Don Juan, by George Byron

Canto the Fifth.

When amatory poets sing their loves

    In liquid lines mellifluously bland,

And pair their rhymes as Venus yokes her doves,

    They little think what mischief is in hand;

The greater their success the worse it proves,

    As Ovid’s verse may give to understand;

Even Petrarch’s self, if judged with due severity,

Is the Platonic pimp of all posterity.

I therefore do denounce all amorous writing,

    Except in such a way as not to attract;

Plain — simple — short, and by no means inviting,

    But with a moral to each error tack’d,

Form’d rather for instructing than delighting,

    And with all passions in their turn attack’d;

Now, if my Pegasus should not be shod ill,

This poem will become a moral model.

The European with the Asian shore

    Sprinkled with palaces; the ocean stream

Here and there studded with a seventy-four;

    Sophia’s cupola with golden gleam;

The cypress groves; Olympus high and hoar;

    The twelve isles, and the more than I could dream,

Far less describe, present the very view

Which charm’d the charming Mary Montagu.

I have a passion for the name of ‘Mary,’

    For once it was a magic sound to me;

And still it half calls up the realms of fairy,

    Where I beheld what never was to be;

All feelings changed, but this was last to vary,

    A spell from which even yet I am not quite free:

But I grow sad — and let a tale grow cold,

Which must not be pathetically told.

The wind swept down the Euxine, and the wave

    Broke foaming o’er the blue Symplegades;

’T is a grand sight from off ‘the Giant’s Grave

    To watch the progress of those rolling seas

Between the Bosphorus, as they lash and lave

    Europe and Asia, you being quite at ease;

There ‘s not a sea the passenger e’er pukes in,

Turns up more dangerous breakers than the Euxine.

’T was a raw day of Autumn’s bleak beginning,

    When nights are equal, but not so the days;

The Parcae then cut short the further spinning

    Of seamen’s fates, and the loud tempests raise

The waters, and repentance for past sinning

    In all, who o’er the great deep take their ways:

They vow to amend their lives, and yet they don’t;

Because if drown’d, they can’t — if spared, they won’t.

A crowd of shivering slaves of every nation,

    And age, and sex, were in the market ranged;

Each bevy with the merchant in his station:

    Poor creatures! their good looks were sadly changed.

All save the blacks seem’d jaded with vexation,

    From friends, and home, and freedom far estranged;

The negroes more philosophy display’d —

Used to it, no doubt, as eels are to be flay’d.

Juan was juvenile, and thus was full,

    As most at his age are, of hope and health;

Yet I must own he looked a little dull,

    And now and then a tear stole down by stealth;

Perhaps his recent loss of blood might pull

    His spirit down; and then the loss of wealth,

A mistress, and such comfortable quarters,

To be put up for auction amongst Tartars,

Were things to shake a stoic; ne’ertheless,

    Upon the whole his carriage was serene:

His figure, and the splendour of his dress,

    Of which some gilded remnants still were seen,

Drew all eyes on him, giving them to guess

    He was above the vulgar by his mien;

And then, though pale, he was so very handsome;

And then — they calculated on his ransom.

Like a backgammon board the place was dotted

    With whites and blacks, in groups on show for sale,

Though rather more irregularly spotted:

    Some bought the jet, while others chose the pale.

It chanced amongst the other people lotted,

    A man of thirty rather stout and hale,

With resolution in his dark grey eye,

Next Juan stood, till some might choose to buy.

He had an English look; that is, was square

    In make, of a complexion white and ruddy,

Good teeth, with curling rather dark brown hair,

    And, it might be from thought or toil or study,

An open brow a little mark’d with care:

    One arm had on a bandage rather bloody;

And there he stood with such sang-froid, that greater

Could scarce be shown even by a mere spectator.

But seeing at his elbow a mere lad,

    Of a high spirit evidently, though

At present weigh’d down by a doom which had

    O’erthrown even men, he soon began to show

A kind of blunt compassion for the sad

    Lot of so young a partner in the woe,

Which for himself he seem’d to deem no worse

Than any other scrape, a thing of course.

‘My boy!’ said he, ‘amidst this motley crew

    Of Georgians, Russians, Nubians, and what not,

All ragamuffins differing but in hue,

    With whom it is our luck to cast our lot,

The only gentlemen seem I and you;

    So let us be acquainted, as we ought:

If I could yield you any consolation,

’T would give me pleasure. — Pray, what is your nation?’

When Juan answer’d —‘Spanish!’ he replied,

    ‘I thought, in fact, you could not be a Greek;

Those servile dogs are not so proudly eyed:

    Fortune has play’d you here a pretty freak,

But that ‘s her way with all men, till they ‘re tried;

    But never mind — she ’ll turn, perhaps, next week;

She has served me also much the same as you,

Except that I have found it nothing new.’

‘Pray, sir,’ said Juan, ‘if I may presume,

    What brought you here?’—‘Oh! nothing very rare —

Six Tartars and a drag-chain.’—‘To this doom

    But what conducted, if the question’s fair,

Is that which I would learn.’—‘I served for some

    Months with the Russian army here and there,

And taking lately, by Suwarrow’s bidding,

A town, was ta’en myself instead of Widdin.’

‘Have you no friends?’—‘I had — but, by God’s blessing,

    Have not been troubled with them lately. Now

I have answer’d all your questions without pressing,

    And you an equal courtesy should show.’

‘Alas!’ said Juan, ’t were a tale distressing,

    And long besides.’—‘Oh! if ‘t is really so,

You ‘re right on both accounts to hold your tongue;

A sad tale saddens doubly, when ‘t is long.

‘But droop not: Fortune at your time of life,

    Although a female moderately fickle,

Will hardly leave you (as she ‘s not your wife)

    For any length of days in such a pickle.

To strive, too, with our fate were such a strife

    As if the corn-sheaf should oppose the sickle:

Men are the sport of circumstances, when

The circumstances seem the sport of men.’

’T is not,’ said Juan, ‘for my present doom

    I mourn, but for the past; — I loved a maid:’-

He paused, and his dark eye grew full of gloom;

    A single tear upon his eyelash staid

A moment, and then dropp’d; ‘but to resume,

    ’T is not my present lot, as I have said,

Which I deplore so much; for I have borne

Hardships which have the hardiest overworn,

‘On the rough deep. But this last blow-’ and here

    He stopp’d again, and turn’d away his face.

‘Ay,’ quoth his friend, ‘I thought it would appear

    That there had been a lady in the case;

And these are things which ask a tender tear,

    Such as I, too, would shed if in your place:

I cried upon my first wife’s dying day,

And also when my second ran away:

‘My third-’—‘Your third!’ quoth Juan, turning round;

    ‘You scarcely can be thirty: have you three?’

