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,
Form'd rather for instructing than delighting,
And with all passions in their turn attack'd;
Now, if my Pegasus should not be shod ill,
This poem will become a moral model.
The European with the Asian shore
Sprinkled with palaces; the ocean stream
Here and there studded with a seventy-four;
Sophia's cupola with golden gleam;
The cypress groves; Olympus high and hoar;
The twelve isles, and the more than I could dream,
Far less describe, present the very view
Which charm'd the charming Mary Montagu.
I have a passion for the name of 'Mary,'
For once it was a magic sound to me;
And still it half calls up the realms of fairy,
Where I beheld what never was to be;
All feelings changed, but this was last to vary,
A spell from which even yet I am not quite free:
But I grow sad—and let a tale grow cold,
Which must not be pathetically told.
The wind swept down the Euxine, and the wave
Broke foaming o'er the blue Symplegades;
'T is a grand sight from off 'the Giant's Grave
To watch the progress of those rolling seas
Between the Bosphorus, as they lash and lave
Europe and Asia, you being quite at ease;
There 's not a sea the passenger e'er pukes in,
Turns up more dangerous breakers than the Euxine.
'T was a raw day of Autumn's bleak beginning,
When nights are equal, but not so the days;
The Parcae then cut short the further spinning
Of seamen's fates, and the loud tempests raise
The waters, and repentance for past sinning
In all, who o'er the great deep take their ways:
They vow to amend their lives, and yet they don't;
Because if drown'd, they can't—if spared, they won't.
A crowd of shivering slaves of every nation,
And age, and sex, were in the market ranged;
Each bevy with the merchant in his station:
Poor creatures! their good looks were sadly changed.
All save the blacks seem'd jaded with vexation,
From friends, and home, and freedom far estranged;
The negroes more philosophy display'd,—
Used to it, no doubt, as eels are to be flay'd.
Juan was juvenile, and thus was full,
As most at his age are, of hope and health;
Yet I must own he looked a little dull,
And now and then a tear stole down by stealth;
Perhaps his recent loss of blood might pull
His spirit down; and then the loss of wealth,
A mistress, and such comfortable quarters,
To be put up for auction amongst Tartars,
Were things to shake a stoic; ne'ertheless,
Upon the whole his carriage was serene:
His figure, and the splendour of his dress,
Of which some gilded remnants still were seen,
Drew all eyes on him, giving them to guess
He was above the vulgar by his mien;
And then, though pale, he was so very handsome;
And then—they calculated on his ransom.
Like a backgammon board the place was dotted
With whites and blacks, in groups on show for sale,
Though rather more irregularly spotted:
Some bought the jet, while others chose the pale.
It chanced amongst the other people lotted,
A man of thirty rather stout and hale,
With resolution in his dark grey eye,
Next Juan stood, till some might choose to buy.
He had an English look; that is, was square
In make, of a complexion white and ruddy,
Good teeth, with curling rather dark brown hair,
And, it might be from thought or toil or study,
An open brow a little mark'd with care:
One arm had on a bandage rather bloody;
And there he stood with such sang-froid, that greater
Could scarce be shown even by a mere spectator.
But seeing at his elbow a mere lad,
Of a high spirit evidently, though
At present weigh'd down by a doom which had
O'erthrown even men, he soon began to show
A kind of blunt compassion for the sad
Lot of so young a partner in the woe,
Which for himself he seem'd to deem no worse
Than any other scrape, a thing of course.
'My boy!' said he, 'amidst this motley crew
Of Georgians, Russians, Nubians, and what not,
All ragamuffins differing but in hue,
With whom it is our luck to cast our lot,
The only gentlemen seem I and you;
So let us be acquainted, as we ought:
If I could yield you any consolation,
'T would give me pleasure.—Pray, what is your nation?'
