(Don Juan, Canto iii. Stanzas 27, 29–41.)
HE saw his white walls shining in the sun,
His garden trees all shadowy and green;
He heard his rivulet’s light bubbling run,
The distant dog-bark; and perceived between
The umbrage of the wood so cool and dun
The moving figures, and the sparkling sheen
Of arms (in the East all arm)—and various dyes
Of colour’d garbs, as bright as butterflies.
And still more nearly to the place advancing,
Descending rather quickly the declivity,
Through the waved branches, o’er the greensward glancing,
’Midst other indications of festivity,
Seeing a troop of his domestics dancing
Like dervises, who turn as on a pivot, he
Perceived it was the Pyrrhic dance so martial,
To which the Levantines are very partial.
And further on a group of Grecian girls,
The first and tallest her white kerchief waving,
Were strung together like a row of pearls,
Link’d hand in hand, and dancing; each too having
Down her white neck long floating auburn curls—
(The least of which would set ten poets raving);
Their leader sang—and bounded to her song,
With choral step and voice, the virgin throng.
And here, assembled cross-legg’d round their trays,
Small social parties just begun to dine;
Pilaus and meats of all sorts met the gaze,
And flasks of Samian and of Chian wine,
And sherbet cooling in the porous vase;
Above them their dessert grew on its vine,
The orange and pomegranate nodding o’er,
Dropp’d in their laps, scarce pluck’d, their mellow store.
A band of children, round a snow-white ram,
There wreathe his venerable horns with flowers;
While peaceful, as if still an unwean’d lamb,
The patriarch of the flock all gently cowers
His sober head, majestically tame,
Or eats from out the palm, or playful lowers
His brow, as if in act to butt, and then
Yielding to their small hands, draws back again.
Their classic profiles, and glittering dresses,
Their large black eyes, and soft seraphic cheeks,
Crimson as cleft pomegranates, their long tresses,
The gesture which enchants, the eye that speaks,
The innocence which happy childhood blesses,
Made quite a picture of these little Greeks;
So that the philosophical beholder
Sigh’d, for their sakes—that they should e’er grow older.
Afar, a dwarf buffoon stood telling tales
To a sedate grey circle of old smokers
Of secret treasures found in hidden vales,
Of wonderful replies from Arab jokers,
Of charms to make good gold and cure bad ails,
Of rocks bewitch’d that open to the knockers,
Of magic ladies who, by one sole act,
Transform’d their lords to beasts (but that’s fact).
Here was no lack of innocent diversion
For the imagination or the senses,
Song, dance, wine, music, stories from the Persian,
All pretty pastimes in which no offence is;
But Lambro saw all these things with aversion,
Perceiving in his absence such expenses,
Dreading that climax of all human ills,
The inflammation of his weekly bills.
Ah! what is man? what perils still environ
The happiest mortals even after dinner—
A day of gold from out an age of iron
Is all that life allows the luckiest sinner;
Pleasure (whene’er she sings, at least) ’s a siren,
That lures, to flay alive, the young beginner;
Lambro’s reception at his people’s banquet
Was such as fire accords to a wet blanket.
He—being a man who seldom used a word
Too much, and wishing gladly to surprise
(In general he surprised men with the sword)
His daughter—had not sent before to advise
Of his arrival, so that no one stirr’d;
And long he paused to re-assure his eyes,
In fact much more astonish’d than delighted,
To find so much good company invited.
He did not know (alas! how men will lie)
That a report (especially the Greeks)
Avouch’d his death (such people never die),
And put his house in mourning several weeks,—
But now their eyes and also lips were dry;
The bloom, too, had return’d to Haidée’s cheeks.
Her tears, too, being return’d into their fount,
She now kept house upon her own account.
Hence all this rice, meat, dancing, wine, and fiddling,
Which turn’d the isle into a place of pleasure;
The servants all were getting drunk or idling,
A life which made them happy beyond measure.
Her father’s hospitality seem’d middling,
Compared with what Haidée did with his treasure;
’Twas wonderful how things went on improving,
While she had not one hour to spare from loving.
Perhaps you think in stumbling on this feast
He flew into a passion, and in fact
There was no mighty reason to be pleased;
Perhaps you prophesy some sudden act,
The whip, the rack, or dungeon at the least,
To teach his people to be more exact,
And that, proceeding at a very high rate,
He show’d the royal penchants of a pirate.
You’re wrong.—He was the mildest manner’d man
That ever scuttled ship or cut a throat;
With such true breeding of a gentleman,
You never could divine his real thought;
No courtier could, and scarcely woman can
Gird more deceit within a petticoat;
Pity he loved adventurous life’s variety,
He was so great a loss to good society.
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