Don Juan, by George Byron

Canto the Sixteenth.

The antique Persians taught three useful things,

    To draw the bow, to ride, and speak the truth.

This was the mode of Cyrus, best of kings —

    A mode adopted since by modern youth.

Bows have they, generally with two strings;

    Horses they ride without remorse or ruth;

At speaking truth perhaps they are less clever,

But draw the long bow better now than ever.

The cause of this effect, or this defect —

    ‘For this effect defective comes by cause,’-

Is what I have not leisure to inspect;

    But this I must say in my own applause,

Of all the Muses that I recollect,

    Whate’er may be her follies or her flaws

In some things, mine ‘s beyond all contradiction

The most sincere that ever dealt in fiction.

And as she treats all things, and ne’er retreats

    From any thing, this epic will contain

A wilderness of the most rare conceits,

    Which you might elsewhere hope to find in vain.

’T is true there be some bitters with the sweets,

    Yet mix’d so slightly, that you can’t complain,

But wonder they so few are, since my tale is

‘De rebus cunctis et quibusdam aliis.’

But of all truths which she has told, the most

    True is that which she is about to tell.

I said it was a story of a ghost —

    What then? I only know it so befell.

Have you explored the limits of the coast,

    Where all the dwellers of the earth must dwell?

’T is time to strike such puny doubters dumb as

The sceptics who would not believe Columbus.

Some people would impose now with authority,

    Turpin’s or Monmouth Geoffry’s Chronicle;

Men whose historical superiority

    Is always greatest at a miracle.

But Saint Augustine has the great priority,

    Who bids all men believe the impossible,

Because ‘t is so. Who nibble, scribble, quibble, he

Quiets at once with ‘quia impossibile.’

And therefore, mortals, cavil not at all;

    Believe:— if ‘t is improbable you must,

And if it is impossible, you shall:

    ’T is always best to take things upon trust.

I do not speak profanely, to recall

    Those holier mysteries which the wise and just

Receive as gospel, and which grow more rooted,

As all truths must, the more they are disputed:

I merely mean to say what Johnson said,

    That in the course of some six thousand years,

All nations have believed that from the dead

    A visitant at intervals appears;

And what is strangest upon this strange head,

    Is, that whatever bar the reason rears

‘Gainst such belief, there ‘s something stronger still

In its behalf, let those deny who will.

The dinner and the soiree too were done,

    The supper too discuss’d, the dames admired,

The banqueteers had dropp’d off one by one —

    The song was silent, and the dance expired:

The last thin petticoats were vanish’d, gone

    Like fleecy Clouds into the sky retired,

And nothing brighter gleam’d through the saloon

Than dying tapers — and the peeping moon.

The evaporation of a joyous day

    Is like the last glass of champagne, without

The foam which made its virgin bumper gay;

    Or like a system coupled with a doubt;

Or like a soda bottle when its spray

    Has sparkled and let half its spirit out;

Or like a billow left by storms behind,

Without the animation of the wind;

Or like an opiate, which brings troubled rest,

    Or none; or like — like nothing that I know

Except itself; — such is the human breast;

    A thing, of which similitudes can show

No real likeness — like the old Tyrian vest

    Dyed purple, none at present can tell how,

If from a shell-fish or from cochineal.

So perish every tyrant’s robe piece-meal!

But next to dressing for a rout or ball,

    Undressing is a woe; our robe de chambre

May sit like that of Nessus, and recall

    Thoughts quite as yellow, but less clear than amber.

Titus exclaim’d, ‘I ’ve lost a day!’ Of all

    The nights and days most people can remember

(I have had of both, some not to be disdain’d),

I wish they ‘d state how many they have gain’d.

And Juan, on retiring for the night,

    Felt restless, and perplex’d, and compromised:

He thought Aurora Raby’s eyes more bright

    Than Adeline (such is advice) advised;

If he had known exactly his own plight,

    He probably would have philosophised:

A great resource to all, and ne’er denied

Till wanted; therefore Juan only sigh’d.

He sigh’d; — the next resource is the full moon,

    Where all sighs are deposited; and now

It happen’d luckily, the chaste orb shone

    As clear as such a climate will allow;

And Juan’s mind was in the proper tone

    To hail her with the apostrophe —‘O thou!’

Of amatory egotism the Tuism,

Which further to explain would be a truism.

But lover, poet, or astronomer,

    Shepherd, or swain, whoever may behold,

Feel some abstraction when they gaze on her:

    Great thoughts we catch from thence (besides a cold

Sometimes, unless my feelings rather err);

    Deep secrets to her rolling light are told;

The ocean’s tides and mortals’ brains she sways,

And also hearts, if there be truth in lays.

Juan felt somewhat pensive, and disposed

    For contemplation rather than his pillow:

The Gothic chamber, where he was enclosed,

    Let in the rippling sound of the lake’s billow,

With all the mystery by midnight caused;

    Below his window waved (of course) a willow;

And he stood gazing out on the cascade

That flash’d and after darken’d in the shade.

Upon his table or his toilet — which

    Of these is not exactly ascertain’d

(I state this, for I am cautious to a pitch

    Of nicety, where a fact is to be gain’d) —

A lamp burn’d high, while he leant from a niche,

    Where many a Gothic ornament remain’d,

In chisell’d stone and painted glass, and all

That time has left our fathers of their hall.

