Don Juan: Canto the Eleventh

Original Text: 
Byron, Works. 17 vols. London: John Murray, 1832-33. PR 4351 M6 1832 ROBA
1When Bishop Berkeley said "there was no matter,"
2     And proved it--'twas no matter what he sald:
3They say his system 'tis in vain to batter,
4     Too subtle for the airiest human head;
5And yet who can believe it! I would shatter
6     Gladly all matters down to stone or lead,
7Or adamant, to find the World a spirit,
8And wear my head, denying that I wear it.
9What a sublime discovery 'twas to make the
10     Universe universal egotism,
11That all's ideal--all ourselves: I'll stake the
12     World (be it what you will) that that's no schism.
13Oh Doubt!--if thou be'st Doubt, for which some take thee,
14     But which I doubt extremely--thou sole prism
15Of the Truth's rays, spoil not my draught of spirit!
16Heaven's brandy, though our brain can hardly bear it.
17For ever and anon comes Indigestion
19Our soarings with another sort of question:
20     And that which after all my spirit vexes,
21Is, that I find no spot where Man can rest eye on,
22     Without confusion of the sorts and sexes,
23Of beings, stars, and this unriddled wonder,
24The World, which at the worst's a glorious blunder--
25If it be chance--or, if it be according
26     To the Old Text, still better: lest it should
27Turn out so, we'll say nothing 'gainst the wording,
28     As several people think such hazards rude.
29They're right; our days are too brief for affording
30     Space to dispute what no one ever could
31Decide, and everybody one day will
32Know very clearly--or at least lie still.
33And therefore will I leave off metaphysical
34     Discussion, which is neither here nor there:
35If I agree that what is, is; then this I call
36     Being quite perspicuous and extremely fair.
37The truth is, I've grown lately rather phthisical:
38     I don't know what the reason is--the air
39Perhaps; but as I suffer from the shocks
40Of illness, I grow much more orthodox.
41The first attack at once prov'd the Divinity
42     (But that I never doubted, nor the Devil);
43The next, the Virgin's mystical virginity;
44     The third, the usual Origin of Evil;
45The fourth at once establish'd the whole Trinity
46     On so uncontrovertible a level,
47That I devoutly wish'd the three were four--
48On purpose to believe so much the more.
49To our theme.--The man who has stood on the Acropolis,
50     And look'd down over Attica; or he
51Who has sail'd where picturesque Constantinople is,
52     Or seen Timbuctoo, or hath taken tea
53In small-ey'd China's crockery-ware metropolis,
54     Or sat amidst the bricks of Nineveh,
56But ask him what he thinks of it a year hence!
57Don Juan had got out on Shooter's Hill;
58     Sunset the time, the place the same declivity
59Which looks along that vale of good and ill
60     Where London streets ferment in full activity,
61While everything around was calm and still,
62     Except the creak of wheels, which on their pivot he
63Heard, and that bee-like, bubbling, busy hum
64Of cities, that boil over with their scum--
65I say, Don Juan, wrapp'd in contemplation,
66     Walk'd on behind his carriage, o'er the summit,
67And lost in wonder of so great a nation,
68     Gave way to't, since he could not overcome it.
69"And here," he cried, "is Freedom's chosen station;
70     Here peals the People's voice nor can entomb it
71Racks, prisons, inquisitions; resurrection
72Awaits it, each new meeting or election.
73"Here are chaste wives, pure lives; her people pay
74     But what they please; and if that things be dear,
75'Tis only that they love to throw away
76     Their cash, to show how much they have a-year.
77Here laws are all inviolate; none lay
78     Traps for the traveller; every highway's clear;
79Here"--he was interrupted by a knife,
80With--"Damn your eyes! your money or your life!"
81These free-born sounds proceeded from four pads
82     In ambush laid, who had perceiv'd him loiter
83Behind his carriage; and, like handy lads,
84     Had seiz'd the lucky hour to reconnoitre,
85In which the heedless gentleman who gads
86     Upon the road, unless he prove a fighter
87May find himself within that isle of riches
88Expos'd to lose his life as well as breeches.
89Juan, who did not understand a word
90     Of English, save their shibboleth, "God damn!"
91And even that he had so rarely heard,
92     He sometimes thought 'twas only their Salam,"
93Or "God be with you!"--and 'tis not absurd
94     To think so, for half English as I am
95(To my misfortune) never can I say
96I heard them wish "God with you," save that way--
97Juan yet quickly understood their gesture,
98     And being somewhat choleric and sudden,
99Drew forth a pocket pistol from his vesture,
100     And fired it into one assailant's pudding,
101Who fell, as rolls an ox o'er in his pasture,
102     And roar'd out, as he writh'd his native mud in,
103Unto his nearest follower or henchman,
104"Oh Jack! I'm floor'd by that ere bloody Frenchman!"
