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If now and then there happen'd a slight slip,
Little was heard of criminal or crime; The story scarcely pass'd a single lip
The sack and sea had settled all in time, From which the secret nobody could rip:
The Public knew no more than does this rhyme; No scandals made the daily press a curse — Morals were better, and the fish no worse. (1)
He saw with his own eyes the moon was round,
Was also certain that the earth was square, Because he had journey'd fifty miles, and found
No sign that it was circular any where; His empire also was without a bound:
'Tis true, a little troubled here and there, By rebel pachas, and encroaching giaours, But then they never came to“ the Seven Towers;" (2)
(1) [MS. — “ There ended many a fair Sultana's trip :
The Public knew no more than does this rhyme
Were better – while the morals were no worse."] (2) [The state prison of Constantinople, in which the Porte shuts up the ministers of hostile powers who are dilatory in taking their departure, under pretence of protecting them from the insults of the mob — Hope.
We attempted to visit the Seven Towers, but were stopped at the entrance, and informed that without a firman it was inaccessible to strangers. It was supposed that Count Bulukoff, the Russian minister, would be the last of the Moussafirs, or imperial hostages, contined in this fortress; but since the year 1784, M. Ruffin and many of the French have been imprisoned in the same place; and the dungeons were gaping, it seems, for the sacred persons of the gentlemen composing his Britannic Majesty's mission, previous to the rupture between Great Britain and the Porte in 1809. - Hobhouse.]
Except in shape of envoys, who were sent
To lodge there when a war broke out, according To the true law of nations, which ne'er meant
Those scoundrels, who have never had a sword in Their dirty diplomatic hands, to vent
Their spleen in making strife, and safely wording Their lies, yclep'd despatches, without risk or The singeing of a single inky whisker.
He had fifty daughters and four dozen sons,
Of whom all such as came of age were stow'd, The former in a palace, where like nuns
They lived till some Bashaw was sent abroad, When she, whose turn it was, was wed at once,
Sometimes at six years old () — though this seems 'Tis true; the reason is, that the Bashaw [odd, Must make a present to his sire in law.
His sons were kept in prison, till they grew
Of years to fill a bowstring or the throne, One or the other, but which of the two
Could yet be known unto the fates alone; Meantime the education they went through
Was princely, as the proofs have always shown: So that the heir apparent still was found No less deserving to be hang'd than crown'd.
(1) [" The princess" (Sulta Asma, daughter of Achmet III.) “exclaimed against the barbarity of the institution which, at six years old, had put her in the power of a decrepid old man, who, by treating her like a child, had only inspired disgust." - De Tott.]
His Majesty saluted his fourth spouse
With all the ceremonies of his rank, [brows, Who clear'd her sparkling eyes and smooth'd her
As suits a matron who has play'd a prank ; These must seem doubly mindful of their vows,
To save the credit of their breaking bank: To no men are such cordial greetings given As those whose wives have made them fit for heaven.
His Highness cast around his great black eyes,
And looking, as he always look'd, perceived Juan amongst the damsels in disguise,
At which he seem'd no whit surprised nor grieved, But just remark'd with air sedate and wise,
While still a fluttering sigh Gulbeyaz heaved, “ I see you've bought another girl ; 't is pity That a mere Christian should be half so pretty.”
This compliment, which drew all eyes upon
The new-bought virgin, made her blush and shake. Her comrades, also, thought themselves undone:
Oh! Mahomet! that his Majesty should take
Of them his lips imperial ever spake!
CLVII. The Turks do well to shut- at least, sometimes -
The women up — because, in sad reality, Their chastity in these unhappy climes
Is not a thing of that astringent quality Which in the North prevents precocious crimes,
And makes our snow less pure than our morality; The sun, which yearly melts the polar ice, Has quite the contrary effect on vice.
Thus in the East they are extremely strict,
And Wedlock and a Padlock mean the same;
frame; Spoilt, as a pipe of claret is when prick'd:
But then their own Polygamy's to blame ; Why don't they knead two virtuous souls for life Into that moral centaur, man and wife ? (1)
Thus far our chronicle; and now we pause,
Though not for want of matter; but 't is time, According to the ancient epic laws,
To slacken sail, and anchor with our rhyme.
(1) [This stanza - which Lord Byron composed in bed, Feb. 27. 1821, (see antè, Vol. V. p. 107.) is not in the first edition. On discovering the omission, he thus remonstrated with Mr. Murray:-“ Upon what princi. ple have you omitted one of the concluding stanzas sent as an addition? because it ended, I suppose, with
And do not link two virtuous souls for life
Into that moral centaur, man and wife?' “ Now, I must say, once for all, that I will not permit any human being to take such liberties with my writings because I am absent. I desire the
Let this fifth canto meet with due applause,
The sixth shall have a touch of the sublime; Meanwhile, as Homer sometimes sleeps, perhaps You'll pardon to my muse a few short naps. (*)
omission to be replaced. I have read over the poem carefully, and I tell you, it is poetry. The little envious knot of parson-poets may say what they please: time will show that I am not, in this instance, mistaken.”]
(1) Blackwood says, in No. LXV., for June, 1822, “ These three Cantos (III. IV. V.) are, like all Byron's poems, and, by the way, like every thing in this world, partly good and partly bad. In the particular descriptions they are not so naughty as their predecessors: indeed, his lordship has been so pretty and well-behaved on the present occasion, that we should not be surprised to hear of the work being detected among the thread cases, flower-pots, and cheap tracts that litter the drawing room tables of some of the best regulated families. By those, however, who suspect him of a strange design
“ Against the creed and morals of the land,
And trace it in this poem every line,” it will be found as bad as ever. He shows his knowledge of the world too openly; and it is no extenuation of this freedom that he does it playfully. Only infants can be shown naked in company; but his lordship pulls the very robe-de-chambre from both men and women, and goes on with his exposure as smirkingly as a barrister cross-questioning a chambermaid in a case of crim. con. This, as nobody can approve, we must confess is very bad. Still, it is harsh to ascribe to wicked motives what may be owing to the temptations of circumstances, or the headlong impulse of passion. Even the worst habits siould be charitably considered, for they are often the result of the slow but irresistible force of nature, over the artificial manners and discipline of society — the flowing stream that wastes away its embankments. Man towards his fellow man should be at least compassionate; for he can be no judge of the instincts and the impulses of action, he can only see effects.
“ Tremble, thou wretch,