Don Juan, by George Byron

Canto the Ninth.

O, Wellington! (or ‘Villainton’— for Fame

    Sounds the heroic syllables both ways;

France could not even conquer your great name,

    But punn’d it down to this facetious phrase —

Beating or beaten she will laugh the same),

    You have obtain’d great pensions and much praise:

Glory like yours should any dare gainsay,

Humanity would rise, and thunder ‘Nay!’

I don’t think that you used Kinnaird quite well

    In Marinet’s affair — in fact, ‘t was shabby,

And like some other things won’t do to tell

    Upon your tomb in Westminster’s old abbey.

Upon the rest ‘t is not worth while to dwell,

    Such tales being for the tea-hours of some tabby;

But though your years as man tend fast to zero,

In fact your grace is still but a young hero.

Though Britain owes (and pays you too) so much,

    Yet Europe doubtless owes you greatly more:

You have repair’d Legitimacy’s crutch,

    A prop not quite so certain as before:

The Spanish, and the French, as well as Dutch,

    Have seen, and felt, how strongly you restore;

And Waterloo has made the world your debtor

(I wish your bards would sing it rather better).

You are ‘the best of cut-throats:’— do not start;

    The phrase is Shakspeare’s, and not misapplied:

War ‘s a brain-spattering, windpipe-slitting art,

    Unless her cause by right be sanctified.

If you have acted once a generous part,

    The world, not the world’s masters, will decide,

And I shall be delighted to learn who,

Save you and yours, have gain’d by Waterloo?

I am no flatterer — you ’ve supp’d full of flattery:

    They say you like it too —‘t is no great wonder.

He whose whole life has been assault and battery,

    At last may get a little tired of thunder;

And swallowing eulogy much more than satire, he

    May like being praised for every lucky blunder,

Call’d ‘Saviour of the Nations’— not yet saved,

And ‘Europe’s Liberator’— still enslaved.

I ’ve done. Now go and dine from off the plate

    Presented by the Prince of the Brazils,

And send the sentinel before your gate

    A slice or two from your luxurious meals:

He fought, but has not fed so well of late.

    Some hunger, too, they say the people feels:—

There is no doubt that you deserve your ration,

But pray give back a little to the nation.

I don’t mean to reflect — a man so great as

    You, my lord duke! is far above reflection:

The high Roman fashion, too, of Cincinnatus,

    With modern history has but small connection:

Though as an Irishman you love potatoes,

    You need not take them under your direction;

And half a million for your Sabine farm

Is rather dear! — I ’m sure I mean no harm.

Great men have always scorn’d great recompenses:

    Epaminondas saved his Thebes, and died,

Not leaving even his funeral expenses:

    George Washington had thanks and nought beside,

Except the all-cloudless glory which few men’s is

    To free his country: Pitt too had his pride,

And as a high-soul’d minister of state is

Renown’d for ruining Great Britain gratis.

Never had mortal man such opportunity,

    Except Napoleon, or abused it more:

You might have freed fallen Europe from the unity

    Of tyrants, and been blest from shore to shore:

And now — what is your fame? Shall the Muse tune it ye?

    Now — that the rabble’s first vain shouts are o’er?

Go! hear it in your famish’d country’s cries!

Behold the world! and curse your victories!

As these new cantos touch on warlike feats,

    To you the unflattering Muse deigns to inscribe

Truths, that you will not read in the Gazettes,

    But which ‘t is time to teach the hireling tribe

Who fatten on their country’s gore, and debts,

    Must be recited, and — without a bribe.

You did great things; but not being great in mind,

Have left undone the greatest — and mankind.

Death laughs — Go ponder o’er the skeleton

    With which men image out the unknown thing

That hides the past world, like to a set sun

    Which still elsewhere may rouse a brighter spring —

Death laughs at all you weep for:— look upon

    This hourly dread of all! whose threaten’d sting

Turns life to terror, even though in its sheath:

Mark how its lipless mouth grins without breath!

Mark how it laughs and scorns at all you are!

