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WHAMPOA - An Interdisciplinary Journal 49(2005) 287-308

287

A Discourse on Byrons Don Juan


Hwong Chang Liou

Lishu Chang Chien

Department of Foreign Languages, Chinese Military Academy, Taiwan


Abstract
This paper aims to defend for the morality of Byrons poetry. Some critics and
discourses assert that Byron is immoral for his heros lewd personality and prodigal
wandering. Based on the theory of Romantic poetry, I will analyze the long poem Don Juan
and scrutinize the relations among education, sex/race, love marriage, ethics, and morality in
the poetic narrative. In this poem Byron represents Don Juans quest for the pre-lapsarian
Eden in the natural world. This paper concludes that Byron is a moral poet who reiterates
the significance of the borderless love and he expands his concerns for the symbiosis between
humans and nature.
Keywords: Byronic hero, the psychological and social contexts, morality, pre-lapsarian Eden,
symbiosis
Byron was the most diversified one of the
English Romantic poets, for he experimented

Don Juan--an especial and exquisite balance


and sustenance of alternate tones (375). In

with everything in poetry and in life: at


four-and-twenty, he wrote, he had taken his
degrees in most dissipation"1 (Bs L&J. IX, 22).
For many of his contemporaries in England,

spite of this mixed perspectives Byron was a


traditionalist in language and style, preferring
the common forms of couplet and Spenserian
stanza, and having no interest in the stylistic

Europe, and America, Byron was the


embodiment of the Romantic spirit, both in his
poetry and in his personal life.
Proud,
passionate, rebellious, deeply marked by painful
and often mysterious experiences in the past, yet
fiercely and defiantly committed to following

innovations proposed by Coleridge and


Wordsworth. Byron's poetry is fundamentally
Romantic, partly because in his very
difference from the others he is asserting his
individuality, and partly because of his
subject-matter. He asserts, The highest of

his own individual destiny--this was the image


that Byron created for his contemporaries and
passed on to subsequent ages.

all poetry is ethical poetry, as the highest of all


earthly objects must be moral truth (L. J. V,
554). Yet his characters, including himself,

Many of his poems are a curious blend of


romantic melancholy and satiric irony.
Byron is concerned with fame, a subject to
which he will often return, especially in Don

are significantly out-of-ordinary: Childe


Harold, the restless, lonely wanderer; the
heroes of the tale, courageous, glamorous, and
mysterious; figures of guilt and unspecified

Juan. Charles Swinburne shrewdly singled


out as the hallmark of Byron's greatest work,

sorrow, such as Manfred. They are unusual,


deeply sensitive, brooding on the past, and

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above all they are outside the normal


simplicities of thinking and feeling, beyond
the anesthetizing confines of society. The
dark and brooding nature of Childe Harold is

indoctrination
and
the
liberty
of
peoples--with the familiar Byronic Hero
qualities of misanthropy, solitariness, and
pride (Trueblood 83). However, what

essential to Byron's definition of heroism, for


it is his intense and dramatic inner life that sets
the Byronic hero apart from, and above, the
common herd.
In Childe Harolds

Byron can claim is still that proud


independence and the fineness of his
sensibility by which he makes a retreat from
the world. Jerome J. McGann says, The

Pilgrimage as well as in Don Juan, Byron


creates the figure known as the Byronic
hero: a passionate, moody, restless character
who has exhausted most of the world's

action of the artist reveals this permanent


truth by imaging the sublime and 'Ideal'
forms which represent men's passionate
efforts not simply to endure, but to prevail

excitements, and who lives under the weight


of some mysterious sin committed in the past.
His defiant individualism refuses to be limited

(129). The poets historical imagination


produces a continual interplay between the
past and the present in this way, and his

by the norms of institutional and moral


strictures of society. He is an "outsider"
whose daring life both isolates him and makes
him attractive.

sense of place interacts with his


self-consciousness, so that there is a
complex mixture in the reflection,
remembrance, hope, and melancholy, all

The Byronic hero is deeply an


ambivalent figure, both damned and blessed
by virtue. Andrew Rutherford sees this as

inspired by the landscape itself.


The plot of Don Juan is indeed
highlighted by Juan's six major adventures.

part of the contradiction in Byron's own


character: the Childe is a projection of his
melancholy and disillusioned side, while
the narrator mirrors his more normal and

His involvement with Donna Julia, a


married friend of his mother, which leads to
his hasty departure from Spain; his life at
sea, his shipwreck, and his ordeal in an open

attractive personality (A Critical Study,


267). Byron always seeks to escape from
the human society because he has closely
viewed the hardest reality for the Romantic
to bear: the imperfection of human nature.
Being conscious of his wrongs and sorrows

boat; his involvement with Haidee, the


daughter of a Greek pirate, which causes
him to be sold into slavery; his adventures as
a slave in Constantinople and his efforts to
avoid the advances of the Sultan's favorite
wife, Gulbeyaz; his escape to Russia and his

and his own innate superiority, Byron flies


to solitude among the mountains, where he
looks on the vastness of great nature. He

exploits in the Russian Army, which brings


him to the attention of the Empress
Catherine II; and his mission to England as

desires to be alone that he may love Earth


only for its earthly sake (Childe Harold
III.71). Byron might want to combine
romantic
liberalism,-revolutionary

the representative of Catherine, his


acceptance in London society, and his usual
amatory difficult. In spite of the record of
the six major entanglements in the life of its

Hwong Chang Liou, Lishu Chang Chien : A Discourse on Byrons Don Juan

289

titular hero, Don Juan is basically a


mock-epic that fuses with picaresque
romance, for the adventures in the poem are
all amorous.

epics; both are rhymed and epigrammatic; both


are satires; both are in iambic pentameter; and
both deal with human folly. Byron explains
that Don Juan is not only a mock epic in the

Don Juan does not progress in a


straight line but meanders in many
directions. Again and again, Byron departs
from his story to comment on politics,

style of Pope but also a boisterous satire


mocking the whole cultural scene. Bloom
states that the poem became a satire of
European Man and Society which attempts epic

relations between men and women, other


poets, and the social vices, follies, and
absurdities of his time. In the third canto,
Byron apologizes for his digressions from

dimensions (The Visionary Company 258).


While making fun of others, he also makes fun
of himself. Byron's purpose was to describe
the world as he saw them, even if this view

the main thread of his story.


In the
shipwreck incident, for example, the pitiful
condition of the survivors whose sufferings

caused outrage among his critics. In Canto XII,


he states both his purpose and his prognosis:
I mean to show things really as they are,

drive them to draw lots and eat one another


is vividly described. Four stanzas (II.
87-90) are devoted to the experience of two
fathers helplessly watching their sons die;

Not as they ought to be: for I vow


That till we see what's what in face, we're far
From much improvement. (D. J. XII. 40)
Byron is here, of course, attacking a

the horror of cannibalism is recognized and


the subsequent symptoms of madness in the
cannibals are presented in frightful detail.

conception of morality that would equate it


with keeping things nice and clear; his
stanza goes on to propose a far more

But Byron intends to involve the sympathies


of his readers in affecting and sometimes
terrible events and then joke at their expense.
A deliberate rambling digresiveness,

effective morality, one which is aware of the


truth and starts from there.
Byron decided that he must tell the
truth in the hope of improving mankind.