Then, as the night was clear though cold, he threw

    His chamber door wide open — and went forth

Into a gallery, of a sombre hue,

    Long, furnish’d with old pictures of great worth,

Of knights and dames heroic and chaste too,

    As doubtless should be people of high birth.

But by dim lights the portraits of the dead

Have something ghastly, desolate, and dread.

The forms of the grim knight and pictured saint

    Look living in the moon; and as you turn

Backward and forward to the echoes faint

    Of your own footsteps — voices from the urn

Appear to wake, and shadows wild and quaint

    Start from the frames which fence their aspects stern,

As if to ask how you can dare to keep

A vigil there, where all but death should sleep.

And the pale smile of beauties in the grave,

    The charms of other days, in starlight gleams,

Glimmer on high; their buried locks still wave

    Along the canvas; their eyes glance like dreams

On ours, or spars within some dusky cave,

    But death is imaged in their shadowy beams.

A picture is the past; even ere its frame

Be gilt, who sate hath ceased to be the same.

As Juan mused on mutability,

    Or on his mistress — terms synonymous —

No sound except the echo of his sigh

    Or step ran sadly through that antique house;

When suddenly he heard, or thought so, nigh,

    A supernatural agent — or a mouse,

Whose little nibbling rustle will embarrass

Most people as it plays along the arras.

It was no mouse, but lo! a monk, array’d

    In cowl and beads and dusky garb, appear’d,

Now in the moonlight, and now lapsed in shade,

    With steps that trod as heavy, yet unheard;

His garments only a slight murmur made;

    He moved as shadowy as the sisters weird,

But slowly; and as he pass’d Juan by,

Glanced, without pausing, on him a bright eye.

Juan was petrified; he had heard a hint

    Of such a spirit in these halls of old,

But thought, like most men, there was nothing in ‘t

    Beyond the rumour which such spots unfold,

Coin’d from surviving superstition’s mint,

    Which passes ghosts in currency like gold,

But rarely seen, like gold compared with paper.

And did he see this? or was it a vapour?

Once, twice, thrice pass’d, repass’d — the thing of air,

    Or earth beneath, or heaven, or t’ other place;

And Juan gazed upon it with a stare,

    Yet could not speak or move; but, on its base

As stands a statue, stood: he felt his hair

    Twine like a knot of snakes around his face;

He tax’d his tongue for words, which were not granted,

To ask the reverend person what he wanted.

The third time, after a still longer pause,

    The shadow pass’d away — but where? the hall

Was long, and thus far there was no great cause

    To think his vanishing unnatural:

Doors there were many, through which, by the laws

    Of physics, bodies whether short or tall

Might come or go; but Juan could not state

Through which the spectre seem’d to evaporate.

He stood — how long he knew not, but it seem’d

    An age — expectant, powerless, with his eyes

Strain’d on the spot where first the figure gleam’d;

    Then by degrees recall’d his energies,

And would have pass’d the whole off as a dream,

    But could not wake; he was, he did surmise,

Waking already, and return’d at length

Back to his chamber, shorn of half his strength.

All there was as he left it: still his taper

    Burnt, and not blue, as modest tapers use,

Receiving sprites with sympathetic vapour;

    He rubb’d his eyes, and they did not refuse

Their office; he took up an old newspaper;

    The paper was right easy to peruse;

He read an article the king attacking,

And a long eulogy of ‘patent blacking.’

This savour’d of this world; but his hand shook —

    He shut his door, and after having read

A paragraph, I think about Horne Tooke,

    Undrest, and rather slowly went to bed.

There, couch’d all snugly on his pillow’s nook,

    With what he had seen his phantasy he fed;

And though it was no opiate, slumber crept

Upon him by degrees, and so he slept.

He woke betimes; and, as may be supposed,

    Ponder’d upon his visitant or vision,

And whether it ought not to be disclosed,

    At risk of being quizz’d for superstition.

The more he thought, the more his mind was posed:

    In the mean time, his valet, whose precision

Was great, because his master brook’d no less,

Knock’d to inform him it was time to dress.

He dress’d; and like young people he was wont

    To take some trouble with his toilet, but

This morning rather spent less time upon ‘t;

    Aside his very mirror soon was put;

His curls fell negligently o’er his front,

    His clothes were not curb’d to their usual cut,

His very neckcloth’s Gordian knot was tied

Almost an hair’s breadth too much on one side.

And when he walk’d down into the saloon,

    He sate him pensive o’er a dish of tea,

Which he perhaps had not discover’d soon,

    Had it not happen’d scalding hot to be,

Which made him have recourse unto his spoon;

    So much distrait he was, that all could see

That something was the matter — Adeline

The first — but what she could not well divine.

She look’d, and saw him pale, and turn’d as pale

    Herself; then hastily look’d down, and mutter’d

Something, but what ‘s not stated in my tale.

    Lord Henry said his muffin was ill butter’d;

The Duchess of Fitz–Fulke play’d with her veil,

    And look’d at Juan hard, but nothing utter’d.

Aurora Raby with her large dark eyes

Survey’d him with a kind of calm surprise.

But seeing him all cold and silent still,

    And everybody wondering more or less,

Fair Adeline enquired, ‘If he were ill?’

    He started, and said, ‘Yes — no — rather — yes.’

The family physician had great skill,

    And being present, now began to express

His readiness to feel his pulse and tell

The cause, but Juan said, ‘He was quite well.’