    And yet was what you are: from ear to ear

It laughs not — there is now no fleshy bar

    So call’d; the Antic long hath ceased to hear,

But still he smiles; and whether near or far,

    He strips from man that mantle (far more dear

Than even the tailor’s), his incarnate skin,

White, black, or copper — the dead bones will grin.

And thus Death laughs — it is sad merriment,

    But still it is so; and with such example

Why should not Life be equally content

    With his superior, in a smile to trample

Upon the nothings which are daily spent

    Like bubbles on an ocean much less ample

Than the eternal deluge, which devours

Suns as rays — worlds like atoms — years like hours?

‘To be, or not to be? that is the question,’

    Says Shakspeare, who just now is much in fashion.

I am neither Alexander nor Hephaestion,

    Nor ever had for abstract fame much passion;

But would much rather have a sound digestion

    Than Buonaparte’s cancer: could I dash on

Through fifty victories to shame or fame —

Without a stomach what were a good name?

‘O dura ilia messorum!’—‘Oh

    Ye rigid guts of reapers!’ I translate

For the great benefit of those who know

    What indigestion is — that inward fate

Which makes all Styx through one small liver flow.

    A peasant’s sweat is worth his lord’s estate:

Let this one toil for bread — that rack for rent,

He who sleeps best may be the most content.

‘To be, or not to be?’— Ere I decide,

    I should be glad to know that which is being?

’T is true we speculate both far and wide,

    And deem, because we see, we are all-seeing:

For my part, I ’ll enlist on neither side,

    Until I see both sides for once agreeing.

For me, I sometimes think that life is death,

Rather than life a mere affair of breath.

‘Que scais-je?’ was the motto of Montaigne,

    As also of the first academicians:

That all is dubious which man may attain,

    Was one of their most favourite positions.

There ‘s no such thing as certainty, that ‘s plain

    As any of Mortality’s conditions;

So little do we know what we ‘re about in

This world, I doubt if doubt itself be doubting.

It is a pleasant voyage perhaps to float,

    Like Pyrrho, on a sea of speculation;

But what if carrying sail capsize the boat?

    Your wise men don’t know much of navigation;

And swimming long in the abyss of thought

    Is apt to tire: a calm and shallow station

Well nigh the shore, where one stoops down and gathers

Some pretty shell, is best for moderate bathers.

‘But heaven,’ as Cassio says, ‘is above all —

    No more of this, then — let us pray!’ We have

Souls to save, since Eve’s slip and Adam’s fall,

    Which tumbled all mankind into the grave,

Besides fish, beasts, and birds. ‘The sparrow’s fall

    Is special providence,’ though how it gave

Offence, we know not; probably it perch’d

Upon the tree which Eve so fondly search’d.

O, ye immortal gods! what is theogony?

    O, thou too, mortal man! what is philanthropy?

O, world! which was and is, what is cosmogony?

    Some people have accused me of misanthropy;

And yet I know no more than the mahogany

    That forms this desk, of what they mean; lykanthropy

I comprehend, for without transformation

Men become wolves on any slight occasion.

But I, the mildest, meekest of mankind,

    Like Moses, or Melancthon, who have ne’er

Done anything exceedingly unkind —

    And (though I could not now and then forbear

Following the bent of body or of mind)

    Have always had a tendency to spare —

Why do they call me misanthrope? Because

They hate me, not I them. — and here we ’ll pause.

’T is time we should proceed with our good poem —

    For I maintain that it is really good,

Not only in the body but the proem,

    However little both are understood

Just now — but by and by the Truth will show ’em

    Herself in her sublimest attitude:

And till she doth, I fain must be content

To share her beauty and her banishment.

Our hero (and, I trust, kind reader, yours)

    Was left upon his way to the chief city

Of the immortal Peter’s polish’d boors

    Who still have shown themselves more brave than witty.

I know its mighty empire now allures

    Much flattery — even Voltaire’s, and that ‘s a pity.

For me, I deem an absolute autocrat

Not a barbarian, but much worse than that.

And I will war, at least in words (and — should

    My chance so happen — deeds), with all who war

With Thought; — and of Thought’s foes by far most rude,

    Tyrants and sycophants have been and are.

I know not who may conquer: if I could

    Have such a prescience, it should be no bar

To this my plain, sworn, downright detestation

Of every depotism in every nation.

