They counted thirty, crowded in a space
Which left scarce room for motion or exertion;
They did their best to modify their case,
One half sate up, though numb’d with the immersion,
While t’other half were laid down in their place
At watch and watch; thus, shivering like the tertian
Ague in its cold fit, they fill’d their boat,
With nothing but the sky for a great coat.
‘T is very certain the desire of life
Prolongs it: this is obvious to physicians,
When patients, neither plagued with friends nor wife,
Survive through very desperate conditions,
Because they still can hope, nor shines the knife
Nor shears of Atropos before their visions:
Despair of all recovery spoils longevity,
And makes men miseries miseries of alarming brevity.
‘T is said that persons living on annuities
Are longer lived than others,—God knows why,
Unless to plague the grantors,—yet so true it is,
That some, I really think, do never die;
Of any creditors the worst a Jew it is,
And that ‘s their mode of furnishing supply:
In my young days they lent me cash that way,
Which I found very troublesome to pay.
‘T is thus with people in an open boat,
They live upon the love of life, and bear
More than can be believed, or even thought,
And stand like rocks the tempest’s wear and tear;
And hardship still has been the sailor’s lot,
Since Noah’s ark went cruising here and there;
She had a curious crew as well as cargo,
Like the first old Greek privateer, the Argo.
But man is a carnivorous production,
And must have meals, at least one meal a day;
He cannot live, like woodcocks, upon suction,
But, like the shark and tiger, must have prey;
Although his anatomical construction
Bears vegetables, in a grumbling way,
Your labouring people think beyond all question,
Beef, veal, and mutton, better for digestion.
And thus it was with this our hapless crew;
For on the third day there came on a calm,
And though at first their strength it might renew,
And lying on their weariness like balm,
Lull’d them like turtles sleeping on the blue
Of ocean, when they woke they felt a qualm,
And fell all ravenously on their provision,
Instead of hoarding it with due precision.
The consequence was easily foreseen—
They ate up all they had, and drank their wine,
In spite of all remonstrances, and then
On what, in fact, next day were they to dine?
They hoped the wind would rise, these foolish men!
And carry them to shore; these hopes were fine,
But as they had but one oar, and that brittle,
It would have been more wise to save their victual.
The fourth day came, but not a breath of air,
And Ocean slumber’d like an unwean’d child:
The fifth day, and their boat lay floating there,
The sea and sky were blue, and clear, and mild—
With their one oar (I wish they had had a pair)
What could they do? and hunger’s rage grew wild:
So Juan’s spaniel, spite of his entreating,
Was kill’d and portion’d out for present eating.
On the sixth day they fed upon his hide,
And Juan, who had still refused, because
The creature was his father’s dog that died,
Now feeling all the vulture in his jaws,
With some remorse received (though first denied)
As a great favour one of the fore-paws,
Which he divided with Pedrillo, who
Devour’d it, longing for the other too.
The seventh day, and no wind—the burning sun
Blister’d and scorch’d, and, stagnant on the sea,
They lay like carcasses; and hope was none,
Save in the breeze that came not; savagely
They glared upon each other—all was done,
Water, and wine, and food,—and you might see
The longings of the cannibal arise
(Although they spoke not) in their wolfish eyes.
At length one whisper’d his companion, who
Whisper’d another, and thus it went round,
And then into a hoarser murmur grew,
An ominous, and wild, and desperate sound;
And when his comrade’s thought each sufferer knew,
‘T was but his own, suppress’d till now, he found:
And out they spoke of lots for flesh and blood,
And who should die to be his fellow’s food.
But ere they came to this, they that day shared
Some leathern caps, and what remain’d of shoes;
And then they look’d around them and despair’d,
And none to be the sacrifice would choose;
At length the lots were torn up, and prepared,
But of materials that much shock the Muse—
Having no paper, for the want of better,
They took by force from Juan Julia’s letter.
The lots were made, and mark’d, and mix’d, and handed,
In silent horror, and their distribution
Lull’d even the savage hunger which demanded,
Like the Promethean vulture, this pollution;
None in particular had sought or plann’d it,
‘T was nature gnaw’d them to this resolution,
By which none were permitted to be neuter—
And the lot fell on Juan’s luckless tutor.
He but requested to be bled to death:
The surgeon had his instruments, and bled
Pedrillo, and so gently ebb’d his breath,
You hardly could perceive when he was dead.
He died as born, a Catholic in faith,
Like most in the belief in which they ‘re bred,
And first a little crucifix he kiss’d,
And then held out his jugular and wrist.
The surgeon, as there was no other fee,
Had his first choice of morsels for his pains;
But being thirstiest at the moment, he
Preferr’d a draught from the fast-flowing veins:
Part was divided, part thrown in the sea,
And such things as the entrails and the brains
Regaled two sharks, who follow’d o’er the billow—
The sailors ate the rest of poor Pedrillo.
The sailors ate him, all save three or four,
Who were not quite so fond of animal food;
To these was added Juan, who, before
Refusing his own spaniel, hardly could
Feel now his appetite increased much more;
‘T was not to be expected that he should,
Even in extremity of their disaster,
Dine with them on his pastor and his master.
‘T was better that he did not; for, in fact,
The consequence was awful in the extreme;
For they, who were most ravenous in the act,
Went raging mad—Lord! how they did blaspheme!
And foam and roll, with strange convulsions rack’d,
Drinking salt water like a mountain-stream,
Tearing, and grinning, howling, screeching, swearing,
And, with hyaena-laughter, died despairing.
Their numbers were much thinn’d by this infliction,
And all the rest were thin enough, Heaven knows;
And some of them had lost their recollection,
Happier than they who still perceived their woes;
But others ponder’d on a new dissection,
As if not warn’d sufficiently by those
Who had already perish’d, suffering madly,
For having used their appetites so sadly.
And next they thought upon the master’s mate,
As fattest; but he saved himself, because,
Besides being much averse from such a fate,
There were some other reasons: the first was,
He had been rather indisposed of late;
And that which chiefly proved his saving clause
Was a small present made to him at Cadiz,
By general subscription of the ladies.
Of poor Pedrillo something still remain’d,
But was used sparingly,—some were afraid,
And others still their appetites constrain’d,
Or but at times a little supper made;
All except Juan, who throughout abstain’d,
Chewing a piece of bamboo and some lead:
At length they caught two boobies and a noddy,
And then they left off eating the dead body.