‘Quite well; yes — no.’— These answers were mysterious,

    And yet his looks appear’d to sanction both,

However they might savour of delirious;

    Something like illness of a sudden growth

Weigh’d on his spirit, though by no means serious:

    But for the rest, as he himself seem’d loth

To state the case, it might be ta’en for granted

It was not the physician that he wanted.

Lord Henry, who had now discuss’d his chocolate,

    Also the muffin whereof he complain’d,

Said, Juan had not got his usual look elate,

    At which he marvell’d, since it had not rain’d;

Then ask’d her Grace what news were of the duke of late?

    Her Grace replied, his Grace was rather pain’d

With some slight, light, hereditary twinges

Of gout, which rusts aristocratic hinges.

Then Henry turn’d to Juan, and address’d

    A few words of condolence on his state:

‘You look,’ quoth he, ‘as if you had had your rest

    Broke in upon by the Black Friar of late.’

‘What friar?’ said Juan; and he did his best

    To put the question with an air sedate,

Or careless; but the effort was not valid

To hinder him from growing still more pallid.

‘Oh! have you never heard of the Black Friar?

    The spirit of these walls?’—‘In truth not I.’

‘Why Fame — but Fame you know ‘s sometimes a liar —

    Tells an odd story, of which by and by:

Whether with time the spectre has grown shyer,

    Or that our sires had a more gifted eye

For such sights, though the tale is half believed,

The friar of late has not been oft perceived.

    (Who watch’d the changes of Don Juan’s brow,

And from its context thought she could divine

    Connexions stronger then he chose to avow

With this same legend)—‘if you but design

    To jest, you ’ll choose some other theme just now,

Because the present tale has oft been told,

And is not much improved by growing old.’

‘Jest!’ quoth Milor; ‘why, Adeline, you know

    That we ourselves —‘t was in the honey-moon —

    But, come, I ’ll set your story to a tune.’

Graceful as Dian, when she draws her bow,

    She seized her harp, whose strings were kindled soon

As touch’d, and plaintively began to play

The air of ’T was a Friar of Orders Gray.’

‘But add the words,’ cried Henry, ‘which you made;

    For Adeline is half a poetess,’

Turning round to the rest, he smiling said.

    Of course the others could not but express

In courtesy their wish to see display’d

    By one three talents, for there were no less —

The voice, the words, the harper’s skill, at once

Could hardly be united by a dunce.

After some fascinating hesitation —

    The charming of these charmers, who seem bound,

I can’t tell why, to this dissimulation —

    Fair Adeline, with eyes fix’d on the ground

At first, then kindling into animation,

    Added her sweet voice to the lyric sound,

And sang with much simplicity — a merit

Not the less precious, that we seldom hear it.

       Beware! beware! of the Black Friar,

         Who sitteth by Norman stone,

       For he mutters his prayer in the midnight air,

         And his mass of the days that are gone.

       When the Lord of the Hill, Amundeville,

         Made Norman Church his prey,

       And expell’d the friars, one friar still

         Would not be driven away.

       Though he came in his might, with King Henry’s right,

         To turn church lands to lay,

       With sword in hand, and torch to light

         Their walls, if they said nay;

       A monk remain’d, unchased, unchain’d,

         And he did not seem form’d of clay,

       For he ‘s seen in the porch, and he ‘s seen in the church,

         Though he is not seen by day.

       And whether for good, or whether for ill,

         It is not mine to say;

       But still with the house of Amundeville

         He abideth night and day.

       By the marriage-bed of their lords, ‘t is said,

         He flits on the bridal eve;

       And ‘t is held as faith, to their bed of death

         He comes — but not to grieve.

       When an heir is born, he ‘s heard to mourn,

         And when aught is to befall

       That ancient line, in the “we moonshine

         He walks from hall to hall.

       His form you may trace, but not his face,

         ’T is shadow’d by his cowl;

       But his eyes may be seen from the folds between,

         And they seem of a parted soul.

       But beware! beware! of the Black Friar,

         He still retains his sway,

       For he is yet the church’s heir

         Whoever may be the lay.

       Amundeville is lord by day,

         But the monk is lord by night;

       Nor wine nor wassail could raise a vassal

         To question that friar’s right.

       Say nought to him as he walks the hall,

         And he ’ll say nought to you;

       He sweeps along in his dusky pall,

         As o’er the grass the dew.

       Then grammercy! for the Black Friar;

         Heaven sain him, fair or foul!

       And whatsoe’er may be his prayer,

         Let ours be for his soul.

The lady’s voice ceased, and the thrilling wires

    Died from the touch that kindled them to sound;

And the pause follow’d, which when song expires

    Pervades a moment those who listen round;

And then of course the circle much admires,

    Nor less applauds, as in politeness bound,

The tones, the feeling, and the execution,

To the performer’s diffident confusion.

Fair Adeline, though in a careless way,

    As if she rated such accomplishment

As the mere pastime of an idle day,

    Pursued an instant for her own content,

Would now and then as ‘t were without display,

    Yet with display in fact, at times relent

To such performances with haughty smile,

To show she could, if it were worth her while.

Now this (but we will whisper it aside)

    Was — pardon the pedantic illustration —

Trampling on Plato’s pride with greater pride,

    As did the Cynic on some like occasion;

Deeming the sage would be much mortified,

    Or thrown into a philosophic passion,

For a spoil’d carpet — but the ‘Attic Bee’

Was much consoled by his own repartee.

