Don Juan, by George Byron

Canto the Fifteenth.

Ah! — What should follow slips from my reflection;

    Whatever follows ne’ertheless may be

As à propos of hope or retrospection,

    As though the lurking thought had follow’d free.

All present life is but an interjection,

    An ‘Oh!’ or ‘Ah!’ of joy or misery,

Or a ‘Ha! ha!’ or ‘Bah!’— a yawn, or ‘Pooh!’

Of which perhaps the latter is most true.

But, more or less, the whole ‘s a syncope

    Or a singultus — emblems of emotion,

The grand antithesis to great ennui,

    Wherewith we break our bubbles on the ocean —

That watery outline of eternity,

    Or miniature at least, as is my notion,

Which ministers unto the soul’s delight,

In seeing matters which are out of sight.

But all are better than the sigh supprest,

    Corroding in the cavern of the heart,

Making the countenance a masque of rest,

    And turning human nature to an art.

Few men dare show their thoughts of worst or best;

    Dissimulation always sets apart

A corner for herself; and therefore fiction

Is that which passes with least contradiction.

Ah! who can tell? Or rather, who can not

    Remember, without telling, passion’s errors?

The drainer of oblivion, even the sot,

    Hath got blue devils for his morning mirrors:

What though on Lethe’s stream he seem to float,

    He cannot sink his tremors or his terrors;

The ruby glass that shakes within his hand

Leaves a sad sediment of Time’s worst sand.

And as for love — O love! — We will proceed.

    The Lady Adeline Amundeville,

A pretty name as one would wish to read,

    Must perch harmonious on my tuneful quill.

There ‘s music in the sighing of a reed;

    There ‘s music in the gushing of a rill;

There ‘s music in all things, if men had ears:

Their earth is but an echo of the spheres.

The Lady Adeline, right honourable;

    And honour’d, ran a risk of growing less so;

For few of the soft sex are very stable

    In their resolves — alas! that I should say so!

They differ as wine differs from its label,

    When once decanted; — I presume to guess so,

But will not swear: yet both upon occasion,

Till old, may undergo adulteration.

But Adeline was of the purest vintage,

    The unmingled essence of the grape; and yet

Bright as a new Napoleon from its mintage,

    Or glorious as a diamond richly set;

A page where Time should hesitate to print age,

    And for which Nature might forego her debt —

Sole creditor whose process doth involve in ‘t

The luck of finding every body solvent.

O Death! thou dunnest of all duns! thou daily

    Knockest at doors, at first with modest tap,

Like a meek tradesman when, approaching palely,

    Some splendid debtor he would take by sap:

But oft denied, as patience ‘gins to fail, he

    Advances with exasperated rap,

And (if let in) insists, in terms unhandsome,

On ready money, or ‘a draft on Ransom.’

Whate’er thou takest, spare a while poor Beauty!

    She is so rare, and thou hast so much prey.

What though she now and then may slip from duty,

    The more ‘s the reason why you ought to stay.

Gaunt Gourmand! with whole nations for your booty,

    You should be civil in a modest way:

Suppress, then, some slight feminine diseases,

And take as many heroes as Heaven pleases.

Fair Adeline, the more ingenuous

    Where she was interested (as was said),

Because she was not apt, like some of us,

    To like too readily, or too high bred

To show it (points we need not now discuss)—

    Would give up artlessly both heart and head

Unto such feelings as seem’d innocent,

For objects worthy of the sentiment.

Some parts of Juan’s history, which Rumour,

    That live gazette, had scatter’d to disfigure,

She had heard; but women hear with more good humour

    Such aberrations than we men of rigour:

Besides, his conduct, since in England, grew more

    Strict, and his mind assumed a manlier vigour;

Because he had, like Alcibiades,

The art of living in all climes with ease.

His manner was perhaps the more seductive,

    Because he ne’er seem’d anxious to seduce;

Nothing affected, studied, or constructive

    Of coxcombry or conquest: no abuse

Of his attractions marr’d the fair perspective,

    To indicate a Cupidon broke loose,

And seem to say, ‘Resist us if you can’-

Which makes a dandy while it spoils a man.

