Don Juan By Lord Byron Canto XI


When Bishop Berkeley said 'there was no matter,'
  And proved it — 't was no matter what he said:
They say his system 't is in vain to batter,
  Too subtle for the airiest human head;
And yet who can believe it? I would shatter
  Gladly all matters down to stone or lead,
Or adamant, to find the world a spirit,
And wear my head, denying that I wear it.

What a sublime discovery 't was to make the
  Universe universal egotism,
That all 's ideal — all ourselves: I 'll stake the
  World (be it what you will) that that 's no schism.
O Doubt! — if thou be'st Doubt, for which some take thee;
  But which I doubt extremely — thou sole prism
Of the Truth's rays, spoil not my draught of spirit!
Heaven's brandy, though our brain can hardly bear it.

For ever and anon comes Indigestion,
  (Not the most 'dainty Ariel') and perplexes
Our soarings with another sort of question:
  And that which after all my spirit vexes,
Is, that I find no spot where man can rest eye on,
  Without confusion of the sorts and sexes,
Of beings, stars, and this unriddled wonder,
The world, which at the worst 's a glorious blunder —

If it be chance; or if it be according
  To the old text, still better: — lest it should
Turn out so, we 'll say nothing 'gainst the wording,
  As several people think such hazards rude.
They 're right; our days are too brief for affording
  Space to dispute what no one ever could
Decide, and every body one day will
Know very clearly — or at least lie still.

And therefore will I leave off metaphysical
  Discussion, which is neither here nor there:
If I agree that what is, is; then this I call
  Being quite perspicuous and extremely fair;
The truth is, I 've grown lately rather phthisical:
  I don't know what the reason is — the air
Perhaps; but as I suffer from the shocks
Of illness, I grow much more orthodox.

The first attack at once proved the Divinity
  (But that I never doubted, nor the Devil);
The next, the Virgin's mystical virginity;
  The third, the usual Origin of Evil;
The fourth at once establish'd the whole Trinity
  On so uncontrovertible a level,
That I devoutly wish'd the three were four,
On purpose to believe so much the more.

To our Theme. — The man who has stood on the Acropolis,
  And look'd down over Attica; or he
Who has sail'd where picturesque Constantinople is,
  Or seen Timbuctoo, or hath taken tea
In small-eyed China's crockery-ware metropolis,
  Or sat amidst the bricks of Nineveh,
May not think much of London's first appearance —
But ask him what he thinks of it a year hence?

Don Juan had got out on Shooter's Hill;
  Sunset the time, the place the same declivity
Which looks along that vale of good and ill
  Where London streets ferment in full activity;
While every thing around was calm and still,
  Except the creak of wheels, which on their pivot he
Heard, — and that bee-like, bubbling, busy hum
Of cities, that boil over with their scum: —

I say, Don Juan, wrapt in contemplation,
  Walk'd on behind his carriage, o'er the summit,
And lost in wonder of so great a nation,
  Gave way to 't, since he could not overcome it.
'And here,' he cried, 'is Freedom's chosen station;
  Here peals the people's voice, nor can entomb it
Racks, prisons, inquisitions; resurrection
Awaits it, each new meeting or election.

'Here are chaste wives, pure lives; here people pay
  But what they please; and if that things be dear,
'T is only that they love to throw away
  Their cash, to show how much they have a-year.
Here laws are all inviolate; none lay
  Traps for the traveller; every highway 's clear:
Here-' he was interrupted by a knife,
With, — 'Damn your eyes! your money or your life!'

These freeborn sounds proceeded from four pads
  In ambush laid, who had perceived him loiter
Behind his carriage; and, like handy lads,
  Had seized the lucky hour to reconnoitre,
In which the heedless gentleman who gads
  Upon the road, unless he prove a fighter,
May find himself within that isle of riches
Exposed to lose his life as well as breeches.

Juan, who did not understand a word
  Of English, save their shibboleth, 'God damn!'
And even that he had so rarely heard,
  He sometimes thought 't was only their 'Salam,'
Or 'God be with you!' — and 't is not absurd
  To think so: for half English as I am
(To my misfortune), never can I say
I heard them wish 'God with you,' save that way; —

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