It is not that I adulate the people:

    Without me, there are demagogues enough,

And infidels, to pull down every steeple,

    And set up in their stead some proper stuff.

Whether they may sow scepticism to reap hell,

    As is the Christian dogma rather rough,

I do not know; — I wish men to be free

As much from mobs as kings — from you as me.

The consequence is, being of no party,

    I shall offend all parties: never mind!

My words, at least, are more sincere and hearty

    Than if I sought to sail before the wind.

He who has nought to gain can have small art: he

    Who neither wishes to be bound nor bind,

May still expatiate freely, as will I,

Nor give my voice to slavery’s jackal cry.

That ‘s an appropriate simile, that jackal; —

    I ’ve heard them in the Ephesian ruins howl

By night, as do that mercenary pack all,

    Power’s base purveyors, who for pickings prowl,

And scent the prey their masters would attack all.

    However, the poor jackals are less foul

(As being the brave lions’ keen providers)

Than human insects, catering for spiders.

Raise but an arm! ‘t will brush their web away,

    And without that, their poison and their claws

Are useless. Mind, good people! what I say

    (Or rather peoples)— go on without pause!

The web of these tarantulas each day

    Increases, till you shall make common cause:

None, save the Spanish fly and Attic bee,

As yet are strongly stinging to be free.

Don Juan, who had shone in the late slaughter,

    Was left upon his way with the despatch,

Where blood was talk’d of as we would of water;

    And carcasses that lay as thick as thatch

O’er silenced cities, merely served to flatter

    Fair Catherine’s pastime — who look’d on the match

Between these nations as a main of cocks,

Wherein she liked her own to stand like rocks.

And there in a kibitka he roll’d on

    (A cursed sort of carriage without springs,

Which on rough roads leaves scarcely a whole bone),

    Pondering on glory, chivalry, and kings,

And orders, and on all that he had done —

    And wishing that post-horses had the wings

Of Pegasus, or at the least post-chaises

Had feathers, when a traveller on deep ways is.

At every jolt — and they were many — still

    He turn’d his eyes upon his little charge,

As if he wish’d that she should fare less ill

    Than he, in these sad highways left at large

To ruts, and flints, and lovely Nature’s skill,

    Who is no paviour, nor admits a barge

On her canals, where God takes sea and land,

Fishery and farm, both into his own hand.

At least he pays no rent, and has best right

    To be the first of what we used to call

‘Gentlemen farmer’— a race worn out quite,

    Since lately there have been no rents at all,

And ‘gentlemen’ are in a piteous plight,

    And ‘farmers’ can’t raise Ceres from her fall:

She fell with Buonaparte — What strange thoughts

Arise, when we see emperors fall with oats!

But Juan turn’d his eyes on the sweet child

    Whom he had saved from slaughter — what a trophy

O! ye who build up monuments, defiled

    With gore, like Nadir Shah, that costive sophy,

Who, after leaving Hindostan a wild,

    And scarce to the Mogul a cup of coffee

To soothe his woes withal, was slain, the sinner!

Because he could no more digest his dinner; —

O ye! or we! or he! or she! reflect,

    That one life saved, especially if young

Or pretty, is a thing to recollect

    Far sweeter than the greenest laurels sprung

From the manure of human clay, though deck’d

    With all the praises ever said or sung:

Though hymn’d by every harp, unless within

Your heart joins chorus, Fame is but a din.

O! ye great authors luminous, voluminous!

    Ye twice ten hundred thousand daily scribes!

Whose pamphlets, volumes, newspapers, illumine us!

    Whether you ‘re paid by government in bribes,

To prove the public debt is not consuming us —

    Or, roughly treading on the ‘courtier’s kibes’

With clownish heel, your popular circulation

Feeds you by printing half the realm’s starvation; —

O, ye great authors! —‘Apropos des bottes,’-

    I have forgotten what I meant to say,

As sometimes have been greater sages’ lots;

    ’T was something calculated to allay

All wrath in barracks, palaces, or cots:

    Certes it would have been but thrown away,

And that ‘s one comfort for my lost advice,

Although no doubt it was beyond all price.