And if Pedrillo’s fate should shocking be,
Remember Ugolino condescends
To eat the head of his arch-enemy
The moment after he politely ends
His tale: if foes be food in hell, at sea
‘T is surely fair to dine upon our friends,
When shipwreck’s short allowance grows too scanty,
Without being much more horrible than Dante.
And the same night there fell a shower of rain,
For which their mouths gaped, like the cracks of earth
When dried to summer dust; till taught by pain
Men really know not what good water ‘s worth;
If you had been in Turkey or in Spain,
Or with a famish’d boat’s-crew had your berth,
Or in the desert heard the camel’s bell,
You ‘d wish yourself where Truth is—in a well.
It pour’d down torrents, but they were no richer
Until they found a ragged piece of sheet,
Which served them as a sort of spongy pitcher,
And when they deem’d its moisture was complete
They wrung it out, and though a thirsty ditcher
Might not have thought the scanty draught so sweet
As a full pot of porter, to their thinking
They ne’er till now had known the joys of drinking.
And their baked lips, with many a bloody crack,
Suck’d in the moisture, which like nectar stream’d;
Their throats were ovens, their swoln tongues were black,
As the rich man’s in hell, who vainly scream’d
To beg the beggar, who could not rain back
A drop of dew, when every drop had seem’d
To taste of heaven—If this be true, indeed
Some Christians have a comfortable creed.
There were two fathers in this ghastly crew,
And with them their two sons, of whom the one
Was more robust and hardy to the view,
But he died early; and when he was gone,
His nearest messmate told his sire, who threw
One glance at him, and said, ‘Heaven’s will be done!
I can do nothing,’ and he saw him thrown
Into the deep without a tear or groan.
The other father had a weaklier child,
Of a soft cheek and aspect delicate;
But the boy bore up long, and with a mild
And patient spirit held aloof his fate;
Little he said, and now and then he smiled,
As if to win a part from off the weight
He saw increasing on his father’s heart,
With the deep deadly thought that they must part.
And o’er him bent his sire, and never raised
His eyes from off his face, but wiped the foam
From his pale lips, and ever on him gazed,
And when the wish’d-for shower at length was come,
And the boy’s eyes, which the dull film half glazed,
Brighten’d, and for a moment seem’d to roam,
He squeezed from out a rag some drops of rain
Into his dying child’s mouth—but in vain.
The boy expired—the father held the clay,
And look’d upon it long, and when at last
Death left no doubt, and the dead burthen lay
Stiff on his heart, and pulse and hope were past,
He watch’d it wistfully, until away
‘T was borne by the rude wave wherein ‘t was cast;
Then he himself sunk down all dumb and shivering,
And gave no sign of life, save his limbs quivering.
Now overhead a rainbow, bursting through
The scattering clouds, shone, spanning the dark sea,
Resting its bright base on the quivering blue;
And all within its arch appear’d to be
Clearer than that without, and its wide hue
Wax’d broad and waving, like a banner free,
Then changed like to a bow that ‘s bent, and then
Forsook the dim eyes of these shipwreck’d men.
It changed, of course; a heavenly chameleon,
The airy child of vapour and the sun,
Brought forth in purple, cradled in vermilion,
Baptized in molten gold, and swathed in dun,
Glittering like crescents o’er a Turk’s pavilion,
And blending every colour into one,
Just like a black eye in a recent scuffle
(For sometimes we must box without the muffle).
Our shipwreck’d seamen thought it a good omen—
It is as well to think so, now and then;
‘T was an old custom of the Greek and Roman,
And may become of great advantage when
Folks are discouraged; and most surely no men
Had greater need to nerve themselves again
Than these, and so this rainbow look’d like hope—
Quite a celestial kaleidoscope.
About this time a beautiful white bird,
Webfooted, not unlike a dove in size
And plumage (probably it might have err’d
Upon its course), pass’d oft before their eyes,
And tried to perch, although it saw and heard
The men within the boat, and in this guise
It came and went, and flutter’d round them till
Night fell: this seem’d a better omen still.
But in this case I also must remark,
‘T was well this bird of promise did not perch,
Because the tackle of our shatter’d bark
Was not so safe for roosting as a church;
And had it been the dove from Noah’s ark,
Returning there from her successful search,
Which in their way that moment chanced to fall,
They would have eat her, olive-branch and all.
With twilight it again came on to blow,
But not with violence; the stars shone out,
The boat made way; yet now they were so low,
They knew not where nor what they were about;
Some fancied they saw land, and some said ‘No!’
The frequent fog-banks gave them cause to doubt—
Some swore that they heard breakers, others guns,
And all mistook about the latter once.
As morning broke, the light wind died away,
When he who had the watch sung out and swore,
If ‘t was not land that rose with the sun’s ray,
He wish’d that land he never might see more;
And the rest rubb’d their eyes and saw a bay,
Or thought they saw, and shaped their course for shore;
For shore it was, and gradually grew
Distinct, and high, and palpable to view.
And then of these some part burst into tears,
And others, looking with a stupid stare,
Could not yet separate their hopes from fears,
And seem’d as if they had no further care;
While a few pray’d (the first time for some years)—
And at the bottom of the boat three were
Asleep: they shook them by the hand and head,
And tried to awaken them, but found them dead.
The day before, fast sleeping on the water,
They found a turtle of the hawk’s-bill kind,
And by good fortune, gliding softly, caught her,
Which yielded a day’s life, and to their mind
Proved even still a more nutritious matter,
Because it left encouragement behind:
They thought that in such perils, more than chance
Had sent them this for their deliverance.
The land appear’d a high and rocky coast,
And higher grew the mountains as they drew,
Set by a current, toward it: they were lost
In various conjectures, for none knew
To what part of the earth they had been tost,
So changeable had been the winds that blew;
Some thought it was Mount AEtna, some the highlands,
Of Candia, Cyprus, Rhodes, or other islands.
Meantime the current, with a rising gale,
Still set them onwards to the welcome shore,
Like Charon’s bark of spectres, dull and pale:
Their living freight was now reduced to four,
And three dead, whom their strength could not avail
To heave into the deep with those before,
Though the two sharks still follow’d them, and dash’d
The spray into their faces as they splash’d.
