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Lord Byron (1788–1824). Poetry of Byron. 1881.

IV. Satiric

A Stormed City

(Don Juan, Canto viii. Stanzas 123–127.)

ALL that the mind would shrink from of excesses;

All that the body perpetrates of bad;

All that we read, hear, dream, of man’s distresses;

All that the devil would do if run stark mad;

All that defies the worst which pen expresses;

All by which hell is peopled, or as sad

As hell—mere mortals who their power abuse—

Was here (as heretofore and since) let loose.

If here and there some transient trait of pity

Was shown, and some more noble heart broke through

Its bloody bond, and saved, perhaps, some pretty

Child, or an aged, helpless man or two—

What’s this in one annihilated city,

Where thousand loves, and ties, and duties grow?

Cockneys of London! Muscadins of Paris!

Just ponder what a pious pastime war is.

Think how the joys of reading a Gazette

Are purchased by all agonies and crimes:

Or if these do not move you, don’t forget

Such doom may be your own in after-times.

Meantime the Taxes, Castlereagh, and Debt,

Are hints as good as sermons, or as rhymes.

Read your own hearts and Ireland’s present story,

Then feed her famine fat with Wellesley’s glory.

But still there is unto a patriot nation,

Which loves so well its country and its king,

A subject of sublimest exultation—

Bear it, ye Muses, on your brightest wing!

Howe’er the mighty locust, Desolation,

Strip your green fields, and to your harvests cling,

Gaunt famine never shall approach the throne—

Though Ireland starve, great George weighs twenty stone.

But let me put an end unto my theme:

There was an end of Ismail—hapless town!

Far flash’d her burning towers o’er Danube’s stream,

And redly ran his blushing waters down.

The horrid war-whoop and the shriller scream

Rose still; but fainter were the thunders grown:

Of forty thousand who had mann’d the wall,

Some hundreds breathed—the rest were silent all!