Northrop Frye observes, is endemic in the


narrative technique of satire, and so is a
calculated bathos or art of sinking its
suspense (216). Most admirers of Don
Juan agree that without the digressions, it
would be a far inferior poem.
The

He was not surprised that Don Juan shocked


a large number of people, but he held that he
himself was not to blame. He declares in
the letter to Murray: I maintain that it is the
most moral of poems; but if people won't
discover the moral, that is their fault, not

looseness of structure allows Byron to make


innumerable digressions in order to divulge
his own personal views of love, politics, or

mine (To Murray February 1st, 1819; L.


& J. VI. 99). This is typical of the method
behind Don Juan; it claims to have

society and his scorn for most of the eminent


poets of his day.
Don Juan is often compared with Pope's
The Rape of the Lock. Both poems are mock

skepticism on the surface, but then reveals


its own superior feeling. The intricate
relationship between its carefree surface and
its deeper sensitivity is one of the major

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virtues of Don Juan. Byron's purpose was


to expose the hypocrisy and the corruption
of the high society which he knew so well.
In order to show things really as they,

however, for at the same time he offers a


knowing on the events he describes. At
times he underscores his sophisticated outlook
by directly punctuating the action with

Byron needs a hero:


I want a hero: an uncommon want,
When every year and month sends forth a new one,
Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant,

pungent asides. For example, Byron ends a


stanza describing Juan's moody meditations
after meeting Donna Julia with an earthy,
realistic judgment on his longings sublime,

The age discovers he is not the true one:


Of such as these I should not care to vaunt,
I'll therefore take our ancient friend Don
JuanWe all have seen him, in the

and aspirations high(I. 93).


Another mask of the persona is a comic
version of the Byronic hero, the melancholy
romantic man of feeling. Toward the end of

pantomime, Sent to the Devil somewhat


ere his time. (D. J. I. 1)
Byron himself makes his presence felt in Don

Canto I, he parodies romantic emotion,


lamenting his lost youth and saying adieu to
affairs of the heart. Taking up the good

Juan primarily through the voice of the narrator,


who appears to be making up his poem as he goes
along and who recounts the adventures of Don
Juan, a younger version of himself, with a splendid

old-gentlemanly vice of avarice, he satires the


world-weariness of Childe Harold. At the
beginning of Canto IV, he emphasizes an adult
perspective which transforms melancholy

balance of satire and sympathy.


Despite the narrator's opening lament,
I want a hero(I.1), Byron is in a sense the

cynicism into comic satire: And the sad truth


which hovers o'er my dest / Turns what was
once romantic to burlesque (IV. 3).

hero of his own epic. The I of persona


constantly intrudes on the story he is telling;
his views, problems, quirks, and preferences
create an ongoing autobiography which

Throughout the poem, we are aware of the


narrator as a writer, endlessly embroiled in the
act of composition.
As a writer, the narrator often pretends

overshadows Don Juan's adventures. This


persona wears a series of different masks as
Watson illustrates, The persona is a part of
his shifting self, of his endless exploration of
life, of his continual search for something
that would occupy his energy"(261). For

to be a bumbling novice not in full control


of his materials.
I don't pretend that I quite understand
My own meaning when I would be very fine;
But the fact is that I have nothing planned,
Unless it were to be a moment merry,

instance, in the opening canto, he displays


himself as a fussy, avuncular bachelor,
interfering in the domestic affairs of Donna

A novel word in my vocabulary. (IV. 5)

Inez and Don Jose and informing the audience


of his personal opinions on education,
literature, women, the law, and other topics.
His bumbling naivet is only a pretense,

plan to be a moment merry is the artful


strategy of an expert satirist who pokes fun
at various targets while appearing to be
nothing more than an idle bystander seeking

Beneath the surface, however, his

Hwong Chang Liou, Lishu Chang Chien : A Discourse on Byrons Don Juan

291

innocent amusement. Thus in a passage on


the meaning of life, the narrator's pretended
befuddlement serves as a means of satirizing
abstract philosophy and bringing the reader

Donna Inez. At just twenty-three Julia


married to a man of fifty, but she determines
that a virtuous woman / should rather face
and overcome temptation (I. 77). Byron

back to the realm of practical judgment, all


in the spirit of a genial game:
Few mortals know what end they would be at,
But whether Glory, Power, or Love, or

shows his understanding and sympathy for


the instinctive feelings of the young wife
and old husband, though he mercilessly
mocks at the self-deceiving Platonism of

Treasure, The path is through perplexing


ways, and when The goal is gaind, we die,
you know--and then-- (I. 133)
What then? -- I do not know, no more do

Julia. To say Julia falls in the charm of the


situation is not quite the same as saying that
she is seduced by a state of mind entailing
sexual intimacy. Over Julia and Juans first

youAnd so good night.--Return we to


our story: (I. 134)
The ultimate effect of the narrator's

embrace the narrator pauses, God knows


what next--I can't go on (I. 115), and the
halt responds to obstacles both moral and

voice is to provide a comic sense of distance


which contributes to the success of the satire
and to help create a discrepancy between the
heroic ideals of conventional epic and the

imaginative, waiting for Julias I will ne'er


consent (I.117). And she soon will. For
Julia her seduction moves from charm to
consent, depends on a physical touch that

down-to-earth realism of Don Juan.


In Seville Juan was born (I. 8), his
father Jose a "true Hidalgo", and his mother

can't be resisted biologically and spiritually.


Here Platonic doctrine enables Julia's
frankly sensual impulses to impel her to

Inez, a learned lady. Juan's parents lived


an unhappy sort of life, / wishing each
other, not divorced but dead (I. 24).
Byron drew on his own marriage in painting

consent. The power of charm propels her


to a nondiscursive consent. According to
Jerome Christensen, Julia is a mixture of
impulses and her blood a mixture of class,

the quarrels between Inez and Don Jose, and


details like Inezs spiteful attempt to prove
her loving lord was mad just as lady Byron
had done. After Don Jose dies, Juan
becomes an orphan living with his perfect
mother. The lack of affection in Inez's life

the essentializing of her as woman is


complicated
and
constantly
under
adjustment in the canto; yet even
disregarding those complications, the
essentialized,
biologically
burdened
feminine cannot be strictly identified with

produces a corresponding fixation with Juan.


The overly protective mother resolves at all
costs to make Juan quite a paragon (I. 54).

the aristocracy; she is but one component of


the aristocratic complex that the poem
projects (224).