They are wrong — that ‘s not the way to set about it;

    As, if they told the truth, could well be shown.

But, right or wrong, Don Juan was without it;

    In fact, his manner was his own alone;

Sincere he was — at least you could not doubt it,

    In listening merely to his voice’s tone.

The devil hath not in all his quiver’s choice

An arrow for the heart like a sweet voice.

By nature soft, his whole address held off

    Suspicion: though not timid, his regard

Was such as rather seem’d to keep aloof,

    To shield himself than put you on your guard:

Perhaps ‘t was hardly quite assured enough,

    But modesty ‘s at times its own reward,

Like virtue; and the absence of pretension

Will go much farther than there ‘s need to mention.

Serene, accomplish’d, cheerful but not loud;

    Insinuating without insinuation;

Observant of the foibles of the crowd,

    Yet ne’er betraying this in conversation;

Proud with the proud, yet courteously proud,

    So as to make them feel he knew his station

And theirs:— without a struggle for priority,

He neither brook’d nor claim’d superiority.

That is, with men: with women he was what

    They pleased to make or take him for; and their

Imagination ‘s quite enough for that:

    So that the outline ‘s tolerably fair,

They fill the canvas up — and ’verbum sat.’

    If once their phantasies be brought to bear

Upon an object, whether sad or playful,

They can transfigure brighter than a Raphael.

Adeline, no deep judge of character,

    Was apt to add a colouring from her own:

’T is thus the good will amiably err,

    And eke the wise, as has been often shown.

Experience is the chief philosopher,

    But saddest when his science is well known:

And persecuted sages teach the schools

Their folly in forgetting there are fools.

Was it not so, great Locke? and greater Bacon?

    Great Socrates? And thou, Diviner still,

Whose lot it is by man to be mistaken,

    And thy pure creed made sanction of all ill?

Redeeming worlds to be by bigots shaken,

    How was thy toil rewarded? We might fill

Volumes with similar sad illustrations,

But leave them to the conscience of the nations.

I perch upon an humbler promontory,

    Amidst life’s infinite variety:

With no great care for what is nicknamed glory,

    But speculating as I cast mine eye

On what may suit or may not suit my story,

    And never straining hard to versify,

I rattle on exactly as I ‘d talk

With any body in a ride or walk.

I don’t know that there may be much ability

    Shown in this sort of desultory rhyme;

But there ‘s a conversational facility,

    Which may round off an hour upon a time.

Of this I ’m sure at least, there ‘s no servility

    In mine irregularity of chime,

Which rings what ‘s uppermost of new or hoary,

Just as I feel the ‘Improvvisatore.’

‘Omnia vult belle Matho dicere — dic aliquando

    Et bene, dic neutrum, dic aliquando male.’

The first is rather more than mortal can do;

    The second may be sadly done or gaily;

The third is still more difficult to stand to;

    The fourth we hear, and see, and say too, daily.

The whole together is what I could wish

To serve in this conundrum of a dish.

A modest hope — but modesty ‘s my forte,

    And pride my feeble:— let us ramble on.

I meant to make this poem very short,

    But now I can’t tell where it may not run.

No doubt, if I had wish’ to pay my court

    To critics, or to hail the setting sun

Of tyranny of all kinds, my concision

Were more; — but I was born for opposition.

But then ‘t is mostly on the weaker side;

    So that I verily believe if they

Who now are basking in their full-blown pride

    Were shaken down, and ‘dogs had had their day,’

Though at the first I might perchance deride

    Their tumble, I should turn the other way,

And wax an ultra-royalist in loyalty,

Because I hate even democratic royalty.

I think I should have made a decent spouse,

    If I had never proved the soft condition;

I think I should have made monastic vows,

    But for my own peculiar superstition:

‘Gainst rhyme I never should have knock’d my brows,

    Nor broken my own head, nor that of Priscian,

Nor worn the motley mantle of a poet,

If some one had not told me to forego it.