105On which Jack and his train set off at speed,
106     And Juan's suite, late scatter'd at a distance,
107Came up, all marvelling at such a deed,
108     And offering, as usual, late assistance.
110     As if his veins would pour out his existence,
111Stood calling out for bandages and lint,
112And wish'd he had been less hasty with his flint.
113"Perhaps,"thought he,"it is the country's wont
114     To welcome foreigners in this way: now
115I recollect some innkeepers who don't
116     Differ, except in robbing with a bow,
117In lieu of a bare blade and brazen front.
118     But what is to be done? I can't allow
119The fellow to lie groaning on the road:
120So take him up, I'll help you with the load."
121But ere they could perform this pious duty,
122     The dying man cried, "Hold! I've got my gruel!
124     Let me die where I am!" And as the fuel
125Of life shrunk in his heart, and thick and sooty
126     The drops fell from his death-wound, and he drew ill
127His breath, he from his swelling throat untied
128A kerchief, crying "Give Sal that!"--and died.
129The cravat stain'd with bloody drops fell down
130     Before Don Juan's feet: he could not tell
131Exactly why it was before him thrown,
132     Nor what the meaning of the man's farewell.
134     A thorough varmint, and a real swell,
135Full flash, all fancy, until fairly diddled,
136His pockets first and then his body riddled.
137Don Juan, having done the best he could
138     In all the circumstances of the case,
140     His travels to the capital apace;
141Esteeming it a little hard he should
142     In twelve hours' time, and very little space,
143Have been oblig'd to slay a free-born native
144In self-defence: this made him meditative.
146     Who in his time had made heroic bustle.
147Who in a row like Tom could lead the van,
148     Booze in the ken, or at the spellken hustle?
149Who queer a flat? Who (spite of Bowstreet's ban)
150     On the high toby-spice so flash the muzzle?
151Who on a lark, with black-eyed Sal (his blowing),
152So prime, so swell, so nutty, and so knowing?
153But Tom's no more--and so no more of Tom.
154     Heroes must die; and by God's blessing 'tis
155Not long before the most of them go home.
156     Hail! Thamis, hail! Upon thy verge it is
157That Juan's chariot, rolling like a drum
158     In thunder, holds the way it can't well miss,
159Through Kennington and all the other "tons,"
160Which make us wish ourselves in town at once;
161Through Groves, so called as being void of trees,
163Mount Pleasant, as containing nought to please,
164     Nor much to climb; through little boxes fram'd
165Of bricks, to let the dust in at your ease,
166     With "To be let," upon their doors proclaim'd;
167Through "Rows" most modestly call'd "Paradise,"
168Which Eve might quit without much sacrifice;
169Through coaches, drays, chok'd turnpikes, and a whirl
170     Of wheels, and roar of voices, and confusion;
172     There mails fast flying off like a delusion;
173There barbers' blocks with periwigs in curl
174     In windows; here the lamplighter's infusion
175Slowly distill'd into the glimmering glass
176(For in those days we had not got to gas);
177Through this, and much, and more, is the approach
178     Of travellers to mighty Babylon:
179Whether they come by horse, or chaise, or coach,
180     With slight exceptions, all the ways seem one.
181I could say more, but do not choose to encroach
182     Upon the guide-book's privilege. The sun
183Had set some time, and night was on the ridge
184Of twilight, as the party cross'd the bridge.
185That's rather fine, the gentle sound of Thamis--
186     Who vindicates a moment, too, his stream--
187Though hardly heard through multifarious "damme's":
188     The lamps of Westminster's more regular gleam,
189The breadth of pavement, and yon shrine where Fame is
190     A spectral resident--whose pallid beam
191In shape of moonshine hovers o'er the pile--
192Make this a sacred part of Albion's Isle.
193The Druid's groves are gone--so much the better:
194     Stonehenge is not--but what the devil is it?--
195But Bedlam still exists with its sage fetter,
196     That madmen may not bite you on a visit;
197The Bench too seats or suits full many a debtor;
199To me appears a stiff yet grand erection;
200But then the Abbey's worth the whole collection.
201The line of lights too, up to Charing Cross,
202     Pall Mall, and so forth, have a coruscation
203Like gold as in comparison to dross,
204     Match'd with the Continent's illumination,
205Whose cities Night by no means deigns to gloss.
206     The French were not yet a lamp-lighting nation,
208Instead of wicks, they made a wicked man turn.
209A row of Gentlemen along the streets
210     Suspended may illuminate mankind,
211As also bonfires made of country seats;
212     But the old way is best for the purblind:
213The other looks like phosphorus on sheets,
214     A sort of ignis fatuus to the mind,
215Which, though 'tis certain to perplex and frighten,
216Must burn more mildly ere it can enlighten.
217But London's so well lit, that if Diogenes
218     Could recommence to hunt his honest man
219And found him not amidst the various progenies
220     Of this enormous city's spreading spawn,
221'Twere not for want of lamps to aid his dodging his
222     Yet undiscover'd treasure. What I can,
223I've done to find the same throughout life's journey,
224But see the World is only one attorney.
