Don Juan, Canto the First
I want a hero: an uncommon want,
When every year and month sends forth a new one,
Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant,
The age discovers he is not the true one;
Of such as these I should not care to vaunt,
I ‘ll therefore take our ancient friend Don Juan—
We all have seen him, in the pantomime,
Sent to the devil somewhat ere his time.
Vernon, the butcher Cumberland, Wolfe, Hawke,
Prince Ferdinand, Granby, Burgoyne, Keppel, Howe,
Evil and good, have had their tithe of talk,
And fill’d their sign posts then, like Wellesley now;
Each in their turn like Banquo’s monarchs stalk,
Followers of fame, ‘nine farrow’ of that sow:
France, too, had Buonaparte and Dumourier
Recorded in the Moniteur and Courier.
Barnave, Brissot, Condorcet, Mirabeau,
Petion, Clootz, Danton, Marat, La Fayette,
Were French, and famous people, as we know:
And there were others, scarce forgotten yet,
Joubert, Hoche, Marceau, Lannes, Desaix, Moreau,
With many of the military set,
Exceedingly remarkable at times,
But not at all adapted to my rhymes.
Nelson was once Britannia’s god of war,
And still should be so, but the tide is turn’d;
There ‘s no more to be said of Trafalgar,
‘T is with our hero quietly inurn’d;
Because the army ‘s grown more popular,
At which the naval people are concern’d;
Besides, the prince is all for the land-service,
Forgetting Duncan, Nelson, Howe, and Jervis.
Brave men were living before Agamemnon
And since, exceeding valorous and sage,
A good deal like him too, though quite the same none;
But then they shone not on the poet’s page,
And so have been forgotten:—I condemn none,
But can’t find any in the present age
Fit for my poem (that is, for my new one);
So, as I said, I ‘ll take my friend Don Juan.
Most epic poets plunge ‘in medias res’
(Horace makes this the heroic turnpike road),
And then your hero tells, whene’er you please,
What went before—by way of episode,
While seated after dinner at his ease,
Beside his mistress in some soft abode,
Palace, or garden, paradise, or cavern,
Which serves the happy couple for a tavern.
That is the usual method, but not mine—
My way is to begin with the beginning;
The regularity of my design
Forbids all wandering as the worst of sinning,
And therefore I shall open with a line
(Although it cost me half an hour in spinning)
Narrating somewhat of Don Juan’s father,
And also of his mother, if you ‘d rather.
In Seville was he born, a pleasant city,
Famous for oranges and women—he
Who has not seen it will be much to pity,
So says the proverb—and I quite agree;
Of all the Spanish towns is none more pretty,
Cadiz perhaps—but that you soon may see;
Don Juan’s parents lived beside the river,
A noble stream, and call’d the Guadalquivir.
His father’s name was Jose—Don, of course,—
A true Hidalgo, free from every stain
Of Moor or Hebrew blood, he traced his source
Through the most Gothic gentlemen of Spain;
A better cavalier ne’er mounted horse,
Or, being mounted, e’er got down again,
Than Jose, who begot our hero, who
Begot—but that ‘s to come—Well, to renew:
His mother was a learned lady, famed
For every branch of every science known
In every Christian language ever named,
With virtues equall’d by her wit alone,
She made the cleverest people quite ashamed,
And even the good with inward envy groan,
Finding themselves so very much exceeded
In their own way by all the things that she did.
Her memory was a mine: she knew by heart
All Calderon and greater part of Lope,
So that if any actor miss’d his part
She could have served him for the prompter’s copy;
For her Feinagle’s were an useless art,
And he himself obliged to shut up shop—he
Could never make a memory so fine as
That which adorn’d the brain of Donna Inez.
Her favourite science was the mathematical,
Her noblest virtue was her magnanimity,
Her wit (she sometimes tried at wit) was Attic all,
Her serious sayings darken’d to sublimity;
In short, in all things she was fairly what I call
A prodigy—her morning dress was dimity,
Her evening silk, or, in the summer, muslin,
And other stuffs, with which I won’t stay puzzling.
She knew the Latin—that is, ‘the Lord’s prayer,’
And Greek—the alphabet—I ‘m nearly sure;
She read some French romances here and there,
Although her mode of speaking was not pure;
For native Spanish she had no great care,
At least her conversation was obscure;
Her thoughts were theorems, her words a problem,
As if she deem’d that mystery would ennoble ’em.
She liked the English and the Hebrew tongue,
And said there was analogy between ’em;
She proved it somehow out of sacred song,
But I must leave the proofs to those who ‘ve seen ’em;
But this I heard her say, and can’t be wrong
And all may think which way their judgments lean ’em,
”T is strange—the Hebrew noun which means “I am,”
The English always use to govern d–n.’