Famine, despair, cold, thirst, and heat, had done
Their work on them by turns, and thinn’d them to
Such things a mother had not known her son
Amidst the skeletons of that gaunt crew;
By night chill’d, by day scorch’d, thus one by one
They perish’d, until wither’d to these few,
But chiefly by a species of self-slaughter,
In washing down Pedrillo with salt water.
As they drew nigh the land, which now was seen
Unequal in its aspect here and there,
They felt the freshness of its growing green,
That waved in forest-tops, and smooth’d the air,
And fell upon their glazed eyes like a screen
From glistening waves, and skies so hot and bare—
Lovely seem’d any object that should sweep
Away the vast, salt, dread, eternal deep.
The shore look’d wild, without a trace of man,
And girt by formidable waves; but they
Were mad for land, and thus their course they ran,
Though right ahead the roaring breakers lay:
A reef between them also now began
To show its boiling surf and bounding spray,
But finding no place for their landing better,
They ran the boat for shore,—and overset her.
But in his native stream, the Guadalquivir,
Juan to lave his youthful limbs was wont;
And having learnt to swim in that sweet river,
Had often turn’d the art to some account:
A better swimmer you could scarce see ever,
He could, perhaps, have pass’d the Hellespont,
As once (a feat on which ourselves we prided)
Leander, Mr. Ekenhead, and I did.
So here, though faint, emaciated, and stark,
He buoy’d his boyish limbs, and strove to ply
With the quick wave, and gain, ere it was dark,
The beach which lay before him, high and dry:
The greatest danger here was from a shark,
That carried off his neighbour by the thigh;
As for the other two, they could not swim,
So nobody arrived on shore but him.
Nor yet had he arrived but for the oar,
Which, providentially for him, was wash’d
Just as his feeble arms could strike no more,
And the hard wave o’erwhelm’d him as ‘t was dash’d
Within his grasp; he clung to it, and sore
The waters beat while he thereto was lash’d;
At last, with swimming, wading, scrambling, he
Roll’d on the beach, half-senseless, from the sea:
There, breathless, with his digging nails he clung
Fast to the sand, lest the returning wave,
From whose reluctant roar his life he wrung,
Should suck him back to her insatiate grave:
And there he lay, full length, where he was flung,
Before the entrance of a cliff-worn cave,
With just enough of life to feel its pain,
And deem that it was saved, perhaps in vain.
With slow and staggering effort he arose,
But sunk again upon his bleeding knee
And quivering hand; and then he look’d for those
Who long had been his mates upon the sea;
But none of them appear’d to share his woes,
Save one, a corpse, from out the famish’d three,
Who died two days before, and now had found
An unknown barren beach for burial ground.
And as he gazed, his dizzy brain spun fast,
And down he sunk; and as he sunk, the sand
Swam round and round, and all his senses pass’d:
He fell upon his side, and his stretch’d hand
Droop’d dripping on the oar (their jurymast),
And, like a wither’d lily, on the land
His slender frame and pallid aspect lay,
As fair a thing as e’er was form’d of clay.
How long in his damp trance young Juan lay
He knew not, for the earth was gone for him,
And Time had nothing more of night nor day
For his congealing blood, and senses dim;
And how this heavy faintness pass’d away
He knew not, till each painful pulse and limb,
And tingling vein, seem’d throbbing back to life,
For Death, though vanquish’d, still retired with strife.
His eyes he open’d, shut, again unclosed,
For all was doubt and dizziness; he thought
He still was in the boat and had but dozed,
And felt again with his despair o’erwrought,
And wish’d it death in which he had reposed;
And then once more his feelings back were brought,
And slowly by his swimming eyes was seen
A lovely female face of seventeen.
‘T was bending dose o’er his, and the small mouth
Seem’d almost prying into his for breath;
And chafing him, the soft warm hand of youth
Recall’d his answering spirits back from death;
And, bathing his chill temples, tried to soothe
Each pulse to animation, till beneath
Its gentle touch and trembling care, a sigh
To these kind efforts made a low reply.
Then was the cordial pour’d, and mantle flung
Around his scarce-clad limbs; and the fair arm
Raised higher the faint head which o’er it hung;
And her transparent cheek, all pure and warm,
Pillow’d his death-like forehead; then she wrung
His dewy curls, long drench’d by every storm;
And watch’d with eagerness each throb that drew
A sigh from his heaved bosom—and hers, too.
And lifting him with care into the cave,
The gentle girl and her attendant,—one
Young, yet her elder, and of brow less grave,
And more robust of figure,—then begun
To kindle fire, and as the new flames gave
Light to the rocks that roof’d them, which the sun
Had never seen, the maid, or whatsoe’er
She was, appear’d distinct, and tall, and fair.
Her brow was overhung with coins of gold,
That sparkled o’er the auburn of her hair—
Her clustering hair, whose longer locks were roll’d
In braids behind; and though her stature were
Even of the highest for a female mould,
They nearly reach’d her heel; and in her air
There was a something which bespoke command,
As one who was a lady in the land.
Her hair, I said, was auburn; but her eyes
Were black as death, their lashes the same hue,
Of downcast length, in whose silk shadow lies
Deepest attraction; for when to the view
Forth from its raven fringe the full glance flies,
Ne’er with such force the swiftest arrow flew;
‘T is as the snake late coil’d, who pours his length,
And hurls at once his venom and his strength.
Her brow was white and low, her cheek’s pure dye
Like twilight rosy still with the set sun;
Short upper lip—sweet lips! that make us sigh
Ever to have seen such; for she was one
Fit for the model of a statuary
(A race of mere impostors, when all ‘s done—
I ‘ve seen much finer women, ripe and real,
Than all the nonsense of their stone ideal).
I ‘ll tell you why I say so, for ‘t is just
One should not rail without a decent cause:
There was an Irish lady, to whose bust
I ne’er saw justice done, and yet she was
A frequent model; and if e’er she must
Yield to stern Time and Nature’s wrinkling laws,
They will destroy a face which mortal thought
Ne’er compass’d, nor less mortal chisel wrought.
And such was she, the lady of the cave:
Her dress was very different from the Spanish,
Simpler, and yet of colours not so grave;
For, as you know, the Spanish women banish
Bright hues when out of doors, and yet, while wave
Around them (what I hope will never vanish)
The basquina and the mantilla, they
Seem at the same time mystical and gay.