225Over the stones still rattling, up Pall Mall,
226     Through crowds and carriages, but waxing thinner
227As thunder'd knockers broke the long seal'd spell
228     Of doors 'gainst duns, and to an early dinner
229Admitted a small party as night fell,
230     Don Juan, our young diplomatic sinner,
231Pursu'd his path, and drove past some hotels,
233They reach'd the hotel: forth stream'd from the front door
234     A tide of well-clad waiters, and around
235The mob stood, and as usual several score
237In decent London when the daylight's o'er;
238     Commodious but immoral, they are found
240But Juan now is stepping from his carriage
241Into one of the sweetest of hotels,
242     Especially for foreigners--and mostly
243For those whom favour or whom fortune swells,
244     And cannot find a bill's small items costly.
245There many an envoy either dwelt or dwells
246     (The den of many a diplomatic lost lie),
247Until to some conspicuous square they pass,
248And blazon o'er the door their names in brass.
249Juan, whose was a delicate commission,
250     Private, though publicly important, bore
251No title to point out with due precision
252     The exact affair on which he was sent o'er.
253'Twas merely known, that on a secret mission
254     A foreigner of rank had grac'd our shore,
255Young, handsome and accomplish'd, who was said
256(In whispers) to have turn'd his Sovereign's head.
257Some rumour also of some strange adventures
258     Had gone before him, and his wars and loves;
259And as romantic heads are pretty painters,
260     And, above all, an Englishwoman's roves
261Into the excursive, breaking the indentures
262     Of sober reason, wheresoe'er it moves,
263He found himself extremely in the fashion,
264Which serves our thinking people for a passion.
265I don't mean that they are passionless, but quite
266     The contrary; but then 'tis in the head;
267Yet as the consequences are as bright
268     As if they acted with the heart instead,
269What after all can signify the site
270     Of ladies' lucubrations? So they lead
271In safety to the place for which you start,
272What matters if the road be head or heart?
273Juan presented in the proper place,
274     To proper placement, every Russ credential;
275And was receiv'd with all the due grimace
277Who, seeing a handsome stripling with smooth face,
278     Thought (what in state affairs is most essential)
279That they as easily might do the youngster,
280As hawks may pounce upon a woodland songster.
281They err'd, as aged men will do; but by
282     And by we'll talk of that; and if we don't,
283'T will be because our notion is not high
284     Of politicians and their double front,
285Who live by lies, yet dare not boldly lie:
286     Now, what I love in women is, they won't
287Or can't do otherwise than lie, but do it
288So well, the very truth seems falsehood to it.
289And, after all, what is a lie? 'Tis but
290     The truth in masquerade; and I defy
291Historians, heroes, lawyers, priests, to put
292     A fact without some leaven of a lie.
293The very shadow of true Truth would shut
294     Up annals, revelations, poesy,
295And prophecy--except it should be dated
296Some years before the incidents related.
297Prais'd be all liars and all lies! Who now
298     Can tax my mild Muse with misanthropy?
299She rings the World's "Te Deum," and her brow
300     Blushes for those who will not: but to sigh
301Is idle; let us like most others bow,
302     Kiss hands, feet, any part of Majesty,
304Whose shamrock now seems rather worse for wearing.
305Don Juan was presented, and his dress
306     And mien excited general admiration;
307I don't know which was more admir'd or less:
308     One monstrous diamond drew much observation,
309Which Catherine in a moment of "ivresse"
310     (In love or brandy's fervent fermentation)
311Bestow'd upon him, as the public learn'd;
312And, to say truth, it had been fairly earn'd.
313Besides the ministers and underlings,
314     Who must be courteous to the accredited
315Diplomatists of rather wavering kings,
316     Until their royal riddle's fully read,
317The very clerks--those somewhat dirty springs
318     Of Office, or the House of Office, fed
319By foul corruption into streams--even they
320Were hardly rude enough to earn their pay.
321And insolence no doubt is what they are
322     Employ'd for, since it is their daily labour,
323In the dear offices of peace or war;
324     And should you doubt, pray ask of your next neighbour,
325When for a passport, or some other bar
326     To freedom, he applied (a grief and a bore),
327If he found not this spawn of tax-born riches,
328Like lap-dogs, the least civil sons of b{-}{-}{-}{-}{-}s.
329But Juan was receiv'd with much "empressement" --
330     These phrases of refinement I must borrow
331From our next neighbours' land, where, like a chessman,
332     There is a move set down for joy or sorrow,
333Not only in mere talking, but the press. Man
334     In islands is, it seems, downright and thorough,
335More than on continents--as if the sea
336(See Billingsgate) made even the tongue more free.