But let it go:— it will one day be found

    With other relics of ‘a former world,’

When this world shall be former, underground,

    Thrown topsy-turvy, twisted, crisp’d, and curl’d,

Baked, fried, or burnt, turn’d inside-out, or drown’d,

    Like all the worlds before, which have been hurl’d

First out of, and then back again to chaos,

The superstratum which will overlay us.

So Cuvier says; — and then shall come again

    Unto the new creation, rising out

From our old crash, some mystic, ancient strain

    Of things destroy’d and left in airy doubt:

Like to the notions we now entertain

    Of Titans, giants, fellows of about

Some hundred feet in height, not to say miles,

And mammoths, and your winged crocodiles.

Think if then George the Fourth should be dug up!

    How the new worldlings of the then new East

Will wonder where such animals could sup!

    (For they themselves will be but of the least:

Even worlds miscarry, when too oft they pup,

    And every new creation hath decreased

In size, from overworking the material —

Men are but maggots of some huge Earth’s burial.)

How will — to these young people, just thrust out

    From some fresh Paradise, and set to plough,

And dig, and sweat, and turn themselves about,

    And plant, and reap, and spin, and grind, and sow,

Till all the arts at length are brought about,

    Especially of war and taxing — how,

I say, will these great relics, when they see ’em,

Look like the monsters of a new museum?

But I am apt to grow too metaphysical:

    ‘The time is out of joint,’— and so am I;

I quite forget this poem ‘s merely quizzical,

    And deviate into matters rather dry.

I ne’er decide what I shall say, and this I cal

    Much too poetical: men should know why

They write, and for what end; but, note or text,

I never know the word which will come next.

So on I ramble, now and then narrating,

    Now pondering:— it is time we should narrate.

I left Don Juan with his horses baiting —

    Now we ’ll get o’er the ground at a great rate.

I shall not be particular in stating

    His journey, we ’ve so many tours of late:

Suppose him then at Petersburgh; suppose

That pleasant capital of painted snows;

Suppose him in a handsome uniform —

    A scarlet coat, black facings, a long plume,

Waving, like sails new shiver’d in a storm,

    Over a cock’d hat in a crowded room,

And brilliant breeches, bright as a Cairn Gorme,

    Of yellow casimere we may presume,

White stocking drawn uncurdled as new milk

O’er limbs whose symmetry set off the silk;

Suppose him sword by side, and hat in hand,

    Made up by youth, fame, and an army tailor —

That great enchanter, at whose rod’s command

    Beauty springs forth, and Nature’s self turns paler,

Seeing how Art can make her work more grand

    (When she don’t pin men’s limbs in like a gaoler) —

Behold him placed as if upon a pillar! He

Seems Love turn’d a lieutenant of artillery:—

His bandage slipp’d down into a cravat;

    His wings subdued to epaulettes; his quiver

Shrunk to a scabbard, with his arrows at

    His side as a small sword, but sharp as ever;

His bow converted into a cock’d hat;

    But still so like, that Psyche were more clever

Than some wives (who make blunders no less stupid),

If she had not mistaken him for Cupid.

The courtiers stared, the ladies whisper’d, and

    The empress smiled: the reigning favourite frown’d —

I quite forget which of them was in hand

    Just then; as they are rather numerous found,

Who took by turns that difficult command

    Since first her majesty was singly crown’d:

But they were mostly nervous six-foot fellows,

All fit to make a Patagonian jealous.

Juan was none of these, but slight and slim,

    Blushing and beardless; and yet ne’ertheless

There was a something in his turn of limb,

    And still more in his eye, which seem’d to express,

That though he look’d one of the seraphim,

    There lurk’d a man beneath the spirit’s dress.

Besides, the empress sometimes liked a boy,

And had just buried the fair-faced Lanskoi.

No wonder then that Yermoloff, or Momonoff,

    Or Scherbatoff, or any other off

Or on, might dread her majesty had not room enough

    Within her bosom (which was not too tough)

For a new flame; a thought to cast of gloom enough

    Along the aspect, whether smooth or rough,

Of him who, in the language of his station,

Then held that ‘high official situation.’