But with our damsel this was not the case:
Her dress was many-colour’d, finely spun;
Her locks curl’d negligently round her face,
But through them gold and gems profusely shone:
Her girdle sparkled, and the richest lace
Flow’d in her veil, and many a precious stone
Flash’d on her little hand; but, what was shocking,
Her small snow feet had slippers, but no stocking.
The other female’s dress was not unlike,
But of inferior materials: she
Had not so many ornaments to strike,
Her hair had silver only, bound to be
Her dowry; and her veil, in form alike,
Was coarser; and her air, though firm, less free;
Her hair was thicker, but less long; her eyes
As black, but quicker, and of smaller size.
And these two tended him, and cheer’d him both
With food and raiment, and those soft attentions,
Which are (as I must own) of female growth,
And have ten thousand delicate inventions:
They made a most superior mess of broth,
A thing which poesy but seldom mentions,
But the best dish that e’er was cook’d since Homer’s
Achilles ordered dinner for new comers.
I ‘ll tell you who they were, this female pair,
Lest they should seem princesses in disguise;
Besides, I hate all mystery, and that air
Of clap-trap which your recent poets prize;
And so, in short, the girls they really were
They shall appear before your curious eyes,
Mistress and maid; the first was only daughter
Of an old man who lived upon the water.
A fisherman he had been in his youth,
And still a sort of fisherman was he;
But other speculations were, in sooth,
Added to his connection with the sea,
Perhaps not so respectable, in truth:
A little smuggling, and some piracy,
Left him, at last, the sole of many masters
Of an ill-gotten million of piastres.
A fisher, therefore, was he,—though of men,
Like Peter the Apostle,—and he fish’d
For wandering merchant-vessels, now and then,
And sometimes caught as many as he wish’d;
The cargoes he confiscated, and gain
He sought in the slave-market too, and dish’d
Full many a morsel for that Turkish trade,
By which, no doubt, a good deal may be made.
He was a Greek, and on his isle had built
(One of the wild and smaller Cyclades)
A very handsome house from out his guilt,
And there he lived exceedingly at ease;
Heaven knows what cash he got or blood he spilt,
A sad old fellow was he, if you please;
But this I know, it was a spacious building,
Full of barbaric carving, paint, and gilding.
He had an only daughter, call’d Haidee,
The greatest heiress of the Eastern Isles;
Besides, so very beautiful was she,
Her dowry was as nothing to her smiles:
Still in her teens, and like a lovely tree
She grew to womanhood, and between whiles
Rejected several suitors, just to learn
How to accept a better in his turn.
And walking out upon the beach, below
The cliff, towards sunset, on that day she found,
Insensible,—not dead, but nearly so,—
Don Juan, almost famish’d, and half drown’d;
But being naked, she was shock’d, you know,
Yet deem’d herself in common pity bound,
As far as in her lay, ‘to take him in,
A stranger’ dying, with so white a skin.
But taking him into her father’s house
Was not exactly the best way to save,
But like conveying to the cat the mouse,
Or people in a trance into their grave;
Because the good old man had so much ‘nous,’
Unlike the honest Arab thieves so brave,
He would have hospitably cured the stranger,
And sold him instantly when out of danger.
And therefore, with her maid, she thought it best
(A virgin always on her maid relies)
To place him in the cave for present rest:
And when, at last, he open’d his black eyes,
Their charity increased about their guest;
And their compassion grew to such a size,
It open’d half the turnpike-gates to heaven
(St. Paul says, ‘t is the toll which must be given).
They made a fire,—but such a fire as they
Upon the moment could contrive with such
Materials as were cast up round the bay,—
Some broken planks, and oars, that to the touch
Were nearly tinder, since so long they lay
A mast was almost crumbled to a crutch;
But, by God’s grace, here wrecks were in such plenty,
That there was fuel to have furnish’d twenty.
He had a bed of furs, and a pelisse,
For Haidee stripped her sables off to make
His couch; and, that he might be more at ease,
And warm, in case by chance he should awake,
They also gave a petticoat apiece,
She and her maid—and promised by daybreak
To pay him a fresh visit, with a dish
For breakfast, of eggs, coffee, bread, and fish.
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),
Just for the present; and in his lull’d head
Not even a vision of his former woes
Throbb’d in accursed dreams, which sometimes spread
Unwelcome visions of our former years,
Till the eye, cheated, opens thick with tears.
Young Juan slept all dreamless:—but the maid,
Who smooth’d his pillow, as she left the den
Look’d back upon him, and a moment stay’d,
And turn’d, believing that he call’d again.
He slumber’d; yet she thought, at least she said
(The heart will slip, even as the tongue and pen),
He had pronounced her name—but she forgot
That at this moment Juan knew it not.
And pensive to her father’s house she went,
Enjoining silence strict to Zoe, who
Better than her knew what, in fact, she meant,
She being wiser by a year or two:
A year or two ‘s an age when rightly spent,
And Zoe spent hers, as most women do,
In gaining all that useful sort of knowledge
Which is acquired in Nature’s good old college.
The morn broke, and found Juan slumbering still
Fast in his cave, and nothing clash’d upon
His rest; the rushing of the neighbouring rill,
And the young beams of the excluded sun,
Troubled him not, and he might sleep his fill;
And need he had of slumber yet, for none
Had suffer’d more—his hardships were comparative
To those related in my grand-dad’s ‘Narrative.’
Not so Haidee: she sadly toss’d and tumbled,
And started from her sleep, and, turning o’er
Dream’d of a thousand wrecks, o’er which she stumbled,
And handsome corpses strew’d upon the shore;
And woke her maid so early that she grumbled,
And call’d her father’s old slaves up, who swore
In several oaths—Armenian, Turk, and Greek—
They knew not what to think of such a freak.
But up she got, and up she made them get,
With some pretence about the sun, that makes
Sweet skies just when he rises, or is set;
And ‘t is, no doubt, a sight to see when breaks
Bright Phoebus, while the mountains still are wet
With mist, and every bird with him awakes,
And night is flung off like a mourning suit
Worn for a husband,—or some other brute.
I say, the sun is a most glorious sight,
I ‘ve seen him rise full oft, indeed of late
I have sat up on purpose all the night,
Which hastens, as physicians say, one’s fate;
And so all ye, who would be in the right
In health and purse, begin your day to date
From daybreak, and when coffin’d at fourscore,
Engrave upon the plate, you rose at four.