But ‘laissez aller’— knights and dames I sing,

    Such as the times may furnish. ’T is a flight

Which seems at first to need no lofty wing,

    Plumed by Longinus or the Stagyrite:

The difficultly lies in colouring

    (Keeping the due proportions still in sight)

With nature manners which are artificial,

And rend’ring general that which is especial.

The difference is, that in the days of old

    Men made the manners; manners now make men —

Pinn’d like a flock, and fleeced too in their fold,

    At least nine, and a ninth beside of ten.

Now this at all events must render cold

    Your writers, who must either draw again

Days better drawn before, or else assume

The present, with their common-place costume.

We ’ll do our best to make the best on ‘t:— March!

    March, my Muse! If you cannot fly, yet flutter;

And when you may not be sublime, be arch,

    Or starch, as are the edicts statesmen utter.

We surely may find something worth research:

    Columbus found a new world in a cutter,

Or brigantine, or pink, of no great tonnage,

While yet America was in her non-age.

When Adeline, in all her growing sense

    Of Juan’s merits and his situation,

Felt on the whole an interest intense —

    Partly perhaps because a fresh sensation,

Or that he had an air of innocence,

    Which is for innocence a sad temptation —

As women hate half measures, on the whole,

She ‘gan to ponder how to save his soul.

She had a good opinion of advice,

    Like all who give and eke receive it gratis,

For which small thanks are still the market price,

    Even where the article at highest rate is:

She thought upon the subject twice or thrice,

    And morally decided, the best state is

For morals, marriage; and this question carried,

She seriously advised him to get married.

Juan replied, with all becoming deference,

    He had a predilection for that tie;

But that, at present, with immediate reference

    To his own circumstances, there might lie

Some difficulties, as in his own preference,

    Or that of her to whom he might apply:

That still he ‘d wed with such or such a lady,

If that they were not married all already.

Next to the making matches for herself,

    And daughters, brothers, sisters, kith or kin,

Arranging them like books on the same shelf,

    There ‘s nothing women love to dabble in

More (like a stock-holder in growing pelf)

    Than match-making in general: ‘t is no sin

Certes, but a preventative, and therefore

That is, no doubt, the only reason wherefore.

But never yet (except of course a miss

    Unwed, or mistress never to be wed,

Or wed already, who object to this)

    Was there chaste dame who had not in her head

Some drama of the marriage unities,

    Observed as strictly both at board and bed

As those of Aristotle, though sometimes

They turn out melodrames or pantomimes.

They generally have some only son,

    Some heir to a large property, some friend

Of an old family, some gay Sir john,

    Or grave Lord George, with whom perhaps might end

A line, and leave posterity undone,

    Unless a marriage was applied to mend

The prospect and their morals: and besides,

They have at hand a blooming glut of brides.

From these they will be careful to select,

    For this an heiress, and for that a beauty;

For one a songstress who hath no defect,

    For t’ other one who promises much duty;

For this a lady no one can reject,

    Whose sole accomplishments were quite a booty;

A second for her excellent connections;

A third, because there can be no objections.

When Rapp the Harmonist embargo’d marriage

    In his harmonious settlement (which flourishes

Strangely enough as yet without miscarriage,

    Because it breeds no more mouths than it nourishes,

Without those sad expenses which disparage

    What Nature naturally most encourages)—

Why call’d he ‘Harmony’ a state sans wedlock?

Now here I ’ve got the preacher at a dead lock.

Because he either meant to sneer at harmony

    Or marriage, by divorcing them thus oddly.

But whether reverend Rapp learn’d this in Germany

    Or no, ‘t is said his sect is rich and godly,

Pious and pure, beyond what I can term any

    Of ours, although they propagate more broadly.

My objection ‘s to his title, not his ritual,

Although I wonder how it grew habitual.

But Rapp is the reverse of zealous matrons,

    Who favour, malgre Malthus, generation —

Professors of that genial art, and patrons

    Of all the modest part of propagation;

Which after all at such a desperate rate runs,

    That half its produce tends to emigration,

That sad result of passions and potatoes —

Two weeds which pose our economic Catos.

