Don Juan By Lord Byron Canto IV

Days lay she in that state unchanged, though chill —
  With nothing livid, still her lips were red;
She had no pulse, but death seem'd absent still;
  No hideous sign proclaim'd her surely dead;
Corruption came not in each mind to kill
  All hope; to look upon her sweet face bred
New thoughts of life, for it seem'd full of soul —
She had so much, earth could not claim the whole.

The ruling passion, such as marble shows
  When exquisitely chisell'd, still lay there,
But fix'd as marble's unchanged aspect throws
  O'er the fair Venus, but for ever fair;
O'er the Laocoon's all eternal throes,
  And ever-dying Gladiator's air,
Their energy like life forms all their fame,
Yet looks not life, for they are still the same.

She woke at length, but not as sleepers wake,
  Rather the dead, for life seem'd something new,
A strange sensation which she must partake
  Perforce, since whatsoever met her view
Struck not on memory, though a heavy ache
  Lay at her heart, whose earliest beat still true
Brought back the sense of pain without the cause,
For, for a while, the furies made a pause.

She look'd on many a face with vacant eye,
  On many a token without knowing what;
She saw them watch her without asking why,
  And reck'd not who around her pillow sat;
Not speechless, though she spoke not; not a sigh
  Relieved her thoughts; dull silence and quick chat
Were tried in vain by those who served; she gave
No sign, save breath, of having left the grave.

Her handmaids tended, but she heeded not;
  Her father watch'd, she turn'd her eyes away;
She recognized no being, and no spot,
  However dear or cherish'd in their day;
They changed from room to room — but all forgot —
  Gentle, but without memory she lay;
At length those eyes, which they would fain be weaning
Back to old thoughts, wax'd full of fearful meaning.

And then a slave bethought her of a harp;
  The harper came, and tuned his instrument;
At the first notes, irregular and sharp,
  On him her flashing eyes a moment bent,
Then to the wall she turn'd as if to warp
  Her thoughts from sorrow through her heart re-sent;
And he begun a long low island song
Of ancient days, ere tyranny grew strong.

Anon her thin wan fingers beat the wall
  In time to his old tune; he changed the theme,
And sung of love; the fierce name struck through all
  Her recollection; on her flash'd the dream
Of what she was, and is, if ye could call
  To be so being; in a gushing stream
The tears rush'd forth from her o'erclouded brain,
Like mountain mists at length dissolved in rain.

Short solace, vain relief! — thought came too quick,
  And whirl'd her brain to madness; she arose
As one who ne'er had dwelt among the sick,
  And flew at all she met, as on her foes;
But no one ever heard her speak or shriek,
  Although her paroxysm drew towards its dose; —
Hers was a phrensy which disdain'd to rave,
Even when they smote her, in the hope to save.

Yet she betray'd at times a gleam of sense;
  Nothing could make her meet her father's face,
Though on all other things with looks intense
  She gazed, but none she ever could retrace;
Food she refused, and raiment; no pretence
  Avail'd for either; neither change of place,
Nor time, nor skill, nor remedy, could give her
Senses to sleep — the power seem'd gone for ever.

Twelve days and nights she wither'd thus; at last,
  Without a groan, or sigh, or glance, to show
A parting pang, the spirit from her past:
  And they who watch'd her nearest could not know
The very instant, till the change that cast
  Her sweet face into shadow, dull and slow,
Glazed o'er her eyes — the beautiful, the black —
O! to possess such lustre — and then lack!

She died, but not alone; she held within
  A second principle of life, which might
Have dawn'd a fair and sinless child of sin;
  But closed its little being without light,
And went down to the grave unborn, wherein
  Blossom and bough lie wither'd with one blight;
In vain the dews of Heaven descend above
The bleeding flower and blasted fruit of love.

Thus lived — thus died she; never more on her
  Shall sorrow light, or shame. She was not made
Through years or moons the inner weight to bear,
  Which colder hearts endure till they are laid
By age in earth: her days and pleasures were
  Brief, but delightful — such as had not staid
Long with her destiny; but she sleeps well
By the sea-shore, whereon she loved to dwell.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

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