Don Juan By Lord Byron Canto XV

They are wrong — that 's not the way to set about it;
  As, if they told the truth, could well be shown.
But, right or wrong, Don Juan was without it;
  In fact, his manner was his own alone;
Sincere he was — at least you could not doubt it,
  In listening merely to his voice's tone.
The devil hath not in all his quiver's choice
An arrow for the heart like a sweet voice.

By nature soft, his whole address held off
  Suspicion: though not timid, his regard
Was such as rather seem'd to keep aloof,
  To shield himself than put you on your guard:
Perhaps 't was hardly quite assured enough,
  But modesty 's at times its own reward,
Like virtue; and the absence of pretension
Will go much farther than there 's need to mention.

Serene, accomplish'd, cheerful but not loud;
  Insinuating without insinuation;
Observant of the foibles of the crowd,
  Yet ne'er betraying this in conversation;
Proud with the proud, yet courteously proud,
  So as to make them feel he knew his station
And theirs: — without a struggle for priority,
He neither brook'd nor claim'd superiority.

That is, with men: with women he was what
  They pleased to make or take him for; and their
Imagination 's quite enough for that:
  So that the outline 's tolerably fair,
They fill the canvas up — and 'verbum sat.'
  If once their phantasies be brought to bear
Upon an object, whether sad or playful,
They can transfigure brighter than a Raphael.

Adeline, no deep judge of character,
  Was apt to add a colouring from her own:
'T is thus the good will amiably err,
  And eke the wise, as has been often shown.
Experience is the chief philosopher,
  But saddest when his science is well known:
And persecuted sages teach the schools
Their folly in forgetting there are fools.

Was it not so, great Locke? and greater Bacon?
  Great Socrates? And thou, Diviner still,
Whose lot it is by man to be mistaken,
  And thy pure creed made sanction of all ill?
Redeeming worlds to be by bigots shaken,
  How was thy toil rewarded? We might fill
Volumes with similar sad illustrations,
But leave them to the conscience of the nations.

I perch upon an humbler promontory,
  Amidst life's infinite variety:
With no great care for what is nicknamed glory,
  But speculating as I cast mine eye
On what may suit or may not suit my story,
  And never straining hard to versify,
I rattle on exactly as I 'd talk
With any body in a ride or walk.

I don't know that there may be much ability
  Shown in this sort of desultory rhyme;
But there 's a conversational facility,
  Which may round off an hour upon a time.
Of this I 'm sure at least, there 's no servility
  In mine irregularity of chime,
Which rings what 's uppermost of new or hoary,
Just as I feel the 'Improvvisatore.'

'Omnia vult belle Matho dicere — dic aliquando
  Et bene, dic neutrum, dic aliquando male.'
The first is rather more than mortal can do;
  The second may be sadly done or gaily;
The third is still more difficult to stand to;
  The fourth we hear, and see, and say too, daily.
The whole together is what I could wish
To serve in this conundrum of a dish.

A modest hope — but modesty 's my forte,
  And pride my feeble: — let us ramble on.
I meant to make this poem very short,
  But now I can't tell where it may not run.
No doubt, if I had wish' to pay my court
  To critics, or to hail the setting sun
Of tyranny of all kinds, my concision
Were more; — but I was born for opposition.

But then 't is mostly on the weaker side;
  So that I verily believe if they
Who now are basking in their full-blown pride
  Were shaken down, and 'dogs had had their day,'
Though at the first I might perchance deride
  Their tumble, I should turn the other way,
And wax an ultra-royalist in loyalty,
Because I hate even democratic royalty.

I think I should have made a decent spouse,
  If I had never proved the soft condition;
I think I should have made monastic vows,
  But for my own peculiar superstition:
'Gainst rhyme I never should have knock'd my brows,
  Nor broken my own head, nor that of Priscian,
Nor worn the motley mantle of a poet,
If some one had not told me to forego it.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

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




Quiz