Some women use their tongues—she look’d a lecture,
Each eye a sermon, and her brow a homily,
An all-in-all sufficient self-director,
Like the lamented late Sir Samuel Romilly,
The Law’s expounder, and the State’s corrector,
Whose suicide was almost an anomaly—
One sad example more, that ‘All is vanity’
(The jury brought their verdict in ‘Insanity’).
In short, she was a walking calculation,
Miss Edgeworth’s novels stepping from their covers,
Or Mrs. Trimmer’s books on education,
Or ‘Coelebs’ Wife’ set out in quest of lovers,
Morality’s prim personification,
In which not Envy’s self a flaw discovers;
To others’ share let ‘female errors fall,’
For she had not even one—the worst of all.
O! she was perfect past all parallel—
Of any modern female saint’s comparison;
So far above the cunning powers of hell,
Her guardian angel had given up his garrison;
Even her minutest motions went as well
As those of the best time-piece made by Harrison:
In virtues nothing earthly could surpass her,
Save thine ‘incomparable oil,’ Macassar!
Perfect she was, but as perfection is
Insipid in this naughty world of ours,
Where our first parents never learn’d to kiss
Till they were exiled from their earlier bowers,
Where all was peace, and innocence, and bliss
(I wonder how they got through the twelve hours),
Don Jose, like a lineal son of Eve,
Went plucking various fruit without her leave.
He was a mortal of the careless kind,
With no great love for learning, or the learn’d,
Who chose to go where’er he had a mind,
And never dream’d his lady was concern’d;
The world, as usual, wickedly inclined
To see a kingdom or a house o’erturn’d,
Whisper’d he had a mistress, some said two—
But for domestic quarrels one will do.
Now Donna Inez had, with all her merit,
A great opinion of her own good qualities;
Neglect, indeed, requires a saint to bear it,
And such, indeed, she was in her moralities;
But then she had a devil of a spirit,
And sometimes mix’d up fancies with realities,
And let few opportunities escape
Of getting her liege lord into a scrape.
This was an easy matter with a man
Oft in the wrong, and never on his guard;
And even the wisest, do the best they can,
Have moments, hours, and days, so unprepared,
That you might ‘brain them with their lady’s fan;’
And sometimes ladies hit exceeding hard,
And fans turn into falchions in fair hands,
And why and wherefore no one understands.
‘T is pity learned virgins ever wed
With persons of no sort of education,
Or gentlemen, who, though well born and bred,
Grow tired of scientific conversation:
I don’t choose to say much upon this head,
I ‘m a plain man, and in a single station,
But—Oh! ye lords of ladies intellectual,
Inform us truly, have they not hen-peck’d you all?
Don Jose and his lady quarrell’d—why,
Not any of the many could divine,
Though several thousand people chose to try,
‘T was surely no concern of theirs nor mine;
I loathe that low vice—curiosity;
But if there ‘s anything in which I shine,
‘T is in arranging all my friends’ affairs,
Not having of my own domestic cares.
And so I interfered, and with the best
Intentions, but their treatment was not kind;
I think the foolish people were possess’d,
For neither of them could I ever find,
Although their porter afterwards confess’d—
But that ‘s no matter, and the worst ‘s behind,
For little Juan o’er me threw, down stairs,
A pail of housemaid’s water unawares.
A little curly-headed, good-for-nothing,
And mischief-making monkey from his birth;
His parents ne’er agreed except in doting
Upon the most unquiet imp on earth;
Instead of quarrelling, had they been but both in
Their senses, they ‘d have sent young master forth
To school, or had him soundly whipp’d at home,
To teach him manners for the time to come.
Don Jose and the Donna Inez led
For some time an unhappy sort of life,
Wishing each other, not divorced, but dead;
They lived respectably as man and wife,
Their conduct was exceedingly well-bred,
And gave no outward signs of inward strife,
Until at length the smother’d fire broke out,
And put the business past all kind of doubt.
For Inez call’d some druggists and physicians,
And tried to prove her loving lord was mad;
But as he had some lucid intermissions,
She next decided he was only bad;
Yet when they ask’d her for her depositions,
No sort of explanation could be had,
Save that her duty both to man and God
Required this conduct—which seem’d very odd.
She kept a journal, where his faults were noted,
And open’d certain trunks of books and letters,
All which might, if occasion served, be quoted;
And then she had all Seville for abettors,
Besides her good old grandmother (who doted);
The hearers of her case became repeaters,
Then advocates, inquisitors, and judges,
Some for amusement, others for old grudges.