‘No — only two at present above ground:

    Surely ‘t is nothing wonderful to see

One person thrice in holy wedlock bound!’

    ‘Well, then, your third,’ said Juan; ‘what did she?

She did not run away, too — did she, sir?’

‘No, faith.’—‘What then?’—‘I ran away from her.’

‘You take things coolly, sir,’ said Juan. ‘Why,’

    Replied the other, ‘what can a man do?

There still are many rainbows in your sky,

    But mine have vanish’d. All, when life is new,

Commence with feelings warm, and prospects high;

    But time strips our illusions of their hue,

And one by one in turn, some grand mistake

Casts off its bright skin yearly like the snake.

’T is true, it gets another bright and fresh,

    Or fresher, brighter; but the year gone through,

This skin must go the way, too, of all flesh,

    Or sometimes only wear a week or two; —

Love ‘s the first net which spreads its deadly mesh;

    Ambition, Avarice, Vengeance, Glory, glue

The glittering lime-twigs of our latter days,

Where still we flutter on for pence or praise.’

‘All this is very fine, and may be true,’

    Said Juan; ‘but I really don’t see how

It betters present times with me or you.’

    ‘No?’ quoth the other; ‘yet you will allow

By setting things in their right point of view,

    Knowledge, at least, is gain’d; for instance, now,

We know what slavery is, and our disasters

May teach us better to behave when masters.’

‘Would we were masters now, if but to try

    Their present lessons on our Pagan friends here,’

Said Juan — swallowing a heart-burning sigh:

    ‘Heaven help the scholar whom his fortune sends here!’

‘Perhaps we shall be one day, by and by,’

    Rejoin’d the other, when our bad luck mends here;

Meantime (yon old black eunuch seems to eye us)

‘But after all, what is our present state?

    ’T is bad, and may be better — all men’s lot:

Most men are slaves, none more so than the great,

    To their own whims and passions, and what not;

Society itself, which should create

    Kindness, destroys what little we had got:

To feel for none is the true social art

Of the world’s stoics — men without a heart.’

Just now a black old neutral personage

    Of the third sex stept up, and peering over

The captives, seem’d to mark their looks and age,

    And capabilities, as to discover

If they were fitted for the purposed cage:

    No lady e’er is ogled by a lover,

Horse by a blackleg, broadcloth by a tailor,

Fee by a counsel, felon by a jailor,

As is a slave by his intended bidder.

    ’T is pleasant purchasing our fellow-creatures;

And all are to be sold, if you consider

    Their passions, and are dext’rous; some by features

Are bought up, others by a warlike leader,

    Some by a place — as tend their years or natures;

The most by ready cash — but all have prices,

From crowns to kicks, according to their vices.

The eunuch, having eyed them o’er with care,

    Turn’d to the merchant, and begun to bid

First but for one, and after for the pair;

    They haggled, wrangled, swore, too — so they did!

As though they were in a mere Christian fair

    Cheapening an ox, an ass, a lamb, or kid;

So that their bargain sounded like a battle

For this superior yoke of human cattle.

At last they settled into simple grumbling,

    And pulling out reluctant purses, and

Turning each piece of silver o’er, and tumbling

    Some down, and weighing others in their hand,

And by mistake sequins with paras jumbling,

    Until the sum was accurately scann’d,

And then the merchant giving change, and signing

Receipts in full, began to think of dining.

I wonder if his appetite was good?

    Or, if it were, if also his digestion?

Methinks at meals some odd thoughts might intrude,

    And conscience ask a curious sort of question,

About the right divine how far we should

    Sell flesh and blood. When dinner has opprest one,

I think it is perhaps the gloomiest hour

Which turns up out of the sad twenty-four.

Voltaire says ‘No:’ he tells you that Candide

    Found life most tolerable after meals;

He ‘s wrong — unless man were a pig, indeed,

    Repletion rather adds to what he feels,

Unless he ‘s drunk, and then no doubt he ‘s freed

    From his own brain’s oppression while it reels.

Of food I think with Philip’s son, or rather

Ammon’s (ill pleased with one world and one father);

I think with Alexander, that the act

    Of eating, with another act or two,

Makes us feel our mortality in fact

    Redoubled; when a roast and a ragout,

And fish, and soup, by some side dishes back’d,

    Can give us either pain or pleasure, who

Would pique himself on intellects, whose use

Depends so much upon the gastric juice?

The other evening (‘t was on Friday last)—

    This is a fact and no poetic fable —

Just as my great coat was about me cast,

    My hat and gloves still lying on the table,

I heard a shot —‘t was eight o’clock scarce past —

    And, running out as fast as I was able,

I found the military commandant

Stretch’d in the street, and able scarce to pant.

Poor fellow! for some reason, surely bad,

    They had slain him with five slugs; and left him there

To perish on the pavement: so I had

    Him borne into the house and up the stair,

And stripp’d and look’d to — But why should I ad

    More circumstances? vain was every care;

The man was gone: in some Italian quarrel

Kill’d by five bullets from an old gun-barrel.

I gazed upon him, for I knew him well;

    And though I have seen many corpses, never

Saw one, whom such an accident befell,

    So calm; though pierced through stomach, heart, and liver,

He seem’d to sleep — for you could scarcely tell

    (As he bled inwardly, no hideous river

Of gore divulged the cause) that he was dead:

So as I gazed on him, I thought or said —

‘Can this be death? then what is life or death?

    Speak!’ but he spoke not: ‘Wake!’ but still he slept:—

‘But yesterday and who had mightier breath?

    A thousand warriors by his word were kept

In awe: he said, as the centurion saith,

    “Go,” and he goeth; “come,” and forth he stepp’d.

The trump and bugle till he spake were dumb —

And now nought left him but the muffled drum.’

And they who waited once and worshipp’d — they

    With their rough faces throng’d about the bed

To gaze once more on the commanding clay

    Which for the last, though not the first, time bled:

And such an end! that he who many a day

    Had faced Napoleon’s foes until they fled —

The foremost in the charge or in the sally,

Should now be butcher’d in a civic alley.

The scars of his old wounds were near his new,

    Those honourable scars which brought him fame;

And horrid was the contrast to the view —

    But let me quit the theme; as such things claim

Perhaps even more attention than is due

    From me: I gazed (as oft I have gazed the same)

To try if I could wrench aught out of death

Which should confirm, or shake, or make a faith;

But it was all a mystery. Here we are,

    And there we go:— but where? five bits of lead,

Or three, or two, or one, send very far!

    And is this blood, then, form’d but to be shed?

Can every element our elements mar?

    And air — earth — water — fire live — and we dead?

We whose minds comprehend all things? No more;

But let us to the story as before.

