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

II. Descriptive and Narrative


(Don Juan, Canto ii. Stanzas 111–118.)

HOW long in his damp trance young Juan lay

He knew not, for the earth was gone for him,

And Time had nothing more of night nor day

For his congealing blood, and senses dim;

And how this heavy faintness pass’d away

He knew not, till each painful pulse and limb,

And tingling vein seem’d throbbing back to life,

For Death, though vanquish’d, still retired with strife.

His eyes he open’d, shut, again unclosed,

For all was doubt and dizziness; he thought

He still was in the boat, and had but dozed,

And felt again with his despair o’erwrought,

And wish’d it death in which he had reposed,

And then once more his feelings back were brought,

And slowly by his swimming eyes was seen

A lovely female face of seventeen.

’Twas bending close o’er his, and the small mouth

Seem’d almost prying into his for breath;

And, chafing him, the soft warm hand of youth

Recall’d his answering spirits back from death;

And bathing his chill temples, tried to soothe

Each pulse to animation, till beneath

Its gentle touch and trembling care, a sigh

To these kind efforts made a low reply.

Then was the cordial pour’d, and mantle flung

Around his scarce-clad limbs; and the fair arm

Raised higher the faint head which o’er it hung;

And her transparent cheek, all pure and warm,

Pillow’d his death-like forehead; then she wrung

His dewy curls, long drench’d by every storm;

And watch’d with eagerness each throb that drew

A sigh from his heaved bosom—and hers, too.

And lifting him with care into the cave,

The gentle girl, and her attendant,—one

Young, yet her elder, and of brow less grave,

And more robust of figure,—then begun

To kindle fire, and as the new flames gave

Light to the rocks that roof’d them, which the sun

Had never seen, the maid, or whatsoe’er

She was, appear’d distinct, and tall, and fair.

Her brow was overhung with coins of gold,

That sparkled o’er the auburn of her hair,

Her clustering hair, whose longer locks were roll’d

In braids behind; and though her stature were

Even of the highest for a female mould,

They nearly reach’d her heel; and in her air

There was a something which bespoke command,

As one who was a lady in the land.

Her hair, I said, was auburn; but her eyes

Were black as death, their lashes the same hue,

Of downcast length, in whose silk shadows lies

Deepest attraction; for when to the view

Forth from its raven fringe the full glance flies,

Ne’er with such force the swiftest arrow flew;

’Tis as the snake late coil’d, who pours his length,

And hurls at once his venom and his strength.

Her brow was white and low, her cheek’s pure dye

Like twilight rosy still with the set sun;

Short upper lip—sweet lips! that make us sigh

Ever to have seen such; for she was one

Fit for the model of a statuary

(A race of mere impostors, when all’s done—

I’ve seen much finer women, ripe and real,

Than all the nonsense of their stone ideal).