Don Juan By Lord Byron Canto VI

Her face declined and was unseen; her hair
  Fell in long tresses like the weeping willow,
Sweeping the marble underneath her chair,
  Or rather sofa (for it was all pillow,
A low soft ottoman), and black despair
  Stirr'd up and down her bosom like a billow,
Which rushes to some shore whose shingles check
Its farther course, but must receive its wreck.

Her head hung down, and her long hair in stooping
  Conceal'd her features better than a veil;
And one hand o'er the ottoman lay drooping,
  White, waxen, and as alabaster pale:
Would that I were a painter! to be grouping
  All that a poet drags into detail
O that my words were colours! but their tints
May serve perhaps as outlines or slight hints.

Baba, who knew by experience when to talk
  And when to hold his tongue, now held it till
This passion might blow o'er, nor dared to balk
  Gulbeyaz' taciturn or speaking will.
At length she rose up, and began to walk
  Slowly along the room, but silent still,
And her brow clear'd, but not her troubled eye;
The wind was down, but still the sea ran high.

She stopp'd, and raised her head to speak — but paused,
  And then moved on again with rapid pace;
Then slacken'd it, which is the march most caused
  By deep emotion: — you may sometimes trace
A feeling in each footstep, as disclosed
  By Sallust in his Catiline, who, chased
By all the demons of all passions, show'd
Their work even by the way in which he trode.

Gulbeyaz stopp'd and beckon'd Baba: — 'Slave!
  Bring the two slaves!' she said in a low tone,
But one which Baba did not like to brave,
  And yet he shudder'd, and seem'd rather prone
To prove reluctant, and begg'd leave to crave
  (Though he well knew the meaning) to be shown
What slaves her highness wish'd to indicate,
For fear of any error, like the late.

'The Georgian and her paramour,' replied
  The imperial bride — and added, 'Let the boat
Be ready by the secret portal's side:
  You know the rest.' The words stuck in her throat,
Despite her injured love and fiery pride;
  And of this Baba willingly took note,
And begg'd by every hair of Mahomet's beard,
She would revoke the order he had heard.

'To hear is to obey,' he said; 'but still,
  Sultana, think upon the consequence:
It is not that I shall not all fulfil
  Your orders, even in their severest sense;
But such precipitation may end ill,
  Even at your own imperative expense:
I do not mean destruction and exposure,
In case of any premature disclosure;

'But your own feelings. Even should all the rest
  Be hidden by the rolling waves, which hide
Already many a once love-beaten breast
  Deep in the caverns of the deadly tide —
You love this boyish, new, seraglio guest,
  And if this violent remedy be tried —
Excuse my freedom, when I here assure you,
That killing him is not the way to cure you.'

'What dost thou know of love or feeling? — Wretch!
  Begone!' she cried, with kindling eyes — 'and do
My bidding!' Baba vanish'd, for to stretch
  His own remonstrance further he well knew
Might end in acting as his own 'Jack Ketch;'
  And though he wish'd extremely to get through
This awkward business without harm to others,
He still preferr'd his own neck to another's.

Away he went then upon his commission,
  Growling and grumbling in good Turkish phrase
Against all women of whate'er condition,
  Especially sultanas and their ways;
Their obstinacy, pride, and indecision,
  Their never knowing their own mind two days,
The trouble that they gave, their immorality,
Which made him daily bless his own neutrality.

And then he call'd his brethren to his aid,
  And sent one on a summons to the pair,
That they must instantly be well array'd,
  And above all be comb'd even to a hair,
And brought before the empress, who had made
  Inquiries after them with kindest care:
At which Dudu look'd strange, and Juan silly;
But go they must at once, and will I — nill I.

And here I leave them at their preparation
  For the imperial presence, wherein whether
Gulbeyaz show'd them both commiseration,
  Or got rid of the parties altogether,
Like other angry ladies of her nation, —
  Are things the turning of a hair or feather
May settle; but far be 't from me to anticipate
In what way feminine caprice may dissipate.

I leave them for the present with good wishes,
  Though doubts of their well doing, to arrange
Another part of history; for the dishes
  Of this our banquet we must sometimes change;
And trusting Juan may escape the fishes,
  Although his situation now seems strange
And scarce secure, as such digressions are fair,
The Muse will take a little touch at warfare.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

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