The purchaser of Juan and acquaintance

    Bore off his bargains to a gilded boat,

Embark’d himself and them, and off they went thence

    As fast as oars could pull and water float;

They look’d like persons being led to sentence,

    Wondering what next, till the caique was brought

Up in a little creek below a wall

O’ertopp’d with cypresses, dark-green and tall.

Here their conductor tapping at the wicket

    Of a small iron door, ‘t was open’d, and

He led them onward, first through a low thicket

    Flank’d by large groves, which tower’d on either hand:

They almost lost their way, and had to pick it —

    For night was dosing ere they came to land.

The eunuch made a sign to those on board,

Who row’d off, leaving them without a word.

As they were plodding on their winding way

    Through orange bowers, and jasmine, and so forth

(Of which I might have a good deal to say,

    There being no such profusion in the North

Of oriental plants, ‘et cetera,’

    But that of late your scribblers think it worth

Their while to rear whole hotbeds in their works

Because one poet travell’d ‘mongst the Turks)—

As they were threading on their way, there came

    Into Don Juan’s head a thought, which he

Whisper’d to his companion:—‘t was the same

    Which might have then occurr’d to you or me.

‘Methinks,’ said he, ‘it would be no great shame

    If we should strike a stroke to set us free;

Let ‘s knock that old black fellow on the head,

And march away —‘t were easier done than said.’

‘Yes,’ said the other, ‘and when done, what then?

    How get out? how the devil got we in?

And when we once were fairly out, and when

    From Saint Bartholomew we have saved our skin,

To-morrow ‘d see us in some other den,

    And worse off than we hitherto have been;

Besides, I ’m hungry, and just now would take,

Like Esau, for my birthright a beef-steak.

‘We must be near some place of man’s abode; —

    For the old negro’s confidence in creeping,

With his two captives, by so queer a road,

    Shows that he thinks his friends have not been sleeping;

A single cry would bring them all abroad:

    ’T is therefore better looking before leaping —

And there, you see, this turn has brought us through,

By Jove, a noble palace! — lighted too.’

It was indeed a wide extensive building

    Which open’d on their view, and o’er the front

There seem’d to be besprent a deal of gilding

    And various hues, as is the Turkish wont —

A gaudy taste; for they are little skill’d in

    The arts of which these lands were once the font:

Each villa on the Bosphorus looks a screen

New painted, or a pretty opera-scene.

And nearer as they came, a genial savour

    Of certain stews, and roast-meats, and pilaus,

Things which in hungry mortals’ eyes find favour,

    Made Juan in his harsh intentions pause,

And put himself upon his good behaviour:

    His friend, too, adding a new saving clause,

Said, ‘In Heaven’s name let’s get some supper now,

And then I ’m with you, if you ‘re for a row.’

Some talk of an appeal unto some passion,

    Some to men’s feelings, others to their reason;

The last of these was never much the fashion,

    For reason thinks all reasoning out of season.

Some speakers whine, and others lay the lash on,

    But more or less continue still to tease on,

With arguments according to their ‘forte;’

But no one dreams of ever being short.-

But I digress: of all appeals — although

    I grant the power of pathos, and of gold,

Of beauty, flattery, threats, a shilling — no

    Method ‘s more sure at moments to take hold

Of the best feelings of mankind, which grow

    More tender, as we every day behold,

Than that all-softening, overpowering knell,

The tocsin of the soul — the dinner-bell.

Turkey contains no bells, and yet men dine;

    And Juan and his friend, albeit they heard

No Christian knoll to table, saw no line

    Of lackeys usher to the feast prepared,

Yet smelt roast-meat, beheld a huge fire shine,

    And cooks in motion with their clean arms bared,

And gazed around them to the left and right

With the prophetic eye of appetite.

And giving up all notions of resistance,

    They follow’d close behind their sable guide,

Who little thought that his own crack’d existence

    Was on the point of being set aside:

He motion’d them to stop at some small distance,

    And knocking at the gate, ‘t was open’d wide,

And a magnificent large hall display’d

The Asian pomp of Ottoman parade.

I won’t describe; description is my forte,

    But every fool describes in these bright days

His wondrous journey to some foreign court,

    And spawns his quarto, and demands your praise —

Death to his publisher, to him ‘t is sport;

    While Nature, tortured twenty thousand ways,

Resigns herself with exemplary patience

To guide-books, rhymes, tours, sketches, illustrations.

Along this hall, and up and down, some, squatted

    Upon their hams, were occupied at chess;

Others in monosyllable talk chatted,

    And some seem’d much in love with their own dress.

And divers smoked superb pipes decorated

    With amber mouths of greater price or less;

And several strutted, others slept, and some

Prepared for supper with a glass of rum.

As the black eunuch enter’d with his brace

    Of purchased Infidels, some raised their eyes

A moment without slackening from their pace;

    But those who sate ne’er stirr’d in anywise:

One or two stared the captives in the face,

    Just as one views a horse to guess his price;

Some nodded to the negro from their station,

But no one troubled him with conversation.

He leads them through the hall, and, without stopping,

    On through a farther range of goodly rooms,

Splendid but silent, save in one, where, dropping,

    A marble fountain echoes through the glooms

Of night which robe the chamber, or where popping

    Some female head most curiously presumes

To thrust its black eyes through the door or lattice,

As wondering what the devil a noise that is.

Some faint lamps gleaming from the lofty walls

    Gave light enough to hint their farther way,

But not enough to show the imperial halls,

    In all the flashing of their full array;

Perhaps there ‘s nothing — I ’ll not say appals,

    But saddens more by night as well as day,

Than an enormous room without a soul

To break the lifeless splendour of the whole.

Two or three seem so little, one seems nothing:

    In deserts, forests, crowds, or by the shore,

There solitude, we know, has her full growth in

    The spots which were her realms for evermore;

But in a mighty hall or gallery, both in

    More modern buildings and those built of yore,

A kind of death comes o’er us all alone,

Seeing what ‘s meant for many with but one.

A neat, snug study on a winter’s night,

    A book, friend, single lady, or a glass

Of claret, sandwich, and an appetite,

    Are things which make an English evening pass;

Though certes by no means so grand a sight

    As is a theatre lit up by gas.

I pass my evenings in long galleries solely,

And that ‘s the reason I ’m so melancholy.

Alas! man makes that great which makes him little:

    I grant you in a church ‘t is very well:

What speaks of Heaven should by no means be brittle,

    But strong and lasting, till no tongue can tell

Their names who rear’d it; but huge houses fit ill —

    And huge tombs worse — mankind, since Adam fell:

Methinks the story of the tower of Babel

Might teach them this much better than I ’m able.