338     Your continental oaths are but incontinent,
339And turn on things which no aristocratic
340     Spirit would name, and therefore even I won't anent
341This subject quote; as it would be schismatic
342     In politesse, and have a sound affronting in 't;
343But "Damme" 's quite ethereal, though too daring--
344Platonic blasphemy, the soul of swearing.
345For downright rudeness, ye may stay at home;
346     For true or false politeness (and scarce that
347Now) you may cross the blue deep and white foam:
348     The first the emblem (rarely though) of what
349You leave behind, the next of much you come
350     To meet. However, 'tis no time to chat
351On general topics: poems must confine
352Themselves to Unity, like this of mine.
353In the great world--which, being interpreted,
354     Meaneth the West or worst end of a city,
355And about twice two thousand people bred
356     By no means to be very wise or witty,
357But to sit up while others lie in bed,
358     And look down on the Universe with pity--
359Juan, as an inveterate patrician,
360Was well receiv'd by persons of condition.
361He was a bachelor, which is a matter
362     Of import both to virgin and to bride,
363The former's hymeneal hopes to flatter;
364     And (should she not hold fast by love or pride)
365'Tis also of some momemt to the latter:
366     A rib's a thorn in a wed gallant's side,
367Requires decorum, and is apt to double
368The horrid sin--and what's still worse the trouble.
369But Juan was a bachelor--of arts,
370     And parts, and hearts: he danc'd and sung, and had
371An air as sentimental as Mozart's
372     Softest of melodies; and could be sad
373Or cheerful, without any "flaws or starts,"
374     Just at the proper time; and though a lad,
375Had seen the world--which is a curious sight,
376And very much unlike what people write.
377Fair virgins blush'd upon him; wedded dames
378Bloom'd also in less transitory hues;
379For both commodities dwell by the Thames
380The painting and the painted; Youth, Ceruse,
381Against his heart preferr'd their usual claims,
382Such as no gentleman can quite refuse;
383Daughters admir'd his dress, and pious mothers
384Inquir'd his income, and if he had brothers.
386     Throughout the season, upon speculation
387Of payment ere the Honeymoon's last kisses
388     Have wan'd into a crescent's coruscation,
389Thought such an opportunity as this is,
390     Of a rich foreigner's initiation,
391Not to be overlook'd--and gave such credit,
392That future bridegrooms swore, and sigh'd, and paid it.
393The Blues, that tender tribe, who sigh o'er sonnets,
394     And with the pages of the last Review
395Line the interior of their heads or bonnets,
396     Advanc'd in all their azure's highest hue:
397They talk'd bad French or Spanish, and upon its
398     Late authors ask'd him for a hint or two;
399And which was softest, Russian or Castilian?
400And whether in his travels he saw Ilion?
401Juan, who was a little superficial,
403Examin'd by this learned and especial
404     Jury of matrons, scarce knew what to answer:
405His duties warlike, loving or official,
406     His steady application as a dancer,
408Which now he found was blue instead of green.
409However, he replied at hazard, with
410     A modest confidence and calm assurance,
411Which lent his learned lucubrations pith,
412     And pass'd for arguments of good endurance.
413That prodigy, Miss Araminta Smith
415Into as furious English), with her best look,
416Set down his sayings in her common-place book.
417Juan knew several languages--as well
418     He might--and brought them up with skill, in time
419To save his fame with each accomplish'd belle,
420     Who still regretted that he did not rhyme.
421There wanted but this requisite to swell
422     His qualities (with them) into sublime:
423Lady Fitz-Frisky, and Miss M{ae}via Mannish,
424Both long'd extremely to be sung in Spanish.
425However, he did pretty well, and was
426     Admitted as an aspirant to all
428     At great assemblies or in parties small,
429He saw ten thousand living authors pass,
430     That being about their average numeral;
431Also the eighty "greatest living poets,"
432As every paltry magazine can show it's .
433In twice five years the "greatest living poet,"
434     Like to the champion in the fisty ring,
435Is call'd on to support his claim, or show it,
436     Although 'tis an imaginary thing,
437Even I--albeit I'm sure I did not know it,
438     Nor sought of foolscap subjects to be king--
439Was reckon'd, a considerable time,
440The grand Napoleon of the realms of rhyme.
443"La Belle Alliance" of dunces down at zero,
444     Now that the Lion's fall'n, may rise again,
445But I will fall at least as fell my hero;
446     Nor reign at all, or as a monarch reign;
447Or to some lonely isle of jailors go,
449Sir Walter reign'd before me; Moore and Campbell
450     Before and after; but now grown more holy,
451The Muses upon Sion's hill must ramble
452     With poets almost clergymen, or wholly;
453And Pegasus has a psalmodic amble
455Who shoes the glorious animal with stilts,
458     Labourer in the same vineyard, though the vine
459Yields him but vinegar for his reward--
460     That neutralis'd dull Dorus of the Nine;
461That swarthy Sporus, neither man nor bard;
462     That ox of verse, who ploughs for every line:
463Cambyses' roaring Romans beat at least
464The howling Hebrews of Cybele's priest.
