Don Juan (Byron): Wikis


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Byron's Don Juan (Penguin Classics version)

Don Juan (pronounced /dɒn ˈdʒuːən/) is a satiric poem[1] by Lord Byron, based on the legend of Don Juan, which Byron reverses, portraying Juan not as a womaniser, but as someone easily seduced by women. It is a variation on the epic form. Modern critics generally consider it to be Byron's masterpiece. Byron completed 16 cantos, leaving an unfinished 17th canto before his death in 1824. Byron claimed that he had no ideas in his mind as to what would happen in subsequent cantos as he wrote his work.

When the first two cantos were published anonymously in 1819, the poem was criticised for its 'immoral content', though it was also immensely popular.



Byron was a rapid as well as a voluminous writer. Nevertheless, the composition of his great poem, Don Juan, was coextensive with a major part of his poetical life. He began the first canto of Don Juan in the autumn of 1818, and he was still at work on a seventeenth canto in the spring of 1823. The poem was issued in parts, and with long intervals of unequal duration between the parts. The interruptions in the composition and publication of Don Juan were due to the disapproval and discouragement of friends, and the hesitation and procrastination of the publisher. Canto I. was written in September, 1818; Canto II. in December-January, 1818-1819. Both cantos were published on July 15, 1819. Cantos III., IV. were written in the winter of 1819-1820; Canto V., after an interval of nine months, in October-November, 1820, but the publication of Cantos III., IV., V. was delayed till August 8, 1821. The next interval was longer still, but it was the last. In June, 1822, Byron began to work at a sixth, and by the end of March, 1823, he had completed a sixteenth canto. But the publication of these later cantos, which had been declined by John Murray, and was finally entrusted to John Hunt, was spread over a period of several months. Cantos VI., VII., VIII., with a Preface, were published July 15; Cantos IX., X., XI, August 29; Cantos XII., XIII., XIV., December 17, 1823; and, finally, Cantos XV., XVI., March 26, 1824. It has been said that the character of Donna Inez who is Don Juan's mother, was a thinly veiled portrait of Byron's own wife, Annabella Milbanke (daughter of Sir Ralph Milbanke).



Canto I

Don Juan lives in Seville with his father Jóse and his mother Donna Inez. She is a very well read and scholarly woman. Jóse and Donna Inez have a very unhappy marriage. Jóse has an affair, which causes Inez to attempt to gain a divorce but he dies before this can go ahead. After Jóse's death, Inez gives Juan a classical education intended to shield him from inappropriate materials. Then, Inez has an affair with a man called Don Alfonso, 50, who is married to Julia, 23. Julia falls in love with Juan, who is 16. Byron remarks that "such things are more common in sun-drenched climes". Don Alfonso suspecting that his wife may be having an affair, bursts into their bedroom one night to find Julia in bed with Antonia, her maid. He is unable to find a male in the room, causing Julia to give an extended speech of mock indignation. Don Juan is able to remove himself from the bed he has been hiding in all along, and retreat to a closet. However, Alfonso returns to find male shoes in the room. Don Juan is eventually discovered, and a fight begins between him and Alfonso, ending with Don Juan fleeing from Alfonso, who is wounded with a bloody nose. Alfonso files for divorce after finding out about the affair, and Julia is sent to a nunnery. Donna Inez makes plans for her son to sail the world. In Canto two he will set sail on a journey to Cadiz. Don Juan carries a letter off from Julia when he leaves.

Canto II

Canto II describes how Juan goes on a voyage from Cadiz with servants and his tutor Pedrillo. Juan is still in love with Julia and after a period of seasickness a storm sinks the ship. The crew climb into a long boat but soon run out of food. The crew decide to draw lots in order to choose who will be eaten. Juan's tutor Pedrillo is chosen after Juan's dog has also been eaten. However those that eat Pedrillo go mad and die. Juan is the sole survivor of the journey, he eventually makes it onto land at Cyclades in the Aegean. Haidée and her maid, Zoe discover Juan and care for him in a cave by the beach. Haidée and Juan fall in love despite the fact that neither can understand each other's language. Haidée's father Lambro is a "fisherman" and pirate who makes money from capturing slaves.

