Don Juan By Lord Byron Canto V

'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)

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

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