Don Juan By Lord Byron Canto XII

'Why? — Why? — Besides, Fred really was attach'd;
  'T was not her fortune — he has enough without:
The time will come she 'll wish that she had snatch'd
  So good an opportunity, no doubt: —
But the old marchioness some plan had hatch'd,
  As I 'll tell Aurea at to-morrow's rout:
And after all poor Frederick may do better —
Pray did you see her answer to his letter?'

Smart uniforms and sparkling coronets
  Are spurn'd in turn, until her turn arrives,
After male loss of time, and hearts, and bets
  Upon the sweepstakes for substantial wives;
And when at last the pretty creature gets
  Some gentleman, who fights, or writes, or drives,
It soothes the awkward squad of the rejected
To find how very badly she selected.

For sometimes they accept some long pursuer,
  Worn out with importunity; or fall
(But here perhaps the instances are fewer)
  To the lot of him who scarce pursued at all.
A hazy widower turn'd of forty 's sure
  (If 't is not vain examples to recall)
To draw a high prize: now, howe'er he got her, I
See nought more strange in this than t' other lottery.

I, for my part (one 'modern instance' more,
  'True, 't is a pity — pity 't is, 't is true'),
Was chosen from out an amatory score,
  Albeit my years were less discreet than few;
But though I also had reform'd before
  Those became one who soon were to be two,
I 'll not gainsay the generous public's voice,
That the young lady made a monstrous choice.

O, pardon my digression — or at least
  Peruse! 'T is always with a moral end
That I dissert, like grace before a feast:
  For like an aged aunt, or tiresome friend,
A rigid guardian, or a zealous priest,
  My Muse by exhortation means to mend
All people, at all times, and in most places,
Which puts my Pegasus to these grave paces.

But now I 'm going to be immoral; now
  I mean to show things really as they are,
Not as they ought to be: for I avow,
  That till we see what 's what in fact, we 're far
From much improvement with that virtuous plough
  Which skims the surface, leaving scarce a scar
Upon the black loam long manured by Vice,
Only to keep its corn at the old price.

But first of little Leila we 'll dispose;
  For like a day-dawn she was young and pure,
Or like the old comparison of snows,
  Which are more pure than pleasant to be sure.
Like many people everybody knows,
  Don Juan was delighted to secure
A goodly guardian for his infant charge,
Who might not profit much by being at large.

Besides, he had found out he was no tutor
  (I wish that others would find out the same);
And rather wish'd in such things to stand neuter,
  For silly wards will bring their guardians blame:
So when he saw each ancient dame a suitor
  To make his little wild Asiatic tame,
Consulting 'the Society for Vice
Suppression,' Lady Pinchbeck was his choice.

Olden she was — but had been very young;
  Virtuous she was — and had been, I believe;
Although the world has such an evil tongue
  That — but my chaster ear will not receive
An echo of a syllable that 's wrong:
  In fact, there 's nothing makes me so much grieve,
As that abominable tittle-tattle,
Which is the cud eschew'd by human cattle.

Moreover I 've remark'd (and I was once
  A slight observer in a modest way),
And so may every one except a dunce,
  That ladies in their youth a little gay,
Besides their knowledge of the world, and sense
  Of the sad consequence of going astray,
Are wiser in their warnings 'gainst the woe
Which the mere passionless can never know.

While the harsh prude indemnifies her virtue
  By railing at the unknown and envied passion,
Seeking far less to save you than to hurt you,
  Or, what 's still worse, to put you out of fashion, —
The kinder veteran with calm words will court you,
  Entreating you to pause before you dash on;
Expounding and illustrating the riddle
Of epic Love's beginning, end, and middle.

Now whether it be thus, or that they are stricter,
  As better knowing why they should be so,
I think you 'll find from many a family picture,
  That daughters of such mothers as may know
The world by experience rather than by lecture,
  Turn out much better for the Smithfield Show
Of vestals brought into the marriage mart,
Than those bred up by prudes without a heart.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

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