Lord George Gordon Byron

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

Don Juan: Canto the Eleventh

 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, "God damn!" 
 And even that he had so rarely heard, 
 He sometimes thought 'twas only their Salam," 
 Or "God be with you!"--and 'tis not absurd 
 To think so, for half English as I am 
 (To my misfortune) never can I say 
 I heard them wish "God with you," save that way--XIII 

 Juan yet quickly understood their gesture, 
 And being somewhat choleric and sudden, 
 Drew forth a pocket pistol from his vesture, 
 And fired it into one assailant's pudding,