Thus Adeline would throw into the shade

    (By doing easily, whene’er she chose,

What dilettanti do with vast parade)

    Their sort of half profession; for it grows

To something like this when too oft display’d;

    And that it is so everybody knows

Who have heard Miss That or This, or Lady T’other,

Show off — to please their company or mother.

O! the long evenings of duets and trios!

    The admirations and the speculations;

The ‘Mamma Mia’s!’ and the ‘Amor Mio’s!’

    The ‘Tanti palpiti’s’ on such occasions:

The ‘Lasciami’s,’ and quavering ‘Addio’s!’

    Amongst our own most musical of nations;

With ‘Tu mi chamas’s’ from Portingale,

To soothe our ears, lest Italy should fail.

In Babylon’s bravuras — as the home

    Heart-ballads of Green Erin or Gray Highlands,

That bring Lochaber back to eyes that roam

    O’er far Atlantic continents or islands,

The calentures of music which o’ercome

    All mountaineers with dreams that they are nigh lands,

No more to be beheld but in such visions —

Was Adeline well versed, as compositions.

She also had a twilight tinge of ‘Blue,’

    Could write rhymes, and compose more than she wrote,

Made epigrams occasionally too

    Upon her friends, as everybody ought.

But still from that sublimer azure hue,

    So much the present dye, she was remote;

Was weak enough to deem Pope a great poet,

And what was worse, was not ashamed to show it.

Aurora — since we are touching upon taste,

    Which now-a-days is the thermometer

By whose degrees all characters are class’d —

    Was more Shakspearian, if I do not err.

The worlds beyond this world’s perplexing waste

    Had more of her existence, for in her

There was a depth of feeling to embrace

Thoughts, boundless, deep, but silent too as Space.

Not so her gracious, graceful, graceless Grace,

    The full-grown Hebe of Fitz–Fulke, whose mind,

If she had any, was upon her face,

    And that was of a fascinating kind.

A little turn for mischief you might trace

    Also thereon — but that ‘s not much; we find

Few females without some such gentle leaven,

For fear we should suppose us quite in heaven.

I have not heard she was at all poetic,

    Though once she was seen reading the ‘Bath Guide,’

And ‘Hayley’s Triumphs,’ which she deem’d pathetic,

    Because she said her temper had been tried

So much, the bard had really been prophetic

    Of what she had gone through with — since a bride.

But of all verse, what most ensured her praise

Were sonnets to herself, or ‘bouts rimes.’

’T were difficult to say what was the object

    Of Adeline, in bringing this same lay

To bear on what appear’d to her the subject

    Of Juan’s nervous feelings on that day.

Perhaps she merely had the simple project

    To laugh him out of his supposed dismay;

Perhaps she might wish to confirm him in it,

Though why I cannot say — at least this minute.

But so far the immediate effect

    Was to restore him to his self-propriety,

A thing quite necessary to the elect,

    Who wish to take the tone of their society:

In which you cannot be too circumspect,

    Whether the mode be persiflage or piety,

But wear the newest mantle of hypocrisy,

On pain of much displeasing the gynocracy.

And therefore Juan now began to rally

    His spirits, and without more explanation

To jest upon such themes in many a sally.

    Her Grace, too, also seized the same occasion,

With various similar remarks to tally,

    But wish’d for a still more detail’d narration

Of this same mystic friar’s curious doings,

About the present family’s deaths and wooings.

Of these few could say more than has been said;

    They pass’d as such things do, for superstition

With some, while others, who had more in dread

    The theme, half credited the strange tradition;

And much was talk’d on all sides on that head:

    But Juan, when cross-question’d on the vision,

Which some supposed (though he had not avow’d it)

Had stirr’d him, answer’d in a way to cloud it.

And then, the mid-day having worn to one,

    The company prepared to separate;

Some to their several pastimes, or to none,

    Some wondering ‘t was so early, some so late.

There was a goodly match too, to be run

    Between some greyhounds on my lord’s estate,

And a young race-horse of old pedigree

Match’d for the spring, whom several went to see.

There was a picture-dealer who had brought

    A special Titian, warranted original,

So precious that it was not to be bought,

    Though princes the possessor were besieging all.

The king himself had cheapen’d it, but thought

    The civil list he deigns to accept (obliging all

His subjects by his gracious acceptation)

Too scanty, in these times of low taxation.

But as Lord Henry was a connoisseur —

    The friend of artists, if not arts — the owner,

With motives the most classical and pure,

    So that he would have been the very donor,

Rather than seller, had his wants been fewer,

    So much he deem’d his patronage an honour,

Had brought the capo d’opera, not for sale,

But for his judgment — never known to fail.

There was a modern Goth, I mean a Gothic

    Bricklayer of Babel, call’d an architect,

Brought to survey these grey walls, which though so thick,

    Might have from time acquired some slight defect;

Who after rummaging the Abbey through thick

    And thin, produced a plan whereby to erect

New buildings of correctest conformation,

And throw down old — which he call’d restoration.

The cost would be a trifle — an ‘old song,’

    Set to some thousands (‘t is the usual burden

Of that same tune, when people hum it long)—

    The price would speedily repay its worth in

An edifice no less sublime than strong,

    By which Lord Henry’s good taste would go forth in

Its glory, through all ages shining sunny,

For Gothic daring shown in English money.