And then this best and weakest woman bore
With such serenity her husband’s woes,
Just as the Spartan ladies did of yore,
Who saw their spouses kill’d, and nobly chose
Never to say a word about them more—
Calmly she heard each calumny that rose,
And saw his agonies with such sublimity,
That all the world exclaim’d, ‘What magnanimity!’
No doubt this patience, when the world is damning us,
Is philosophic in our former friends;
‘T is also pleasant to be deem’d magnanimous,
The more so in obtaining our own ends;
And what the lawyers call a ‘malus animus’
Conduct like this by no means comprehends;
Revenge in person ‘s certainly no virtue,
But then ‘t is not my fault, if others hurt you.
And if your quarrels should rip up old stories,
And help them with a lie or two additional,
I ‘m not to blame, as you well know—no more is
Any one else—they were become traditional;
Besides, their resurrection aids our glories
By contrast, which is what we just were wishing all:
And science profits by this resurrection—
Dead scandals form good subjects for dissection.
Their friends had tried at reconciliation,
Then their relations, who made matters worse.
(‘T were hard to tell upon a like occasion
To whom it may be best to have recourse—
I can’t say much for friend or yet relation):
The lawyers did their utmost for divorce,
But scarce a fee was paid on either side
Before, unluckily, Don Jose died.
He died: and most unluckily, because,
According to all hints I could collect
From counsel learned in those kinds of laws
(Although their talk ‘s obscure and circumspect),
His death contrived to spoil a charming cause;
A thousand pities also with respect
To public feeling, which on this occasion
Was manifested in a great sensation.
But, ah! he died; and buried with him lay
The public feeling and the lawyers’ fees:
His house was sold, his servants sent away,
A Jew took one of his two mistresses,
A priest the other—at least so they say:
I ask’d the doctors after his disease—
He died of the slow fever call’d the tertian,
And left his widow to her own aversion.
Yet Jose was an honourable man,
That I must say who knew him very well;
Therefore his frailties I ‘ll no further scan
Indeed there were not many more to tell;
And if his passions now and then outran
Discretion, and were not so peaceable
As Numa’s (who was also named Pompilius),
He had been ill brought up, and was born bilious.
Whate’er might be his worthlessness or worth,
Poor fellow! he had many things to wound him.
Let ‘s own—since it can do no good on earth—
It was a trying moment that which found him
Standing alone beside his desolate hearth,
Where all his household gods lay shiver’d round him:
No choice was left his feelings or his pride,
Save death or Doctors’ Commons—so he died.
Dying intestate, Juan was sole heir
To a chancery suit, and messuages, and lands,
Which, with a long minority and care,
Promised to turn out well in proper hands:
Inez became sole guardian, which was fair,
And answer’d but to nature’s just demands;
An only son left with an only mother
Is brought up much more wisely than another.
Sagest of women, even of widows, she
Resolved that Juan should be quite a paragon,
And worthy of the noblest pedigree
(His sire was of Castile, his dam from Aragon):
Then for accomplishments of chivalry,
In case our lord the king should go to war again,
He learn’d the arts of riding, fencing, gunnery,
And how to scale a fortress—or a nunnery.
But that which Donna Inez most desired,
And saw into herself each day before all
The learned tutors whom for him she hired,
Was, that his breeding should be strictly moral;
Much into all his studies she inquired,
And so they were submitted first to her, all,
Arts, sciences, no branch was made a mystery
To Juan’s eyes, excepting natural history.
The languages, especially the dead,
The sciences, and most of all the abstruse,
The arts, at least all such as could be said
To be the most remote from common use,
In all these he was much and deeply read;
But not a page of any thing that ‘s loose,
Or hints continuation of the species,
Was ever suffer’d, lest he should grow vicious.
His classic studies made a little puzzle,
Because of filthy loves of gods and goddesses,
Who in the earlier ages raised a bustle,
But never put on pantaloons or bodices;
His reverend tutors had at times a tussle,
And for their AEneids, Iliads, and Odysseys,
Were forced to make an odd sort! of apology,
For Donna Inez dreaded the Mythology.
Ovid ‘s a rake, as half his verses show him,
Anacreon’s morals are a still worse sample,
Catullus scarcely has a decent poem,
I don’t think Sappho’s Ode a good example,
Although Longinus tells us there is no hymn
Where the sublime soars forth on wings more ample:
But Virgil’s songs are pure, except that horrid one
Beginning with ‘Formosum Pastor Corydon.’
Lucretius’ irreligion is too strong,
For early stomachs, to prove wholesome food;
I can’t help thinking Juvenal was wrong,
Although no doubt his real intent was good,
For speaking out so plainly in his song,
So much indeed as to be downright rude;
And then what proper person can be partial
To all those nauseous epigrams of Martial?