At sixteen, Don Juan was a


handsome lad much admired by his mother's
friends. Among the numerous acquaintances
all, Julia was quite a favorite friend of

The love story portrays Don Juan's


first sexual encounter in terms of bedroom
farce, with the cuckolded husband
discovering the lovers after a series of comic

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mishaps. Despite the elements of mockery


and farce which enliven the episode, Byron
puts into Julias passion his ideal of what a
thing should be.
Her husband means

the tenets of modern Ecocriticism that man


is not the dominator of nature.
The
shipwreck proves two facts. One of them
is that the heavy industry cannot promise the

nothing to her, and she pines both to give


and to receive affection. The narrator
retains sympathy for Julia by depicting her
as the victim of her passions and incapable

security of mans exploration in the natural


world. The second, the masculine quest
for world domination is dangerous
(McKusick 197).

of preventing the hypocrisy she practices


since passion most dissembles (I. 73), but
similes he employs implicate her in a world
much more ambiguous than Juans. As

Like Inez's resolution to cultivate


Juan as a paragon goes awry, Julia's letter
realizes the nightmare of uncertainty in the
shipwreck cannibalism. Pedrillo is killed

Bowra says, Julia has staked everything on


an act which she feels to be wrong and yet
desires with all her being, and in the end she

so that the crew may survive. Pedrillos


passing marks the end of the outward
constraints Inez exerts on Juan.
Juan

fails( 167).
As soon as Julias husband, Don
alfonso, discovers their affair, Juan is sent
away by his mother and begins a tour of

rejects the cannibal feast then survives the


tragedy because he follows Byron's
aphorism in Detached Thoughts that Man
is born passionate of body but with an innate

Europe.
Juan has been sent to Cadiz (II. 5)
to board the ship Trinidada bound for

though secret tendency to the love of Good

Leghorn, Italy. He has to undergo the


cyclic pattern of aspiration and descent and
taste the bitter fruit of fall. His first and
passionate love (I. 127) results in being

shipwreck, reaches shore, a new Adam,


freshly baptized by the waves, to find before
a new Eve, Haidee. In Lambro's absense,
Juan and Haidee fall in love, and believing

exiled from his hometown as man's first


disobedience of Adam from the paradise.
Juan's seasick on the voyage symbolizes the
circumstantial
hardship
and
natural
limitations imposed on man. And the
shipwreck embodies the traps and turmoil on

her father to be dead, settle down together in


domestic bliss. The idyll of Juan and
Haidee in Cantos II and III is the least
complicated in its assertiveness. Byron
compares the young lovers to Adam and Eve
before fall:

man's pilgrimage from the earth to heaven.


The story of the shipwreck and its aftermath
shows us that nature might at any moment

Alas! for Juan and Haidee! they were


So loving and so lovely -- till then never,
Excepting our first parents, such a pair

betray the heart that loves her, shows us the


incapable power of what he elsewhere called
circumstance, that unspiritual god
(McCalman 276). The episode also heralds

Had run the risk of being damned for


ever. ..(II. 193)
Juan and Haidee meet apart from
their respective societies; they cannot speak

in his Mainspring of Mind ( L.& J. V,


457).
Juan, the only survivor of the

Hwong Chang Liou, Lishu Chang Chien : A Discourse on Byrons Don Juan

293

one another's languages. Byron implies,


and might be a general experience if it were
not interfered with by social conventions.
Haidee is a child of nature in the sense that

The true Romantic did hate


inconstancy, it was the negation of his ideal
love and evidence of a human frailty that
was intolerable to the romantic idealist. In

she has not been corrupted by society but


follows her instincts without questioning
their worth or their consequences. She
presents an implicit contrast to the young

fact, we find Juan twice resisting sexual


temptation because of his memories of Julia.
The narrator's voice is a unifying force
which places events, interpreting what each

aristocratic English women who pursued


Byron when he was in fashion.
But
Byron's enthusiasm does not prevent him
from indulging in occasional ironic sides

reveals about love. But the Haidee story is


somewhat different despite the continuing
presence of the satiric persona. Indeed the
whole love idyll is given in the setting of

even in this section of the poem; they are


designed to qualify sentimental falsifications
of love.
Haidee seems innocence

actual conditions. It should be so because


the passionate love of Juan and Haidee is not
an illusion based on social or literary

personified, but for Byron no person is


innocent.
Just as the hero's recurrent scrapes
with women provide a unified thread

conventions, but a beautiful experience.


Since their love escapes from the trap of
hypocrisy, self-deception, or mercenary
motives, it is presented as an ideal and

throughout, so the narrator's ongoing


discussion of love, sex, and marriage lends
the disparate incidents thematic coherence.

perfect even without any wedding ceremony.


Byron's observations on love and marriage,
however, are presented as a contrast with the

J. W. Smeed regards the love affair between


Juan and Haidee as no thoughtless and
callous seduction; Byron treats the whole
episode (which ends in tragedy for Haidee)

idyllic natural marriage of Juan and Haidee.


We also feel the pathos in their love of
beauty and passion that will lead to
damnation if the external powers of social

seriously and sympathetically and makes


clear that the young couple are genuinely in
love(37). However, the narrator asks,
"But Juan! had he quite forgotten Julia? /
And should he have forgotten her so soon?
(II. 208).
For the complex question,

norms are to be claimed.


Leslie A.
Marchand observes, this ideal and innocent
love had the seeds of its own destruction
inherent in it (182).
The isolated Aegean island, far
outside society, in the context of Nature and

Andrew Rutheford suggests, Juan's terrible


experiences in the shipwreck serve to
obliterate from his mind and from ours the

solitude, provides Juan and Haidee


ephemeral enjoyment. Rumor has it that
Haidee's father has died on a piratical

memory of Julia--it is almost as if he had


died and been reborn--so that we see no
infidelity, no promiscuity, in his loving
Haidee (154).

expedition. The news throws the newly


couple into several weeks of mourning.
After that, Haidee and Juan move into his
home as man and wife, and entertain

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lavishly.
Thus
Lambro's
sudden
homecoming forces Haidee to encounter a
dilemma which results from the conflict
between her father and spouse.
The

intention to present this poem as a moral


model(V. 2). The consciousness of human
mortality is found throughout Don Juan:
human life is frail, a brief existence against

awkward situation of family affair is then


compared to a national event by the
minstrel's song, The Isles of Greece
lamenting for Greece's present state of

the background of the passing of ages.


What should be valued in this life is love,
and heroism; but both are ultimately subject
to time. The beautiful becomes Oneness

subjection to Turkey and telling Haidee's


lose of her mother country over love.
Nigel Wood notes, The Isles of Greece
hymn uttered by the poet in Canto III has

with the wicked, the hypocritical, and the


ridiculous in death.
Love and beauty are
signs of a human nature that has escaped the
usual corruption.

provoked a suggestive study by Jerome J.