O, gentle ladies! should you seek to know

    The import of this diplomatic phrase,

Bid Ireland’s Londonderry’s Marquess show

    His parts of speech; and in the strange displays

Of that odd string of words, all in a row,

    Which none divine, and every one obeys,

Perhaps you may pick out some queer no meaning,

Of that weak wordy harvest the sole gleaning.

I think I can explain myself without

    That sad inexplicable beast of prey —

That Sphinx, whose words would ever be a doubt,

    Did not his deeds unriddle them each day —

That monstrous hieroglyphic — that long spout

    Of blood and water, leaden Castlereagh!

And here I must an anecdote relate,

But luckily of no great length or weight.

An English lady ask’d of an Italian,

    What were the actual and official duties

Of the strange thing some women set a value on,

    Which hovers oft about some married beauties,

Called ‘Cavalier servente?’— a Pygmalion

    Whose statues warm (I fear, alas! too true ‘t is)

Beneath his art. The dame, press’d to disclose them,

Said —‘Lady, I beseech you to suppose them.’

And thus I supplicate your supposition,

    And mildest, matron-like interpretation,

Of the imperial favourite’s condition.

    ’T was a high place, the highest in the nation

In fact, if not in rank; and the suspicion

    Of any one’s attaining to his station,

No doubt gave pain, where each new pair of shoulders,

If rather broad, made stocks rise and their holders.

Juan, I said, was a most beauteous boy,

    And had retain’d his boyish look beyond

The usual hirsute seasons which destroy,

    With beards and whiskers, and the like, the fond

Parisian aspect which upset old Troy

    And founded Doctors’ Commons:— I have conn’d

The history of divorces, which, though chequer’d,

Calls Ilion’s the first damages on record.

And Catherine, who loved all things (save her lord,

    Who was gone to his place), and pass’d for much

Admiring those (by dainty dames abhorr’d)

    Gigantic gentlemen, yet had a touch

Of sentiment; and he she most adored

    Was the lamented Lanskoi, who was such

A lover as had cost her many a tear,

And yet but made a middling grenadier.

O thou ‘teterrima causa’ of all ‘belli’-

    Thou gate of life and death — thou nondescript!

Whence is our exit and our entrance — well I

    May pause in pondering how all souls are dipt

In thy perennial fountain:— how man fell I

    Know not, since knowledge saw her branches stript

Of her first fruit; but how he falls and rises

Since, thou hast settled beyond all surmises.

Some call thee ‘the worst cause of war,’ but I

    Maintain thou art the best: for after all

From thee we come, to thee we go, and why

    To get at thee not batter down a wall,

Or waste a world? since no one can deny

    Thou dost replenish worlds both great and small:

With, or without thee, all things at a stand

Are, or would be, thou sea of life’s dry land!

Catherine, who was the grand epitome

    Of that great cause of war, or peace, or what

You please (it causes all the things which be,

    So you may take your choice of this or that)—

Catherine, I say, was very glad to see

    The handsome herald, on whose plumage sat

Victory; and pausing as she saw him kneel

With his despatch, forgot to break the seal.

Then recollecting the whole empress, nor

    forgetting quite the woman (which composed

At least three parts of this great whole), she tore

    The letter open with an air which posed

The court, that watch’d each look her visage wore,

    Until a royal smile at length disclosed

Fair weather for the day. Though rather spacious,

Her face was noble, her eyes fine, mouth gracious.

Great joy was hers, or rather joys: the first

    Was a ta’en city, thirty thousand slain.

Glory and triumph o’er her aspect burst,

    As an East Indian sunrise on the main.

These quench’d a moment her ambition’s thirst —

    So Arab deserts drink in summer’s rain:

In vain! — As fall the dews on quenchless sands,

Blood only serves to wash Ambition’s hands!

Her next amusement was more fanciful;

    She smiled at mad Suwarrow’s rhymes, who threw

Into a Russian couplet rather dull

    The whole gazette of thousands whom he slew.

Her third was feminine enough to annul

    The shudder which runs naturally through

Our veins, when things call’d sovereigns think it best

To kill, and generals turn it into jest.