Canto III

Canto III is essentially a canto long digression from the main story in which Byron insults his contemporaries William Wordsworth, Robert Southey and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This canto also contains a section called the Isles of Greece - a section numbered differently to the rest of the canto with a different verse which explores Byron's views on Greece's status as a "slave" to the Ottoman Empire.

Canto IV

Haidée and Juan wake to discover that Haidée's father Lambro has returned. Lambro confronts Juan and attacks him with the aid of his pirate friends. Haidée despairs at losing her lover and eventually dies of a broken heart with her unborn child still in her womb.

Juan is sent away on a ship and ends up at a slave market in Istanbul, Turkey.

Canto V

Juan in the slave market. He converses with an Englishman, telling of his lost love, whereas the more experienced John says he had to run away from his third wife. A black eunuch from the seraglio, Baba, buys Juan and John, and takes the infidels to the palace. He takes them to an inner chamber, where he insists that Don Juan dress as a woman and threatens him with castration if he resists. Finally, Juan is brought into an imperial hall to meet the sultana, Gulbeyaz, a 26-year-old beauty who is the sultan's fourth, last, and favourite wife. Full of stubborn pride, he refuses to kiss her foot and finally compromises by kissing her hand. She had spotted Juan at the market and had asked Baba to secretly purchase him for her, despite the risk of discovery by the sultan. She wants Juan to "love" her, and throws herself on his breast. But he still has thoughts of Haidée and spurns her advances, saying "The prisoned eagle will not pair, nor I / Serve a sultana's sensual phantasy." She is taken aback, enraged, and thinks of having him beheaded, but breaks out in tears instead. Before they can progress further in their relationship, Baba rushes in to announce that the Sultan is coming: "The sun himself has sent me like a ray / To hint that he is coming up this way." The sultan arrives, preceded by a parade of damsels, eunuchs, etc. (he is 59 years old and has 1500 concubines). Looking around, he takes note of the attractive Christian woman (Juan), expressing regret that a mere Christian should be so pretty (Juan is a giaour, or non-Muslim). Byron comments on the necessity to secure the chastity of the women in these unhappy climes—that "wedlock and a padlock mean the same."

Canto VI

The sultan retires with Gulbeyaz. Juan, still dressed as a woman, is taken to the overcrowded seraglio. He is asked to share a couch with the young and lovely 17 year old Dudù, who calls him Juanna. She is a "kind of sleepy Venus ... very fit to murder sleep... Her talents were of the more silent class... pensive..." She gives Juanna a chaste kiss and undresses. The chamber of odalisques is asleep at 3 AM. Dudù suddenly screams, and awakens agitated, while Juanna still lies asleep and snoring. The women ask the cause of her scream, and she relates a suggestive dream of being in a wood like Dante, of dislodging a reluctant golden apple clinging tenaciously to its bough (which at last willingly falls), of almost biting into the forbidden fruit when a bee flies out from it and stings her to the heart. The matron of the seraglio decides to place Juanna with another odalisque, but Dudù begs to keep her in her own bed, hiding her face in Juanna's breast. The poet is at a loss to explain why she screamed.

In the morning, the sultana asks Baba to tell her how Don Juan passed the night. He tells of "her" stay in the seraglio, but carefully omits details about Dudù and her dream. But the sultan is suspicious nevertheless, becomes enraged, and instructs Baba to have Dudù and Juan killed in the usual manner (drowning). Baba pleads with her that killing Juan will not cure what ails her. The sultana summons Dudù and Juan. [We do not see how this scene plays out.]

Canto VII

Juan and John Johnson have escaped with two women from the seraglio, and arrive during the siege of Ismail (historically 1790), a Turkish fort at the mouth of the Danube on the Black Sea. Field Marshall Suvaroff, an officer in the Russian army, is preparing for an all-out final assault against the besieged fortress. The battle rages. He has been told to "take Ismail at whatever price" by Prince Potemkin, the commander-in-chief of the Russian army. The Christian empress Queen Catherine II is the Russian head-of-state. John Johnson appears to Suvaroff (with whom he has previously served in battle at Widdin) and introduces his friend Juan—both are ready to join the fight against the "pagan" Turks. Suvaroff is unhappy with the women the two men brought, but they state that they are the wives of other men, and that the women aided their escape. Suvaroff consents for the women to stay.