McGann which takes issue with formalist
analyses of literature. . . . The poetry

In a fallen world, a figure like


Haidee is a reminder of the days before fall
in the Garden of Eden. It may be for this

becomes, an act of social consciousness


which can only be carried out in words but
which cannot be defined in them (The
Beauty of Inflection 157).

reason, because they stand apart from all the


cruelty, pretense, and hypocrisy of life, that
Byron was excited by beautiful women and
able to thrill the reader by describing them.

Out of anger and jealousy, Lambro


tears the newly couple apart at the cost of
Haidee's life and her baby. Haidee's death

Haidee, for example, died giving birth to


Juan's child but he would never know this
because he was put aboard a slave ship

is a far more wrenching and tragic


conclusion than Donna Julia's confinement
in a convent, and the tone at the end of
Canto IV is somber and austere. When all

bound for a distant market. Byron then


paves the path for the scenes in the seraglio
as he describes the slave market in a raw
day of Autumn's bleak beginning(V. 6).

is over, with Juan wounded and sold into


slavery, and Haidee died of a romantically
broken heart, Byron gives us his most
deliberate stanza of moral confusion.
Byron heightens the effect of tragedy by
focusing on Haidee's unborn child who died

Byron doesn't propose for slave purchase.


Instead, Byron comments on the merchant
who enjoys his hearty dinner at the cost of
his fellow beings.
He voices his own
revulsion against being a slave to any
physical appetite.

with her.
Some earlier critics declared that
Don Juan was neither moral nor immoral,

Juan acquiesces when Baba, the


eunuch orders him to disguise himself as a
girl. He comes to the encounter with

that it was written to amuse, to shock, to


horrify and startle, to make the serious
absurd, and to play tricks with our feelings.
Yet Byron in Canto V announces his

Gulbeyaz, the sultana who had ordered Juan


purchased for her pleasure. Gulbeyaz's
ultimate purpose for buying Juan is exposed
in the chamber where she supposed he

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295

would satisfy her craving for love as well as


carnal desire. Gulbeyaz seldom has the
chance to meet her husband. The empty
chamber works nothing but a prison to so

of Haidee, his ephemeral time of happiness.


They feel sympathetic for each other
because misfortune of one kind or another is
the common lot for all people.

beautiful a
do is buy a
satisfy her
frustration.

woman. What she attempts to


man to console her loneliness,
need of love, and relieve her
The point is that neither men

Byron here attacks at polygamy by


presenting Gulbeyaz's troubled married life.
Her marriage, like Donna Julia's, is to a man
much older than herself, with fifty

nor girls should be bought for sexual slavery,


which might explain the reason why Juan
resists such temptation. Love is only for
the free! as he declares (V. 127). Juan is

daughters and four dozen sons, and three


other wives and 1500 concubines (VI.152).
To the disparity of his age may be added his
necessary neglect of her. At the advanced

indeed free of the power of Gulbeyaz's


world . . . , for Juan is a certain sort of
person--a young, fairly volatile man with

age of twenty-six, the inhabitant of a


Moslem harem has none of Donna Julia's
hesitancies or inhibitions.

fairly
undeveloped
powers
of
comprehension--so his 'freedom' of behavior
is partly the result of his innocence (and
ignorance) (Don Juan in Context114). In

Gulbeyaz
appears
more
self-possessed than Donna Julia and has the
charm of her passion's intensity, but her love
is a form of imperial, or imperious, bondage.

Don Juan, innocence is highly valued,


particularly in relation to certain kinds of
adult behavior. Explicitly, Byron declares

She illustrates a theory propounded in Canto


III: In her first passion Woman loves her
lover, / In all the others all she loves is love

his intention that the canto is for merry,


actually, Byron presents a serious problem
of human relationship to the reader, and
calls for mutual respect for men and women.

(III.3).
This
epigram
offers
a
generalization about human nature and
constitutes a neat maxim on feminine
psychology.
Epigrams are frequent

All seems in vain for Gulbeyaz's


attempt to seduce or force Juan to love her
because Juan's inner has been occupied by
his innocent wife, Haidee. In his eye,
Gulbeyaz finds no flame of love and
wonders, Christian, canst thou love? (V.

throughout the poem; in fact, there is one in


the final couplet at the end of every stanza.
Byron uses vivid imagery or wise
generalizations in pointed phrases which
temporarily halt the narrative flow. Many
of the epigrams have the quality of brief

116). Gulbeyaz throws herself on to Juan's


breast seeking his love but Juan shows no
sign of love.
Juans rejection of

definitions, such as the following:


What men call gallantry, and gods adultery,
Is much more common where the climate's

Gulbeyazs embrace humiliates her and


makes her bursts into tears, too. The tears
in the chamber wash away their hatred.
Juan's tears has flowed over the misfortune

sultry. (I. 63)


For instance passion in a lover is
glorious, But in a husband is pronounced
uxorious. (III. 6)

296

Epigram is one of the rhetorical devices


in Don Juan that often serves to expose the
absurdity of human vices and follies. By
this means, Byron unmasks hypocrisy and

and civilians were sacrificed for the whims


and ambitions of their rulers and military
commanders. He insists on the wrongs and
futility of fighting for any cause but that of

pretense.
Juan is indeed unable to love Gulbeyaz,
for he still yearns for Haidee. And when it
emerges the following morning that after

Liberty, he emphasizes the waste, suffering,


and cruelty of war--the essential inhumanity
of the the whole business. These ideas are
much the same as those expressed in the

failing Gulbeyaz, he has spent the night with


one of the concubines, Gulbeyaz orders that
both of them be immediately put to death.
Fortunately, Don Juan escapes from the

third canto of Childe Harold.


Now,
however, they are presented with new power
and cogency, which come from Byron's
changed techniques and from a different

palace of the sultana soon after Gulbeyaz


orders him to death and joins the army of
Catherine of Russia that is at war with the

quality in his poetic thinking.


The
principal example of this is the description
of the siege of Ismail. Byron's eye for

sultan. In Cantos VII and VIII Byron


describes the Battle of Ismail between
Russia and Turkey(VII. 9). However, in
the first seven stanzas of Canto VII Byron

detail is its guarantee of truth and


seriousness: this is no long-distance view
of war, but a close-up description which
makes it look very different from the glory

defends himself against those critics of Don


Juan who accuse the poet of tendency to
under-rate and scoff / At human power and

assumed by much patriotic verse. It begins


with an artillery barrage, which is
indiscriminate in its effect and kills soldiers

virtue(VII. 3). In holding up nothingness


of life (VII. 6), he argues that all things are
merely a show. Then Byron moves to a
new and fresh subject in which his strong

and civilians alike; it progresses through


each stage of the conflict, so that the reader
is made to face the infinities of agony
Which meet the gaze, whate'er it may

feelings about war are immediately revealed.