Had Adeline read Malthus? I can’t tell;

    I wish she had: his book ‘s the eleventh commandment,

Which says, ‘Thou shalt not marry,’ unless well:

    This he (as far as I can understand) meant.

’T is not my purpose on his views to dwell

    Nor canvass what so ‘eminent a hand’ meant;

But certes it conducts to lives ascetic,

Or turning marriage into arithmetic.

But Adeline, who probably presumed

    That Juan had enough of maintenance,

Or separate maintenance, in case ‘t was doom’d —

    As on the whole it is an even chance

That bridegrooms, after they are fairly groom’d,

    May retrograde a little in the dance

Of marriage (which might form a painter’s fame,

Like Holbein’s ‘Dance of Death’— but ‘t is the same); —

But Adeline determined Juan’s wedding

    In her own mind, and that ‘s enough for woman:

But then, with whom? There was the sage Miss Reading,

    Miss Raw, Miss Flaw, Miss Showman, and Miss Knowman.

And the two fair coheiresses Giltbedding.

    She deem’d his merits something more than common:

All these were unobjectionable matches,

And might go on, if well wound up, like watches.

There was Miss Millpond, smooth as summer’s sea,

    That usual paragon, an only daughter,

Who seem’d the cream of equanimity

    Till skimm’d — and then there was some milk and water,

With a slight shade of blue too, it might be,

    Beneath the surface; but what did it matter?

Love ‘s riotous, but marriage should have quiet,

And being consumptive, live on a milk diet.

And then there was the Miss Audacia Shoestring,

    A dashing demoiselle of good estate,

Whose heart was fix’d upon a star or blue string;

    But whether English dukes grew rare of late,

Or that she had not harp’d upon the true string,

    By which such sirens can attract our great,

She took up with some foreign younger brother,

A Russ or Turk — the one ‘s as good as t’ other.

And then there was — but why should I go on,

    Unless the ladies should go off? — there was

Indeed a certain fair and fairy one,

    Of the best class, and better than her class —

Aurora Raby, a young star who shone

    O’er life, too sweet an image for such glass,

A lovely being, scarcely form’d or moulded,

A rose with all its sweetest leaves yet folded;

Rich, noble, but an orphan; left an only

    Child to the care of guardians good and kind;

But still her aspect had an air so lonely!

    Blood is not water; and where shall we find

Feelings of youth like those which overthrown lie

    By death, when we are left, alas! behind,

To feel, in friendless palaces, a home

Is wanting, and our best ties in the tomb?

Early in years, and yet more infantine

    In figure, she had something of sublime

In eyes which sadly shone, as seraphs’ shine.

    All youth — but with an aspect beyond time;

Radiant and grave — as pitying man’s decline;

    Mournful — but mournful of another’s crime,

She look’d as if she sat by Eden’s door.

And grieved for those who could return no more.

She was a Catholic, too, sincere, austere,

    As far as her own gentle heart allow’d,

And deem’d that fallen worship far more dear

    Perhaps because ‘t was fallen: her sires were proud

Of deeds and days when they had fill’d the ear

    Of nations, and had never bent or bow’d

To novel power; and as she was the last,

She held their old faith and old feelings fast.

She gazed upon a world she scarcely knew,

    As seeking not to know it; silent, lone,

As grows a flower, thus quietly she grew,

    And kept her heart serene within its zone.

There was awe in the homage which she drew;

    Her spirit seem’d as seated on a throne

Apart from the surrounding world, and strong

In its own strength — most strange in one so young!

Now it so happen’d, in the catalogue

    Of Adeline, Aurora was omitted,

Although her birth and wealth had given her vogue

    Beyond the charmers we have already cited;

Her beauty also seem’d to form no clog

    Against her being mention’d as well fitted,

By many virtues, to be worth the trouble

Of single gentlemen who would be double.

And this omission, like that of the bust

    Of Brutus at the pageant of Tiberius,

Made Juan wonder, as no doubt he must.

    This he express’d half smiling and half serious;

When Adeline replied with some disgust,

    And with an air, to say the least, imperious,

She marvell’d ‘what he saw in such a baby

As that prim, silent, cold Aurora Raby?’

