Don Juan By Lord Byron Canto XVI

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.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

After Don Juan escapes from Constantinople, he is embroiled in the battle of




Quiz