Bob's Byway


1788 - 1824



 * This poem provides an example of dactylic tetrameter.
Know ye the land where the cypress and myrtle
  Are emblems of deeds that are done in their clime--
Where the rage of the vulture, the love of the turtle
  Now melt into softness, now madden to crime?
Know ye the land of the cedar and vine,
Where the flowers ever blossom, the beams ever shine,
And the light wings of Zephyr, oppressed with perfume,
Wax faint o'er the gardens of Gul in their bloom?
Where the citron and olive are fairest of fruit
And the voice of the nightingale never is mute--
To Dactyl in the Glossary
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To Tetrameter in the Glossary
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Where the virgins are soft as the roses they twine,
And all save the spirit of man is divine?
'Tis the land of the east--'tis the clime of the Sun--
Can he smile on such deeds as his children have done?
Oh, wild as the accents of lovers' farewell
Are the hearts that they bear and the tales that they tell!



 * This narrative poem provides an example of the ottava rima verse form.
Canto the First

        *        *         *        *

Barnave, Brissot, Condorcet, Mirabeau,
    Petion, Clootz, Danton, Marat, La Fayette,
Were French, and famous people, as we know:
    And there were others, scarce forgotten yet,
Joubert, Hoche, Marceau, Lannes, Desaix, Moreau,
    With many of the military set,
Exceedingly remarkable at times,
But not at all adapted to my rhymes.

 * In these excerpts from Don Juan can be found nearly every variety of rhyme sounds, including mosaic rhymes. There are, of course, many more in the full text.
Nelson was once Britannia's god of war,
    And still should be so, but the tide is turn'd;
There 's no more to be said of Trafalgar,
    'T is with our hero quietly inurn'd;
Because the army 's grown more popular,
    At which the naval people are concern'd;
Besides, the prince is all for the land-service,
Forgetting Duncan, Nelson, Howe, and Jervis.

Brave men were living before Agamemnon
    And since, exceeding valorous and sage,
A good deal like him too, though quite the same none;
    But then they shone not on the poet's page,
And so have been forgotten:-- I condemn none,
    But can't find any in the present age
Fit for my poem (that is, for my new one);
So, as I said, I 'll take my friend Don Juan.

Most epic poets plunge 'in medias res'
    (Horace makes this the heroic turnpike road),
And then your hero tells, whene'er you please,
    What went before--by way of episode,
While seated after dinner at his ease,
    Beside his mistress in some soft abode,
Palace, or garden, paradise, or cavern,
Which serves the happy couple for a tavern.

That is the usual method, but not mine--
    My way is to begin with the beginning;
The regularity of my design
    Forbids all wandering as the worst of sinning,
And therefore I shall open with a line
    (Although it cost me half an hour in spinning)
Narrating somewhat of Don Juan's father,
And also of his mother, if you 'd rather.

        *        *         *        *

'T is pity learned virgins ever wed
    With persons of no sort of education,
Or gentlemen, who, though well born and bred,
    Grow tired of scientific conversation:
I don't choose to say much upon this head,
    I 'm a plain man, and in a single station,
 * A mosaic rhyme.
But-- Oh! ye lords of ladies intellectual,
Inform us truly, have they not hen-peck'd you all?    *

        *        *         *        *

It was upon a day, a summer's day;--
    Summer's indeed a very dangerous season,
And so is spring about the end of May;
    The sun, no doubt, is the prevailing reason;
But whatsoe'er the cause is, one may say,
    And stand convicted of more truth than treason,
That there are months which nature grows more merry in,--
March has its hares, and May must have its heroine.

        *        *         *        *

"Man's love is of man's life a thing apart,
    'T is woman's whole existence; man may range
The court, camp, church, the vessel, and the mart;
    Sword, gown, gain, glory, offer in exchange
Pride, fame, ambition, to fill up his heart,
    And few there are whom these cannot estrange;
Men have all these resources, we but one,
To love again, and be again undone."

        *        *         *        *

Canto the Second

        *        *         *        *

Juan embark'd-- the ship got under way,
    The wind was fair, the water passing rough:
A devil of a sea rolls in that bay,
    As I, who 've cross'd it oft, know well enough;
And, standing upon deck, the dashing spray
    Flies in one's face, and makes it weather-tough:
And there he stood to take, and take again,
His first-- perhaps his last-- farewell of Spain.

I can't but say it is an awkward sight
    To see one's native land receding through
The growing waters; it unmans one quite,
    Especially when life is rather new:
I recollect Great Britain's coast looks white,
    But almost every other country 's blue,
When gazing on them, mystified by distance,
We enter on our nautical existence.

So Juan stood, bewilder'd on the deck:
    The wind sung, cordage strain'd, and sailors swore,
And the ship creak'd, the town became a speck,
    From which away so fair and fast they bore.
The best of remedies is a beef-steak
    Against sea-sickness: try it, sir, before
You sneer, and I assure you this is true,
For I have found it answer--so may you.