Juan was taught from out the best edition,
Expurgated by learned men, who place
Judiciously, from out the schoolboy’s vision,
The grosser parts; but, fearful to deface
Too much their modest bard by this omission,
And pitying sore his mutilated case,
They only add them all in an appendix,
Which saves, in fact, the trouble of an index;
For there we have them all ‘at one fell swoop,’
Instead of being scatter’d through the Pages;
They stand forth marshall’d in a handsome troop,
To meet the ingenuous youth of future ages,
Till some less rigid editor shall stoop
To call them back into their separate cages,
Instead of standing staring all together,
Like garden gods—and not so decent either.
The Missal too (it was the family Missal)
Was ornamented in a sort of way
Which ancient mass-books often are, and this all
Kinds of grotesques illumined; and how they,
Who saw those figures on the margin kiss all,
Could turn their optics to the text and pray,
Is more than I know—But Don Juan’s mother
Kept this herself, and gave her son another.
Sermons he read, and lectures he endured,
And homilies, and lives of all the saints;
To Jerome and to Chrysostom inured,
He did not take such studies for restraints;
But how faith is acquired, and then ensured,
So well not one of the aforesaid paints
As Saint Augustine in his fine Confessions,
Which make the reader envy his transgressions.
This, too, was a seal’d book to little Juan—
I can’t but say that his mamma was right,
If such an education was the true one.
She scarcely trusted him from out her sight;
Her maids were old, and if she took a new one,
You might be sure she was a perfect fright;
She did this during even her husband’s life—
I recommend as much to every wife.
Young Juan wax’d in goodliness and grace;
At six a charming child, and at eleven
With all the promise of as fine a face
As e’er to man’s maturer growth was given:
He studied steadily, and grew apace,
And seem’d, at least, in the right road to heaven,
For half his days were pass’d at church, the other
Between his tutors, confessor, and mother.
At six, I said, he was a charming child,
At twelve he was a fine, but quiet boy;
Although in infancy a little wild,
They tamed him down amongst them: to destroy
His natural spirit not in vain they toil’d,
At least it seem’d so; and his mother’s joy
Was to declare how sage, and still, and steady,
Her young philosopher was grown already.
I had my doubts, perhaps I have them still,
But what I say is neither here nor there:
I knew his father well, and have some skill
In character—but it would not be fair
From sire to son to augur good or ill:
He and his wife were an ill-sorted pair—
But scandal ‘s my aversion—I protest
Against all evil speaking, even in jest.
For my part I say nothing—nothing—but
This I will say—my reasons are my own—
That if I had an only son to put
To school (as God be praised that I have none),
‘T is not with Donna Inez I would shut
Him up to learn his catechism alone,
No—no—I ‘d send him out betimes to college,
For there it was I pick’d up my own knowledge.
For there one learns—’t is not for me to boast,
Though I acquired—but I pass over that,
As well as all the Greek I since have lost:
I say that there ‘s the place—but ‘Verbum sat.’
I think I pick’d up too, as well as most,
Knowledge of matters—but no matter what—
I never married—but, I think, I know
That sons should not be educated so.
Young Juan now was sixteen years of age,
Tall, handsome, slender, but well knit: he seem’d
Active, though not so sprightly, as a page;
And everybody but his mother deem’d
Him almost man; but she flew in a rage
And bit her lips (for else she might have scream’d)
If any said so, for to be precocious
Was in her eyes a thing the most atrocious.
Amongst her numerous acquaintance, all
Selected for discretion and devotion,
There was the Donna Julia, whom to call
Pretty were but to give a feeble notion
Of many charms in her as natural
As sweetness to the flower, or salt to ocean,
Her zone to Venus, or his bow to Cupid
(But this last simile is trite and stupid).
The darkness of her Oriental eye
Accorded with her Moorish origin
(Her blood was not all Spanish, by the by;
In Spain, you know, this is a sort of sin);
When proud Granada fell, and, forced to fly,
Boabdil wept, of Donna Julia’s kin
Some went to Africa, some stay’d in Spain,
Her great-great-grandmamma chose to remain.
She married (I forget the pedigree)
With an Hidalgo, who transmitted down
His blood less noble than such blood should be;
At such alliances his sires would frown,
In that point so precise in each degree
That they bred in and in, as might be shown,
Marrying their cousins—nay, their aunts, and nieces,
Which always spoils the breed, if it increases.
This heathenish cross restored the breed again,
Ruin’d its blood, but much improved its flesh;
For from a root the ugliest in Old Spain
Sprung up a branch as beautiful as fresh;
The sons no more were short, the daughters plain:
But there ‘s a rumour which I fain would hush,
‘T is said that Donna Julia’s grandmamma
Produced her Don more heirs at love than law.