Byron's sympathies are neither with the
Russians, who are as interested in material
gain as in defeating the infidel, nor with the
Turks, but with those who are to be killed or
wounded in the attack, and his scorn is for

regardThe groan, the roll in dust, the


all--white eye Turn'd back within its
socket-(VIII. 13)
Byron enforces his moral judgments by
showing war as it really is--by giving his readers
a vivid and detailed account of an actual

all who confuse glory with bloodshed.


Wars to Byron Except in Freedom's
battles / Are nothing but a child of murder's

campaign--by painting, in his own words, the


true portrait of one battle-field (P.W. VI. 334).
The poet is concerned with individual

rattles (VIII.4). He just supports battles


for freedom where people are fighting
against tyranny and for human right. He
hates wars of conquest wherein the soldiers

human beings, and attacks worldly Glory.


He claims that this great desideratum is a
mere illusion, since most heroes are
unknown or soon forgotten. To Byron

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297

heroes are too often simply butchers in


large business, and glory is won by those
who murder their fellow-men. It is of no
value to the soldiers who are killed, or to

Byron attacks not only commanders,


but the civilians who accept it so uncritically.
Although he is attacking the cant of glory he
does not fall into the easy trap of sneering

most of those who survive. Byron has an


eye for the absurd as well as for the horrible:
Thrice happy he whose name has been
well spelt. In the despatch: I knew a man

indiscriminately at soldiers and the military


virtues--he recognizes that in battle men can
show great courage, and he gives them
credit for it:

whose loss. Was painted Grove, although


his name was Grose. (VIII.18)
The tone of equanimity with which
Byron describes some of the siege must not

The troops, already disembark'd, push'd


on To take a battery on the right: the others,
Who landed lower down, their landing
done, Had set to work as briskly as their

be mistaken for callousness. He is quite


capable of arousing the reader's pity and fear
when he needs to, as he does when two

brothers: Being grenadiers, they mounted


one by one, Cheerful as children climb the
breasts of mothers, O'er the intrenchment

Cossacks attempt to kill a little girl of ten


who is rescued by Juan.
For much of the time, however, the
dead-pan tone is unpleasantly grim, almost

and the palisade, Quite orderly, as if upon


parade. And this was admirable. . . . (VIII.
15-16)
The concession does not weaken his

as if the poet is holding the reader's head and


forcing him to look. The whole episode
becomes a fearful indictment of the state of

indictment of war, but reinforces it by


making us sense the fairness and honesty of
his procedure. Apart from the obvious

society: this is the point made by the


lyrical digression on Daniel Boone, after
which we are pulled back to the horror of
war with redoubled effect:

moral passion in many passages, writes


Helen Gardner, we are in no doubt as we
read that Byron admires courage, generosity,
compassion and honesty, and that he dislikes

So much for Nature: by way of variety,


Now back to the great joys, Civilisation!
And the sweet consequence of large
society, War pestilence the despots
desolation (VIII. 68).
The theme of war merges inevitably

brutality, meanness, and above all


self-importance,
hypocrisy
and
priggery"(310). In his whole treatment of
the siege, Byron thus shows his intense and
indefatigable interest in the reality, and his
consequent desire to give an accurate

into the theme of tyranny which, in Byrons


view, is inseparable from war and, in fact, is
its primary cause. Heartless despots who

truthful picture of human life. By embroiling


Juan in the Russo-Turkish War, Byron is
able, both by story and commentary, to

rejoice in conquest and carnage, such as


Catherine of Russia and Napoleon the
liberator turned conqueror, are the objects of
Byrons forthright attack.

denounce the savagery, abysmal inhumanity,


folly, and utter futility of war. In the battle
field, Juan turns out to be such a valiant
soldier that he is sent to St. Petersburg, to

298

carry the news of a Russian victory to


Empress Catherine who also casts longing
eyes on the handsome stranger, and her
approval soon makes Don Juan the toast of

[Byron] can see with ironic yet poignant regret


the dissipation of the romantic dream of Childe
Harold--Manfred, the dream of escaping the
flesh by some transcendent leap into the

her capital.
Juan's feeling for the
middle-aged empress, however, are based
rather on his own vanity than upon her
beauty:

freedom of a world of spirit (Byrons Poetry


212). Don Juan has gone out on Shooter's
Hill (XI, 8) where he is wrapt in
contemplation on the ideal life in Britain.

Her sweet smile, and her then majestic figure,


Her plumpness, her imperial condescension,
Her preference of a boy to men much bigger
(Fellows whom Messalina's self would pension),

Walking behind his carriage, o'er the summit,


he is interrupted by a knife, withdamn your
eyes! your money or your life! (XI. 10).
Juan who understands no English but God

Her prime of life, just now in juicy vigour,


With other extras, which we need not mention,
All these, or any one of these, explain

damn quickly senses their gesture (XI. 12).


He draws forth a pocket-pistol and fires it into
one assailant's pudding. He then wishes he

Enough to make a stripling very vain. (IX. 72)


In Russia Juan becomes a polished
Russian courtier and in the process also
becomes a little dissipated. He lives in a

had been less hasty with his flint (XI. 14) and
thinks it is the country's wont / To welcome
foreigners in this way (XI. 15).
Byron's purpose in having Juan being

hurry / Of waste, and haste, and glare, and


gloss, and glitter (X. 26). But the physical
environment in Russia does not continue to

robbed while in meditation may be to present


the conflict between the idealized and realistic
world. The robbery destroys Juans dream of

agree with Juan, and consequently he falls


sick. The physicians, unable to determine
the exact cause of his illness, recommend a
change of climate. It happens that at the

the brave new world. But he still tries his best


to help the robber, Tom, to his feet, then travels
to the capital apace (XI. 18). His chariot
passes through Groves devoid of trees, and

time the Empress Catherine is involved in


negotiations with the English, and she
decides to send him on a mission to
England.
Juan is well received in London for he is a
polished young man now, well versed in

Mount Pleasant (XI. 21). Juan encounters


the sparkling vision of Westminster, the grand
Abbey, the "line of lights up to Charng Cross
and golden Pall Mall (XI. 24, 25, 26). The
scenery surges up to fill Byron's mind with
nostalgic memories. With his diplomatic

fashionable etiquette. Juan ends the canto


with the promise of telling his fellow
countrymen some unpleasant truths about

mission, Juan soon comes into contact with


politicians. He finds himself extremely in
the fashion especially for those numerous

themselves which, he says, they will not


believe. Then Juan's voyage comes to its
climax in the English cantos (XI-XVII).
Leslie A. Marchand points out, "Now he

English women who have heard the rumors


about his adventures in wars and loves
(XI .33). Juan is annoyed by those politicians
who live by lies, yet dare not boldly lie (XI.