The two first feelings ran their course complete,

    And lighted first her eye, and then her mouth:

The whole court look’d immediately most sweet,

    Like flowers well water’d after a long drouth.

But when on the lieutenant at her feet

    Her majesty, who liked to gaze on youth

Almost as much as on a new despatch,

Glanced mildly, all the world was on the watch.

Though somewhat large, exuberant, and truculent,

    When wroth — while pleased, she was as fine a figure

As those who like things rosy, ripe, and succulent,

    Would wish to look on, while they are in vigour.

She could repay each amatory look you lent

    With interest, and in turn was wont with rigour

To exact of Cupid’s bills the full amount

At sight, nor would permit you to discount.

With her the latter, though at times convenient,

    Was not so necessary; for they tell

That she was handsome, and though fierce look’d lenient,

    And always used her favourites too well.

If once beyond her boudoir’s precincts in ye went,

    Your ‘fortune’ was in a fair way ‘to swell

A man’ (as Giles says); for though she would widow all

Nations, she liked man as an individual.

What a strange thing is man? and what a stranger

    Is woman! What a whirlwind is her head,

And what a whirlpool full of depth and danger

    Is all the rest about her! Whether wed

Or widow, maid or mother, she can change her

    Mind like the wind: whatever she has said

Or done, is light to what she ’ll say or do; —

The oldest thing on record, and yet new!

O Catherine! (for of all interjections,

    To thee both oh! and ah! belong of right

In love and war) how odd are the connections

    Of human thoughts, which jostle in their flight!

Just now yours were cut out in different sections:

    First Ismail’s capture caught your fancy quite;

Next of new knights, the fresh and glorious batch;

And thirdly he who brought you the despatch!

Shakspeare talks of ‘the herald Mercury

    New lighted on a heaven-kissing hill;’

And some such visions cross’d her majesty,

    While her young herald knelt before her still.

’T is very true the hill seem’d rather high,

    For a lieutenant to climb up; but skill

Smooth’d even the Simplon’s steep, and by God’s blessing

With youth and health all kisses are ‘heaven-kissing.’

Her majesty look’d down, the youth look’d up —

    And so they fell in love; — she with his face,

His grace, his God-knows-what: for Cupid’s cup

    With the first draught intoxicates apace,

A quintessential laudanum or ‘black drop,’

    Which makes one drunk at once, without the base

Expedient of full bumpers; for the eye

In love drinks all life’s fountains (save tears) dry.

He, on the other hand, if not in love,

    Fell into that no less imperious passion,

Self-love — which, when some sort of thing above

    Ourselves, a singer, dancer, much in fashion,

Or duchess, princess, empress, ‘deigns to prove’

    (’T is Pope’s phrase) a great longing, though a rash one,

For one especial person out of many,

Makes us believe ourselves as good as any.

Besides, he was of that delighted age

    Which makes all female ages equal — when

We don’t much care with whom we may engage,

    As bold as Daniel in the lion’s den,

So that we can our native sun assuage

    In the next ocean, which may flow just then,

To make a twilight in, just as Sol’s heat is

Quench’d in the lap of the salt sea, or Thetis.

And Catherine (we must say thus much for Catherine),

    Though bold and bloody, was the kind of thing

Whose temporary passion was quite flattering,

    Because each lover look’d a sort of king,

Made up upon an amatory pattern,

    A royal husband in all save the ring —

Which, being the damn’dest part of matrimony,

Seem’d taking out the sting to leave the honey.

And when you add to this, her womanhood

    In its meridian, her blue eyes or gray

(The last, if they have soul, are quite as good,

    Or better, as the best examples say:

Napoleon’s, Mary’s (queen of Scotland), should

    Lend to that colour a transcendent ray;

And Pallas also sanctions the same hue,

Too wise to look through optics black or blue)—

Her sweet smile, and her then majestic figure,

    Her plumpness, her imperial condescension,

Her preference of a boy to men much bigger

    (Fellows whom Messalina’s self would pension),

Her prime of life, just now in juicy vigour,

    With other extras, which we need not mention —

All these, or any one of these, explain

Enough to make a stripling very vain.

