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Don Juan: Canto the Eleventh

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



I
When Bishop Berkeley said "there was no matter,"
And proved it--'twas no matter what he sald:
They say his system 'tis in vain to batter,
Too subtle for the airiest human head;
And yet who can believe it! I would shatter
Gladly all matters down to stone or lead,
Or adamant, to find the World a spirit,
And wear my head, denying that I wear it.II
What a sublime discovery 'twas to make the
Universe universal egotism,
That all's ideal--all ourselves: I'll stake the
World (be it what you will) that that's no schism.
Oh Doubt!--if thou be'st Doubt, for which some take thee,
But which I doubt extremely--thou sole prism
Of the Truth's rays, spoil not my draught of spirit!
Heaven's brandy, though our brain can hardly bear it.III

For ever and anon comes Indigestion
(Not the most "dainty Ariel") and perplexes
Our soarings with another sort of question:
And that which after all my spirit vexes,
Is, that I find no spot where Man can rest eye on,
Without confusion of the sorts and sexes,
Of beings, stars, and this unriddled wonder,
The World, which at the worst's a glorious blunder--IV

If it be chance--or, if it be according
To the Old Text, still better: lest it should
Turn out so, we'll say nothing 'gainst the wording,
As several people think such hazards rude.
They're right; our days are too brief for affording
Space to dispute what no one ever could
Decide, and everybody one day will
Know very clearly--or at least lie still.V

And therefore will I leave off metaphysical
Discussion, which is neither here nor there:
If I agree that what is, is; then this I call
Being quite perspicuous and extremely fair.
The truth is, I've grown lately rather phthisical:
I don't know what the reason is--the air
Perhaps; but as I suffer from the shocks
Of illness, I grow much more orthodox.VI

The first attack at once prov'd the Divinity
(But that I never doubted, nor the Devil);
The next, the Virgin's mystical virginity;
The third, the usual Origin of Evil;
The fourth at once establish'd the whole Trinity
On so uncontrovertible a level,
That I devoutly wish'd the three were four--
On purpose to believe so much the more.VII

To our theme.--The man who has stood on the Acropolis,
And look'd down over Attica; or he
Who has sail'd where picturesque Constantinople is,
Or seen Timbuctoo, or hath taken tea
In small-ey'd China's crockery-ware metropolis,
Or sat amidst the bricks of Nineveh,
May not think much of London's first appearance--
But ask him what he thinks of it a year hence!VIII

Don Juan had got out on Shooter's Hill;
Sunset the time, the place the same declivity
Which looks along that vale of good and ill
Where London streets ferment in full activity,
While everything around was calm and still,
Except the creak of wheels, which on their pivot he
Heard, and that bee-like, bubbling, busy hum
Of cities, that boil over with their scum--IX

I say, Don Juan, wrapp'd in contemplation,
Walk'd on behind his carriage, o'er the summit,
And lost in wonder of so great a nation,
Gave way to't, since he could not overcome it.
"And here," he cried, "is Freedom's chosen station;
Here peals the People's voice nor can entomb it
Racks, prisons, inquisitions; resurrection
Awaits it, each new meeting or election.X

"Here are chaste wives, pure lives; her people pay
But what they please; and if that things be dear,
'Tis only that they love to throw away
Their cash, to show how much they have a-year.
Here laws are all inviolate; none lay
Traps for the traveller; every highway's clear;
Here"--he was interrupted by a knife,
With--"Damn your eyes! your money or your life!"XI

These free-born sounds proceeded from four pads
In ambush laid, who had perceiv'd him loiter
Behind his carriage; and, like handy lads,
Had seiz'd the lucky hour to reconnoitre,
In which the heedless gentleman who gads
Upon the road, unless he prove a fighter
May find himself within that isle of riches
Expos'd to lose his life as well as breeches.XII

Juan, who did not understand a word
Of English, save their shibboleth, &qu
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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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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