466     Sets up for being a sort of moral me;
467He'll find it rather difficult some day
468     To turn out both, or either, it may be.
469Some persons think that Coleridge hath the sway;
470     And Wordsworth has supporters, two or three;
472Has taken for a swan rogue Southey's gander.
474     Just as he really promis'd something great,
475If not intelligible, without Greek
476     Contriv'd to talk about the gods of late,
477Much as they might have been suppos'd to speak.
478     Poor fellow! His was an untoward fate;
479'Tis strange the mind, that very fiery particle,
480Should let itself be snuff'd out by an article.
481The list grows long of live and dead pretenders
482     To that which none will gain--or none will know
483The conqueror at least; who, ere Time renders
484     His last award, will have the long grass grow
485Above his burnt-out brain, and sapless cinders.
486     If I might augur, I should rate but low
488Mock tyrants, when Rome's annals wax'd but dirty.
489This is the literary lower empire,
491A "dreadful trade," like his who "gathers samphire,"
492     The insolent soldiery to soothe and flatter,
493With the same feelings as you'd coax a vampire,
494     Now, were I once at home, and in good satire,
496And show them what an intellectual war is.
497I think I know a trick or two, would turn
498     Their flanks; but it is hardly worth my while,
499With such small gear to give myself concern:
500     Indeed I've not the necessary bile;
501My natural temper's really aught but stern,
502     And even my Muse's worst reproof's a smile;
503And then she drops a brief and modern curtsy,
504And glides away, assur'd she never hurts ye.
505My Juan, whom I left in deadly peril
506     Amongst live poets and blue ladies, pass'd
507With some small profit through that field so sterile,
508     Being tir'd in time, and, neither least nor last,
509Left it before he had been treated very ill;
510     And henceforth found himself more gaily class'd
511Amongst the higher spirits of the day,
512The sun's true son, no vapour, but a ray.
513His morns he pass'd in business--which dissected,
514     Was, like all business, a laborious nothing
515That leads to lassitude, the most infected
517And on our sofas makes us lie dejected,
518     And talk in tender horrors of our loathing
519All kinds of toil, save for our country's good--
520Which grows no better, though 'tis time it should.
521His afternoons he pass'd in visits, luncheons,
522     Lounging and boxing; and the twilight hour
523In riding round those vegetable puncheons
524     Call'd "Parks," where there is neither fruit nor flower
525Enough to gratify a bee's slight munchings;
526     But after all it is the only "bower"
527(In Moore's phrase) where the fashionable fair
528Can form a slight acquaintance with fresh air.
529Then dress, then dinner, then awakes the world!
530     Then glare the lamps, then whirl the wheels, then roar
531Through street and square fast flashing chariots hurl'd
532     Like harness'd meteors; then along the floor
534     Then roll the brazen thunders of the door,
535Which opens to the thousand happy few
537There stands the noble hostess, nor shall sink
538     With the three-thousandth curtsy; there the waltz,
539The only dance which teaches girls to think,
540     Makes one in love even with its very faults.
541Saloon, room, hall, o'erflow beyond their brink,
542     And long the latest of arrivals halts,
543'Midst royal dukes and dames condemn'd to climb,
544And gain an inch of staircase at a time.
545Thrice happy he who, after a survey
546     Of the good company, can win a corner,
547A door that's in or boudoir out of the way,
548     Where he may fix himself like small "Jack Horner,"
549And let the Babel round run as it may,
550     And look on as a mourner, or a scorner,
551Or an approver, or a mere spectator,
552Yawning a little as the night grows later.
553But this won't do, save by and by; and he
554     Who, like Don Juan, takes an active share
555Must steer with care through all that glittering sea
556     Of gems and plumes and pearls and silks, to where
557He deems it is his proper place to be;
558     Dissolving in the waltz to some soft air,
559Or proudlier prancing with mercurial skill,
560Where Science marshals forth her own quadrille.
561Or, if he dance not, but hath higher views
562     Upon an heiress or his neighbour's bride,
563Let him take care that that which he pursues
564     Is not at once too palpably descried.
565Full many an eager gentleman oft rues
566     His haste; impatience is a blundering guide
567Amongst a people famous for reflection,
568Who like to play the fool with circumspection.
569But, if you can contrive, get next at supper;
570     Or, if forestalled, get opposite and ogle:
571Oh, ye ambrosial moments! always upper
572     In mind, a sort of sentimental bogle,
573Which sits for ever upon Memory's crupper,
574     The ghost of vanish'd pleasures once in vogue! Ill
575Can tender souls relate the rise and fall
576Of hopes and fears which shake a single ball.
577But these precautionary hints can touch
578     Only the common run, who must pursue,
579And watch and ward; whose plans a word too much
580     Or little overturns; and not the few
581Or many (for the number's sometimes such)
582     Whom a good mien, especially if new,
583Or fame, or name, for wit, war, sense or nonsense,
584Permits whate'er they please, or did not long since.