Canto VIII

Juan and John join fearlessly and bravely in the savage assault on Ismail. They scale the walls of the town and charge into battle. The conquest of Ismail causes the slaughter of 40,000 Turks, among them women (only a few of whom are ravished) and children. Juan nobly rescues a 10 y/o Muslim child Leila from two murderous Cossacks intent on killing her, and immediately resolves to adopt her as his own child. A noble Tartar khan valiantly fights to the death alongside his 5 sons, just as instructed by Mahomet, presumably to be rewarded with houris in heaven.

Juan is a hero and is sent to St Petersburg, accompanied by Leila, whom he makes a vow to protect.

Canto IX

Dressed as a war hero in military uniform, Juan cuts a handsome figure in the court of Queen Catherine II, who lusts after him. She is about 48 years old [historically actually 61–2 years old] and "just now in juicy vigour". He becomes one of her favorites and is flattered by her interest as well as promoted for it. "Love is vanity, / Selfish in its beginning as its end, / Except where 'tis a mere insanity." Juan still lovingly cares for Leila.

Canto X

Juan falls ill because of the colder climate of Russia and so is sent south to England and its warmer atmosphere. His job is ostensibly as a special envoy with the nebulous task of negotiating some treaty or other but it is nothing more than a sinecure to justify Queen Catherine securing his health and ladening him with money and expensive gifts.

Canto XI

Juan lands in England and eventually makes his way to London where he is found musing on the greatness of Britain as a defender of freedoms - until he is interrupted by a cockney mugger, demanding money with menace. Juan shoots the man and, being of strong conscience, then regrets his haste and attempts to care for the dying mugger. However, his efforts fail, and after muttering some last words the mugger dies on the street.

Later, Don Juan is received into the English court with the usual wonder and admiration at his looks, dress and mien although not without the jealousy of some of the older peers.

In this Canto, Byron famously makes his comment on John Keats "killed by one review".

Canto XII

Don Juan seeks out a suitable tutor and guardian for Leila, the orphan from the destroyed city of Ismail. He finds one in Lady Pinchbeck, a woman not unassailed by rumours on her chastity, but generally considered a good person and an admirable wit.

Canto XIII

The Lady Adeline Amundeville and her husband Lord Henry Amundeville host Juan and others. She is "the fair most fatal Juan ever met", the "queen bee, the glass of all that's fair, / Whose charms made all men speak and women dumb". Diplomatic relations often bring Juan ("the envoy of a secret Russian mission") and Lord Henry together, and he befriends Juan and makes him a frequent guest at their London mansion. The Amundevilles invite numerous distinguished guests for a party at their country estate. The banquet... English ennui. They all retire for the evening.

Canto XIV

Juan acquits himself well on a fox hunt. He is attractive to the ladies, including the Duchess of Fitz-Fulke, who begins to flirt with him. Lady Adeline is jealous of the Duchess (who has had many amorous exploits), and resolves to protect the "inexperienced" Juan from her enticements. Juan and Adeline are both 21 y/o. Lady Adeline has a vacant heart and has a cold but proper marriage. She is not in love with Juan, but the poet will only later divulge whether they have an affair (apparently not).

Canto XV

Lady Adeline is at risk for losing her honour over Juan. Juan has a seductive manner because he never seems anxious to seduce. He neither brooks nor claims superiority. Adeline advises Juan to get married, but he acknowledges the women he is attracted to tend to be already married. Adeline tries to deduce a suitable match for Juan, but intentionally omits mention of the 16 y/o and enticing Aurora Raby, a Catholic. Juan is attracted to her—she is purer than the rest, and reminds him of his lost Haidée. An elaborate dinner is described in detail. Juan is seated between Adeline and Aurora. Aurora has little to say initially, and thaws only a little during the dinner.

