Don Juan By Lord Byron Canto VIII

And so, when all his corps were dead or dying,
  Except Don Juan, a mere novice, whose
More virgin valour never dreamt of flying
  From ignorance of danger, which indues
Its votaries, like innocence relying
  On its own strength, with careless nerves and thews, —
Johnson retired a little, just to rally
Those who catch cold in 'shadows of Death's valley.'

And there, a little shelter'd from the shot,
  Which rain'd from bastion, battery, parapet,
Rampart, wall, casement, house, — for there was not
  In this extensive city, sore beset
By Christian soldiery, a single spot
  Which did not combat like the devil, as yet,
He found a number of Chasseurs, all scatter'd
By the resistance of the chase they batter'd.

And these he call'd on; and, what 's strange, they came
  Unto his call, unlike 'the spirits from
The vasty deep,' to whom you may exclaim,
  Says Hotspur, long ere they will leave their home.
Their reasons were uncertainty, or shame
  At shrinking from a bullet or a bomb,
And that odd impulse, which in wars or creeds
Makes men, like cattle, follow him who leads.

By Jove! he was a noble fellow, Johnson,
  And though his name, than Ajax or Achilles,
Sounds less harmonious, underneath the sun soon
  We shall not see his likeness: he could kill his
Man quite as quietly as blows the monsoon
  Her steady breath (which some months the same still is):
Seldom he varied feature, hue, or muscle,
And could be very busy without bustle;

And therefore, when he ran away, he did so
  Upon reflection, knowing that behind
He would find others who would fain be rid so
  Of idle apprehensions, which like wind
Trouble heroic stomachs. Though their lids so
  Oft are soon closed, all heroes are not blind,
But when they light upon immediate death,
Retire a little, merely to take breath.

But Johnson only ran off, to return
  With many other warriors, as we said,
Unto that rather somewhat misty bourn,
  Which Hamlet tells us is a pass of dread.
To Jack howe'er this gave but slight concern:
  His soul (like galvanism upon the dead)
Acted upon the living as on wire,
And led them back into the heaviest fire.

Egad! they found the second time what they
  The first time thought quite terrible enough
To fly from, malgre all which people say
  Of glory, and all that immortal stuff
Which fills a regiment (besides their pay,
  That daily shilling which makes warriors tough) —
They found on their return the self-same welcome,
Which made some think, and others know, a hell come.

They fell as thick as harvests beneath hail,
  Grass before scythes, or corn below the sickle,
Proving that trite old truth, that life 's as frail
  As any other boon for which men stickle.
The Turkish batteries thrash'd them like a flail,
  Or a good boxer, into a sad pickle
Putting the very bravest, who were knock'd
Upon the head, before their guns were cock'd.

The Turks, behind the traverses and flanks
  Of the next bastion, fired away like devils,
And swept, as gales sweep foam away, whole ranks:
  However, Heaven knows how, the Fate who levels
Towns, nations, worlds, in her revolving pranks,
  So order'd it, amidst these sulphury revels,
That Johnson and some few who had not scamper'd,
Reach'd the interior talus of the rampart.

First one or two, then five, six, and a dozen,
  Came mounting quickly up, for it was now
All neck or nothing, as, like pitch or rosin,
  Flame was shower'd forth above, as well 's below,
So that you scarce could say who best had chosen,
  The gentlemen that were the first to show
Their martial faces on the parapet,
Or those who thought it brave to wait as yet.

But those who scaled, found out that their advance
  Was favour'd by an accident or blunder:
The Greek or Turkish Cohorn's ignorance
  Had palisado'd in a way you 'd wonder
To see in forts of Netherlands or France
  (Though these to our Gibraltar must knock under) —
Right in the middle of the parapet
Just named, these palisades were primly set:

So that on either side some nine or ten
  Paces were left, whereon you could contrive
To march; a great convenience to our men,
  At least to all those who were left alive,
Who thus could form a line and fight again;
  And that which farther aided them to strive
Was, that they could kick down the palisades,
Which scarcely rose much higher than grass blades.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

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




Quiz