But on the whole their continence was great;
So that some disappointment there ensued
To those who had felt the inconvenient state
Of 'single blessedness,' and thought it good
(Since it was not their fault, but only fate,
To bear these crosses) for each waning prude
To make a Roman sort of Sabine wedding,
Without the expense and the suspense of bedding.
Some voices of the buxom middle-aged
Were also heard to wonder in the din
(Widows of forty were these birds long caged)
'Wherefore the ravishing did not begin!'
But while the thirst for gore and plunder raged,
There was small leisure for superfluous sin;
But whether they escaped or no, lies hid
In darkness — I can only hope they did.
Suwarrow now was conqueror — a match
For Timour or for Zinghis in his trade.
While mosques and streets, beneath his eyes, like thatch
Blazed, and the cannon's roar was scarce allay'd,
With bloody hands he wrote his first despatch;
And here exactly follows what he said: —
'Glory to God and to the Empress!' (Powers
Eternal! such names mingled!) 'Ismail 's ours.'
Methinks these are the most tremendous words,
Since 'Mene, Mene, Tekel,' and 'Upharsin,'
Which hands or pens have ever traced of swords.
Heaven help me! I 'm but little of a parson:
What Daniel read was short-hand of the Lord's,
Severe, sublime; the prophet wrote no farce on
The fate of nations; — but this Russ so witty
Could rhyme, like Nero, o'er a burning city.
He wrote this Polar melody, and set it,
Duly accompanied by shrieks and groans,
Which few will sing, I trust, but none forget it —
For I will teach, if possible, the stones
To rise against earth's tyrants. Never let it
Be said that we still truckle unto thrones; —
But ye — our children's children! think how we
Show'd what things were before the world was free!
That hour is not for us, but 't is for you:
And as, in the great joy of your millennium,
You hardly will believe such things were true
As now occur, I thought that I would pen you 'em;
But may their very memory perish too!-
Yet if perchance remember'd, still disdain you 'em
More than you scorn the savages of yore,
Who painted their bare limbs, but not with gore.
And when you hear historians talk of thrones,
And those that sate upon them, let it be
As we now gaze upon the mammoth's bones,
'And wonder what old world such things could see,
Or hieroglyphics on Egyptian stones,
The pleasant riddles of futurity —
Guessing at what shall happily be hid,
As the real purpose of a pyramid.
Reader! I have kept my word, — at least so far
As the first Canto promised. You have now
Had sketches of love, tempest, travel, war —
All very accurate, you must allow,
And epic, if plain truth should prove no bar;
For I have drawn much less with a long bow
Than my forerunners. Carelessly I sing,
But Phoebus lends me now and then a string,
With which I still can harp, and carp, and fiddle.
What farther hath befallen or may befall
The hero of this grand poetic riddle,
I by and by may tell you, if at all:
But now I choose to break off in the middle,
Worn out with battering Ismail's stubborn wall,
While Juan is sent off with the despatch,
For which all Petersburgh is on the watch.
This special honour was conferr'd, because
He had behaved with courage and humanity —
Which last men like, when they have time to pause
From their ferocities produced by vanity.
His little captive gain'd him some applause
For saving her amidst the wild insanity
Of carnage, — and I think he was more glad in her
Safety, than his new order of St. Vladimir.
The Moslem orphan went with her protector,
For she was homeless, houseless, helpless; all
Her friends, like the sad family of Hector,
Had perish'd in the field or by the wall:
Her very place of birth was but a spectre
Of what it had been; there the Muezzin's cal
To prayer was heard no more! — and Juan wept,
And made a vow to shield her, which he kept.