Canto XVI

Juan is smitten with the beautiful Aurora, and thinks of her on retiring. At night, he walks into the hall, viewing the gallery of paintings. He hears footsteps, and sees a monk in cowl and beads. Is this a ghost, a phantasy? He does not see his face, though the monk passes and repasses several times.

The next morning in reaction to how pale Juan looks, Adeline turns pale herself, the Duchess Fitz-Fulke looks at Juan hard, and Aurora surveys him "with a kind of calm surprise". Adeline wonders if he is ill, and he tells of seeing the monk. Lord Henry relates the story of the "Black Friar", the "spirit of these walls" who used to be seen often but had not been seen of late. He had seen the Black Friar on his honeymoon. Adeline offers to sing the story of the ghost, accompanying it on her harp. The song begins, "Beware! beware of the Black Friar! / Who sitteth by Norman stone, / For he mutters his prayer in the midnight air, / And his mass of the days that are gone. / When the Lord of the Hill, Amundeville, / Made Norman Church his prey, / And expelled the friars, one friar still / Would not be driven away." Aurora remains silent, but Lady Fitz-Fulke appears mischievous. She suggests that Adeline has sung this to laugh Juan out of his dismay. Juan's spirits are lifted. He visits with Lord Henry. A pregnant country girl and other petitioners present themselves to Lord Henry in his capacity as Justice of the Peace.

Another banquet, at which Juan is preoccupied. He wonders if Aurora had been the ghost—did he catch a smile on her cheek? He is vexed with uncertainty, while Aurora sits pale and only a little flushed. Adeline goes about her duties, while the Duchess of Fitz-Fulke is very much at ease.

They retire for the evening. Juan thinks about Aurora, who has reawakened feelings in him which had been lately lost. After going to bed, he hears the tiptoe of footsteps again. The doors opens, and again it is the sable Friar concealed in his solemn hood. He pursues the friar up against a wall, notes the "ghost" has sweet breath, a straggling curl, red lips and pearls, a glowing bust—in short, the "friar" is the voluptuous Duchess of Fitz-Fulke.

Canto XVII

A Canto that Byron failed to complete but added to in the run up to his death, it lacks any narrative and only barely mentions the protagonist. It is instead a response to his critics who object to his views on the grounds that "If you are right, then everybody 's wrong!". In his defence, he lists many great people who have been considered outsiders and revolutionaries including Martin Luther and Galileo.

The Canto ends on the brink of resuming the storyline from Canto The Sixteenth where Don Juan was left in a "tender moonlit situation".


There is little to be said with regard to the "Sources" of Don Juan. John Hookham Frere's mock-heroic Arthurian tale Prospectus and Specimen of an intended National Work had suggested Beppo, and, at the same time, had prompted and provoked a sympathetic study of Frere's Italian models, Francesco Berni and Luigi Pulci; and, again, the success of Beppo, and, still more, a sense of inspiration and the conviction that he had found the path to excellence, suggested another essay of the ottava rima, a humorous poem "à la Beppo" on a larger and more important scale. If Byron possessed more than a superficial knowledge of the legendary "Don Juan," he was irresponsive and unimpressed. He speaks (letter to John Murray, of "the Spanish tradition;" but there is nothing to show that he had read or heard of Tirso de Molina's El Burlador de Sevilla y Convidado de Piedra (The Deceiver of Seville and the Stone Guest), 1626, which dramatized the "ower true tale" of the actual Don Juan Tenorio; or that he was acquainted with any of the Italian (e.g. the Convitato di Pietra of Giacinto Andrea Cicognini or French adaptations of the legend (e.g. Le Festin de Pierre, ou le fils criminel, a tragicomedy of Abbé De Villiers, 1659; and Molière's Dom Juan, ou Le Festin de Pierre, 1665). He had seen Carlo Antonio Delpini's pantomime, which was based on Thomas Shadwell's Libertine, and he may have witnessed, at Milan or Venice, a performance of Mozart's Don Giovanni; but in taking Don Juan for his "hero," he took the name only, and disregarded the "terrible figure" "of the Titan of embodied evil, the likeness of sin made flesh", "as something to his purpose nothing"!