Juan rejoin’d —‘She was a Catholic,

    And therefore fittest, as of his persuasion;

Since he was sure his mother would fall sick,

    And the Pope thunder excommunication,

If-’ But here Adeline, who seem’d to pique

    Herself extremely on the inoculation

Of others with her own opinions, stated —

As usual — the same reason which she late did.

And wherefore not? A reasonable reason,

    If good, is none the worse for repetition;

If bad, the best way ‘s certainly to tease on,

    And amplify: you lose much by concision,

Whereas insisting in or out of season

    Convinces all men, even a politician;

Or — what is just the same — it wearies out.

So the end ‘s gain’d, what signifies the route?

Why Adeline had this slight prejudice —

    For prejudice it was — against a creature

As pure as sanctity itself from vice,

    With all the added charm of form and feature,

For me appears a question far too nice,

    Since Adeline was liberal by nature;

But nature ‘s nature, and has more caprices

Than I have time, or will, to take to pieces.

Perhaps she did not like the quiet way

    With which Aurora on those baubles look’d,

Which charm most people in their earlier day:

    For there are few things by mankind less brook’d,

And womankind too, if we so may say,

    Than finding thus their genius stand rebuked,

Like ‘Anthony’s by Caesar,’ by the few

Who look upon them as they ought to do.

It was not envy — Adeline had none;

    Her place was far beyond it, and her mind.

It was not scorn — which could not light on one

    Whose greatest fault was leaving few to find.

It was not jealousy, I think: but shun

    Following the ‘ignes fatui’ of mankind.

It was not — but ‘t is easier far, alas!

To say what it was not than what it was.

Little Aurora deem’d she was the theme

    Of such discussion. She was there a guest;

A beauteous ripple of the brilliant stream

    Of rank and youth, though purer than the rest,

Which flow’d on for a moment in the beam

    Time sheds a moment o’er each sparkling crest.

Had she known this, she would have calmly smiled —

She had so much, or little, of the child.

The dashing and proud air of Adeline

    Imposed not upon her: she saw her blaze

Much as she would have seen a glow-worm shine,

    Then turn’d unto the stars for loftier rays.

Juan was something she could not divine,

    Being no sibyl in the new world’s ways;

Yet she was nothing dazzled by the meteor,

Because she did not pin her faith on feature.

His fame too — for he had that kind of fame

    Which sometimes plays the deuce with womankind,

A heterogeneous mass of glorious blame,

    Half virtues and whole vices being combined;

Faults which attract because they are not tame;

    Follies trick’d out so brightly that they blind:—

These seals upon her wax made no impression,

Such was her coldness or her self-possession.

Juan knew nought of such a character —

    High, yet resembling not his lost Haidee;

Yet each was radiant in her proper sphere:

    The island girl, bred up by the lone sea,

More warm, as lovely, and not less sincere,

    Was Nature’s all: Aurora could not be,

Nor would be thus:— the difference in them

Was such as lies between a flower and gem.

Having wound up with this sublime comparison,

    Methinks we may proceed upon our narrative,

And, as my friend Scott says, ‘I sound my warison;’

    Scott, the superlative of my comparative —

Scott, who can paint your Christian knight or Saracen,

    Serf, lord, man, with such skill as none would share it, if

There had not been one Shakspeare and Voltaire,

Of one or both of whom he seems the heir.

I say, in my slight way I may proceed

    To play upon the surface of humanity.

I write the world, nor care if the world read,

    At least for this I cannot spare its vanity.

My Muse hath bred, and still perhaps may breed

    More foes by this same scroll: when I began it, I

Thought that it might turn out so — now I know it,

But still I am, or was, a pretty poet.

The conference or congress (for it ended

    As congresses of late do) of the Lady

Adeline and Don Juan rather blended

    Some acids with the sweets — for she was heady;

But, ere the matter could be marr’d or mended,

    The silvery bell rang, not for ‘dinner ready,

But for that hour, call’d half-hour, given to dress,

Though ladies’ robes seem scant enough for less.