And Haidee met the morning face to face;
Her own was freshest, though a feverish flush
Had dyed it with the headlong blood, whose race
From heart to cheek is curb’d into a blush,
Like to a torrent which a mountain’s base,
That overpowers some Alpine river’s rush,
Checks to a lake, whose waves in circles spread;
Or the Red Sea—but the sea is not red.
And down the cliff the island virgin came,
And near the cave her quick light footsteps drew,
While the sun smiled on her with his first flame,
And young Aurora kiss’d her lips with dew,
Taking her for a sister; just the same
Mistake you would have made on seeing the two,
Although the mortal, quite as fresh and fair,
Had all the advantage, too, of not being air.
And when into the cavern Haidee stepp’d
All timidly, yet rapidly, she saw
That like an infant Juan sweetly slept;
And then she stopp’d, and stood as if in awe
(For sleep is awful), and on tiptoe crept
And wrapt him closer, lest the air, too raw,
Should reach his blood, then o’er him still as death
Bent with hush’d lips, that drank his scarce-drawn breath.
And thus like to an angel o’er the dying
Who die in righteousness, she lean’d; and there
All tranquilly the shipwreck’d boy was lying,
As o’er him the calm and stirless air:
But Zoe the meantime some eggs was frying,
Since, after all, no doubt the youthful pair
Must breakfast—and betimes, lest they should ask it,
She drew out her provision from the basket.
She knew that the best feelings must have victual,
And that a shipwreck’d youth would hungry be;
Besides, being less in love, she yawn’d a little,
And felt her veins chill’d by the neighbouring sea;
And so, she cook’d their breakfast to a tittle;
I can’t say that she gave them any tea,
But there were eggs, fruit, coffee, bread, fish, honey,
With Scio wine,—and all for love, not money.
And Zoe, when the eggs were ready, and
The coffee made, would fain have waken’d Juan;
But Haidee stopp’d her with her quick small hand,
And without word, a sign her finger drew on
Her lip, which Zoe needs must understand;
And, the first breakfast spoilt, prepared a new one,
Because her mistress would not let her break
That sleep which seem’d as it would ne’er awake.
For still he lay, and on his thin worn cheek
A purple hectic play’d like dying day
On the snow-tops of distant hills; the streak
Of sufferance yet upon his forehead lay,
Where the blue veins look’d shadowy, shrunk, and weak;
And his black curls were dewy with the spray,
Which weigh’d upon them yet, all damp and salt,
Mix’d with the stony vapours of the vault.
And she bent o’er him, and he lay beneath,
Hush’d as the babe upon its mother’s breast,
Droop’d as the willow when no winds can breathe,
Lull’d like the depth of ocean when at rest,
Fair as the crowning rose of the whole wreath,
Soft as the callow cygnet in its nest;
In short, he was a very pretty fellow,
Although his woes had turn’d him rather yellow.
He woke and gazed, and would have slept again,
But the fair face which met his eyes forbade
Those eyes to close, though weariness and pain
Had further sleep a further pleasure made;
For woman’s face was never form’d in vain
For Juan, so that even when he pray’d
He turn’d from grisly saints, and martyrs hairy,
To the sweet portraits of the Virgin Mary.
And thus upon his elbow he arose,
And look’d upon the lady, in whose cheek
The pale contended with the purple rose,
As with an effort she began to speak;
Her eyes were eloquent, her words would pose,
Although she told him, in good modern Greek,
With an Ionian accent, low and sweet,
That he was faint, and must not talk, but eat.
Now Juan could not understand a word,
Being no Grecian; but he had an ear,
And her voice was the warble of a bird,
So soft, so sweet, so delicately clear,
That finer, simpler music ne’er was heard;
The sort of sound we echo with a tear,
Without knowing why—an overpowering tone,
Whence Melody descends as from a throne.
And Juan gazed as one who is awoke
By a distant organ, doubting if he be
Not yet a dreamer, till the spell is broke
By the watchman, or some such reality,
Or by one’s early valet’s cursed knock;
At least it is a heavy sound to me,
Who like a morning slumber—for the night
Shows stars and women in a better light.
And Juan, too, was help’d out from his dream,
Or sleep, or whatso’er it was, by feeling
A most prodigious appetite: the steam
Of Zoe’s cookery no doubt was stealing
Upon his senses, and the kindling beam
Of the new fire, which Zoe kept up, kneeling
To stir her viands, made him quite awake
And long for food, but chiefly a beef-steak.
But beef is rare within these oxless isles;
Goat’s flesh there is, no doubt, and kid, and mutton;
And, when a holiday upon them smiles,
A joint upon their barbarous spits they put on:
But this occurs but seldom, between whiles,
For some of these are rocks with scarce a hut on;
Others are fair and fertile, among which
This, though not large, was one of the most rich.
I say that beef is rare, and can’t help thinking
That the old fable of the Minotaur—
From which our modern morals rightly shrinking
Condemn the royal lady’s taste who wore
A cow’s shape for a mask—was only (sinking
The allegory) a mere type, no more,
That Pasiphae promoted breeding cattle,
To make the Cretans bloodier in battle.
For we all know that English people are
Fed upon beef—I won’t say much of beer,
Because ‘t is liquor only, and being far
From this my subject, has no business here;
We know, too, they very fond of war,
A pleasure—like all pleasures—rather dear;
So were the Cretans—from which I infer
That beef and battles both were owing to her.
But to resume. The languid Juan raised
His head upon his elbow, and he saw
A sight on which he had not lately gazed,
As all his latter meals had been quite raw,
Three or four things, for which the Lord he praised,
And, feeling still the famish’d vulture gnaw,
He fell upon whate’er was offer’d, like
A priest, a shark, an alderman, or pike.
He ate, and he was well supplied: and she,
Who watch’d him like a mother, would have fed
Him past all bounds, because she smiled to see
Such appetite in one she had deem’d dead;
But Zoe, being older than Haidee,
Knew (by tradition, for she ne’er had read)
That famish’d people must be slowly nurst,
And fed by spoonfuls, else they always burst.
And so she took the liberty to state,
Rather by deeds than words, because the case
Was urgent, that the gentleman, whose fate
Had made her mistress quit her bed to trace
The sea-shore at this hour, must leave his plate,
Unless he wish’d to die upon the place—
She snatch’d it, and refused another morsel,
Saying, he had gorged enough to make a horse ill.