However this might be, the race went on
Improving still through every generation,
Until it centred in an only son,
Who left an only daughter; my narration
May have suggested that this single one
Could be but Julia (whom on this occasion
I shall have much to speak about), and she
Was married, charming, chaste, and twenty-three.
Her eye (I ‘m very fond of handsome eyes)
Was large and dark, suppressing half its fire
Until she spoke, then through its soft disguise
Flash’d an expression more of pride than ire,
And love than either; and there would arise
A something in them which was not desire,
But would have been, perhaps, but for the soul
Which struggled through and chasten’d down the whole.
Her glossy hair was cluster’d o’er a brow
Bright with intelligence, and fair, and smooth;
Her eyebrow’s shape was like th’ aerial bow,
Her cheek all purple with the beam of youth,
Mounting at times to a transparent glow,
As if her veins ran lightning; she, in sooth,
Possess’d an air and grace by no means common:
Her stature tall—I hate a dumpy woman.
Wedded she was some years, and to a man
Of fifty, and such husbands are in plenty;
And yet, I think, instead of such a ONE
‘T were better to have TWO of five-and-twenty,
Especially in countries near the sun:
And now I think on ‘t, ‘mi vien in mente,’
Ladies even of the most uneasy virtue
Prefer a spouse whose age is short of thirty.
‘T is a sad thing, I cannot choose but say,
And all the fault of that indecent sun,
Who cannot leave alone our helpless clay,
But will keep baking, broiling, burning on,
That howsoever people fast and pray,
The flesh is frail, and so the soul undone:
What men call gallantry, and gods adultery,
Is much more common where the climate ‘s sultry.
Happy the nations of the moral North!
Where all is virtue, and the winter season
Sends sin, without a rag on, shivering forth
(‘T was snow that brought St. Anthony to reason);
Where juries cast up what a wife is worth,
By laying whate’er sum in mulct they please on
The lover, who must pay a handsome price,
Because it is a marketable vice.
Alfonso was the name of Julia’s lord,
A man well looking for his years, and who
Was neither much beloved nor yet abhorr’d:
They lived together, as most people do,
Suffering each other’s foibles by accord,
And not exactly either one or two;
Yet he was jealous, though he did not show it,
For jealousy dislikes the world to know it.
Julia was—yet I never could see why—
With Donna Inez quite a favourite friend;
Between their tastes there was small sympathy,
For not a line had Julia ever penn’d:
Some people whisper but no doubt they lie,
For malice still imputes some private end,
That Inez had, ere Don Alfonso’s marriage,
Forgot with him her very prudent carriage;
And that still keeping up the old connection,
Which time had lately render’d much more chaste,
She took his lady also in affection,
And certainly this course was much the best:
She flatter’d Julia with her sage protection,
And complimented Don Alfonso’s taste;
And if she could not (who can?) silence scandal,
At least she left it a more slender handle.
I can’t tell whether Julia saw the affair
With other people’s eyes, or if her own
Discoveries made, but none could be aware
Of this, at least no symptom e’er was shown;
Perhaps she did not know, or did not care,
Indifferent from the first or callous grown:
I ‘m really puzzled what to think or say,
She kept her counsel in so close a way.
Juan she saw, and, as a pretty child,
Caress’d him often—such a thing might be
Quite innocently done, and harmless styled,
When she had twenty years, and thirteen he;
But I am not so sure I should have smiled
When he was sixteen, Julia twenty-three;
These few short years make wondrous alterations,
Particularly amongst sun-burnt nations.
Whate’er the cause might be, they had become
Changed; for the dame grew distant, the youth shy,
Their looks cast down, their greetings almost dumb,
And much embarrassment in either eye;
There surely will be little doubt with some
That Donna Julia knew the reason why,
But as for Juan, he had no more notion
Than he who never saw the sea of ocean.
Yet Julia’s very coldness still was kind,
And tremulously gentle her small hand
Withdrew itself from his, but left behind
A little pressure, thrilling, and so bland
And slight, so very slight, that to the mind
‘T was but a doubt; but ne’er magician’s wand
Wrought change with all Armida’s fairy art
Like what this light touch left on Juan’s heart.
And if she met him, though she smiled no more,
She look’d a sadness sweeter than her smile,
As if her heart had deeper thoughts in store
She must not own, but cherish’d more the while
For that compression in its burning core;
Even innocence itself has many a wile,
And will not dare to trust itself with truth,
And love is taught hypocrisy from youth.
But passion most dissembles, yet betrays
Even by its darkness; as the blackest sky
Foretells the heaviest tempest, it displays
Its workings through the vainly guarded eye,
And in whatever aspect it arrays
Itself, ‘t is still the same hypocrisy;
Coldness or anger, even disdain or hate,
Are masks it often wears, and still too late.