Hwong Chang Liou, Lishu Chang Chien : A Discourse on Byrons Don Juan

299

36). He mocks himself that Now, what I love


in women is, they won't / Or can't do otherwise
the lie(XI. 36). He despises evil things
disguised as goodness. A true coherence of

seem to enjoy social life because of the


sympathy he feels for poor men of his age,
overwhelmed by the pressure of making a
living. He thinks he is Too old for

mind and action should be the moral model for


Byron himself. Of course, he expects his
countrymen to search for the truth instead of
the truth in masquerade (XI. 37).

Youth,--too young, at thirty-five


To herd with boys, or hoard with good
threescore,
I wonder people should be left alive;

Juan spends his mornings in business,


a laborious nothing (XI. 55), his
afternoons in visits, luncheons, / Lounging
and boxing and the twilight hour / In riding

But since they are, that epoch is a bore:


Love lingers still, although 'twere late to wive:
And as for other love, the illusion's o'er;
And Money, that most pure imagination,

round those vegetable puncheons / Called


'parks,' where there is neither fruit nor
flowers (XI. 56). Fast flashing chariots

Gleams only through the dawn of its


creation. ( XII. 2)
Now that the illusion of romantic

hurl like harness'd meteros to the doors


opening onto An earthy paradise of Or
Molu (XI. 57).
The buzz of these
activities produces nothing but consumes

love is no longer possible, the only goal that


seems to lie ahead is money and the making
of money--money being as specifically
associated with age and experience as

their resources, energy, and time. To Byron,


it is the very picture of Vanity Fair. It is the
fashionable world that Byron criticizes.

romantic love has been with youth and


innocence. Money rules the world and
even rules love:

Byron then gives Juan some advice for


dealing with his English society:
But "carpe diem," Juan. . .
And above all keep a sharp eye

Love rules the Camp, the Court, the


Grove,--for Love
Is Heaven, and Heaven is Love:--so
sings the bard;

Much less on what you do than what you say;


Be hypocritical, be cautious, be
Not what you seem, but always what you
see. (XI. 86)
"Carpe diem" is a prescription for all
occasions.
The citation attempts to

Which it were rather difficult to prove


(A thing with poetry in general hard).
Perhaps there may be something in "the
grove,"At least it rhymes to "Love: " but
I'm prepared
To doubt (No less than landlords of their

generate for the maxim a normative


transcendence of the moment of audition.
To be failed or successful depends on the

rental)
If "Courts" and "Camps" be quite so
sentimental. (XII. 13)

occasion of seizing the hour, the day, the


language, the purse, the monastery the monk,
or the last word (XIII. 98).
Though middle-aged, Juan doesn't

But if Love don't, Cash does, and Cash


alone:Cash rules the Grove, and fells it too
besides;Without cash, camps were thin,

300

and courts were none;Without cash,


Malthus tells you "Take no brides."So
Cash rules Love the ruler, on his ownHigh
ground, as virgin Cynthia sways the tides.

From much improvement with that


virtuous plough
Which skims the surface, leaving scarce a scar
Upon the black loam long manured by Vice,

(XII. 14)
Money is not romantic, perhaps--but in
a sense it is. If love is an illusion, money
in some cases is very real.

Only to keep its corn at the old price.


(XII. 40)
It seems all these characteristics
contradict each other, but they are all true.

The English cantos are a litany for an


eighteenth-century world, forever lost, and
by Byron forever lamented. Harold Bloom
writes, The age of reason and love is over,

The poem is facetious, and giggle-making,


and moral, all at once. We may not agree
with the poet on some of his observations,
but we can still admire his willingness to

the poet insists, and the age of Cash has


begun. The poem has seen sex displaced
into war, and now sees both as displaced

defy the world and its convention. J R. de.


J. Jackson says, In Canto XII he can turn
the outcry against his immorality to good

into money. Money and coldness dominate


England, hypocritically masked as the
morality that exiled Byron and now
condemns his epic (270). Through Juans

account by threatening to resume it and


immediately associating the world with
truthfulness in such a way as to embarrass
his critics (176). The episodic quality of

points of view, London is a place Where


every kind of mischief's daily brewing (XII.
23). When tired of play, he flirted without

the poem permits digression and the later


declaration of Byron's intention as he
announces, But now I will begin my

sin / with some of those fair creatures who


have prided / Themselves on innocent
tantalization (XII. 25).
Byron told his friend Thomas Moore in

poem. . . .These first twelve books are


merely flourishes,/ Preludios (XII. 54).
From the very beginning of Canto XIII,
Byron speaks in jest: I now mean to be

1818 that his purpose in writing Don Juan


meant to be a little quietly facetious upon
every thing (The Works of Lord Byron: L &
J. IV. 260). Later on October 12, 1820, he
wrote Murray: Don Juan will be known by
and by, for what it intended,--a Satire on

serious,-- this time, / Since Laughter


now-a-day is deemed too serious, and I
tell the tale as it is told"(XIII. 1, 8).
But
the progress of Don Juan is erratic and it is
often subject to delays and interruptions.
In fact, it was published in parts over a

abuses of the present states of Society ( The


Works of Lord Byron: L & J. V. 97). In
canto XII, Byron asserts,

period of five years. Andrew Rutherford


explains, These were due partly to the
influence of Byron's friends and his

But now I'm going to be immoral; now


I mean to show things really as they are,
Not as they ought to be: for I avow,
That till we see what's what in fact, we're far

sensitivity to public opinion; for although he


frequently asserted his indifference to such
factors, it seems certain that he sometimes
allowed them to divert him from his true

Hwong Chang Liou, Lishu Chang Chien : A Discourse on Byrons Don Juan

301

course ( Byron: A Critical Study, 139). So


far from planning the course of events,
Byron admits, the fact is that I have
nothing planned(IV.5).
J. McGann

Which makes the Southern Autumns day appear


As if twould to a second Spring resign
The season rather than to Winter dear,Of in-door comforts still she hath a mine,-

points out, This pattern of unforeseen


consequences operates throughout Don
Juan--Few mortals know what end they
would be at (I.133)--and it is based upon

The sea-coal fires, the earliest of the year;


Without doors, too, she may compete in mellow,
As what is lost in green is gained in yellow. (XIII.77)
His reference to the real change in the

Byron's assessment of his own life as well as


the general idea that too many factors
impinge upon an event for anyone to be able
to know at the time what it means, or where

color of the leaves in autumn conveys an


atmosphere peculiar to the English
landscape at this time of year. Mario John
Lupak says, There may also be a hint of

it will lead ( Don Juan in Context 100).