Next they—he being naked, save a tatter’d
Pair of scarce decent trowsers—went to work,
And in the fire his recent rags they scatter’d,
And dress’d him, for the present, like a Turk,
Or Greek—that is, although it not much matter’d,
Omitting turban, slippers, pistols, dirk,—
They furnish’d him, entire, except some stitches,
With a clean shirt, and very spacious breeches.
And then fair Haidee tried her tongue at speaking,
But not a word could Juan comprehend,
Although he listen’d so that the young Greek in
Her earnestness would ne’er have made an end;
And, as he interrupted not, went eking
Her speech out to her protege and friend,
Till pausing at the last her breath to take,
She saw he did not understand Romaic.
And then she had recourse to nods, and signs,
And smiles, and sparkles of the speaking eye,
And read (the only book she could) the lines
Of his fair face, and found, by sympathy,
The answer eloquent, where soul shines
And darts in one quick glance a long reply;
And thus in every look she saw exprest
A world of words, and things at which she guess’d.
And now, by dint of fingers and of eyes,
And words repeated after her, he took
A lesson in her tongue; but by surmise,
No doubt, less of her language than her look:
As he who studies fervently the skies
Turns oftener to the stars than to his book,
Thus Juan learn’d his alpha beta better
From Haidee’s glance than any graven letter.
‘T is pleasing to be school’d in a strange tongue
By female lips and eyes—that is, I mean,
When both the teacher and the taught are young,
As was the case, at least, where I have been;
They smile so when one ‘s right, and when one ‘s wrong
They smile still more, and then there intervene
Pressure of hands, perhaps even a chaste kiss;—
I learn’d the little that I know by this:
That is, some words of Spanish, Turk, and Greek,
Italian not at all, having no teachers;
Much English I cannot pretend to speak,
Learning that language chiefly from its preachers,
Barrow, South, Tillotson, whom every week
I study, also Blair, the highest reachers
Of eloquence in piety and prose—
I hate your poets, so read none of those.
As for the ladies, I have nought to say,
A wanderer from the British world of fashion,
Where I, like other ‘dogs, have had my day,’
Like other men, too, may have had my passion—
But that, like other things, has pass’d away,
And all her fools whom I could lay the lash on:
Foes, friends, men, women, now are nought to me
But dreams of what has been, no more to be.
Return we to Don Juan. He begun
To hear new words, and to repeat them; but
Some feelings, universal as the sun,
Were such as could not in his breast be shut
More than within the bosom of a nun:
He was in love,—as you would be, no doubt,
With a young benefactress,—so was she,
Just in the way we very often see.
And every day by daybreak—rather early
For Juan, who was somewhat fond of rest—
She came into the cave, but it was merely
To see her bird reposing in his nest;
And she would softly stir his locks so curly,
Without disturbing her yet slumbering guest,
Breathing all gently o’er his cheek and mouth,
As o’er a bed of roses the sweet south.
And every morn his colour freshlier came,
And every day help’d on his convalescence;
‘T was well, because health in the human frame
Is pleasant, besides being true love’s essence,
For health and idleness to passion’s flame
Are oil and gunpowder; and some good lessons
Are also learnt from Ceres and from Bacchus,
Without whom Venus will not long attack us.
While Venus fills the heart (without heart really
Love, though good always, is not quite so good),
Ceres presents a plate of vermicelli,—
For love must be sustain’d like flesh and blood,—
While Bacchus pours out wine, or hands a jelly:
Eggs, oysters, too, are amatory food;
But who is their purveyor from above
Heaven knows,—it may be Neptune, Pan, or Jove.
When Juan woke he found some good things ready,
A bath, a breakfast, and the finest eyes
That ever made a youthful heart less steady,
Besides her maid’s as pretty for their size;
But I have spoken of all this already—
And repetition ‘s tiresome and unwise,—
Well—Juan, after bathing in the sea,
Came always back to coffee and Haidee.
Both were so young, and one so innocent,
That bathing pass’d for nothing; Juan seem’d
To her, as ’twere, the kind of being sent,
Of whom these two years she had nightly dream’d,
A something to be loved, a creature meant
To be her happiness, and whom she deem’d
To render happy; all who joy would win
Must share it,—Happiness was born a twin.
It was such pleasure to behold him, such
Enlargement of existence to partake
Nature with him, to thrill beneath his touch,
To watch him slumbering, and to see him wake:
To live with him forever were too much;
But then the thought of parting made her quake;
He was her own, her ocean-treasure, cast
Like a rich wreck—her first love, and her last.
And thus a moon roll’d on, and fair Haidee
Paid daily visits to her boy, and took
Such plentiful precautions, that still he
Remain’d unknown within his craggy nook;
At last her father’s prows put out to sea
For certain merchantmen upon the look,
Not as of yore to carry off an Io,
But three Ragusan vessels, bound for Scio.
Then came her freedom, for she had no mother,
So that, her father being at sea, she was
Free as a married woman, or such other
Female, as where she likes may freely pass,
Without even the incumbrance of a brother,
The freest she that ever gazed on glass;
I speak of Christian lands in this comparison,
Where wives, at least, are seldom kept in garrison.
Now she prolong’d her visits and her talk
(For they must talk), and he had learnt to say
So much as to propose to take a walk,—
For little had he wander’d since the day
On which, like a young flower snapp’d from the stalk,
Drooping and dewy on the beach he lay,—
And thus they walk’d out in the afternoon,
And saw the sun set opposite the moon.
It was a wild and breaker-beaten coast,
With cliffs above, and a broad sandy shore,
Guarded by shoals and rocks as by an host,
With here and there a creek, whose aspect wore
A better welcome to the tempest-tost;
And rarely ceased the haughty billow’s roar,
Save on the dead long summer days, which make
The outstretch’d ocean glitter like a lake.
And the small ripple spilt upon the beach
Scarcely o’erpass’d the cream of your champagne,
When o’er the brim the sparkling bumpers reach,
That spring-dew of the spirit! the heart’s rain!
Few things surpass old wine; and they may preach
Who please,—the more because they preach in vain,—
Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter,
Sermons and soda-water the day after.