Babel was Nimrod’s hunting-box, and then

    A town of gardens, walls, and wealth amazing,

Where Nabuchadonosor, king of men,

    Reign’d, till one summer’s day he took to grazing,

And Daniel tamed the lions in their den,

    The people’s awe and admiration raising;

’T was famous, too, for Thisbe and for Pyramus,

And the calumniated queen Semiramis.

That injured Queen by chroniclers so coarse

    Has been accused (I doubt not by conspiracy)

Of an improper friendship for her horse

    (Love, like religion, sometimes runs to heresy):

This monstrous tale had probably its source

    (For such exaggerations here and there I see)

In writing ‘Courser’ by mistake for ‘Courier:’

I wish the case could come before a jury here.

But to resume — should there be (what may not

    Be in these days?) some infidels, who don’t,

Because they can’t find out the very spot

    Of that same Babel, or because they won’t

(Though Claudius Rich, Esquire, some bricks has got,

    And written lately two memoirs upon’t),

Believe the Jews, those unbelievers, who

Must be believed, though they believe not you,

Yet let them think that Horace has exprest

    Shortly and sweetly the masonic folly

Of those, forgetting the great place of rest,

    Who give themselves to architecture wholly;

We know where things and men must end at best:

    A moral (like all morals) melancholy,

And ‘Et sepulchri immemor struis domos’

Shows that we build when we should but entomb us.

At last they reach’d a quarter most retired,

    Where echo woke as if from a long slumber;

Though full of all things which could be desired,

    One wonder’d what to do with such a number

Of articles which nobody required;

    Here wealth had done its utmost to encumber

With furniture an exquisite apartment,

Which puzzled Nature much to know what Art meant.

It seem’d, however, but to open on

    A range or suite of further chambers, which

Might lead to heaven knows where; but in this one

    The movables were prodigally rich:

Sofas ‘t was half a sin to sit upon,

    So costly were they; carpets every stitch

Of workmanship so rare, they made you wish

You could glide o’er them like a golden fish.

The black, however, without hardly deigning

    A glance at that which wrapt the slaves in wonder,

Trampled what they scarce trod for fear of staining,

    As if the milky way their feet was under

With all its stars; and with a stretch attaining

    A certain press or cupboard niched in yonder —

In that remote recess which you may see —

Or if you don’t the fault is not in me —

I wish to be perspicuous; and the black,

    I say, unlocking the recess, pull’d forth

A quantity of clothes fit for the back

    Of any Mussulman, whate’er his worth;

And of variety there was no lack —

    And yet, though I have said there was no dearth,

He chose himself to point out what he thought

Most proper for the Christians he had bought.

The suit he thought most suitable to each

    Was, for the elder and the stouter, first

A Candiote cloak, which to the knee might reach,

    And trousers not so tight that they would burst,

But such as fit an Asiatic breech;

    A shawl, whose folds in Cashmire had been nurst,

Slippers of saffron, dagger rich and handy;

In short, all things which form a Turkish Dandy.

While he was dressing, Baba, their black friend,

    Hinted the vast advantages which they

Might probably attain both in the end,

    If they would but pursue the proper way

Which fortune plainly seem’d to recommend;

    And then he added, that he needs must say,

’T would greatly tend to better their condition,

If they would condescend to circumcision.

‘For his own part, he really should rejoice

    To see them true believers, but no less

Would leave his proposition to their choice.’

    The other, thanking him for this excess

Of goodness, in thus leaving them a voice

    In such a trifle, scarcely could express

‘Sufficiently’ (he said) ‘his approbation

Of all the customs of this polish’d nation.

‘For his own share — he saw but small objection

    To so respectable an ancient rite;

And, after swallowing down a slight refection,

    For which he own’d a present appetite,

He doubted not a few hours of reflection

    Would reconcile him to the business quite.’

‘Will it?’ said Juan, sharply: ‘Strike me dead,

But they as soon shall circumcise my head!

‘Cut off a thousand heads, before-’—‘Now, pray,’

    Replied the other, ‘do not interrupt:

You put me out in what I had to say.

    Sir! — as I said, as soon as I have supt,

I shall perpend if your proposal may

    Be such as I can properly accept;

Provided always your great goodness still

Remits the matter to our own free-will.’

Baba eyed Juan, and said, ‘Be so good

    As dress yourself-’ and pointed out a suit

In which a Princess with great pleasure would

    Array her limbs; but Juan standing mute,

As not being in a masquerading mood,

    Gave it a slight kick with his Christian foot;

And when the old negro told him to ‘Get ready,’

Replied, ‘Old gentleman, I ’m not a lady.’

‘What you may be, I neither know nor care,’

    Said Baba; ‘but pray do as I desire:

I have no more time nor many words to spare.’

    ‘At least,’ said Juan, ‘sure I may enquire

The cause of this odd travesty?’—‘Forbear,’

    Said Baba, ‘to be curious; ‘t will transpire,

No doubt, in proper place, and time, and season:

I have no authority to tell the reason.’

‘Then if I do,’ said Juan, ‘I ’ll be’—‘Hold!’

    Rejoin’d the negro, ‘pray be not provoking;

This spirit ‘s well, but it may wax too bold,

    And you will find us not top fond of joking.’

‘What, sir!’ said Juan, ‘shall it e’er be told

    That I unsex’d my dress?’ But Baba, stroking

The things down, said, ‘Incense me, and I call

Those who will leave you of no sex at all.

‘I offer you a handsome suit of clothes:

    A woman’s, true; but then there is a cause

Why you should wear them.’—‘What, though my soul loathes

    The effeminate garb?’— thus, after a short pause,

Sigh’d Juan, muttering also some slight oaths,

    ‘What the devil shall I do with all this gauze?’

Thus he profanely term’d the finest lace

Which e’er set off a marriage-morning face.

And then he swore; and, sighing, on he slipp’d

    A pair of trousers of flesh-colour’d silk;

Next with a virgin zone he was equipp’d,

    Which girt a slight chemise as white as milk;

But tugging on his petticoat, he tripp’d,

    Which — as we say — or, as the Scotch say, whilk

(The rhyme obliges me to this; sometimes

Monarchs are less imperative than rhymes)—

Whilk, which (or what you please), was owing to

    His garment’s novelty, and his being awkward:

And yet at last he managed to get through

    His toilet, though no doubt a little backward:

The negro Baba help’d a little too,

    When some untoward part of raiment stuck hard;

And, wrestling both his arms into a gown,

He paused, and took a survey up and down.

One difficulty still remain’d — his hair

    Was hardly long enough; but Baba found

So many false long tresses all to spare,

    That soon his head was most completely crown’d,

After the manner then in fashion there;

    And this addition with such gems was bound

As suited the ensemble of his toilet,

While Baba made him comb his head and oil it.