Then there were sighs, the deeper for suppression,
And stolen glances, sweeter for the theft,
And burning blushes, though for no transgression,
Tremblings when met, and restlessness when left;
All these are little preludes to possession,
Of which young passion cannot be bereft,
And merely tend to show how greatly love is
Embarrass’d at first starting with a novice.
Poor Julia’s heart was in an awkward state;
She felt it going, and resolved to make
The noblest efforts for herself and mate,
For honour’s, pride’s, religion’s, virtue’s sake;
Her resolutions were most truly great,
And almost might have made a Tarquin quake:
She pray’d the Virgin Mary for her grace,
As being the best judge of a lady’s case.
She vow’d she never would see Juan more,
And next day paid a visit to his mother,
And look’d extremely at the opening door,
Which, by the Virgin’s grace, let in another;
Grateful she was, and yet a little sore—
Again it opens, it can be no other,
‘T is surely Juan now—No! I ‘m afraid
That night the Virgin was no further pray’d.
She now determined that a virtuous woman
Should rather face and overcome temptation,
That flight was base and dastardly, and no man
Should ever give her heart the least sensation;
That is to say, a thought beyond the common
Preference, that we must feel upon occasion
For people who are pleasanter than others,
But then they only seem so many brothers.
And even if by chance—and who can tell?
The devil ‘s so very sly—she should discover
That all within was not so very well,
And, if still free, that such or such a lover
Might please perhaps, a virtuous wife can quell
Such thoughts, and be the better when they ‘re over;
And if the man should ask, ‘t is but denial:
I recommend young ladies to make trial.
And then there are such things as love divine,
Bright and immaculate, unmix’d and pure,
Such as the angels think so very fine,
And matrons who would be no less secure,
Platonic, perfect, ‘just such love as mine;’
Thus Julia said—and thought so, to be sure;
And so I ‘d have her think, were I the man
On whom her reveries celestial ran.
Such love is innocent, and may exist
Between young persons without any danger.
A hand may first, and then a lip be kist;
For my part, to such doings I ‘m a stranger,
But hear these freedoms form the utmost list
Of all o’er which such love may be a ranger:
If people go beyond, ‘t is quite a crime,
But not my fault—I tell them all in time.
Love, then, but love within its proper limits,
Was Julia’s innocent determination
In young Don Juan’s favour, and to him its
Exertion might be useful on occasion;
And, lighted at too pure a shrine to dim its
Ethereal lustre, with what sweet persuasion
He might be taught, by love and her together—
I really don’t know what, nor Julia either.
Fraught with this fine intention, and well fenced
In mail of proof—her purity of soul—
She, for the future of her strength convinced.
And that her honour was a rock, or mole,
Exceeding sagely from that hour dispensed
With any kind of troublesome control;
But whether Julia to the task was equal
Is that which must be mention’d in the sequel.
Her plan she deem’d both innocent and feasible,
And, surely, with a stripling of sixteen
Not scandal’s fangs could fix on much that ‘s seizable,
Or if they did so, satisfied to mean
Nothing but what was good, her breast was peaceable—
A quiet conscience makes one so serene!
Christians have burnt each other, quite persuaded
That all the Apostles would have done as they did.
And if in the mean time her husband died,
But Heaven forbid that such a thought should cross
Her brain, though in a dream! (and then she sigh’d)
Never could she survive that common loss;
But just suppose that moment should betide,
I only say suppose it—inter nos.
(This should be entre nous, for Julia thought
In French, but then the rhyme would go for naught.)
I only say suppose this supposition:
Juan being then grown up to man’s estate
Would fully suit a widow of condition,
Even seven years hence it would not be too late;
And in the interim (to pursue this vision)
The mischief, after all, could not be great,
For he would learn the rudiments of love,
I mean the seraph way of those above.
So much for Julia. Now we ‘ll turn to Juan.
Poor little fellow! he had no idea
Of his own case, and never hit the true one;
In feelings quick as Ovid’s Miss Medea,
He puzzled over what he found a new one,
But not as yet imagined it could be
Thing quite in course, and not at all alarming,
Which, with a little patience, might grow charming.
Silent and pensive, idle, restless, slow,
His home deserted for the lonely wood,
Tormented with a wound he could not know,
His, like all deep grief, plunged in solitude:
I ‘m fond myself of solitude or so,
But then, I beg it may be understood,
By solitude I mean a sultan’s, not
A hermit’s, with a haram for a grot.
‘Oh Love! in such a wilderness as this,
Where transport and security entwine,
Here is the empire of thy perfect bliss,
And here thou art a god indeed divine.’
The bard I quote from does not sing amiss,
With the exception of the second line,
For that same twining ‘transport and security’
Are twisted to a phrase of some obscurity.