Man, being reasonable, must get drunk;
The best of life is but intoxication:
Glory, the grape, love, gold, in these are sunk
The hopes of all men, and of every nation;
Without their sap, how branchless were the trunk
Of life’s strange tree, so fruitful on occasion:
But to return,—Get very drunk; and when
You wake with headache, you shall see what then.
Ring for your valet—bid him quickly bring
Some hock and soda-water, then you ‘ll know
A pleasure worthy Xerxes the great king;
For not the bless’d sherbet, sublimed with snow,
Nor the first sparkle of the desert-spring,
Nor Burgundy in all its sunset glow,
After long travel, ennui, love, or slaughter,
Vie with that draught of hock and soda-water.
The coast—I think it was the coast that
Was just describing—Yes, it was the coast—
Lay at this period quiet as the sky,
The sands untumbled, the blue waves untost,
And all was stillness, save the sea-bird’s cry,
And dolphin’s leap, and little billow crost
By some low rock or shelve, that made it fret
Against the boundary it scarcely wet.
And forth they wander’d, her sire being gone,
As I have said, upon an expedition;
And mother, brother, guardian, she had none,
Save Zoe, who, although with due precision
She waited on her lady with the sun,
Thought daily service was her only mission,
Bringing warm water, wreathing her long tresses,
And asking now and then for cast-off dresses.
It was the cooling hour, just when the rounded
Red sun sinks down behind the azure hill,
Which then seems as if the whole earth it bounded,
Circling all nature, hush’d, and dim, and still,
With the far mountain-crescent half surrounded
On one side, and the deep sea calm and chill
Upon the other, and the rosy sky,
With one star sparkling through it like an eye.
And thus they wander’d forth, and hand in hand,
Over the shining pebbles and the shells,
Glided along the smooth and harden’d sand,
And in the worn and wild receptacles
Work’d by the storms, yet work’d as it were plann’d,
In hollow halls, with sparry roofs and cells,
They turn’d to rest; and, each clasp’d by an arm,
Yielded to the deep twilight’s purple charm.
They look’d up to the sky, whose floating glow
Spread like a rosy ocean, vast and bright;
They gazed upon the glittering sea below,
Whence the broad moon rose circling into sight;
They heard the wave’s splash, and the wind so low,
And saw each other’s dark eyes darting light
Into each other—and, beholding this,
Their lips drew near, and clung into a kiss;
A long, long kiss, a kiss of youth, and love,
And beauty, all concentrating like rays
Into one focus, kindled from above;
Such kisses as belong to early days,
Where heart, and soul, and sense, in concert move,
And the blood ‘s lava, and the pulse a blaze,
Each kiss a heart-quake,—for a kiss’s strength,
I think, it must be reckon’d by its length.
By length I mean duration; theirs endured
Heaven knows how long—no doubt they never reckon’d;
And if they had, they could not have secured
The sum of their sensations to a second:
They had not spoken; but they felt allured,
As if their souls and lips each other beckon’d,
Which, being join’d, like swarming bees they clung—
Their hearts the flowers from whence the honey sprung.
They were alone, but not alone as they
Who shut in chambers think it loneliness;
The silent ocean, and the starlight bay,
The twilight glow which momently grew less,
The voiceless sands and dropping caves, that lay
Around them, made them to each other press,
As if there were no life beneath the sky
Save theirs, and that their life could never die.
They fear’d no eyes nor ears on that lone beach,
They felt no terrors from the night, they were
All in all to each other: though their speech
Was broken words, they thought a language there,—
And all the burning tongues the passions teach
Found in one sigh the best interpreter
Of nature’s oracle—first love,—that all
Which Eve has left her daughters since her fall.
Haidde spoke not of scruples, ask’d no vows,
Nor offer’d any; she had never heard
Of plight and promises to be a spouse,
Or perils by a loving maid incurr’d;
She was all which pure ignorance allows,
And flew to her young mate like a young bird;
And, never having dreamt of falsehood, she
Had not one word to say of constancy.
She loved, and was beloved—she adored,
And she was worshipp’d; after nature’s fashion,
Their intense souls, into each other pour’d,
If souls could die, had perish’d in that passion,—
But by degrees their senses were restored,
Again to be o’ercome, again to dash on;
And, beating ‘gainst his bosom, Haidee’s heart
Felt as if never more to beat apart.
Alas! they were so young, so beautiful,
So lonely, loving, helpless, and the hour
Was that in which the heart is always full,
And, having o’er itself no further power,
Prompts deeds eternity can not annul,
But pays off moments in an endless shower
Of hell-fire—all prepared for people giving
Pleasure or pain to one another living.
Alas! for Juan and Haidee! they were
So loving and so lovely—till then never,
Excepting our first parents, such a pair
Had run the risk of being damn’d for ever;
And Haidee, being devout as well as fair,
Had, doubtless, heard about the Stygian river,
And hell and purgatory—but forgot
Just in the very crisis she should not.
They look upon each other, and their eyes
Gleam in the moonlight; and her white arm clasps
Round Juan’s head, and his around her lies
Half buried in the tresses which it grasps;
She sits upon his knee, and drinks his sighs,
He hers, until they end in broken gasps;
And thus they form a group that ‘s quite antique,
Half naked, loving, natural, and Greek.
And when those deep and burning moments pass’d,
And Juan sunk to sleep within her arms,
She slept not, but all tenderly, though fast,
Sustain’d his head upon her bosom’s charms;
And now and then her eye to heaven is cast,
And then on the pale cheek her breast now warms,
Pillow’d on her o’erflowing heart, which pants
With all it granted, and with all it grants.
An infant when it gazes on a light,
A child the moment when it drains the breast,
A devotee when soars the Host in sight,
An Arab with a stranger for a guest,
A sailor when the prize has struck in fight,
A miser filling his most hoarded chest,
Feel rapture; but not such true joy are reaping
As they who watch o’er what they love while sleeping.
For there it lies so tranquil, so beloved,
All that it hath of life with us is living;
So gentle, stirless, helpless, and unmoved,
And all unconscious of the joy ‘t is giving;
All it hath felt, inflicted, pass’d, and proved,
Hush’d into depths beyond the watcher’s diving:
There lies the thing we love with all its errors
And all its charms, like death without its terrors.