And now being femininely all array’d,

    With some small aid from scissors, paint, and tweezers,

He look’d in almost all respects a maid,

    And Baba smilingly exclaim’d, ‘You see, sirs,

A perfect transformation here display’d;

    And now, then, you must come along with me, sirs,

That is — the Lady:’ clapping his hands twice,

Four blacks were at his elbow in a trice.

‘You, sir,’ said Baba, nodding to the one,

    ‘Will please to accompany those gentlemen

To supper; but you, worthy Christian nun,

    Will follow me: no trifling, sir; for when

I say a thing, it must at once be done.

    What fear you? think you this a lion’s den?

Why, ‘t is a palace; where the truly wise

Anticipate the Prophet’s paradise.

‘You fool! I tell you no one means you harm.’

    ‘So much the better,’ Juan said, ‘for them;

Else they shall feel the weight of this my arm,

    Which is not quite so light as you may deem.

I yield thus far; but soon will break the charm

    If any take me for that which I seem:

So that I trust for everybody’s sake,

That this disguise may lead to no mistake.’

‘Blockhead! come on, and see,’ quoth Baba; while

    Don Juan, turning to his comrade, who

Though somewhat grieved, could scarce forbear a smile

    Upon the metamorphosis in view —

‘Farewell!’ they mutually exclaim’d: ‘this soil

    Seems fertile in adventures strange and new;

One ‘s turn’d half Mussulman, and one a maid,

By this old black enchanter’s unsought aid.’

‘Farewell!’ said Juan: ‘should we meet no more,

    I wish you a good appetite.’—‘Farewell!’

Replied the other; ‘though it grieves me sore;

    When we next meet we ’ll have a tale to tell:

We needs must follow when Fate puts from shore.

    Keep your good name; though Eve herself once fell.’

‘Nay,’ quoth the maid, ‘the Sultan’s self shan’t carry me,

Unless his highness promises to marry me.

And thus they parted, each by separate doors;

    Baba led Juan onward room by room

Through glittering galleries and o’er marble floors,

    Till a gigantic portal through the gloom,

Haughty and huge, along the distance lowers;

    And wafted far arose a rich perfume:

It seem’d as though they came upon a shrine,

For all was vast, still, fragrant, and divine.

The giant door was broad, and bright, and high,

    Of gilded bronze, and carved in curious guise;

Warriors thereon were battling furiously;

    Here stalks the victor, there the vanquish’d lies;

There captives led in triumph droop the eye,

    And in perspective many a squadron flies:

It seems the work of times before the line

Of Rome transplanted fell with Constantine.

This massy portal stood at the wide close

    Of a huge hall, and on its either side

Two little dwarfs, the least you could suppose,

    Were sate, like ugly imps, as if allied

In mockery to the enormous gate which rose

    O’er them in almost pyramidic pride:

The gate so splendid was in all its features,

You never thought about those little creatures,

Until you nearly trod on them, and then

    You started back in horror to survey

The wondrous hideousness of those small men,

    Whose colour was not black, nor white, nor grey,

But an extraneous mixture, which no pen

    Can trace, although perhaps the pencil may;

They were mis-shapen pigmies, deaf and dumb —

Monsters, who cost a no less monstrous sum.

Their duty was — for they were strong, and though

    They look’d so little, did strong things at times —

To ope this door, which they could really do,

    The hinges being as smooth as Rogers’ rhymes;

And now and then, with tough strings of the bow,

    As is the custom of those Eastern climes,

To give some rebel Pacha a cravat;

For mutes are generally used for that.

They spoke by signs — that is, not spoke at all;

    And looking like two incubi, they glared

As Baba with his fingers made them fall

    To heaving back the portal folds: it scared

Juan a moment, as this pair so small

    With shrinking serpent optics on him stared;

It was as if their little looks could poison

Or fascinate whome’er they fix’d their eyes on.

Before they enter’d, Baba paused to hint

    To Juan some slight lessons as his guide:

‘If you could just contrive,’ he said, ‘to stint

    That somewhat manly majesty of stride,

’T would be as well, and (though there ‘s not much in ‘t)

    To swing a little less from side to side,

Which has at times an aspect of the oddest; —

And also could you look a little modest,

’T would be convenient; for these mutes have eyes

    Like needles, which may pierce those petticoats;

And if they should discover your disguise,

    You know how near us the deep Bosphorus floats;

And you and I may chance, ere morning rise,

    To find our way to Marmora without boats,

Stitch’d up in sacks — a mode of navigation

A good deal practised here upon occasion.’

With this encouragement, he led the way

    Into a room still nobler than the last;

A rich confusion form’d a disarray

    In such sort, that the eye along it cast

Could hardly carry anything away,

    Object on object flash’d so bright and fast;

A dazzling mass of gems, and gold, and glitter,

Magnificently mingled in a litter.

Wealth had done wonders — taste not much; such things

    Occur in Orient palaces, and even

In the more chasten’d domes of Western kings

    (Of which I have also seen some six or seven),

Where I can’t say or gold or diamond flings

    Great lustre, there is much to be forgiven;

Groups of bad statues, tables, chairs, and pictures,

On which I cannot pause to make my strictures.

In this imperial hall, at distance lay

    Under a canopy, and there reclined

Quite in a confidential queenly way,

    A lady; Baba stopp’d, and kneeling sign’d

To Juan, who though not much used to pray,

    Knelt down by instinct, wondering in his mind,

What all this meant: while Baba bow’d and bended

His head, until the ceremony ended.

The lady rising up with such an air

    As Venus rose with from the wave, on them

Bent like an antelope a Paphian pair

    Of eyes, which put out each surrounding gem;

And raising up an arm as moonlight fair,

    She sign’d to Baba, who first kiss’d the hem

Of her deep purple robe, and speaking low,

Pointed to Juan who remain’d below.

Her presence was as lofty as her state;

    Her beauty of that overpowering kind,

Whose force description only would abate:

    I ‘d rather leave it much to your own mind,

Than lessen it by what I could relate

    Of forms and features; it would strike you blind

Could I do justice to the full detail;

So, luckily for both, my phrases fail.

Thus much however I may add — her years

    Were ripe, they might make six-and-twenty springs;

But there are forms which Time to touch forbears,

    And turns aside his scythe to vulgar things,

Such as was Mary’s Queen of Scots; true — tears

    And love destroy; and sapping sorrow wrings

Charms from the charmer, yet some never grow

Ugly; for instance — Ninon de l’Enclos.

She spake some words to her attendants, who

    Composed a choir of girls, ten or a dozen,

And were all clad alike; like Juan, too,

    Who wore their uniform, by Baba chosen;

They form’d a very nymph-like looking crew,

    Which might have call’d Diana’s chorus ‘cousin,’

As far as outward show may correspond;

I won’t be bail for anything beyond.