The poet meant, no doubt, and thus appeals
To the good sense and senses of mankind,
The very thing which every body feels,
As all have found on trial, or may find,
That no one likes to be disturb’d at meals
Or love.—I won’t say more about ‘entwined’
Or ‘transport,’ as we knew all that before,
But beg ‘Security’ will bolt the door.
Young Juan wander’d by the glassy brooks,
Thinking unutterable things; he threw
Himself at length within the leafy nooks
Where the wild branch of the cork forest grew;
There poets find materials for their books,
And every now and then we read them through,
So that their plan and prosody are eligible,
Unless, like Wordsworth, they prove unintelligible.
He, Juan (and not Wordsworth), so pursued
His self-communion with his own high soul,
Until his mighty heart, in its great mood,
Had mitigated part, though not the whole
Of its disease; he did the best he could
With things not very subject to control,
And turn’d, without perceiving his condition,
Like Coleridge, into a metaphysician.
He thought about himself, and the whole earth
Of man the wonderful, and of the stars,
And how the deuce they ever could have birth;
And then he thought of earthquakes, and of wars,
How many miles the moon might have in girth,
Of air-balloons, and of the many bars
To perfect knowledge of the boundless skies;—
And then he thought of Donna Julia’s eyes.
In thoughts like these true wisdom may discern
Longings sublime, and aspirations high,
Which some are born with, but the most part learn
To plague themselves withal, they know not why:
‘T was strange that one so young should thus concern
His brain about the action of the sky;
If you think ‘t was philosophy that this did,
I can’t help thinking puberty assisted.
He pored upon the leaves, and on the flowers,
And heard a voice in all the winds; and then
He thought of wood-nymphs and immortal bowers,
And how the goddesses came down to men:
He miss’d the pathway, he forgot the hours,
And when he look’d upon his watch again,
He found how much old Time had been a winner—
He also found that he had lost his dinner.
Sometimes he turn’d to gaze upon his book,
Boscan, or Garcilasso;—by the wind
Even as the page is rustled while we look,
So by the poesy of his own mind
Over the mystic leaf his soul was shook,
As if ‘t were one whereon magicians bind
Their spells, and give them to the passing gale,
According to some good old woman’s tale.
Thus would he while his lonely hours away
Dissatisfied, nor knowing what he wanted;
Nor glowing reverie, nor poet’s lay,
Could yield his spirit that for which it panted,
A bosom whereon he his head might lay,
And hear the heart beat with the love it granted,
With—several other things, which I forget,
Or which, at least, I need not mention yet.
Those lonely walks, and lengthening reveries,
Could not escape the gentle Julia’s eyes;
She saw that Juan was not at his ease;
But that which chiefly may, and must surprise,
Is, that the Donna Inez did not tease
Her only son with question or surmise:
Whether it was she did not see, or would not,
Or, like all very clever people, could not.
This may seem strange, but yet ‘t is very common;
For instance—gentlemen, whose ladies take
Leave to o’erstep the written rights of woman,
And break the—Which commandment is ‘t they break?
(I have forgot the number, and think no man
Should rashly quote, for fear of a mistake.)
I say, when these same gentlemen are jealous,
They make some blunder, which their ladies tell us.
A real husband always is suspicious,
But still no less suspects in the wrong place,
Jealous of some one who had no such wishes,
Or pandering blindly to his own disgrace,
By harbouring some dear friend extremely vicious;
The last indeed ‘s infallibly the case:
And when the spouse and friend are gone off wholly,
He wonders at their vice, and not his folly.
Thus parents also are at times short-sighted;
Though watchful as the lynx, they ne’er discover,
The while the wicked world beholds delighted,
Young Hopeful’s mistress, or Miss Fanny’s lover,
Till some confounded escapade has blighted
The plan of twenty years, and all is over;
And then the mother cries, the father swears,
And wonders why the devil he got heirs.
But Inez was so anxious, and so clear
Of sight, that I must think, on this occasion,
She had some other motive much more near
For leaving Juan to this new temptation;
But what that motive was, I sha’n’t say here;
Perhaps to finish Juan’s education,
Perhaps to open Don Alfonso’s eyes,
In case he thought his wife too great a prize.
It was upon a day, a summer’s day.—
Summer’s indeed a very dangerous season,
And so is spring about the end of May;
The sun, no doubt, is the prevailing reason;
But whatsoe’er the cause is, one may say,
And stand convicted of more truth than treason,
That there are months which nature grows more merry in,—
March has its hares, and May must have its heroine.
‘T was on a summer’s day—the sixth of June:—
I like to be particular in dates,
Not only of the age, and year, but moon;
They are a sort of post-house, where the Fates
Change horses, making history change its tune,
Then spur away o’er empires and o’er states,
Leaving at last not much besides chronology,
Excepting the post-obits of theology.
