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But for the destiny of this young troop,
How some were bought by pachas, some by Jews, How some to burdens were obliged to stoop,
And others rose to the command of crews As renegadoes; while in hapless group,
Hoping no very old vizier might choose, The females stood, as one by one they pick'd 'em, To make a mistress, or fourth wife, or victim :(1)
All this must be reserved for further song;
Also our hero's lot, howe'er unpleasant Because this Canto has become too long),
Must be postponed discreetly for the present; I'm sensible redundancy is wrong,
But could not for the muse of me put less in 't: And now delay the progress of Don Juan, Till what is call'd in Ossian the fifth Duan.
(1) [MS. — “ The females stood, till chosen each as victim
To the soft oath of ' Ana seing Siktum!""
[Canto V. was begun at Ravenna, October the 16th, and finished November the 20th, 1820. It was published, as has been already mentioned, late in 1821, along with Cantos III. and IV.; and here the Poet meant to stop - for what reason, the subjoined extracts from his letters will show :
February 16. 1821. “ The fifth is so far from being the last of Don Juan, that it is hardly the beginning. I meant to take him the tour of Europe, with a proper mixture of siege, battle, and adventure, and to make him finish as Anacharsis Cloots, in the French Revolution. To how many cantos this may extend, I know not, nor whether (even if I live) I shall complete it; but this was my notion. I meant to have made him a Cavalier Servente in Italy, and a cause for a divorce in England, and a sentimental • Werther-faced man’in Germany, so as to show the different ridicules of the society in each of those countries, and to have displayed him gradually gâté and blasé as he grew older, as is natural. But I had not quite fixed whether to make him end in hell, or in an unhappy marriage, not knowing which would be the severest : the Spanish tradition says hell; but it is probably only an allegory of the other state. You are now in possession of my notions on the subject."
July 6 1821. “ At the particular request of the Contessa Guiccioli I have promised not to continue Don Juan. You will therefore look upon these three Cantos as the last of the poem. She had read the two first in the French translation, and never ceased beseeching me to write no more of it. The reason of this is not at first obvious to a superficial observer of FOREIGN manners; but it arises from the wish of all women to exalt the sentiment of the passions, and to keep up the illusion which is their empire. Now, Don Juan strips off this illusion, and laughs at that and most other things. I never knew a woman who did not protect Rousseau, nor one who did not dislike De Grammont, Gil Blas, and all the comedy of the passions, when brought out naturally. But 'king's blood must keep word,' as Serjeant Bothwell says."
September 4. 1821. “I read over the Juans, which are excellent. Your squad are quite wrong; and so you will find, by and by. I regret that I do not go on with it, for I had all the plan for several cantos, and different countries and climes. You say nothing of the note I enclosed to you, which will explain why I agreed to discontinue it.”
In Madame Guiccioli's note, here referred to, she had said, “ Remember, my Byron, the promise you have made ine. Never shall I be able to tell you the satisfaction I feel from it; so great are the sentiments of pleasure and confidence with which the sacrifice you have made has inspired me.” – E.]
When amatory poets sing their loves
In liquid lines mellifluously bland, And pair their rhymes as Venus yokes her doves,
They little think what mischief is in hand; The greater their success the worse it
proves, As Ovid's verse may give to understand; Even Petrarch's self, if judged with due severity, Is the Platonic pimp of all posterity. ()
I therefore do denounce all amorous writing,
Except in such a way as not to attract; Plain — simple—short, and by no means inviting,
But with a moral to each error tack'd,
And with all passions in their turn attack'd;
will become a moral model.
(1) [See “Hobhouse's Historical Notes to the Fourth Canto of Childe Harold," antè, Vol. VIII. p. 285.]