The episodic pattern often hints at the theme
of uncertainty. Yet Byron shows the way

nostalgia here for the one landscape he does


not use in Juans journeys, his native
Scotland (191).

of full text that simultaneously gives the


questions and the answers (Derrida 473).
What's this to the purpose? you will say /
Gent. reader, nothing; a mere speculation

Byrons nostalgia is reflected in


describing the place of his lost youth. The
guests assembling at the Norman Abbey is a
little display of foolery that has meaning in

(XIV, 7). In play, there are two pleasures


for your choosing--The one is winning, and
the other losing (XIV. 12). In This

its madness. The activities at the country


house party are nothing but pastimes. They
gather to dine for happiness for man--the

paradise of pleasure and ennui, Byron will


show Love, war, a tempest--surely there's
variety, and A bird's eye-view, too, of that
wild, Society" (XIV. 17, 14).

hungry sinner! / Since Eve ate apples,


much depends on dinner (XIII. 99). The
older guests tumble books and criticize the
pictures in the library (XIII. 103). The

In English Cantos, Byrons own


memories and experiences of English
society lays the foundations for the house
party, to describe the Norman Abbey, to
assemble the guests, and to present the way
of living in English society.
The

ladies discuss fashion, settle bonnets, or


write letters (XIII. 104). With evening
come the banquet, the wine, and then the
duet. Sometimes there is a dance, but not
on field days, for the men are too tired. At
Henry's Mansion the Blank Blank

description of the Norman Abbey from


Druid oak, and the lucid lake to the
remnant of the Gothic pile reflects the

Square Juan is a wealthy guest.


Diplomatic relations arising out of business
bring Juan and Lord Henry into close

picture of Newstead Abbey (XIII.56. 57. 59).


Don Juans visit to the mansion coincides
with the shooting season:
Then, if she hath not that serene decline

contact (XIII. 15). Henrys wife, Lady


Adeline Amundeville is the most fatal Juan
ever met (XIII. 12). Her charms made
all men speak and women dumb (XIII. 13).

302

Don Juan A young unmarried man, with


good name / and good fortune is accepted
again by the class of society to which he
belongs by birth (XII. 58). Born with that

Aurora who is a lovely being, scarcely


formed or moulded (XV. 43). For Byron
that is probably her most salient and
attractive quality. She views the world

happy soul which seldom faints, / And


mingling modestly in toils or sports, he is
cherished by women (XIV. 31).
The three major female characters in

with the silent awe of someone who has seen


it all before:
She looked as if she sat by Edens door
And grieved for those who could return no

these cantos are The Duchess of Fitz-Fulke,


Adeline, and Aurora. The Duchess of
Fitz-Fulke, a woman with imperious air of
the past, reverberates with tones of

more...She gazed upon a world she


scarcely knew,As seeking not to know it,
Silent, lone,As grows a flower, thus quietly
she grew And kept heart serene within its

Gulbeyaz and Catherine. Adeline reminds


us of a slightly matured Julia in her
innocence, beauty, sweet. At first, Adeline

zone.There was awe in the homage which


she drew; Her spirit seemed as seated on a
throne. Apart from the surrounding world

is not in love with Juan, she is just eager to


save Juan from the duchess. However, she
who would not spare a glance for an ogling,
handsome seducer is soon also in danger of

and strong. In its own strength, most


strange in one so young. (XV. 45, 47)
Although young, she is like the sad but
wise observer of the worlds follies,

falling in love with Juan:


She was, or thought she was, his friend--and this
Without the farce of Friendship, or romance

self-contained and removed, untainted by the


world and yet fully aware of the expulsion from
Eden. But, whereas Haidee had been a fragile

Of Platonism, which leads so oft amiss


Ladies who have studied Friendship but in
FranceOr Germany, where people purely
kiss. (XIV.92)

innocent, Aurora has an inner strength that the


poet admires even as he is puzzled by it.
Small wonder that even Adeline understands
her not at all: She marvelled what he saw in

Byron teases the sport of Platonism,


revealing it as a kind of innocent hypocrisy.
He warns the reader not to jump to any
conclusions. He is content to leave them
hovering, as the effect is fine. It is not
clear that Adeline and Juan / Will fall; but if

such a baby / As that prime, silent, cold Aurora


Raby? (XV. 49).
It
is
this
lack
of possible
comprehension that fascinates Byron: he has
found in Aurora the image the whole poem
has been looking for, the emblem of

they do, 'twill be their ruin (XIV. 99).


Aurora Raby is compared with Haidee,
though her communicative mode of silence

something on the verge of understanding.


In the brittle social world of London, so
dexterously demolished in the later cantos,

would suggest that association resemble not


his lost Haidee; / Yet each was radiant in
her proper sphere (XV. 58). Among the
three ladies, Juan is impressed most with

she does indeed stand out like a star. She


grows quietly like a flower, her heart serene
and detached from the world. It would be
futile to speculate on the model for Aurora

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303

within Byron's experience in English society.


At any rate more attention is given to her
personality than that of any character other
than Adeline, who happened to omit her

there is some truth in it as far as it goes, for


Byron had firsthand knowledge of society.
He shows its members engaged in intrigue
among themselves, maintaining a polite

from the list of eligible women for Juan.


But Aurora Raby is seemingly unaware of
Don Juan's presence. She is not dazzled by
Juan as the other women are because she

front while ceaselessly trying to win selfish


advantages for themselves.
In this
English world, the assumption of Juan's
place as a signifier in a complex but

did not pin her faith on feature(XV. 56).


Nor is she impressed by his fame, which
sometimes plays the deuce with mankind,
for he has the reputation of Faults which

ascertainable system of social discourse


support the narrative.
Lady Adeline
Amundeville makes him her protg, and
advises him freely on affairs of the heart.

attract because they are not tame (XV. 57).


Aurora embraces thoughts that are
boundless; goes, in other words, beyond the

The Duchess of Fitz-Fulke also demands a


secluded spot where there is no danger of
intruders. Lady Adeline urges him to select

bounds that restrict and clog the rest of us.


What allows this liberation is her depth of
feeling which matches the depth of her
thought. Auroras lack of interest only

a bride from the chaste and suitable young


ladies attentive to him. The prospective
brides that Adeline presents to Juan give
Byron an opportunity for some riotous

serves to spur Juan on to greater efforts.


The relationship between Juan and Aurora
seems hardly destined to survive the assaults

fooling with tag-names Miss Reading,


Miss Raw, Miss Flaw, Miss Showman, Miss
Knowman, and "two fair co-heireses

of two other aggressive women. Her purity


renews in the increasingly jaded Juan some
feelings he had lately lost, / Or hardened
and rouses him to activity (XVI. 107).

Giltbedding (XV. 40).


Don Juan is
considering of marriage, but the poets own
unhappy experience of marriage seems to
prejudice him against all matrimony as the

The tension resulting from Juans


relations with different ladies brings some
conflicts to the English cantos. But all the
characters that Byron creates in London are
intended to mirror English aristocratic life in
the early nineteenth century.
It is

opposite of love.
Now tempered by reflection and
comparison, Juan has to choose what kind of
man he will be, in terms of what kind of
woman he will identify himself with.
Michael G. Cooke asserts, The strategic

the only section of the poem which actually


deals with a social group, and thus is the
only episode that would really fit in any

placement of the female role trois in Don


Juan symbolizes three modes of relationship
that the protagonist may experience with

proposed plan of treating the characteristic


absurdities of the various people of Europe
(Ridenour 111).
The reflection is
obviously a distorted one, but nevertheless

women and through them with the world.