And that ‘s enough, for love is vanity,

    Selfish in its beginning as its end,

Except where ‘t is a mere insanity,

    A maddening spirit which would strive to blend

Itself with beauty’s frail inanity,

    On which the passion’s self seems to depend:

And hence some heathenish philosophers

Make love the main spring of the universe.

Besides Platonic love, besides the love

    Of God, the love of sentiment, the loving

Of faithful pairs (I needs must rhyme with dove,

    That good old steam-boat which keeps verses moving

‘Gainst reason — Reason ne’er was hand-and-glove

    With rhyme, but always leant less to improving

The sound than sense)— beside all these pretences

To love, there are those things which words name senses;

Those movements, those improvements in our bodies

    Which make all bodies anxious to get out

Of their own sand-pits, to mix with a goddess,

    For such all women are at first no doubt.

How beautiful that moment! and how odd is

    That fever which precedes the languid rout

Of our sensations! What a curious way

The whole thing is of clothing souls in clay!

The noblest kind of love is love Platonical,

    To end or to begin with; the next grand

Is that which may be christen’d love canonical,

    Because the clergy take the thing in hand;

The third sort to be noted in our chronicle

    As flourishing in every Christian land,

Is when chaste matrons to their other ties

Add what may be call’d marriage in disguise.

Well, we won’t analyse — our story must

    Tell for itself: the sovereign was smitten,

Juan much flatter’d by her love, or lust; —

    I cannot stop to alter words once written,

And the two are so mix’d with human dust,

    That he who names one, both perchance may hit on:

But in such matters Russia’s mighty empress

Behaved no better than a common sempstress.

The whole court melted into one wide whisper,

    And all lips were applied unto all ears!

The elder ladies’ wrinkles curl’d much crisper

    As they beheld; the younger cast some leers

On one another, and each lovely lisper

    Smiled as she talk’d the matter o’er; but tears

Of rivalship rose in each clouded eye

Of all the standing army who stood by.

All the ambassadors of all the powers

    Enquired, Who was this very new young man,

Who promised to be great in some few hours?

    Which is full soon — though life is but a span.

Already they beheld the silver showers

    Of rubles rain, as fast as specie can,

Upon his cabinet, besides the presents

Of several ribands, and some thousand peasants.

Catherine was generous — all such ladies are:

    Love, that great opener of the heart and all

The ways that lead there, be they near or far,

    Above, below, by turnpikes great or small —

Love (though she had a cursed taste for war,

    And was not the best wife, unless we call

Such Clytemnestra, though perhaps ‘t is better

That one should die, than two drag on the fetter)—

Love had made Catherine make each lover’s fortune,

    Unlike our own half-chaste Elizabeth,

Whose avarice all disbursements did importune,

    If history, the grand liar, ever saith

The truth; and though grief her old age might shorten,

    Because she put a favourite to death,

Her vile, ambiguous method of flirtation,

And stinginess, disgrace her sex and station.

But when the levee rose, and all was bustle

    In the dissolving circle, all the nations’

Ambassadors began as ‘t were to hustle

    Round the young man with their congratulations.

Also the softer silks were heard to rustle

    Of gentle dames, among whose recreations

It is to speculate on handsome faces,

Especially when such lead to high places.

Juan, who found himself, he knew not how,

    A general object of attention, made

His answers with a very graceful bow,

    As if born for the ministerial trade.

Though modest, on his unembarrass’d brow

    Nature had written ‘gentleman.’ He said

Little, but to the purpose; and his manner

Flung hovering graces o’er him like a banner.

An order from her majesty consign’d

    Our young lieutenant to the genial care

Of those in office: all the world look’d kind

    (As it will look sometimes with the first stare,

Which youth would not act ill to keep in mind),

    As also did Miss Protasoff then there,

Named from her mystic office ‘l’Eprouveuse,’

A term inexplicable to the Muse.

With her then, as in humble duty bound,

    Juan retired — and so will I, until

My Pegasus shall tire of touching ground.

    We have just lit on a ‘heaven-kissing hill,’

So lofty that I feel my brain turn round,

    And all my fancies whirling like a mill;

Which is a signal to my nerves and brain,

To take a quiet ride in some green Lane.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/byron/george/b99d/canto9.html

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