There were two lawyers busy on a mortgage

    Lord Henry wish’d to raise for a new purchase;

Also a lawsuit upon tenures burgage,

    And one on tithes, which sure are Discord’s torches,

Kindling Religion till she throws down her gage,

    ‘Untying’ squires ‘to fight against the churches;’

There was a prize ox, a prize pig, and ploughman,

For Henry was a sort of Sabine showman.

There were two poachers caught in a steel trap,

    Ready for gaol, their place of convalescence;

There was a country girl in a close cap

    And scarlet cloak (I hate the sight to see, since —

Since — since — in youth, I had the sad mishap —

    But luckily I have paid few parish fees since):

That scarlet cloak, alas! unclosed with rigour,

Presents the problem of a double figure.

A reel within a bottle is a mystery,

    One can’t tell how it e’er got in or out;

Therefore the present piece of natural history

    I leave to those who are fond of solving doubt;

And merely state, though not for the consistory,

    Lord Henry was a justice, and that Scout

The constable, beneath a warrant’s banner,

Had bagg’d this poacher upon Nature’s manor.

Now justices of peace must judge all pieces

    Of mischief of all kinds, and keep the game

And morals of the country from caprices

    Of those who have not a license for the same;

And of all things, excepting tithes and leases,

    Perhaps these are most difficult to tame:

Preserving partridges and pretty wenches

Are puzzles to the most precautious benches.

The present culprit was extremely pale,

    Pale as if painted so; her cheek being red

By nature, as in higher dames less hale

    ’T is white, at least when they just rise from bed.

Perhaps she was ashamed of seeming frail,

    Poor soul! for she was country born and bred,

And knew no better in her immorality

Than to wax white — for blushes are for quality.

Her black, bright, downcast, yet espiegle eye,

    Had gather’d a large tear into its corner,

Which the poor thing at times essay’d to dry,

    For she was not a sentimental mourner

Parading all her sensibility,

    Nor insolent enough to scorn the scorner,

But stood in trembling, patient tribulation,

To be call’d up for her examination.

Of course these groups were scatter’d here and there,

    Not nigh the gay saloon of ladies gent.

The lawyers in the study; and in air

    The prize pig, ploughman, poachers; the men sent

From town, viz., architect and dealer, were

    Both busy (as a general in his tent

Writing despatches) in their several stations,

Exulting in their brilliant lucubrations.

But this poor girl was left in the great hall,

    While Scout, the parish guardian of the frail,

Discuss’d (he hated beer yclept the ‘small’)

    A mighty mug of moral double ale.

She waited until justice could recall

    Its kind attentions to their proper pale,

To name a thing in nomenclature rather

Perplexing for most virgins — a child’s father.

You see here was enough of occupation

    For the Lord Henry, link’d with dogs and horses.

There was much bustle too, and preparation

    Below stairs on the score of second courses;

Because, as suits their rank and situation,

    Those who in counties have great land resources

Have ‘Public days,’ when all men may carouse,

Though not exactly what ‘s call’d ‘open house.’

But once a week or fortnight, uninvited

    (Thus we translate a general invitation),

All country gentlemen, esquired or knighted,

    May drop in without cards, and take their station

At the full board, and sit alike delighted

    With fashionable wines and conversation;

And, as the isthmus of the grand connection,

Talk o’er themselves the past and next election.

Lord Henry was a great electioneerer,

    Burrowing for boroughs like a rat or rabbit;

But county contests cost him rather dearer,

    Because the neighbouring Scotch Earl of Giftgabbit

Had English influence in the self-same sphere here;

    His son, the Honourable Dick Dicedrabbit,

Was member for the ‘other interest’ (meaning

The same self-interest, with a different leaning).

Courteous and cautious therefore in his county,

    He was all things to all men, and dispensed

To some civility, to others bounty,

    And promises to all — which last commenced

To gather to a somewhat large amount, he

    Not calculating how much they condensed;

But what with keeping some, and breaking others,

His word had the same value as another’s.

A friend to freedom and freeholders — yet

    No less a friend to government — he held,

That he exactly the just medium hit

    ‘Twixt place and patriotism — albeit compell’d,

Such was his sovereign’s pleasure (though unfit,

    He added modestly, when rebels rail’d),

To hold some sinecures he wish’d abolish’d,

But that with them all law would be demolish’d.

He was ‘free to confess’ (whence comes this phrase?

    Is ‘t English? No —‘t is only parliamentary)

That innovation’s spirit now-a-days

    Had made more progress than for the last century.

He would not tread a factious path to praise,

    Though for the public weal disposed to venture high;

As for his place, he could but say this of it,

That the fatigue was greater than the profit.

Heaven, and his friends, knew that a private life

    Had ever been his sole and whole ambition;

But could he quit his king in times of strife,

    Which threaten’d the whole country with perdition?

When demagogues would with a butcher’s knife

    Cut through and through (oh! damnable incision!)

The Gordian or the Geordi-an knot, whose strings

Have tied together commons, lords, and kings.

Sooner ‘come lace into the civil list

    And champion him to the utmost’— he would keep it,

Till duly disappointed or dismiss’d:

    Profit he care not for, let others reap it;

But should the day come when place ceased to exist,

    The country would have far more cause to weep it:

For how could it go on? Explain who can!

He gloried in the name of Englishman.

He was as independent — ay, much more —

    Than those who were not paid for independence,

As common soldiers, or a common — shore,

    Have in their several arts or parts ascendance

O’er the irregulars in lust or gore,

    Who do not give professional attendance.