They bow’d obeisance and withdrew, retiring,

    But not by the same door through which came in

Baba and Juan, which last stood admiring,

    At some small distance, all he saw within

This strange saloon, much fitted for inspiring

    Marvel and praise; for both or none things win;

And I must say, I ne’er could see the very

Great happiness of the ‘Nil Admirari.’

‘Not to admire is all the art I know

    (Plain truth, dear Murray, needs few flowers of speech)

To make men happy, or to keep them so’

    (So take it in the very words of Creech)—

Thus Horace wrote we all know long ago;

    And thus Pope quotes the precept to reteach

From his translation; but had none admired,

Would Pope have sung, or Horace been inspired?

Baba, when all the damsels were withdrawn,

    Motion’d to Juan to approach, and then

A second time desired him to kneel down,

    And kiss the lady’s foot; which maxim when

He heard repeated, Juan with a frown

    Drew himself up to his full height again,

And said, ‘It grieved him, but he could not stoop

To any shoe, unless it shod the Pope.’

Baba, indignant at this ill-timed pride,

    Made fierce remonstrances, and then a threat

He mutter’d (but the last was given aside)

    About a bow-string — quite in vain; not yet

Would Juan bend, though ‘t were to Mahomet’s bride:

    There ‘s nothing in the world like etiquette

In kingly chambers or imperial halls,

As also at the race and county balls.

He stood like Atlas, with a world of words

    About his ears, and nathless would not bend:

The blood of all his line ‘s Castilian lords

    Boil’d in his veins, and rather than descend

To stain his pedigree a thousand swords

    A thousand times of him had made an end;

At length perceiving the ‘foot’ could not stand,

Baba proposed that he should kiss the hand.

Here was an honourable compromise,

    A half-way house of diplomatic rest,

Where they might meet in much more peaceful guise;

    And Juan now his willingness exprest

To use all fit and proper courtesies,

    Adding, that this was commonest and best,

For through the South the custom still commands

The gentleman to kiss the lady’s hands.

And he advanced, though with but a bad grace,

    Though on more thorough-bred or fairer fingers

No lips e’er left their transitory trace;

    On such as these the lip too fondly lingers,

And for one kiss would fain imprint a brace,

    As you will see, if she you love shall bring hers

In contact; and sometimes even a fair stranger’s

An almost twelvemonth’s constancy endangers.

The lady eyed him o’er and o’er, and bade

    Baba retire, which he obey’d in style,

As if well used to the retreating trade;

    And taking hints in good part all the while,

He whisper’d Juan not to be afraid,

    And looking on him with a sort of smile,

Took leave, with such a face of satisfaction

As good men wear who have done a virtuous action.

When he was gone, there was a sudden change:

    I know not what might be the lady’s thought,

But o’er her bright brow flash’d a tumult strange,

    And into her dear cheek the blood was brought,

Blood-red as sunset summer clouds which range

    The verge of Heaven; and in her large eyes wrought,

A mixture of sensations might be scann’d,

Of half voluptuousness and half command.

Her form had all the softness of her sex,

    Her features all the sweetness of the devil,

When he put on the cherub to perplex

    Eve, and paved (God knows how) the road to evil;

The sun himself was scarce more free from specks

    Than she from aught at which the eye could cavil;

Yet, somehow, there was something somewhere wanting,

As if she rather order’d than was granting.

Something imperial, or imperious, threw

    A chain o’er all she did; that is, a chain

Was thrown as ‘t were about the neck of you —

    And rapture’s self will seem almost a pain

With aught which looks like despotism in view:

    Our souls at least are free, and ‘t is in vain

We would against them make the flesh obey —

The spirit in the end will have its way.

Her very smile was haughty, though so sweet;

    Her very nod was not an inclination;

There was a self-will even in her small feet,

    As though they were quite conscious of her station —

They trod as upon necks; and to complete

    Her state (it is the custom of her nation),

A poniard deck’d her girdle, as the sign

She was a sultan’s bride (thank Heaven, not mine!).

‘To hear and to obey’ had been from birth

    The law of all around her; to fulfill

All phantasies which yielded joy or mirth,

    Had been her slaves’ chief pleasure, as her will;

Her blood was high, her beauty scarce of earth:

    Judge, then, if her caprices e’er stood still;

Had she but been a Christian, I ’ve a notion

We should have found out the ‘perpetual motion.’

Whate’er she saw and coveted was brought;

    Whate’er she did not see, if she supposed

It might be seen, with diligence was sought,

    And when ‘t was found straightway the bargain closed;

There was no end unto the things she bought,

    Nor to the trouble which her fancies caused;

Yet even her tyranny had such a grace,

The women pardon’d all except her face.

Juan, the latest of her whims, had caught

    Her eye in passing on his way to sale;

She order’d him directly to be bought,

    And Baba, who had ne’er been known to fail

In any kind of mischief to be wrought,

    At all such auctions knew how to prevail:

She had no prudence, but he had; and this

Explains the garb which Juan took amiss.

His youth and features favour’d the disguise,

    And, should you ask how she, a sultan’s bride,

Could risk or compass such strange phantasies,

    This I must leave sultanas to decide:

Emperors are only husbands in wives’ eyes,

    And kings and consorts oft are mystified,

As we may ascertain with due precision,

Some by experience, others by tradition.

But to the main point, where we have been tending:—

    She now conceived all difficulties past,

And deem’d herself extremely condescending

    When, being made her property at last,

Without more preface, in her blue eyes blending

    Passion and power, a glance on him she cast,

And merely saying, ‘Christian, canst thou love?’

Conceived that phrase was quite enough to move

And so it was, in proper time and place;

    But Juan, who had still his mind o’erflowing

With Haidee’s isle and soft Ionian face,

    Felt the warm blood, which in his face was glowing,

Rush back upon his heart, which fill’d apace,

    And left his cheeks as pale as snowdrops blowing;

These words went through his soul like Arab-spears,

So that he spoke not, but burst into tears.

She was a good deal shock’d; not shock’d at tears,

    For women shed and use them at their liking;

But there is something when man’s eye appears

    Wet, still more disagreeable and striking;

A woman’s tear-drop melts, a man’s half sears,

    Like molten lead, as if you thrust a pike in

His heart to force it out, for (to be shorter)

To them ‘t is a relief, to us a torture.

And she would have consoled, but knew not how:

    Having no equals, nothing which had e’er

Infected her with sympathy till now,

    And never having dreamt what ‘t was to bear

Aught of a serious, sorrowing kind, although

    There might arise some pouting petty care

To cross her brow, she wonder’d how so near

Her eyes another’s eye could shed a tear.