‘T was on the sixth of June, about the hour
Of half-past six—perhaps still nearer seven—
When Julia sate within as pretty a bower
As e’er held houri in that heathenish heaven
Described by Mahomet, and Anacreon Moore,
To whom the lyre and laurels have been given,
With all the trophies of triumphant song—
He won them well, and may he wear them long!
She sate, but not alone; I know not well
How this same interview had taken place,
And even if I knew, I should not tell—
People should hold their tongues in any case;
No matter how or why the thing befell,
But there were she and Juan, face to face—
When two such faces are so, ‘t would be wise,
But very difficult, to shut their eyes.
How beautiful she look’d! her conscious heart
Glow’d in her cheek, and yet she felt no wrong.
O Love! how perfect is thy mystic art,
Strengthening the weak, and trampling on the strong,
How self-deceitful is the sagest part
Of mortals whom thy lure hath led along—
The precipice she stood on was immense,
So was her creed in her own innocence.
She thought of her own strength, and Juan’s youth,
And of the folly of all prudish fears,
Victorious virtue, and domestic truth,
And then of Don Alfonso’s fifty years:
I wish these last had not occurr’d, in sooth,
Because that number rarely much endears,
And through all climes, the snowy and the sunny,
Sounds ill in love, whate’er it may in money.
When people say, ‘I’ve told you fifty times,’
They mean to scold, and very often do;
When poets say, ‘I’ve written fifty rhymes,’
They make you dread that they ‘ll recite them too;
In gangs of fifty, thieves commit their crimes;
At fifty love for love is rare, ‘t is true,
But then, no doubt, it equally as true is,
A good deal may be bought for fifty Louis.
Julia had honour, virtue, truth, and love,
For Don Alfonso; and she inly swore,
By all the vows below to powers above,
She never would disgrace the ring she wore,
Nor leave a wish which wisdom might reprove;
And while she ponder’d this, besides much more,
One hand on Juan’s carelessly was thrown,
Quite by mistake—she thought it was her own;
Unconsciously she lean’d upon the other,
Which play’d within the tangles of her hair:
And to contend with thoughts she could not smother
She seem’d by the distraction of her air.
‘T was surely very wrong in Juan’s mother
To leave together this imprudent pair,
She who for many years had watch’d her son so—
I ‘m very certain mine would not have done so.
The hand which still held Juan’s, by degrees
Gently, but palpably confirm’d its grasp,
As if it said, ‘Detain me, if you please;’
Yet there ‘s no doubt she only meant to clasp
His fingers with a pure Platonic squeeze:
She would have shrunk as from a toad, or asp,
Had she imagined such a thing could rouse
A feeling dangerous to a prudent spouse.
I cannot know what Juan thought of this,
But what he did, is much what you would do;
His young lip thank’d it with a grateful kiss,
And then, abash’d at its own joy, withdrew
In deep despair, lest he had done amiss,—
Love is so very timid when ‘t is new:
She blush’d, and frown’d not, but she strove to speak,
And held her tongue, her voice was grown so weak.
The sun set, and up rose the yellow moon:
The devil ‘s in the moon for mischief; they
Who call’d her CHASTE, methinks, began too soon
Their nomenclature; there is not a day,
The longest, not the twenty-first of June,
Sees half the business in a wicked way
On which three single hours of moonshine smile—
And then she looks so modest all the while.
There is a dangerous silence in that hour,
A stillness, which leaves room for the full soul
To open all itself, without the power
Of calling wholly back its self-control;
The silver light which, hallowing tree and tower,
Sheds beauty and deep softness o’er the whole,
Breathes also to the heart, and o’er it throws
A loving languor, which is not repose.
And Julia sate with Juan, half embraced
And half retiring from the glowing arm,
Which trembled like the bosom where ‘t was placed;
Yet still she must have thought there was no harm,
Or else ‘t were easy to withdraw her waist;
But then the situation had its charm,
And then—God knows what next—I can’t go on;
I ‘m almost sorry that I e’er begun.
O Plato! Plato! you have paved the way,
With your confounded fantasies, to more
Immoral conduct by the fancied sway
Your system feigns o’er the controulless core
Of human hearts, than all the long array
Of poets and romancers:—You ‘re a bore,
A charlatan, a coxcomb—and have been,
At best, no better than a go-between.
And Julia’s voice was lost, except in sighs,
Until too late for useful conversation;
The tears were gushing from her gentle eyes,
I wish indeed they had not had occasion,
But who, alas! can love, and then be wise?
Not that remorse did not oppose temptation;
A little still she strove, and much repented
And whispering ‘I will ne’er consent’—consented.