Thus on the mob all statesmen are as eager

To prove their pride, as footmen to a beggar.

All this (save the last stanza) Henry said,

    And thought. I say no more — I ’ve said too much;

For all of us have either heard or read —

    Off — or upon the hustings — some slight such

Hints from the independent heart or head

    Of the official candidate. I ’ll touch

No more on this — the dinner-bell hath rung,

And grace is said; the grace I should have sung —

But I ’m too late, and therefore must make play.

    ’T was a great banquet, such as Albion old

Was wont to boast — as if a glutton’s tray

    Were something very glorious to behold.

But ‘t was a public feast and public day —

    Quite full, right dull, guests hot, and dishes cold,

Great plenty, much formality, small cheer,

And every body out of their own sphere.

The squires familiarly formal, and

    My lords and ladies proudly condescending;

The very servants puzzling how to hand

    Their plates — without it might be too much bending

From their high places by the sideboard’s stand —

    Yet, like their masters, fearful of offending.

For any deviation from the graces

Might cost both man and master too — their places.

There were some hunters bold, and coursers keen,

    Whose hounds ne’er err’d, nor greyhounds deign’d to lurch;

Some deadly shots too, Septembrizers, seen

    Earliest to rise, and last to quit the search

Of the poor partridge through his stubble screen.

    There were some massy members of the church,

Takers of tithes, and makers of good matches,

And several who sung fewer psalms than catches.

There were some country wags too — and, alas!

    Some exiles from the town, who had been driven

To gaze, instead of pavement, upon grass,

    And rise at nine in lieu of long eleven.

And lo! upon that day it came to pass,

    I sate next that o’erwhelming son of heaven,

The very powerful parson, Peter Pith,

The loudest wit I e’er was deafen’d with.

I knew him in his livelier London days,

    A brilliant diner out, though but a curate;

And not a joke he cut but earn’d its praise,

    Until preferment, coming at a sure rate

(O Providence! how wondrous are thy ways!

    Who would suppose thy gifts sometimes obdurate?),

Gave him, to lay the devil who looks o’er Lincoln,

A fat fen vicarage, and nought to think on.

His jokes were sermons, and his sermons jokes;

    But both were thrown away amongst the fens;

For wit hath no great friend in aguish folks.

    No longer ready ears and short-hand pens

Imbibed the gay bon-mot, or happy hoax:

    The poor priest was reduced to common sense,

Or to coarse efforts very loud and long,

To hammer a horse laugh from the thick throng.

There is a difference, says the song, ‘between

    A beggar and a queen,’ or was (of late

The latter worse used of the two we ’ve seen —

    But we ’ll say nothing of affairs of state);

A difference ’twixt a bishop and a dean,’

    A difference between crockery ware and plate,

As between English beef and Spartan broth —

And yet great heroes have been bred by both.

But of all nature’s discrepancies, none

    Upon the whole is greater than the difference

Beheld between the country and the town,

    Of which the latter merits every preference

From those who have few resources of their own,

    And only think, or act, or feel, with reference

To some small plan of interest or ambition —

Both which are limited to no condition.

But ‘en avant!’ The light loves languish o’er

    Long banquets and too many guests, although

A slight repast makes people love much more,

    Bacchus and Ceres being, as we know

Even from our grammar upwards, friends of yore

    With vivifying Venus, who doth owe

To these the invention of champagne and truffles:

Temperance delights her, but long fasting ruffles.

Dully past o’er the dinner of the day;

    And Juan took his place, he knew not where,

Confused, in the confusion, and distrait,

    And sitting as if nail’d upon his chair:

Though knives and forks clank’d round as in a fray,

    He seem’d unconscious of all passing there,

Till some one, with a groan, exprest a wish

(Unheeded twice) to have a fin of fish.

On which, at the third asking of the bans,

    He started; and perceiving smiles around

Broadening to grins, he colour’d more than once,

    And hastily — as nothing can confound

A wise man more than laughter from a dunce —

    Inflicted on the dish a deadly wound,

And with such hurry, that ere he could curb it

He had paid his neighbour’s prayer with half a turbot.

This was no bad mistake, as it occurr’d,

    The supplicator being an amateur;

But others, who were left with scarce a third,

    Were angry — as they well might, to be sure.

They wonder’d how a young man so absurd

    Lord Henry at his table should endure;

And this, and his not knowing how much oats

Had fallen last market, cost his host three votes.

They little knew, or might have sympathised,

    That he the night before had seen a ghost,

A prologue which but slightly harmonised

    With the substantial company engross’d

By matter, and so much materialised,

    That one scarce knew at what to marvel most

Of two things — how (the question rather odd is)

Such bodies could have souls, or souls such bodies.

But what confused him more than smile or stare

    From all the ‘squires and ‘squiresses around,

Who wonder’d at the abstraction of his air,

    Especially as he had been renown’d

For some vivacity among the fair,

    Even in the country circle’s narrow bound

(For little things upon my lord’s estate

Were good small talk for others still less great)—

Was, that he caught Aurora’s eye on his,

    And something like a smile upon her cheek.

Now this he really rather took amiss:

    In those who rarely smile, their smiles bespeak

A strong external motive; and in this

    Smile of Aurora’s there was nought to pique

Or hope, or love, with any of the wiles

Which some pretend to trace in ladies’ smiles.