But nature teaches more than power can spoil,

    And, when a strong although a strange sensation

Moves — female hearts are such a genial soil

    For kinder feelings, whatsoe’er their nation,

They naturally pour the ‘wine and oil,’

    Samaritans in every situation;

And thus Gulbeyaz, though she knew not why,

Felt an odd glistening moisture in her eye.

But tears must stop like all things else; and soon

    Juan, who for an instant had been moved

To such a sorrow by the intrusive tone

    Of one who dared to ask if ‘he had loved,’

Call’d back the stoic to his eyes, which shone

    Bright with the very weakness he reproved;

And although sensitive to beauty, he

Felt most indignant still at not being free.

Gulbeyaz, for the first time in her days,

    Was much embarrass’d, never having met

In all her life with aught save prayers and praise;

    And as she also risk’d her life to get

Him whom she meant to tutor in love’s ways

    Into a comfortable tete-a-tete,

To lose the hour would make her quite a martyr,

And they had wasted now almost a quarter.

I also would suggest the fitting time

    To gentlemen in any such like case,

That is to say in a meridian clime —

    With us there is more law given to the chase,

But here a small delay forms a great crime:

    So recollect that the extremest grace

Is just two minutes for your declaration —

A moment more would hurt your reputation.

Juan’s was good; and might have been still better,

    But he had got Haidee into his head:

However strange, he could not yet forget her,

    Which made him seem exceedingly ill-bred.

Gulbeyaz, who look’d on him as her debtor

    For having had him to her palace led,

Began to blush up to the eyes, and then

Grow deadly pale, and then blush back again.

At length, in an imperial way, she laid

    Her hand on his, and bending on him eyes

Which needed not an empire to persuade,

    Look’d into his for love, where none replies:

Her brow grew black, but she would not upbraid,

    That being the last thing a proud woman tries;

She rose, and pausing one chaste moment, threw

Herself upon his breast, and there she grew.

This was an awkward test, as Juan found,

    But he was steel’d by sorrow, wrath, and pride:

With gentle force her white arms he unwound,

    And seated her all drooping by his side,

Then rising haughtily he glanced around,

    And looking coldly in her face, he cried,

‘The prison’d eagle will not pair, nor

Serve a Sultana’s sensual phantasy.

‘Thou ask’st if I can love? be this the proof

    How much I have loved — that I love not thee!

In this vile garb, the distaff, web, and woof,

    Were fitter for me: Love is for the free!

I am not dazzled by this splendid roof,

    Whate’er thy power, and great it seems to be;

Heads bow, knees bend, eyes watch around a throne,

And hands obey — our hearts are still our own.’

This was a truth to us extremely trite;

    Not so to her, who ne’er had heard such things:

She deem’d her least command must yield delight,

    Earth being only made for queens and kings.

If hearts lay on the left side or the right

    She hardly knew, to such perfection brings

Legitimacy its born votaries, when

Aware of their due royal rights o’er men.

Besides, as has been said, she was so fair

    As even in a much humbler lot had made

A kingdom or confusion anywhere,

    And also, as may be presumed, she laid

Some stress on charms, which seldom are, if e’er,

    By their possessors thrown into the shade:

She thought hers gave a double ‘right divine;’

And half of that opinion ‘s also mine.

Remember, or (if you can not) imagine,

    Ye, who have kept your chastity when young,

While some more desperate dowager has been waging

    Love with you, and been in the dog-days stung

By your refusal, recollect her raging!

    Or recollect all that was said or sung

On such a subject; then suppose the face

Of a young downright beauty in this case.

Suppose — but you already have supposed,

    The spouse of Potiphar, the Lady Booby,

Phaedra, and all which story has disclosed

    Of good examples; pity that so few by

Poets and private tutors are exposed,

    To educate — ye youth of Europe — you by!

But when you have supposed the few we know,

You can’t suppose Gulbeyaz’ angry brow.

A tigress robb’d of young, a lioness,

    Or any interesting beast of prey,

Are similes at hand for the distress

    Of ladies who can not have their own way;

But though my turn will not be served with less,

    These don’t express one half what I should say:

For what is stealing young ones, few or many,

To cutting short their hopes of having any?

The love of offspring ‘s nature’s general law,

    From tigresses and cubs to ducks and ducklings;

There ‘s nothing whets the beak, or arms the claw

    Like an invasion of their babes and sucklings;

And all who have seen a human nursery, saw

    How mothers love their children’s squalls and chucklings;

This strong extreme effect (to tire no longer

Your patience) shows the cause must still be stronger.

If I said fire flash’d from Gulbeyaz’ eyes,

    ’T were nothing — for her eyes flash’d always fire;

Or said her cheeks assumed the deepest dyes,

    I should but bring disgrace upon the dyer,

So supernatural was her passion’s rise;

    For ne’er till now she knew a check’d desire:

Even ye who know what a check’d woman is

(Enough, God knows!) would much fall short of this.

Her rage was but a minute’s, and ‘t was well —

    A moment’s more had slain her; but the while

It lasted ‘t was like a short glimpse of hell:

    Nought ‘s more sublime than energetic bile,

Though horrible to see yet grand to tell,

    Like ocean warring ‘gainst a rocky isle;

And the deep passions flashing through her form

Made her a beautiful embodied storm.

A vulgar tempest ‘t were to a typhoon

    To match a common fury with her rage,

And yet she did not want to reach the moon,

    Like moderate Hotspur on the immortal page;

Her anger pitch’d into a lower tune,

    Perhaps the fault of her soft sex and age —

Her wish was but to ‘kill, kill, kill,’ like Lear’s,

And then her thirst of blood was quench’d in tears.

A storm it raged, and like the storm it pass’d,

    Pass’d without words — in fact she could not speak;

And then her sex’s shame broke in at last,

    A sentiment till then in her but weak,

But now it flow’d in natural and fast,

    As water through an unexpected leak;

For she felt humbled — and humiliation

Is sometimes good for people in her station

It teaches them that they are flesh and blood,

    It also gently hints to them that others,

Although of clay, are yet not quite of mud;

    That urns and pipkins are but fragile brothers,

And works of the same pottery, bad or good,

    Though not all born of the same sires and mothers:

It teaches — Heaven knows only what it teaches,

But sometimes it may mend, and often reaches.

Her first thought was to cut off Juan’s head;

    Her second, to cut only his — acquaintance;

Her third, to ask him where he had been bred;

    Her fourth, to rally him into repentance;

Her fifth, to call her maids and go to bed;

    Her sixth, to stab herself; her seventh, to sentence

The lash to Baba:— but her grand resource

Was to sit down again, and cry of course.