585Our hero, as a hero young and handsome,
586     Noble, rich, celebrated, and a stranger,
587Like other slaves of course must pay his ransom
588     Before he can escape from so much danger
589As will environ a conspicuous man. Some
591And ugliness, disease, as toil and trouble--
592I wish they knew the life of a young noble.
593They are young, but know not youth--it is anticipated;
594     Handsome but wasted, rich without a sou;
595Their vigour in a thousand arms is dissipated;
596     Their cash comes from, their wealth goes to a Jew;
597Both senates see their nightly votes participated
598     Between the tyrant's and the tribunes' crew;
599And having voted, din'd, drunk, gam'd and whor'd,
600The family vault receives another lord.
602     The World in which a man was born?" Alas!
603Where is the world of eight years past? 'Twas there--
604     I look for it--'tis gone, a Globe of Glass!
605Crack'd, shiver'd, vanish'd, scarcely gaz'd on, ere
606     A silent change dissolves the glittering mass.
607Statesmen, chiefs, orators, queens, patriots, kings,
608And dandies--all are gone on the wind's wings.
609Where is Napoleon the Grand? God knows:
610     Where little Castlereagh? The devil can tell:
612     Who bound the Bar or Senate in their spell?
614     And where the Daughter, whom the Isles lov'd well?
615Where are those martyr'd saints the Five per Cents?
616And where--oh, where the devil are the Rents?
622     Unto by Sawney's violin, we have heard:
624This scene of royal itch and loyal scratching.
625Where is Lord This? And where my Lady That?
626     The Honourable Mistresses and Misses?
627Some laid aside like an old Opera hat,
628     Married, unmarried, and remarried (this is
629An evolution oft perform'd of late).
630     Where are the Dublin shouts--and London hisses?
632My friends the Whigs? Exactly where they were.
634     Divorc'd or doing thereanent. Ye annals
635So brilliant, where the list of routs and dances is,
636     Thou Morning Post, sole record of the panels
637Broken in carriages, and all the phantasies
638     Of fashion, say what streams now fill those channels?
639Some die, some fly, some languish on the Continent,
640Because the times have hardly left them one tenant.
641Some who once set their caps at cautious dukes,
642     Have taken up at length with younger brothers:
643Some heiresses have bit at sharpers' hooks:
644     Some maids have been made wives, some merely mothers:
645Others have lost their fresh and fairy looks:
646     In short, the list of alterations bothers.
647There's little strange in this, but something strange is
648The unusual quickness of these common changes.
649Talk not of seventy years as age! in seven
650     I have seen more changes, down from monarchs to
651The humblest individuals under heaven,
652     Than might suffice a moderate century through.
653I knew that nought was lasting, but now even
654     Change grows too changeable, without being new:
655Nought's permanent among the human race,
656Except the Whigs not getting into place.
657I have seen Napoleon, who seem'd quite a Jupiter,
659(No matter which) turn politician stupider,
660     If that can well be, than his wooden look.
662     And sail for a new theme: I have seen--and shook
663To see it--the King hiss'd, and then caress'd;
664But don't pretend to settle which was best.
665I have seen the Landholders without a rap--
667The House of Commons turn'd to a taxtrap--
669I have seen crowns worn instead of a fool's cap--
671I have seen some nations, like o'erloaded asses,
672Kick off their burthens--meaning the high classes.
673I have seen small poets, and great prosers, and
674     Interminable--not eternal--speakers--
676     I have seen the country gentlemen turn squeakers--
678     By slaves on horseback--I have seen malt liquors
680I have seen John half detect himself a fool.
682     To-morrow sees another race as gay
683And transient, and devour'd by the same harpy.
685Ye villains!" and above all keep a sharp eye
686     Much less on what you do than what you say:
687Be hypocritical, be cautious, be
688Not what you seem, but always what you see.
689But how shall I relate in other cantos
690     Of what befell our hero in the land,
691Which 'tis the common cry and lie to vaunt as
692     A moral country? But I hold my hand--
694     But 'tis as well at once to understand,
695You are not a moral people, and you know it,
696Without the aid of too sincere a poet.
697What Juan saw and underwent shall be
698     My topic, with of course the due restriction
699Which is requir'd by proper courtesy;
700     And recollect the work is only fiction,
701And that I sing of neither mine nor me,
702     Though every scribe, in some slight turn of diction,
703Will hint allusions never meant. Ne'er doubt
704This--when I speak, I don't hint, but speak out.
705Whether he married with the third or fourth
706     Offspring of some sage husband-hunting countess,
707Or whether with some virgin of more worth
708     (I mean in Fortune's matrimonial bounties),
709He took to regularly peopling Earth,
710     Of which your lawful, awful wedlock fount is--
711Or whether he was taken in for damages,
712For being too excursive in his homages--
713Is yet within the unread events of time.