Don Juan stood, and, gazing from the stern,
    Beheld his native Spain receding far:
First partings form a lesson hard to learn,
    Even nations feel this when they go to war;
There is a sort of unexprest concern,
    A kind of shock that sets one's heart ajar:
At leaving even the most unpleasant people
And places, one keeps looking at the steeple.

But Juan had got many things to leave,
    His mother, and a mistress, and no wife,
So that he had much better cause to grieve
    Than many persons more advanced in life;
And if we now and then a sigh must heave
    At quitting even those we quit in strife,
No doubt we weep for those the heart endears--
That is, till deeper griefs congeal our tears.

So Juan wept, as wept the captive Jews
    By Babel's waters, still remembering Sion:
I 'd weep,-- but mine is not a weeping Muse,
    And such light griefs are not a thing to die on;
Young men should travel, if but to amuse
    Themselves; and the next time their servants tie on
Behind their carriages their new portmanteau,
Perhaps it may be lined with this my canto.

And Juan wept, and much he sigh'd and thought,
    While his salt tears dropp'd into the salt sea,
'Sweets to the sweet' (I like so much to quote;
    You must excuse this extract, 't is where she,
The Queen of Denmark, for Ophelia brought
    Flowers to the grave); and, sobbing often, he
Reflected on his present situation,
And seriously resolved on reformation.

        *        *         *        *

I say, the sun is a most glorious sight,
    I 've seen him rise full oft, indeed of late
I have sat up on purpose all the night,
    Which hastens, as physicians say, one's fate;
And so all ye, who would be in the right
    In health and purse, begin your day to date
From daybreak, and when coffin'd at fourscore,
Engrave upon the plate, you rose at four.

        *        *         *        *

A long, long kiss, a kiss of youth, and love,
    And beauty, all concentrating like rays
Into one focus, kindled from above;
    Such kisses as belong to early days,
Where heart, and soul, and sense, in concert move,
    And the blood 's lava, and the pulse a blaze,
Each kiss a heart-quake,-- for a kiss's strength,
I think, it must be reckon'd by its length.

By length I mean duration; theirs endured
    Heaven knows how long-- no doubt they never reckon'd;
And if they had, they could not have secured
    The sum of their sensations to a second:
They had not spoken; but they felt allured,
    As if their souls and lips each other beckon'd,
Which, being join'd, like swarming bees they clung--
Their hearts the flowers from whence the honey sprung.

        *        *         *        *

The heart is like the sky, a part of heaven,
    But changes night and day, too, like the sky;
Now o'er it clouds and thunder must be driven,
    And darkness and destruction as on high:
But when it hath been scorch'd, and pierced, and riven,
    Its storms expire in water-drops; the eye
Pours forth at last the heart's blood turn'd to tears,
Which make the English climate of our years.

The liver is the lazaret of bile,
    But very rarely executes its function,
For the first passion stays there such a while,
    That all the rest creep in and form a junction,
Life knots of vipers on a dunghill's soil,--
    Rage, fear, hate, jealousy, revenge, compunction,--
So that all mischiefs spring up from this entrail,
Like earthquakes from the hidden fire call'd 'central,'

In the mean time, without proceeding more
    In this anatomy, I 've finish'd now
Two hundred and odd stanzas as before,
    That being about the number I 'll allow
Each canto of the twelve, or twenty-four;
    And, laying down my pen, I make my bow,
Leaving Don Juan and Haidee to plead
For them and theirs with all who deign to read.

        *        *         *        *

Canto the Third

        *        *         *        *

All tragedies are finish'd by a death,
    All comedies are ended by a marriage;
The future states of both are left to faith,
    For authors fear description might disparage
The worlds to come of both, or fall beneath,
    And then both worlds would punish their miscarriage;
So leaving each their priest and prayer-book ready,
They say no more of Death or of the Lady.

        *        *         *        *

The hangings of the room were tapestry, made
    Of velvet panels, each of different hue,
And thick with damask flowers of silk inlaid;
    And round them ran a yellow border too;
The upper border, richly wrought, display'd,
    Embroider'd delicately o'er with blue,
Soft Persian sentences, in lilac letters,
From poets, or the moralists their betters.

These Oriental writings on the wall,
    Quite common in those countries, are a kind
Of monitors adapted to recall,
To Ottava Rima in the Glossary
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To Mosaic Rhyme in the Glossary
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    Like skulls at Memphian banquets, to the mind
The words which shook Belshazzar in his hall,
    And took his kingdom from him: You will find,
Though sages may pour out their wisdom's treasure,
There is no sterner moralist than Pleasure.

        *        *         *        *


 * This poem provides numerous examples of internal assonance.
She walks in beauty, like the night
    Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
    Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
    Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
    Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
    Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
    How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
    So soft, so calm, so eloquent,
To Assonance in the Glossary
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The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
    But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
    A heart whose love is innocent!