Haidee--Aurora represents a timeless world
formed of compassion, candor, and love;
Julia--Fitz-Fulke represents a sensual world

304

marked by brute repetition and monotony;


Gulbeyaz--Catherine
--Lady
Adeline
represents an unfeeling but insatiable world
characterized by exhausting duty and

and pearly teeth: The phantom of her frolic


Grace Fitz Fulke! (XVII. 123)
Since the poem was left unfinished, the
reader cannot know what Byron would have

punishment (77).
During the party at the Norman Abbey,
an interlude occurs while Juan "mused on
mutability, / Or on his mistress" (XVI. 20).

done with these props. But in the context


of this apparent absurdity, Juans final
passing allusion to Aurora is all the more
arresting. Unaware of Juans confrontation

Juan is "petrified" because he has heard a


hint of such a spirit,
Once, twice, thrice pass'd, repass'd the
thing of air,

with the ghost, Aurora looks as though she


appreciates to his silence, and raises her
esteem: the love of higher things and better
days; / The unbounded hope, and heavenly

Or earth beneath, or heaven, or t'other place ;


And Juan gazed upon it with a stare,
Yet could not speak or move; but, on its base

ignorance / Of what is call'd the World, and


the World's ways; / The moment when we
gather from a glance / More joy than from

As stands a statue, stood: he felt his hair


Twine like a knot of snakes around his face;
He taxed his tongue for words, which
were not granted, To ask reverend person

all future pride or praise. . . . (XVI. 108).


Aurora is deeply virtuous and quite
unworldly, looking with detachment on the
follies and the vanities of the beau monde.

what he wanted. (XVI)


Juan becomes paralyzed because he
fears to make visible what he feels but will

By her purity and beauty she seems to revive


Juans nobler emotions, which has been
overlaid by his varied sexual adventures.

not see. Byron enters in this canto the


unexpected realms of Gothic horror. Of the
ghost, there is a legend about the Norman
Abbey. The Amundevilles have their own

These ideal feelings are aroused, however,


only for a brief moment. Juan soon passes
from sublime musings about Aurora to an
involvement with the Duchess of Fitz-Fulk,

account of the forefather, who, came in his


might, with King Henry's right / To turn
church lands to lay (XVI. 40). But why
does the thing appear only to Juan? Lord
Henry provides an explanation in his
comments on the odd story that our sire

and this is perfectly in keeping with Byrons


view of human nature Juans inconsistency
and his inability to resist temptation.
Through Don Juan finding himself in
the
aristocratic
world
of
early
nineteenth-century England, Byron exposes

had a more gifted eye / For such sight (XVI.


36). Later while Juan is sitting in his bed,
the black Friar on a monks cowl reappears.

the shallowness, hypocrisy, and self-interest


of that world. Its women have no serious
aim in life and its men are dull, pretentious,

Juans curiosity forces him to chase the


phantom all the way until he finds the
ghosts blue eyes sparkling in the moonlight,
a sweet breath, a straggling curl, a red lip,

and unhappily married. They are all bored


and spend their time in social activities of
various kinds in the town or in the country.
They are all other than what they seem to be.

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305

There is no genuine virtue in this society;


there is only the appearance of virtue,
according to Byron.
The whole epic
becomes an indictment of the state of

insight into his views, but he is also deeply


moving in his awareness of the transience of
human life. In his concern to get at the facts
of behavior in English society, he becomes

society as Byron himself hoped that by


telling the truth he would awake the world
of the evils which blighted its happiness, and
expose its respected social system as a

increasingly interested in exploring and


understanding human personalities rather than
in attacking them. He was convinced that
what he was writing had in it the principle of

corrupt and corrupting sham (Bowra, 172).


In a letter to B. W. Procter, Byron describes
Don Juan as a satire on affection of all
kinds, mixed with some relief of serious

duration. The record of Don Juan, then, is a


record of release and growth as man and artist;
canto by canto, the range of Byrons
awareness expands. Byron in the epic had

feeling and description ( A Byron


Chronology 85)
Although he has attacked contemporary

achieved a point of view and method capable


of encompassing the complex world in which
he lived. Byrons achievement in Don

poets in Don Juan, and ridiculed some


precious romantic ideas in the process,
Byron himself is being more daringly
Romantic than any others by choosing to

Juan, remarks Bloom, is to have suggested


the pragmatic social realization of Romantic
idealism in a mode of reasonableness that no
other Romantic aspired to attain (The

rely so much on his own independent


judgment as he says, "I mean to show things
really as they are."
And it is this

Visionary Company 271). He had shown a


way by which poetry could survive and grow
in the nineteenth century as a meaningful

tremendous faith in his own judgment that


allows him to see clearly the underlying
rottenness of English society--its lack of
sympathy, spirit, and poverty of imagination.

social art.
Byrons presence and tragic death
produced a vital spark of inspiration for the
eventual liberation of Greece and proved

Byrons love of truth, virtue, and beauty was


as deep and genuine as that of his fellow
Romantics. But, where the others were
idealists who wrote of mankind in the
abstract, Byron was neither an idealist nor a
cynic but a realist who writes the real men and

himself as a poetic metamorphosis


becoming a man of action (Bowra 151).
All the different roles and postures present
in Byrons poems reveal a powerful,
self-conscious personality that holds as
much fascination for us today as it did for

women in the actual world. His sagacity and


common sense impelled him strongly toward
achievement of some practical good. Byron

Byrons own era. His works together with


his championing of Greek independence,
make Byron the most admired of English

lived in the world, Bloom observes, as no


other Romantic attempted to live (The
Visionary Company 272).
As a poet, he is eager to favor us with

writers abroad. He was an inspiration to


authors and patriots throughout the
nineteenth century. The great pleasure of
reading Byron, says Watson, comes from

306

his ability to use the happy accident, to seize


upon an invigorating idea, to exploit a
situation, to admire, to love, to condemn, to
ridicule: in other words, to make the most of

New York: Oxford UP, 1964.


[11] Byron's Letters and Journals. Ed.
Leslie A. Marchand.
12 vols.
London, 1973-82.

life (297). His poetry is fundamentally


Romantic because in his very difference
from the others he is asserting his
individuality, he is daring in his use of his

[12] The Works of Lord Byron: Letters and


Journals. 6 vols. Ed. R. E. Prothero.
London: 1989-1901.
[13] The Works of Lord Byron: Poetry. Ed.

own sensibility and because of his


subject-matter. His characters, including himself,
are significantly out-of-the-ordinary.

E. H. Coleridge. London, 1898-1904.


[14] Byron: A Self-Portrait, Letters and
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A Discourse on Byrons Don Juan