Great things were now to be achieved at table,

    With massy plate for armour, knives and forks

For weapons; but what Muse since Homer ‘s able

    (His feasts are not the worst part of his works)

To draw up in array a single day-bill

    Of modern dinners? where more mystery lurks,

In soups or sauces, or a sole ragout,

There was a goodly ‘soupe a la bonne femme,’

    Though God knows whence it came from; there was, too,

A turbot for relief of those who cram,

    Relieved with ‘dindon a la Parigeux;’

    How shall I get this gourmand stanza through?-

‘Soupe a la Beauveau,’ whose relief was dory,

Relieved itself by pork, for greater glory.

But I must crowd all into one grand mess

    Or mass; for should I stretch into detail,

My Muse would run much more into excess,

    Than when some squeamish people deem her frail.

But though a ‘bonne vivante,’ I must confess

    Her stomach ‘s not her peccant part; this tale

However doth require some slight refection,

Just to relieve her spirits from dejection.

Fowls ‘a la Conde,’ slices eke of salmon,

    With ‘sauces Genevoises,’ and haunch of venison;

Wines too, which might again have slain young Ammon —

    A man like whom I hope we shan’t see many soon;

They also set a glazed Westphalian ham on,

    Whereon Apicius would bestow his benison;

And then there was champagne with foaming whirls,

As white as Cleopatra’s melted pearls.

Then there was God knows what ‘a l’Allemande,’

    ‘A l’Espagnole,’ ‘timballe,’ and ‘salpicon’-

With things I can’t withstand or understand,

    Though swallow’d with much zest upon the whole;

And ‘entremets’ to piddle with at hand,

    Gently to lull down the subsiding soul;

While great Lucullus’ Robe triumphal muffles

(There ‘s fame) young partridge fillets, deck’d with truffles.

What are the fillets on the victor’s brow

    To these? They are rags or dust. Where is the arch

Which nodded to the nation’s spoils below?

    Where the triumphal chariots’ haughty march?

Gone to where victories must like dinners go.

    Farther I shall not follow the research:

But oh! ye modern heroes with your cartridges,

When will your names lend lustre e’en to partridges?

Those truffles too are no bad accessaries,

    Follow’d by ‘petits puits d’amour’— a dish

Of which perhaps the cookery rather varies,

    So every one may dress it to his wish,

According to the best of dictionaries,

    Which encyclopedize both flesh and fish;

But even sans ‘confitures,’ it no less true is,

There ‘s pretty picking in those ‘petits puits.’

The mind is lost in mighty contemplation

    Of intellect expanded on two courses;

And indigestion’s grand multiplication

    Requires arithmetic beyond my forces.

Who would suppose, from Adam’s simple ration,

    That cookery could have call’d forth such resources,

As form a science and a nomenclature

From out the commonest demands of nature?

The glasses jingled, and the palates tingled;

    The diners of celebrity dined well;

The ladies with more moderation mingled

    In the feast, pecking less than I can tell;

Also the younger men too: for a springald

    Can’t, like ripe age, in gormandize excel,

But thinks less of good eating than the whisper

(When seated next him) of some pretty lisper.

Alas! I must leave undescribed the gibier,

    The salmi, the consomme, the puree,

All which I use to make my rhymes run glibber

    Than could roast beef in our rough John Bull way:

I must not introduce even a spare rib here,

    ‘Bubble and squeak’ would spoil my liquid lay:

But I have dined, and must forego, Alas!

The chaste description even of a ‘becasse;’

And fruits, and ice, and all that art refines

    From nature for the service of the gout —

Taste or the gout — pronounce it as inclines

    Your stomach! Ere you dine, the French will do;

But after, there are sometimes certain signs

    Which prove plain English truer of the two.

Hast ever had the gout? I have not had it —

But I may have, and you too, reader, dread it.

The simple olives, best allies of wine,

    Must I pass over in my bill of fare?

I must, although a favourite ‘plat’ of mine

    In Spain, and Lucca, Athens, every where:

On them and bread ‘t was oft my luck to dine,

    The grass my table-cloth, in open-air,

On Sunium or Hymettus, like Diogenes,

Of whom half my philosophy the progeny is.