’T was a mere quiet smile of contemplation,

    Indicative of some surprise and pity;

And Juan grew carnation with vexation,

    Which was not very wise, and still less witty,

Since he had gain’d at least her observation,

    A most important outwork of the city —

As Juan should have known, had not his senses

By last night’s ghost been driven from their defences.

But what was bad, she did not blush in turn,

    Nor seem embarrass’d — quite the contrary;

Her aspect was as usual, still — not stern —

    And she withdrew, but cast not down, her eye,

Yet grew a little pale — with what? concern?

    I know not; but her colour ne’er was high —

Though sometimes faintly flush’d — and always clear,

As deep seas in a sunny atmosphere.

But Adeline was occupied by fame

    This day; and watching, witching, condescending

To the consumers of fish, fowl, and game,

    And dignity with courtesy so blending,

As all must blend whose part it is to aim

    (Especially as the sixth year is ending)

At their lord’s, son’s, or similar connection’s

Safe conduct through the rocks of reelections.

Though this was most expedient on the whole,

    And usual — Juan, when he cast a glance

On Adeline while playing her grand role,

    Which she went through as though it were a dance,

Betraying only now and then her soul

    By a look scarce perceptibly askance

(Of weariness or scorn), began to feel

Some doubt how much of Adeline was real;

So well she acted all and every part

    By turns — with that vivacious versatility,

Which many people take for want of heart.

    They err —‘t is merely what is call’d mobility,

A thing of temperament and not of art,

    Though seeming so, from its supposed facility;

And false — though true; for surely they ‘re sincerest

Who are strongly acted on by what is nearest.

This makes your actors, artists, and romancers,

    Heroes sometimes, though seldom — sages never;

But speakers, bards, diplomatists, and dancers,

    Little that ‘s great, but much of what is clever;

Most orators, but very few financiers,

    Though all Exchequer chancellors endeavour,

Of late years, to dispense with Cocker’s rigours,

And grow quite figurative with their figures.

The poets of arithmetic are they

    Who, though they prove not two and two to be

Five, as they might do in a modest way,

    Have plainly made it out that four are three,

Judging by what they take, and what they pay.

    The Sinking Fund’s unfathomable sea,

That most unliquidating liquid, leaves

The debt unsunk, yet sinks all it receives.

While Adeline dispensed her airs and graces,

    The fair Fitz–Fulke seem’d very much at ease;

Though too well bred to quiz men to their faces,

    Her laughing blue eyes with a glance could seize

The ridicules of people in all places —

    That honey of your fashionable bees —

And store it up for mischievous enjoyment;

And this at present was her kind employment.

However, the day closed, as days must close;

    The evening also waned — and coffee came.

Each carriage was announced, and ladies rose,

    And curtsying off, as curtsies country dame,

Retired: with most unfashionable bows

    Their docile esquires also did the same,

Delighted with their dinner and their host,

But with the Lady Adeline the most.

Some praised her beauty; others her great grace;

    The warmth of her politeness, whose sincerity

Was obvious in each feature of her face,

    Whose traits were radiant with the rays of verity.

Yes; she was truly worthy her high place!

    No one could envy her deserved prosperity.

And then her dress — what beautiful simplicity

Draperied her form with curious felicity!

Meanwhile Sweet Adeline deserved their praises,

    By an impartial indemnification

For all her past exertion and soft phrases,

    In a most edifying conversation,

Which turn’d upon their late guests’ miens and faces,

    And families, even to the last relation;

Their hideous wives, their horrid selves and dresses,

And truculent distortion of their tresses.

True, she said little —‘t was the rest that broke

    Forth into universal epigram;

But then ‘t was to the purpose what she spoke:

    Like Addison’s ‘faint praise,’ so wont to damn,

Her own but served to set off every joke,

    As music chimes in with a melodrame.

How sweet the task to shield an absent friend!

I ask but this of mine, to — not defend.

There were but two exceptions to this keen

    Skirmish of wits o’er the departed; one

Aurora, with her pure and placid mien;

    And Juan, too, in general behind none

In gay remark on what he had heard or seen,

    Sate silent now, his usual spirits gone:

In vain he heard the others rail or rally,

He would not join them in a single sally.

’T is true he saw Aurora look as though

    She approved his silence; she perhaps mistook

Its motive for that charity we owe

    But seldom pay the absent, nor would look

Farther — it might or might not be so.

    But Juan, sitting silent in his nook,

Observing little in his reverie,

Yet saw this much, which he was glad to see.

The ghost at least had done him this much good,

    In making him as silent as a ghost,

If in the circumstances which ensued

    He gain’d esteem where it was worth the most.

And certainly Aurora had renew’d

    In him some feelings he had lately lost,

Or harden’d; feelings which, perhaps ideal,

Are so divine, that I must deem them real:—

The love of higher things and better days;

    The unbounded hope, and heavenly ignorance

Of what is call’d the world, and the world’s ways;

    The moments when we gather from a glance

More joy than from all future pride or praise,

    Which kindle manhood, but can ne’er entrance

The heart in an existence of its own,

Of which another’s bosom is the zone.

Who would not sigh Ai ai Tan Kuuerheian

    That hath a memory, or that had a heart?

Alas! her star must fade like that of Dian:

    Ray fades on ray, as years on years depart.

Anacreon only had the soul to tie an

    Unwithering myrtle round the unblunted dart

Of Eros: but though thou hast play’d us many tricks,

Still we respect thee, ‘Alma Venus Genetrix!’