714     Thus far, go forth, thou Lay, which I will back
715Against the same given quantity of rhyme,
716     For being as much the subject of attack
717As ever yet was any work sublime,
718     By those who love to say that white is black.
719So much the better!--I may stand alone,
720But would not change my free thoughts for a throne.


18] "dainty Ariel": see The Tempest, V, i, 95. Back to Line
55] Shooter's Hill: on the Dover road, eight miles south of London, commanding a fine view of the city. Back to Line
109] the moon's late minion: see Falstaff on thieves in I Henry IV, I, ii, 23-28. Back to Line
123] max: gin (an example of the current underworld slang known as "flash"). Back to Line
133] kiddy ... real swell ... flash: more thieves' slang. A kiddy was a petty thief who showed off his success by a flashy ostentation of clothes and language. Back to Line
139] "Crowner's 'quest": coroner's inquest. See the first gravedigger in Hamlet, V, i, 21. Back to Line
145] With the help of a Regency slang dictionary the "flash" of this stanza has been translated as follows:
ken: a house that harbours thieves;
spellken: the playhouse;
queer a flat: confound a gull;
high toby-spice: robbery on horseback;
flash the muzzle: swagger openly;
blowing: pickpocket's trull;
nutty: pleased with the opposite sex. Back to Line
162] lucus from no light: in Latin "lucus" can mean both a thick wood (or grove) and light, i.e., both darkness and light. Back to Line
171] "purl": "a medicated malt liquor" (Moore). Back to Line
198] Mansion House: official residence of the Lord Mayor. Back to Line
207] new-found lantern. During the French Revolution the lantern or street lamp was used as an improvised gallows. Back to Line
232] "Hells": gaming-houses. Back to Line
236] Paphians: attendants of Venus (Paphos in Cyprus was the site of an ancient temple to Aphrodite). Back to Line
239] Useful, like Malthus, in promoting marriage. The Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) of Thomas Robert Malthus was one of the most controversial works of the age. He saw war and famine as nature's means of preventing population from outrunning the supply of goods, but also advocated continence and fewer marriages as a means of birth control among the poor. Hence he was about as useful a supporter of marriage as a "Paphian" whore. Back to Line
276] govern in the mood potential: i.e., govern as placemen or office-holders, not as Parliamentary members of the government ("mood potential" being a grammatical pun). Back to Line
303] the good example of "Green Erin." George IV visited Ireland in 1820 and was given an extravagant welcome. Back to Line
337] rather Attic: having the purity of classical Greek. Back to Line
385] "drapery Misses." "It means a pretty, a highborn, a fashionable young female, well instructed by her friends, and furnished by her milliner with a wardrobe upon credit, to be repaid, when married, by the husband" (Byron's note). Back to Line
402] Drawcansir: the name of a braggart in Villiers' The Rehearsal (1671). Back to Line
407] Hippocrene: see note on I, ccv. Back to Line
414] "Hercules Furens": a play by the Roman dramatist, Seneca. Back to Line
427] Banquo's glass: see Macbeth, IV, i, 112-24. Back to Line
441] Faliero. Byron's play Marino Faliero was not intended for the stage and failed when it was performed against his wish at Drury Lane in April and May, 1821. Back to Line
442] Cain. Byron's Cain (1821), which he called a "mystery" play, was much criticized for its "blasphemies."
Leipsic ... Mont Saint Jean ... La Belle Alliance. Leipsig and Waterloo (a farmhouse called Mont St. Jean was on the battlefield) were two of Napoleon's most crucial defeats. "La Belle Alliance was the farmhouse in which Blücher and Wellington met and saluted each other as victors after the tide of battle had turned at Waterloo" (W. W. Pratt's note). Back to Line
448] turncoat Southey: see note on Dedication, i.
