Lord George Gordon Byron

Here you will find the Long Poem Don Juan: Canto the Eighth of poet Lord George Gordon Byron

Don Juan: Canto the Eighth

The town was taken--whether he might yield 
 Himself or bastion, little matter'd now: 
 His stubborn valour was no future shield. 
 Ismail's no more! The Crescent's silver bow 
 Sunk, and the crimson Cross glar'd o'er the field, 
 But red with no redeeming gore: the glow 
 Of burning streets, like moonlight on the water, 
 Was imag'd back in blood, the sea of slaughter. 

 All that the mind would shrink from of excesses; 
 All that the body perpetrates of bad; 
 All that we read, hear, dream, of man's distresses; 
 All that the Devil would do if run stark mad; 
 All that defies the worst which pen expresses; 
 All by which Hell is peopl'd, or as sad 
 As Hell--mere mortals, who their power abuse-- 
 Was here (as heretofore and since) let loose. 

 If here and there some transient trait of pity 
 Was shown, and some more noble heart broke through 
 Its bloody bond, and sav'd perhaps some pretty 
 Child, or an aged, helpless man or two-- 
 What's this in one annihilated city, 
 Where thousand loves, and ties, and duties grew? 
 Cockneys of London! Muscadins of Paris! 
 Just ponder what a pious pastime war is. 

 Think how the joys of reading a Gazette 
 Are purchas'd by all agonies and crimes: 
 Or if these do not move you, don't forget 
 Such doom may be your own in aftertimes. 
 Meantime the taxes, Castlereagh, and debt, 
 Are hints as good as sermons, or as rhymes. 
 Read your own hearts and Ireland's present story, 
 Then feed her famine fat with Wellesley's glory. 

 But still there is unto a patriot nation, 
 Which loves so well its country and its King, 
 A subject of sublimest exultation-- 
 Bear it, ye Muses, on your brightest wing! 
 Howe'er the mighty locust, Desolation, 
 Strip your green fields, and to your harvests cling, 
 Gaunt famine never shall approach the throne-- 
 Though Ireland starve, great George weighs twenty stone. 

 But let me put an end unto my theme: 
 There was an end of Ismail--hapless town! 
 Far flash'd her burning towers o'er Danube's stream, 
 And redly ran his blushing waters down. 
 The horrid war-whoop and the shriller scream 
 Rose still; but fainter were the thunders grown: 
 Of forty thousand who had mann'd the wall, 
 Some hundreds breath'd--the rest were silent all! 

 In one thing ne'ertheless 'tis fit to praise 
 The Russian army upon this occasion, 
 A virtue much in fashion now-a-days, 
 And therefore worthy of commemoration: 
 The topic's tender, so shall be my phrase: 
 Perhaps the season's chill, and their long station 
 In Winter's depth, or want of rest and victual, 
 Had made them chaste--they ravish'd very little. 

 Much did they slay, more plunder, and no less 
 Might here and there occur some violation 
 In the other line; but not to such excess 
 As when the French, that dissipated nation, 
 Take towns by storm: no causes can I guess, 
 Except cold weather and commiseration; 
 But all the ladies, save some twenty score, 
 Were almost as much virgins as before. 

 Some odd mistakes, too, happen'd in the dark, 
 Which show'd a want of lanterns, or of taste-- 
 Indeed the smoke was such they scarce could mark 
 Their friends from foes--besides such things from haste 
 Occur, though rarely, when there is a spark 
 Of light to save the venerably chaste: 
 But six old damsels, each of seventy years, 
 Were all deflower'd by different grenadiers. 

 But on the whole their continence was great; 
 So that some disappointment there ensu'd 
 To those who had felt the inconvenient state 
 Of "single blessedness," and thought it good 
 (Since it was not their fault, but only fate, 
 To bear these crosses) for each waning prude 
 To make a Roman sort of Sabine wedding, 
 Without the expense and the suspense of bedding. 

 Some voices of the buxom middle-ag'd 
 Were also heard to wonder in the din 
 (Widows of forty were these birds long cag'd) 
 "Wherefore the ravishing did not begin!" 
 But while the thirst for gore and plunder rag'd, 
 There was small leisure for superfluous sin; 
 But whether they escap'd or no, lies hid 
 In darkness--I can only hope they did. 

 Suwarrow now was conqueror--a match 
 For Timour or for Zinghis in his trade. 
 While mosques and streets, beneath his eyes, like thatch 
 Blaz'd, and the cannon's roar was scarce allay'd, 
 With bloody hands he wrote his first despatch; 
 And here exactly follows what he said: 
 "Glory to God and to the Empress!" ( Powers 
 Eternal!! such names mingled! ) "Ismail's ours 

 Methinks these are the most tremendous words, 
 Since "MENE, MENE, TEKEL," and "UPHARSIN," 
 Which hands or pens have ever trac'd of swords. 
 Heaven help me! I'm but little of a parson: 
 What Daniel