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Beppo, A Venetian Story

George Gordon Lord Byron 1788 (London) – 1824 (Missolonghi, Aetolia)



I.
'Tis known, at least it should be, that throughout
All countries of the Catholic persuasion,
Some weeks before Shrove Tuesday comes about,
The People take their fill of recreation,
And buy repentance, ere they grow devout,
However high their rank, or low their station,
With fiddling, feasting, dancing, drinking, masking,
And other things which may be had for asking.

II.
The moment Night with dusky mantle covers
The skies (and the more duskily the better),
The Time--less liked by husbands than by lovers--
Begins, and Prudery flings aside her fetter,
And Gaiety on restless tiptoe hovers,
Giggling with all the Gallants who beset her;
And there are Songs and quavers, roaring, humming,
Guitars, and every other sort of strumming.

III.
And there are dresses, splendid but fantastical,
Masks of all times and nations, Turks and Jews,
And Harlequins and Clowns, with feats gymnastical,
Greeks, Romans, Yankee-doodles, and Hindoos;
All kinds of dress, except the ecclesiastical,
All people, as their fancies hit, may choose,
But no one in these parts may quiz the Clergy,--
Therefore take heed, ye Freethinkers! I charge ye.

IV.
You'd better walk about begirt with briars,
Instead of Coat and smallclothes, than put on
A single stitch reflecting upon Friars,
Although you swore it only was in fun;
They'd haul you o'er the coals, and stir the fires
Of Phlegethon with every mother's son,
Nor say one Mass to cool the Caldron's bubble
That boil'd your bones--unless you paid them double.

V.
But saving this, you may put on whate'er
You like by way of doublet, cape, or cloak,
Such as in Monmouth Street, or in Rag Fair,
Would rig you out in Seriousness or Joke;
And even in Italy such places are
With prettier name in softer accents spoke,
For, bating Covent Garden, I can hit on
No place that's called 'Piazza' in Great Britain.

VI.
This feast is named the Carnival, which being
Interpreted implies 'Farewell to Flesh':
So call'd, because the name and thing agreeing,
Through Lent they live on fish, both salt and fresh.
But why they usher Lent with so much glee in
Is more than I can tell, although I guess
'Tis as we take a glass with friends at parting
In the Stage-Coach or Packet, just at starting.

VII.
And thus they bid farewell to Carnal dishes,
And solid meats, and highly spiced ragouts,
To live for forty days on ill-dress’d fishes,
Because they have no sauces to their stews--
A thing which causes many 'poohs' and 'pishes,'
And several oaths (which would not suit the Muse)
From travellers accustom'd from a boy
To eat their Salmon, at the least, with Soy;

VIII.
And therefore humbly I would recommend
'The Curious in Fish-Sauce,' before they cross
The Sea, to bid their Cook, or wife, or friend,
Walk or ride to the Strand, and buy in gross
(Or if set out beforehand these may send
By any means least liable to loss)
Ketchup, Soy, Chili-Vinegar, and Harvey,
Or, by the Lord! a Lent will well nigh starve ye.

IX.
That is to say, if your Religion's Roman,
And you at Rome would do as Romans do,
According to the proverb,--although No man
If foreign is obliged to fast, and you--
If Protestant, or sickly--or a woman--
Would rather dine in sin on a ragout--
Dine and be d____d! I don't mean to be coarse,
But that's the penalty, to say no worse.

X.
Of all the places where the Carnival
Was most facetious in the days of yore,
For dance, and song, and serenade, and ball,
And Masque, and Mime, and Mystery, and more
Than I have time to tell now, or at all,
Venice the bell from every city bore,
And at the moment when I fix my story,
That Sea-born City was in all her Glory.

XI.
They've pretty faces yet, those same Venetians,
Black eyes, arch'd brows, and sweet expressions still,
Such as of old were copied from the Grecians,
In ancient Arts by Moderns mimick'd ill;
And like so many Venuses of Titian's
(The best's at Florence--see it, if ye will),
They look when leaning over the Balcony;
Or stepp'd from out a picture by Giorgione,--

XII.
Whose tints are Truth and Beauty at their best;
And when you to Manfrini's palace go,
That Picture (howsoever fine the rest)
Is loveliest to my mind of all the show;
It may perhaps be also to your Zest,
And that's the cause I rhyme upon it so:
'Tis but a portrait of his Son and Wife
And Self; but such a Woman! Love in life!

XIII.
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:57 min read
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George Gordon Lord Byron

George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, known simply as Lord Byron, was an English poet, peer and politician who became a revolutionary in the Greek War of Independence, and is considered one of the leading figures of the Romantic movement. He is regarded as one of the greatest English poets and remains widely read and influential. Among his best-known works are the lengthy narrative poems Don Juan and Childe Harold's Pilgrimage; many of his shorter lyrics in Hebrew Melodies also became popular. He travelled extensively across Europe, especially in Italy, where he lived for seven years in the cities of Venice, Ravenna, and Pisa. During his stay in Italy he frequently visited his friend and fellow poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Later in life Byron joined the Greek War of Independence fighting the Ottoman Empire and died of disease leading a campaign during that war, for which Greeks revere him as a national hero. He died in 1824 at the age of 36 from a fever contracted after the First and Second Siege of Missolonghi. His only legitimate child, Ada Lovelace, is regarded as a foundational figure in the field of computer programming based on her notes for Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine. Byron's illegitimate children include Allegra Byron, who died in childhood, and possibly Elizabeth Medora Leigh.  more…

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