Don Juan By Lord Byron Canto V

'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.'

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

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