Don Juan By Lord Byron Canto VII

A habit rather blamable, which is
  That of despising those we combat with,
Common in many cases, was in this
  The cause of killing Tchitchitzkoff and Smith;
One of the valorous 'Smiths' whom we shall miss
  Out of those nineteen who late rhymed to 'pith;'
But 't is a name so spread o'er 'Sir' and 'Madam,'
That one would think the first who bore it 'Adam.'

The Russian batteries were incomplete,
  Because they were constructed in a hurry;
Thus the same cause which makes a verse want feet,
  And throws a cloud o'er Longman and John Murray,
When the sale of new books is not so fleet
  As they who print them think is necessary,
May likewise put off for a time what story
Sometimes calls 'murder,' and at others 'glory.'

Whether it was their engineer's stupidity,
  Their haste, or waste, I neither know nor care,
Or some contractor's personal cupidity,
  Saving his soul by cheating in the ware
Of homicide, but there was no solidity
  In the new batteries erected there;
They either miss'd, or they were never miss'd,
And added greatly to the missing list.

A sad miscalculation about distance
  Made all their naval matters incorrect;
Three fireships lost their amiable existence
  Before they reach'd a spot to take effect:
The match was lit too soon, and no assistance
  Could remedy this lubberly defect;
They blew up in the middle of the river,
While, though 't was dawn, the Turks slept fast as ever.

At seven they rose, however, and survey'd
  The Russ flotilla getting under way;
'T was nine, when still advancing undismay'd,
  Within a cable's length their vessels lay
Off Ismail, and commenced a cannonade,
  Which was return'd with interest, I may say,
And by a fire of musketry and grape,
And shells and shot of every size and shape.

For six hours bore they without intermission
  The Turkish fire, and aided by their own
Land batteries, work'd their guns with great precision:
  At length they found mere cannonade alone
By no means would produce the town's submission,
  And made a signal to retreat at one.
One bark blew up, a second near the works
Running aground, was taken by the Turks.

The Moslem, too, had lost both ships and men;
  But when they saw the enemy retire,
Their Delhis mann'd some boats, and sail'd again,
  And gall'd the Russians with a heavy fire,
And tried to make a landing on the main;
  But here the effect fell short of their desire:
Count Damas drove them back into the water
Pell-mell, and with a whole gazette of slaughter.

'If' (says the historian here) 'I could report
  All that the Russians did upon this day,
I think that several volumes would fall short,
  And I should still have many things to say;'
And so he says no more — but pays his court
  To some distinguish'd strangers in that fray;
The Prince de Ligne, and Langeron, and Damas,
Names great as any that the roll of Fame has.

This being the case, may show us what Fame is:
  For out of these three 'preux Chevaliers,' how
Many of common readers give a guess
  That such existed? (and they may live now
For aught we know.) Renown 's all hit or miss;
  There 's fortune even in fame, we must allow.
'T is true the Memoirs of the Prince de Ligne
Have half withdrawn from him oblivion's screen.

But here are men who fought in gallant actions
  As gallantly as ever heroes fought,
But buried in the heap of such transactions
  Their names are rarely found, nor often sought.
Thus even good fame may suffer sad contractions,
  And is extinguish'd sooner than she ought:
Of all our modern battles, I will bet
You can't repeat nine names from each Gazette.

In short, this last attack, though rich in glory,
  Show'd that somewhere, somehow, there was a fault,
And Admiral Ribas (known in Russian story)
  Most strongly recommended an assault;
In which he was opposed by young and hoary,
  Which made a long debate; but I must halt,
For if I wrote down every warrior's speech,
I doubt few readers e'er would mount the breach.

There was a man, if that he was a man,
  Not that his manhood could be call'd in question,
For had he not been Hercules, his span
  Had been as short in youth as indigestion
Made his last illness, when, all worn and wan,
  He died beneath a tree, as much unblest on
The soil of the green province he had wasted,
As e'er was locust on the land it blasted.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

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