Amidst this tumult of fish, flesh, and ‘fowl,

    And vegetables, all in masquerade,

The guests were placed according to their roll,

    But various as the various meats display’d:

Don Juan sat next ‘an l’Espagnole’-

    No damsel, but a dish, as hath been said;

But so far like a lady, that ‘t was drest

Superbly, and contain’d a world of zest.

By some odd chance too, he was placed between

    Aurora and the Lady Adeline —

A situation difficult, I ween,

    For man therein, with eyes and heart, to dine.

Also the conference which we have seen

    Was not such as to encourage him to shine;

For Adeline, addressing few words to him,

With two transcendent eyes seem’d to look through him.

I sometimes almost think that eyes have ears:

    This much is sure, that, out of earshot, things

Are somehow echoed to the pretty dears,

    Of which I can’t tell whence their knowledge springs.

Like that same mystic music of the spheres,

    Which no one bears, so loudly though it rings,

’T is wonderful how oft the sex have heard

Long dialogues — which pass’d without a word!

Aurora sat with that indifference

    Which piques a preux chevalier — as it ought:

Of all offences that ‘s the worst offence,

    Which seems to hint you are not worth a thought.

Now Juan, though no coxcomb in pretence,

    Was not exactly pleased to be so caught;

Like a good ship entangled among ice,

And after so much excellent advice.

To his gay nothings, nothing was replied,

    Or something which was nothing, as urbanity

Required. Aurora scarcely look’d aside,

    Nor even smiled enough for any vanity.

The devil was in the girl! Could it be pride?

    Or modesty, or absence, or inanity?

Heaven knows? But Adeline’s malicious eyes

Sparkled with her successful prophecies,

And look’d as much as if to say, ‘I said it;’

    A kind of triumph I ’ll not recommend,

Because it sometimes, as I have seen or read it,

    Both in the case of lover and of friend,

Will pique a gentleman, for his own credit,

    To bring what was a jest to a serious end:

For all men prophesy what is or was,

And hate those who won’t let them come to pass.

Juan was drawn thus into some attentions,

    Slight but select, and just enough to express,

To females of perspicuous comprehensions,

    That he would rather make them more than less.

Aurora at the last (so history mentions,

    Though probably much less a fact than guess)

So far relax’d her thoughts from their sweet prison,

As once or twice to smile, if not to listen.

From answering she began to question; this

    With her was rare: and Adeline, who as yet

Thought her predictions went not much amiss,

    Began to dread she’d thaw to a coquette —

So very difficult, they say, it is

    To keep extremes from meeting, when once set

In motion; but she here too much refined —

Aurora’s spirit was not of that kind.

But Juan had a sort of winning way,

    A proud humility, if such there be,

Which show’d such deference to what females say,

    As if each charming word were a decree.

His tact, too, temper’d him from grave to gay,

    And taught him when to be reserved or free:

He had the art of drawing people out,

Without their seeing what he was about.

Aurora, who in her indifference

    Confounded him in common with the crowd

Of flatterers, though she deem’d he had more sense

    Than whispering foplings, or than witlings loud —

Commenced (from such slight things will great commence)

    To feel that flattery which attracts the proud

Rather by deference than compliment,

And wins even by a delicate dissent.

And then he had good looks; — that point was carried

    Nem. con. amongst the women, which I grieve

To say leads oft to crim. con. with the married —

    A case which to the juries we may leave,

Since with digressions we too long have tarried.

    Now though we know of old that looks deceive,

And always have done, somehow these good looks

Make more impression than the best of books.

Aurora, who look’d more on books than faces,

    Was very young, although so very sage,

Admiring more Minerva than the Graces,

    Especially upon a printed page.

But Virtue’s self, with all her tightest laces,

    Has not the natural stays of strict old age;

And Socrates, that model of all duty,

Own’d to a penchant, though discreet, for beauty.