The name and motive

Why, then, did he choose the name, and what was the scheme or motif of his poem? Something is to be gathered from his own remarks and reflections; but it must be borne in mind that he is on the defensive, and that his half-humorous paradoxes were provoked by advice and opposition. Writing to Thomas Moore, he says, "I have finished the first canto ... of a poem in the style and manner of Beppo, encouraged by the good success of the same. It is ... meant to be a little quietly facetious upon every thing. But I doubt whether it is not—at least as far as it has gone—too free for these very modest days." The critics before and after publication thought that Don Juan was "too free," and, a month after the two first cantos had been issued, he writes to Murray (August 12, 1819), "You ask me for the plan of Donny Johnny; I have no plan—I had no plan; but I had or have materials.... You are too earnest and eager about a work never intended to be serious. Do you suppose that I could have any intention but to giggle and make giggle?—a playful satire, with as little poetry as could be helped, was what I meant." Again, after the completion but before the publication of Cantos III., IV., V., in a letter to Murray , he writes, "The Fifth is so far from being the last of Don Juan, that it is hardly the beginning. I meant to take him the tour of Europe, with a proper mixture of siege, battle, and adventure, and to make him finish as Anacharsis Cloots in the French Revolution.... I meant to have made him a Cavalier Servente in Italy, and a cause for a divorce in England, and a Sentimental 'Werther-faced' man in Germany, so as to show the different ridicules of the society in each of these countries, and to have displayed him gradually gâté and blasé, as he grew older, as is natural. But I had not quite fixed whether to make him end in Hell, or in an unhappy marriage, not knowing which would be the severest."

Yet it is difficult to believe that a work as great and complex as Don Juan could have been conceived or composed at haphazard. Byron did not "whistle" Don Juan "for want of thought." He had found a thing to say, and he meant to make the world listen. He had read, albeit with angry disapproval, Coleridge's Critique on (Charles Maturin's) Bertram, where Coleridge describes the legendary Don Juan as a figure not unlike Childe Harold, or for that matter, Byron himself: "Rank, fortune, wit, talent, acquired knowledge, and liberal accomplishments, with beauty of person, vigorous health...all these advantages, elevated by the habits and sympathies of noble birth and natural character, are...combined in Don Juan, so as to give him the means of carrying into all its practical consequences the doctrine of a godless nature... Obedience to nature is the only virtue." Again, "It is not the wickedness of Don Juan...which constitutes the character an abstraction, ...but the rapid succession of the correspondent acts and incidents, his intellectual superiority, and the splendid accumulation of his gifts and desirable qualities as coexistent with entire wickedness in one and the same person." Byron may have taken this passage as a suggestion and a challenge.

Would it not be possible to depict an ideal character, gifted, gracious, and delightful, who should "carry into all its practical consequences" the a mundane, if not godless, doctrine, and, at the same time, retain the charities and virtues of uncelestial but not devilish manhood? Though all kinds of men sin, they are not often abstractions of sin like the legendary Don Juan; Byron's poem vindicates natural man. It is Byron's "criticism of life."

Don Juan was taboo from the first. The earlier issues of the first five cantos were doubly anonymous. Neither author nor publisher subscribed their names on the title-page. The book was a monster, and, as its maker had foreseen, "all the world" shuddered. Though it does not advocate "immoral" tenets or prefer evil to good, it was seen as dangerous for young readers. It presumes that one ought to ignore resistance and submit to passion; as Byron admitted, it is "now and then voluptuous"; and its quips and allusions take an irreverent tone. Yet at the same time, the poem holds a mirror up to nature, reflecting all of humanity's impulses, not just the noble ones.

Byron was under no delusion as to the grossness of Don Juan, though protested that he was sheltered by the superior grossness of Ariosto and La Fontaine, of Prior and of Fielding. When Murray (May 3, 1819) charges him with "approximations to indelicacy," he laughs at the euphemism, but when Hobhouse talked to him "about morality," he flames out, "I maintain that it is the most moral of poems." He looked upon his great work as a whole, and he knew that the "raison d'être of his song" was not only to celebrate, but, by the white light of truth, to represent and exhibit the great things of the world—Love and War, and Death by sea and land, and Man, half-angel, half-demon—the comedy of his fortunes, and the tragedy of his passions and his fate.