She thought to stab herself, but then she had

    The dagger close at hand, which made it awkward;

For Eastern stays are little made to pad,

    So that a poniard pierces if ‘t is stuck hard:

She thought of killing Juan — but, poor lad!

    Though he deserved it well for being so backward,

The cutting off his head was not the art

Most likely to attain her aim — his heart.

Juan was moved; he had made up his mind

    To be impaled, or quarter’d as a dish

For dogs, or to be slain with pangs refined,

    Or thrown to lions, or made baits for fish,

And thus heroically stood resign’d,

    Rather than sin — except to his own wish:

But all his great preparatives for dying

Dissolved like snow before a woman crying.

As through his palms Bob Acres’ valour oozed,

    So Juan’s virtue ebb’d, I know not how;

And first he wonder’d why he had refused;

    And then, if matters could be made up now;

And next his savage virtue he accused,

    Just as a friar may accuse his vow,

Or as a dame repents her of her oath,

Which mostly ends in some small breach of both.

So he began to stammer some excuses;

    But words are not enough in such a matter,

Although you borrow’d all that e’er the muses

    Have sung, or even a Dandy’s dandiest chatter,

Or all the figures Castlereagh abuses;

    Just as a languid smile began to flatter

His peace was making, but before he ventured

Further, old Baba rather briskly enter’d.

‘Bride of the Sun! and Sister of the Moon!’

    (’T was thus he spake) ‘and Empress of the Earth!

Whose frown would put the spheres all out of tune,

    Whose smile makes all the planets dance with mirth,

Your slave brings tidings — he hopes not too soon —

    Which your sublime attention may be worth:

The Sun himself has sent me like a ray,

To hint that he is coming up this way.’

‘Is it,’ exclaim’d Gulbeyaz, ‘as you say?

    I wish to heaven he would not shine till morning!

But bid my women form the milky way.

    Hence, my old comet! give the stars due warning —

And, Christian! mingle with them as you may,

    And as you ‘d have me pardon your past scorning-’

Here they were interrupted by a humming

Sound, and then by a cry, ‘The Sultan ‘s coming!’

First came her damsels, a decorous file,

    And then his Highness’ eunuchs, black and white;

The train might reach a quarter of a mile:

    His majesty was always so polite

As to announce his visits a long while

    Before he came, especially at night;

For being the last wife of the Emperour,

She was of course the favorite of the four.

His Highness was a man of solemn port,

    Shawl’d to the nose, and bearded to the eyes,

Snatch’d from a prison to preside at court,

    His lately bowstrung brother caused his rise;

He was as good a sovereign of the sort

    As any mention’d in the histories

Of Cantemir, or Knolles, where few shine

Save Solyman, the glory of their line.

He went to mosque in state, and said his prayers

    With more than ‘Oriental scrupulosity;’

He left to his vizier all state affairs,

    And show’d but little royal curiosity:

I know not if he had domestic cares —

    No process proved connubial animosity;

Four wives and twice five hundred maids, unseen,

Were ruled as calmly as a Christian queen.

If now and then there happen’d a slight slip,

    Little was heard of criminal or crime;

The story scarcely pass’d a single lip —

    The sack and sea had settled all in time,

From which the secret nobody could rip:

    The Public knew no more than does this rhyme;

No scandals made the daily press a curse —

Morals were better, and the fish no worse.

He saw with his own eyes the moon was round,

    Was also certain that the earth was square,

Because he had journey’d fifty miles, and found

    No sign that it was circular anywhere;

His empire also was without a bound:

    ’T is true, a little troubled here and there,

By rebel pachas, and encroaching giaours,

But then they never came to ‘the Seven Towers;’

Except in shape of envoys, who were sent

    To lodge there when a war broke out, according

To the true law of nations, which ne’er meant

    Those scoundrels, who have never had a sword in

Their dirty diplomatic hands, to vent

    Their spleen in making strife, and safely wording

Their lies, yclep’d despatches, without risk or

The singeing of a single inky whisker.

He had fifty daughters and four dozen sons,

    Of whom all such as came of age were stow’d,

The former in a palace, where like nuns

    They lived till some Bashaw was sent abroad,

When she, whose turn it was, was wed at once,

    Sometimes at six years old — though it seems odd,

’T is true; the reason is, that the Bashaw

Must make a present to his sire in law.

His sons were kept in prison, till they grew

    Of years to fill a bowstring or the throne,

One or the other, but which of the two

    Could yet be known unto the fates alone;

Meantime the education they went through

    Was princely, as the proofs have always shown:

So that the heir apparent still was found

No less deserving to be hang’d than crown’d.

His majesty saluted his fourth spouse

    With all the ceremonies of his rank,

Who clear’d her sparkling eyes and smooth’d her brows,

    As suits a matron who has play’d a prank;

These must seem doubly mindful of their vows,

    To save the credit of their breaking bank:

To no men are such cordial greetings given

As those whose wives have made them fit for heaven.

His Highness cast around his great black eyes,

    And looking, as he always look’d, perceived

Juan amongst the damsels in disguise,

    At which he seem’d no whit surprised nor grieved,

But just remark’d with air sedate and wise,

    While still a fluttering sigh Gulbeyaz heaved,

‘I see you ’ve bought another girl; ‘t is pity

That a mere Christian should be half so pretty.’

This compliment, which drew all eyes upon

    The new-bought virgin, made her blush and shake.

Her comrades, also, thought themselves undone:

    O! Mahomet! that his majesty should take

Such notice of a giaour, while scarce to one

    Of them his lips imperial ever spake!

There was a general whisper, toss, and wriggle,

But etiquette forbade them all to giggle.

The Turks do well to shut — at least, sometimes —

    The women up, because, in sad reality,

Their chastity in these unhappy climes

    Is not a thing of that astringent quality

Which in the North prevents precocious crimes,

    And makes our snow less pure than our morality;

The sun, which yearly melts the polar ice,

Has quite the contrary effect on vice.

Thus in the East they are extremely strict,

    And Wedlock and a Padlock mean the same;

Excepting only when the former ‘s pick’d

    It ne’er can be replaced in proper frame;

Spoilt, as a pipe of claret is when prick’d:

    But then their own Polygamy ‘s to blame;

Why don’t they knead two virtuous souls for life

Into that moral centaur, man and wife?

Thus far our chronicle; and now we pause,

    Though not for want of matter; but ‘t is time

According to the ancient epic laws,

    To slacken sail, and anchor with our rhyme.

Let this fifth canto meet with due applause,

    The sixth shall have a touch of the sublime;

Meanwhile, as Homer sometimes sleeps, perhaps

You ’ll pardon to my muse a few short naps.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/byron/george/b99d/canto5.html

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