I have seen small poets, and great prosers, and
Interminable — not eternal — speakers —
I have seen the funds at war with house and land —
I have seen the country gentlemen turn squeakers —
I have seen the people ridden o'er like sand
By slaves on horseback — I have seen malt liquors
Exchanged for 'thin potations' by John Bull —
I have seen john half detect himself a fool.-
But 'carpe diem,' Juan, 'carpe, carpe!'
To-morrow sees another race as gay
And transient, and devour'd by the same harpy.
'Life 's a poor player,' — then 'play out the play,
Ye villains!' above all keep a sharp eye
Much less on what you do than what you say:
Be hypocritical, be cautious, be
Not what you seem, but always what you see.
But how shall I relate in other cantos
Of what befell our hero in the land,
Which 't is the common cry and lie to vaunt as
A moral country? But I hold my hand —
For I disdain to write an Atalantis;
But 't is as well at once to understand,
You are not a moral people, and you know it
Without the aid of too sincere a poet.
What Juan saw and underwent shall be
My topic, with of course the due restriction
Which is required by proper courtesy;
And recollect the work is only fiction,
And that I sing of neither mine nor me,
Though every scribe, in some slight turn of diction,
Will hint allusions never meant. Ne'er doubt
This — when I speak, I don't hint, but speak out.
Whether he married with the third or fourth
Offspring of some sage husband-hunting countess,
Or whether with some virgin of more worth
(I mean in Fortune's matrimonial bounties)
He took to regularly peopling Earth,
Of which your lawful awful wedlock fount is, —
Or whether he was taken in for damages,
For being too excursive in his homages, —
Is yet within the unread events of time.
Thus far, go forth, thou lay, which I will back
Against the same given quantity of rhyme,
For being as much the subject of attack
As ever yet was any work sublime,
By those who love to say that white is black.
So much the better! — I may stand alone,
But would not change my free thoughts for a throne.