And girls of sixteen are thus far Socratic,

    But innocently so, as Socrates;

And really, if the sage sublime and Attic

    At seventy years had phantasies like these,

Which Plato in his dialogues dramatic

    Has shown, I know not why they should displease

In virgins — always in a modest way,

Observe; for that with me ‘s a ‘sine qua.’

Also observe, that, like the great Lord Coke

    (See Littleton), whene’er I have express’d

Opinions two, which at first sight may look

    Twin opposites, the second is the best.

Perhaps I have a third, too, in a nook,

    Or none at all — which seems a sorry jest:

But if a writer should be quite consistent,

How could he possibly show things existent?

If people contradict themselves, can

    Help contradicting them, and every body,

Even my veracious self? — But that ‘s a lie:

    I never did so, never will — how should I?

He who doubts all things nothing can deny:

    Truth’s fountains may be clear — her streams are muddy,

And cut through such canals of contradiction,

That she must often navigate o’er fiction.

Apologue, fable, poesy, and parable,

    Are false, but may he render’d also true,

By those who sow them in a land that ‘s arable.

    ’T is wonderful what fable will not do!

’T is said it makes reality more bearable:

    But what ‘s reality? Who has its clue?

Philosophy? No: she too much rejects.

Religion? Yes; but which of all her sects?

Some millions must be wrong, that ‘s pretty dear;

    Perhaps it may turn out that all were right.

God help us! Since we have need on our career

    To keep our holy beacons always bright,

’T is time that some new prophet should appear,

    Or old indulge man with a second sight.

Opinions wear out in some thousand years,

Without a small refreshment from the spheres.

But here again, why will I thus entangle

    Myself with metaphysics? None can hate

So much as I do any kind of wrangle;

    And yet, such is my folly, or my fate,

I always knock my head against some angle

    About the present, past, or future state.

Yet I wish well to Trojan and to Tyrian,

For I was bred a moderate Presbyterian.

But though I am a temperate theologian,

    And also meek as a metaphysician,

Impartial between Tyrian and Trojan,

    As Eldon on a lunatic commission —

In politics my duty is to show John

    Bull something of the lower world’s condition.

It makes my blood boil like the springs of Hecla,

To see men let these scoundrel sovereigns break law.

But politics, and policy, and piety,

    Are topics which I sometimes introduce,

Not only for the sake of their variety,

    But as subservient to a moral use;

Because my business is to dress society,

    And stuff with sage that very verdant goose.

And now, that we may furnish with some matter all

Tastes, we are going to try the supernatural.

And now I will give up all argument;

    And positively henceforth no temptation

Shall ‘fool me to the top up of my bent:’-

    Yes, I’ ll begin a thorough reformation.

Indeed, I never knew what people meant

    By deeming that my Muse’s conversation

Was dangerous; — I think she is as harmless

As some who labour more and yet may charm less.

Grim reader! did you ever see a ghost?

    No; but you have heard — I understand — be dumb!

And don’t regret the time you may have lost,

    For you have got that pleasure still to come:

And do not think I mean to sneer at most

    Of these things, or by ridicule benumb

That source of the sublime and the mysterious:—

For certain reasons my belief is serious.

Serious? You laugh; — you may: that will I not;

    My smiles must be sincere or not at all.

I say I do believe a haunted spot

    Exists — and where? That shall I not recall,

Because I ‘d rather it should be forgot,

    ‘Shadows the soul of Richard’ may appal.

In short, upon that subject I ’ve some qualms very

Like those of the philosopher of Malmsbury.

The night (I sing by night — sometimes an owl,

    And now and then a nightingale) is dim,

And the loud shriek of sage Minerva’s fowl

    Rattles around me her discordant hymn:

Old portraits from old walls upon me scowl —

    I wish to heaven they would not look so grim;

The dying embers dwindle in the grate —

I think too that I have sate up too late:

And therefore, though ‘t is by no means my way

    To rhyme at noon — when I have other things

To think of, if I ever think — I say

    I feel some chilly midnight shudderings,

And prudently postpone, until mid-day,

    Treating a topic which, alas! but brings

Shadows; — but you must be in my condition

Before you learn to call this superstition.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/byron/george/b99d/canto15.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31