turnkey Lowe. "Sir Hudson Lowe was governor of St. Helena during Napoleon's exile" (W. W. Pratt's note). Back to Line
454] the very Reverend Rowley Powley: the Rev. George Croly (1780-1860), a minor but prolific poet, fond of imitating Byron's work and known as "Cambyses" Croly for his bombastic manner. Back to Line
456] "by the hilts": see I Henry IV, iv, 233. Back to Line
457] The victim of this attack is Henry Hart Milman (1791-1868), author of The Fall of Jerusalem (hence "the howling Hebrews") and a Quarterly reviewer disliked by Byron. Some of Byron's allusions are obscure, but for Sporus see Pope's Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, 305-33 and note, and for "Cambyses' roaring Romans" see note on stanza lvii above (Coly wrote a play called Catiline). The Asiatic and Athenian goddess "Cybele's priests" were eunuchs. Back to Line
465] my gentle Euphues: Bryan Waller Procter, "Barry Comwall" (1787-1874), author of Diego de Montilla, a poem which Francis Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review thought to resemble Don Juan, but with "no profligacy" and "no mocking of virtue and honour." Euphues is the hero of an Elizabethan prose romance by John Lyly and gave his name to the "Euphuistic" style. But Byron seems to be confusung his terms and thinking of Procter's poem as a sort of "euphemistic" Don Juan. Back to Line
471] Boeotian. The Athenians thought the people of Boeotia boorish and dull. Back to Line
473] Keats may have been deeply affected by the slashing review of Endymion in the Quarterly Review of April 1818, but that it was instrumental in his death is an exploded legend. Byron seems to have acquired the notion from Shelley, who used it in the Preface to Adonais as well as in the poem itself. Back to Line
487] the thirty mock tyrants: the thirty pretenders to the throne in the reign of Gallienus in the third century. Back to Line
490] praetorian bands: the Roman emperor's guard, whose political power in the days of the empire's decline gave them control over the succession to the throne, which might even be offered to the highest bidder. Back to Line
495] Janizaries: the Turkish standing army and sultan's guard. Back to Line
516] Centaur-Nessus garb. The blood-poisoned garment of Nessus the Centaur was sent to Hercules by his wife for its supposed power of winning back his love. Instead the agony of wearing it led to Hercules' death on a pyre. Back to Line
533] Chalk mimics painting. Chalk drawings on the floor were characteristic of Regency ballrooms on special occasions. Back to Line
536] "Or Molu": gilded bronze. Back to Line
590] "rack and manger." The modern equivalent is "rack and ruin." Back to Line
601] "Where is the World," cries Young, "at eighty?" Edward Young (1683-1765), author of the once famous Night Thoughts, wrote this phrase at eighty in a poem called Resignation. Back to Line
611] Grattan, Curran, Sheridan. Henry Grattan, John Philpot Curran, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan (the dramatist) were Whig M.P.'s and Irishmen, who died in 1820, 1817, and 1816. Back to Line
613] The unhappy Queen ... the Daughter. Queen Caroline, tried for unfidelity in 1820, died in 1821; her daughter, Princess Charlotte, had died in childbirth in 1817. Back to Line
617] Brummell ... Long Pole Wellesley: George "Beau" Brummell, bankrupt Regency fashion-plate, now in exile from his creditors, and William Pole Tylney Long Wellesley (Wellington's nephew), fashionable wastrel on the verge of bankruptcy. Back to Line
618] Whitbread? Romilly? Samuel Whitbread, Whig M.P., committed suicide in 1815 and Sir Samuel Romilly, who had earned Byron's enmity by being his wife's legal adviser, in 1818. Back to Line
619] Where is his will? George III's unsigned will was the cause of much dispute. Back to Line
620] "Fum" the Fourth, our "royal bird." George IV's popular nickname was "Hum," an apartment of the Brighton Pavilion contained an ornament called "Fum, the Chinese Bird of Royalty," and Moore had written a satire called "Fum and Hum, the Two Birds of Royalty." Back to Line
621] to Scotland. George IV visited Scotland in 1822. Back to Line
623] Caw: claw or scratch. Back to Line
631] Where are the Grenvilles? Turned as usual. Byron saw William Wyndham, Baron Grenville (1759-1834) as an apostate from his early liberalism. Since Grenville's father had first supported and then broken with the elder Pitt, such changes seemed to run in the family. Back to Line
633] Lady Carolines and Franceses. Lady Caroline Lamb and Lady Frances Webster, now estranged from their husbands, were two of the women in Byron's life between 1812 and 1814. Back to Line
658] Duke: presumably the Duke of Wellington. Back to Line
661] "blue Peter": the naval flag which signalizes immediate sailing. Back to Line
666] Joanna Southcote: the ignorant founder of a fanatical sect, who (suffering from dropsy) announced that she was about to give birth to a second Shiloh (see Genesis 40:10). Back to Line
668] sad affair of the late Queen: see note on stanza lxxvi above. Back to Line
670] Congress doing all that's mean. The allied sovereigns, disturbed by the popular uprising in Spain, met in Verona in 1822. Back to Line
675] the funds at war: the National Debt and the Sinking Fund which unsuccessfully attempted to reduce it. Back to Line
677] I have seen the people ridden o'er. Byron apparently refers to the dispersal of a Reform gathering in St. Peter's Fields outside Manchester by troops on horseback on August 16, 1819 (the so-called Peterloo Massacre). Back to Line
679] "thin potations": a means by which brewers might escape the malt tax; see II Henry IV, IV, iii, 133-36. Back to Line
681] carpe diem: enjoy the present day (see Horace, Odes, I, xi, 8). Back to Line
684] "Life's a poor player"--then "play out the play": see Macbeth, V, v, 24, and I Henry IV, II, iv, 539. Back to Line
693] Atalantis: see Pope's Rape of the Lock, III, 165 and note. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
M. T. Wilson
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.540.