When Juan answer'd—'Spanish!' he replied,
'I thought, in fact, you could not be a Greek;
Those servile dogs are not so proudly eyed:
Fortune has play'd you here a pretty freak,
But that 's her way with all men, till they 're tried;
But never mind,—she 'll turn, perhaps, next week;
She has served me also much the same as you,
Except that I have found it nothing new.'
'Pray, sir,' said Juan, 'if I may presume,
What brought you here?'—'Oh! nothing very rare—
Six Tartars and a drag-chain.'—'To this doom
But what conducted, if the question's fair,
Is that which I would learn.'—'I served for some
Months with the Russian army here and there,
And taking lately, by Suwarrow's bidding,
A town, was ta'en myself instead of Widdin.'
'Have you no friends?'—'I had—but, by God's blessing,
Have not been troubled with them lately. Now
I have answer'd all your questions without pressing,
And you an equal courtesy should show.'
'Alas!' said Juan, ''t were a tale distressing,
And long besides.'—'Oh! if 't is really so,
You 're right on both accounts to hold your tongue;
A sad tale saddens doubly, when 't is long.
'But droop not: Fortune at your time of life,
Although a female moderately fickle,
Will hardly leave you (as she 's not your wife)
For any length of days in such a pickle.
To strive, too, with our fate were such a strife
As if the corn-sheaf should oppose the sickle:
Men are the sport of circumstances, when
The circumstances seem the sport of men.'
''T is not,' said Juan, 'for my present doom
I mourn, but for the past;—I loved a maid:'-
He paused, and his dark eye grew full of gloom;
A single tear upon his eyelash staid
A moment, and then dropp'd; 'but to resume,
'T is not my present lot, as I have said,
Which I deplore so much; for I have borne
Hardships which have the hardiest overworn,
'On the rough deep. But this last blow-' and here
He stopp'd again, and turn'd away his face.
'Ay,' quoth his friend, 'I thought it would appear
That there had been a lady in the case;
And these are things which ask a tender tear,
Such as I, too, would shed if in your place:
I cried upon my first wife's dying day,
And also when my second ran away:
'My third-'—'Your third!' quoth Juan, turning round;
'You scarcely can be thirty: have you three?'
'No—only two at present above ground:
Surely 't is nothing wonderful to see
One person thrice in holy wedlock bound!'
'Well, then, your third,' said Juan; 'what did she?
She did not run away, too,—did she, sir?'
'No, faith.'—'What then?'—'I ran away from her.'
'You take things coolly, sir,' said Juan. 'Why,'
Replied the other, 'what can a man do?
There still are many rainbows in your sky,
But mine have vanish'd. All, when life is new,
Commence with feelings warm, and prospects high;
But time strips our illusions of their hue,
And one by one in turn, some grand mistake
Casts off its bright skin yearly like the snake.
''T is true, it gets another bright and fresh,
Or fresher, brighter; but the year gone through,
This skin must go the way, too, of all flesh,
Or sometimes only wear a week or two;—
Love 's the first net which spreads its deadly mesh;
Ambition, Avarice, Vengeance, Glory, glue
The glittering lime-twigs of our latter days,
Where still we flutter on for pence or praise.'
'All this is very fine, and may be true,'
Said Juan; 'but I really don't see how
It betters present times with me or you.'
'No?' quoth the other; 'yet you will allow
By setting things in their right point of view,
Knowledge, at least, is gain'd; for instance, now,
We know what slavery is, and our disasters
May teach us better to behave when masters.'
'Would we were masters now, if but to try
Their present lessons on our Pagan friends here,'
Said Juan,—swallowing a heart-burning sigh:
'Heaven help the scholar whom his fortune sends here!'
'Perhaps we shall be one day, by and by,'
Rejoin'd the other, when our bad luck mends here;
Meantime (yon old black eunuch seems to eye us)
'But after all, what is our present state?
'T is bad, and may be better—all men's lot:
Most men are slaves, none more so than the great,
To their own whims and passions, and what not;
Society itself, which should create
Kindness, destroys what little we had got:
To feel for none is the true social art
Of the world's stoics—men without a heart.'