And full of sentiments, sublime as billows

    Heaving between this world and worlds beyond,

Don Juan, when the midnight hour of pillows

    Arrived, retired to his; but to despond

Rather than rest. Instead of poppies, willows

    Waved o’er his couch; he meditated, fond

Of those sweet bitter thoughts which banish sleep,

And make the worldling sneer, the youngling weep.

The night was as before: he was undrest,

    Saving his night-gown, which is an undress;

Completely ‘sans culotte,’ and without vest;

    In short, he hardly could be clothed with less:

But apprehensive of his spectral guest,

    He sate with feelings awkward to express

(By those who have not had such visitations),

Expectant of the ghost’s fresh operations.

And not in vain he listen’d; — Hush! what ‘s that?

    I see — I see — Ah, no! —‘t is not — yet ‘t is —

Ye powers! it is the — the — the — Pooh! the cat!

    The devil may take that stealthy pace of his!

So like a spiritual pit-a-pat,

    Or tiptoe of an amatory Miss,

Gliding the first time to a rendezvous,

And dreading the chaste echoes of her shoe.

Again — what is ‘t? The wind? No, no — this time

    It is the sable friar as before,

With awful footsteps regular as rhyme,

    Or (as rhymes may be in these days) much more.

Again through shadows of the night sublime,

    When deep sleep fell on men, and the world wore

The starry darkness round her like a girdle

Spangled with gems — the monk made his blood curdle.

A noise like to wet fingers drawn on glass,

    Which sets the teeth on edge; and a slight clatter,

Like showers which on the midnight gusts will pass,

    Sounding like very supernatural water,

Came over Juan’s ear, which throbb’d, alas!

    For immaterialism ‘s a serious matter;

So that even those whose faith is the most great

In souls immortal, shun them tete-a-tete.

Were his eyes open? — Yes! and his mouth too.

    Surprise has this effect — to make one dumb,

Yet leave the gate which eloquence slips through

    As wide as if a long speech were to come.

Nigh and more nigh the awful echoes drew,

    Tremendous to a mortal tympanum:

His eyes were open, and (as was before

Stated) his mouth. What open’d next? — the door.

It open’d with a most infernal creak,

    Like that of hell. ‘Lasciate ogni speranza

Voi che entrate!’ The hinge seem’d to speak,

    Dreadful as Dante’s rhima, or this stanza;

Or — but all words upon such themes are weak:

    A single shade ‘s sufficient to entrance

Hero — for what is substance to a spirit?

Or how is ‘t matter trembles to come near it?

The door flew wide — not swiftly, but, as fly

    The sea-gulls, with a steady, sober flight,

And then swung back, nor close, but stood awry,

    Half letting in long shadows on the light,

Which still in Juan’s candlesticks burned high,

    For he had two, both tolerably bright,

And in the doorway, darkening darkness, stood

The sable Friar in his solemn hood.

Between two worlds life hovers like a star,

    ‘Twixt night and morn, upon the horizon’s verge.

How little do we know that which we are!

    How less what we may be! The eternal surge

Of time and tide rolls on, and bears afar

    Our bubbles; as the old burst, new emerge,

Lash’d from the foam of ages; while the graves

Of empires heave but like some passing waves.

Don Juan shook, as erst he had been shaken

    The night before, but being sick of shaking,

He first inclined to think he had been mistaken,

    And then to be ashamed of such mistaking.

His own internal ghost began to awaken

    Within him and to quell his corporal quaking,

Hinting that soul and body on the whole

Were odds against a disembodied soul.

And then his dread grew wrath, and his wrath fierce,

    And he arose, advanced. The shade retreated,

But Juan, eager now the truth to pierce,

    Followed, his veins no longer cold, but heated,

Resolved to thrust the mystery carte and tierce,

    At whatsoever risk of being defeated.

The ghost stopped, menaced, then retired, until

He reached the ancient wall, then stood stone still.

Juan put forth one arm. Eternal powers!

    It touched no soul nor body, but the wall,

On which the moonbeams fell in silvery showers

    Checkered with all the tracery of the hall.

He shuddered, as no doubt the bravest cowers

    When he can’t tell what ’tis that doth appal.

How odd, a single hobgoblin’s nonentity

Should cause more fear than a whole host’s identity.

But still the shade remained, the blue eyes glared,

    And rather variably for stony death.

Yet one thing rather good the grave had spared;

    The ghost had a remarkably sweet breath.

A straggling curl showed he had been fair-haired.

    A red lip with two rows of pearls beneath

Gleamed forth, as through the casement’s ivy shroud

The moon peeped, just escaped from a grey cloud.

And Juan, puzzled but still curious, thrust

    His other arm forth. Wonder upon wonder!

It pressed upon a hard but glowing bust,

 Which beat as if there was a warm heart under.

He found, as people on most trials must,

    That he had made at first a silly blunder

And that in his confusion he had caught

Only the wall, instead of what he sought

The ghost, if ghost it were, seemed a sweet soul

    As ever lurked beneath a holy hood.

A dimpled chin, a neck of ivory stole

    Forth into something much like flesh and blood.

Back fell the sable frock and dreary cowl

    And they revealed, alas, that ere they should,

In full, voluptuous, but not o’ergrown bulk,

The phantom of her frolic Grace — Fita–Fulke!

[The end of the 1857 edition]

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/byron/george/b99d/canto16.html

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