The lady watch’d her lover—and that hour
Of Love’s, and Night’s, and Ocean’s solitude,
O’erflow’d her soul with their united power;
Amidst the barren sand and rocks so rude
She and her wave-worn love had made their bower,
Where nought upon their passion could intrude,
And all the stars that crowded the blue space
Saw nothing happier than her glowing face.
Alas! the love of women! it is known
To be a lovely and a fearful thing;
For all of theirs upon that die is thrown,
And if ‘t is lost, life hath no more to bring
To them but mockeries of the past alone,
And their revenge is as the tiger’s spring,
Deadly, and quick, and crushing; yet, as real
Torture is theirs, what they inflict they feel.
They are right; for man, to man so oft unjust,
Is always so to women; one sole bond
Awaits them, treachery is all their trust;
Taught to conceal, their bursting hearts despond
Over their idol, till some wealthier lust
Buys them in marriage—and what rests beyond?
A thankless husband, next a faithless lover,
Then dressing, nursing, praying, and all ‘s over.
Some take a lover, some take drams or prayers,
Some mind their household, others dissipation,
Some run away, and but exchange their cares,
Losing the advantage of a virtuous station;
Few changes e’er can better their affairs,
Theirs being an unnatural situation,
From the dull palace to the dirty hovel:
Some play the devil, and then write a novel.
Haidee was Nature’s bride, and knew not this;
Haidee was Passion’s child, born where the sun
Showers triple light, and scorches even the kiss
Of his gazelle-eyed daughters; she was one
Made but to love, to feel that she was his
Who was her chosen: what was said or done
Elsewhere was nothing. She had naught to fear,
Hope, care, nor love, beyond, her heart beat here.
And oh! that quickening of the heart, that beat!
How much it costs us! yet each rising throb
Is in its cause as its effect so sweet,
That Wisdom, ever on the watch to rob
Joy of its alchymy, and to repeat
Fine truths; even Conscience, too, has a tough job
To make us understand each good old maxim,
So good—I wonder Castlereagh don’t tax ’em.
And now ‘t was done—on the lone shore were plighted
Their hearts; the stars, their nuptial torches, shed
Beauty upon the beautiful they lighted:
Ocean their witness, and the cave their bed,
By their own feelings hallow’d and united,
Their priest was Solitude, and they were wed:
And they were happy, for to their young eyes
Each was an angel, and earth paradise.
O, Love! of whom great Caesar was the suitor,
Titus the master, Antony the slave,
Horace, Catullus, scholars, Ovid tutor,
Sappho the sage blue-stocking, in whose grave
All those may leap who rather would be neuter
(Leucadia’s rock still overlooks the wave)—
O, Love! thou art the very god of evil,
For, after all, we cannot call thee devil.
Thou mak’st the chaste connubial state precarious,
And jestest with the brows of mightiest men:
Caesar and Pompey, Mahomet, Belisarius,
Have much employ’d the muse of history’s pen;
Their lives and fortunes were extremely various,
Such worthies Time will never see again;
Yet to these four in three things the same luck holds,
They all were heroes, conquerors, and cuckolds.
Thou mak’st philosophers; there ‘s Epicurus
And Aristippus, a material crew!
Who to immoral courses would allure us
By theories quite practicable too;
If only from the devil they would insure us,
How pleasant were the maxim (not quite new),
‘Eat, drink, and love, what can the rest avail us?’
So said the royal sage Sardanapalus.
But Juan! had he quite forgotten Julia?
And should he have forgotten her so soon?
I can’t but say it seems to me most truly
Perplexing question; but, no doubt, the moon
Does these things for us, and whenever newly
Strong palpitation rises, ‘t is her boon,
Else how the devil is it that fresh features
Have such a charm for us poor human creatures?
I hate inconstancy—I loathe, detest,
Abhor, condemn, abjure the mortal made
Of such quicksilver clay that in his breast
No permanent foundation can be laid;
Love, constant love, has been my constant guest,
And yet last night, being at a masquerade,
I saw the prettiest creature, fresh from Milan,
Which gave me some sensations like a villain.
But soon Philosophy came to my aid,
And whisper’d, ‘Think of every sacred tie!’
‘I will, my dear Philosophy!’ I said,
‘But then her teeth, and then, oh, Heaven! her eye!
I’ll just inquire if she be wife or maid,
Or neither—out of curiosity.’
‘Stop!’ cried Philosophy, with air so Grecian
(Though she was masqued then as a fair Venetian);
‘Stop!’ so I stopp’d.—But to return: that which
Men call inconstancy is nothing more
Than admiration due where nature’s rich
Profusion with young beauty covers o’er
Some favour’d object; and as in the niche
A lovely statue we almost adore,
This sort of adoration of the real
Is but a heightening of the ‘beau ideal.’
‘T is the perception of the beautiful,
A fine extension of the faculties,
Platonic, universal, wonderful,
Drawn from the stars, and filter’d through the skies,
Without which life would be extremely dull;
In short, it is the use of our own eyes,
With one or two small senses added, just
To hint that flesh is form’d of fiery dust.
Yet ‘t is a painful feeling, and unwilling,
For surely if we always could perceive
In the same object graces quite as killing
As when she rose upon us like an Eve,
‘T would save us many a heartache, many a shilling
(For we must get them any how or grieve),
Whereas if one sole lady pleased for ever,
How pleasant for the heart as well as liver!
The heart is like the sky, a part of heaven,
But changes night and day, too, like the sky;
Now o’er it clouds and thunder must be driven,
And darkness and destruction as on high:
But when it hath been scorch’d, and pierced, and riven,
Its storms expire in water-drops; the eye
Pours forth at last the heart’s blood turn’d to tears,
Which make the English climate of our years.
The liver is the lazaret of bile,
But very rarely executes its function,
For the first passion stays there such a while,
That all the rest creep in and form a junction,
Life knots of vipers on a dunghill’s soil,—
Rage, fear, hate, jealousy, revenge, compunction,—
So that all mischiefs spring up from this entrail,
Like earthquakes from the hidden fire call’d ‘central,’
In the mean time, without proceeding more
In this anatomy, I ‘ve finish’d now
Two hundred and odd stanzas as before,
That being about the number I ‘ll allow
Each canto of the twelve, or twenty-four;
And, laying down my pen, I make my bow,
Leaving Don Juan and Haidee to plead
For them and theirs with all who deign to read.
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "Don Juan Canto" https://englishhistory.net/byron/poems/don-juan-canto/, April 19, 2015