During the 1600s and 1700s, Spain experienced a quick decline from power in Europe. This fall was accompanied by what many saw as relative cultural poverty when compared to France. By Byron's time, Spanish culture was often considered both archaic and exotic. This led to a Romantic valorization of Spanish culture. Many scholars note this work as a prime example of Spanish exoticism.

Peer opinion

Don Juan has won great praise from the great. Sir Walter Scott maintained that its creator "has embraced every topic of human life, and sounded every string of the divine harp, from its slightest to its most powerful and heart-astounding tones." Goethe described Don Juan as "a work of boundless genius." Percy Bysshe Shelley, on the receipt of Cantos III, IV, V, bore testimony to his "wonder and delight:" "This poem carries with it at once the stamp of originality and defiance of imitation. Nothing has ever been written like it in English, nor, if I may venture to prophesy, will there be, unless carrying upon it the mark of a secondary and borrowed light.... You are building up a drama," he adds, "such as England has not yet seen, and the task is sufficiently noble and worthy of you." Again, of the fifth canto he writes, "Every word has the stamp of immortality.... It fulfils, in a certain degree, what I have long preached of producing—something wholly new and relative to the age, and yet surpassingly beautiful." Finally, Algernon Swinburne, neither a disciple nor encomiast of Byron, pays eloquent tribute to the strength and splendour of Don Juan: "Across the stanzas ... we swim forward as over the 'broad backs of the sea;' they break and glitter, hiss and laugh, murmur and move like waves that sound or that subside. There is in them a delicious resistance, an elastic motion, which salt water has and fresh water has not. There is about them a wide wholesome air, full of vivid light and constant wind, which is only felt at sea. Life undulates and Death palpitates in the splendid verse.... This gift of life and variety is the supreme quality of Byron's chief poem".


A recurring joke throughout the poem is that most of the Spanish words and names are rhymed in a way which indicates that they are being pronounced incorrectly. For example:

Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant,
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 Juan

In the above passage, "Juan" is rhymed with "true one", as if the word were being read according to the rules of English orthography as /ˈdʒuːən/ JEW-ən. (The usual English pronunciation of Juan is /ˈwɑːn/ wahn.)

Similarly, in stanza 190 of the first canto, Byron rhymes "ladies" with "Cádiz," the city in Spain:

And then, by the advice of some old ladies, / She sent her son to be embark'd at Cadiz.

suggesting it is to be pronounced /ˈkeɪdiːz/ KAY-deez. The usual English pronunciation of Cadiz is /kəˈdɪz/ kə-dizz.

Robert Southey dedication

The poem is dedicated, with some scorn, to Robert Southey, then Poet Laureate - You, Bob! are rather insolent, you know, / At being disappointed in your wish / To supersede all warblers here below, / And be the only Blackbird in the dish;. In its first publication, Byron cautions Murray: "As the Poem is to be published anonymously, omit the Dedication. I won't attack the dog in the dark. Such things are for scoundrels and renegadoes like himself". According to the editor of the 1833 Works of Lord Byron the existence of the Dedication "became notorious" in consequence of Hobhouse's article in the Westminster Review, 1824. He adds, for Southey's consolation and encouragement, that "for several years the verses have been selling in the streets as a broadside," and that "it would serve no purpose to exclude them on the present occasion." But Southey was not appeased. He tells Allan Cunningham that "the new edition of Byron's works is ... one of the very worst symptoms of these bad times" .

The dedication also takes issue with the Lake Poets generally - You—Gentlemen! by dint of long seclusion / From better company, have kept your own ... There is a narrowness in such a notion, / Which makes me wish you'd change your lakes for Ocean - and specifically - And Coleridge, too, has lately taken wing, / But like a hawk encumbered with his hood,- / - Explaining Metaphysics to the nation — / I wish he would explain his Explanation; Wordsworth - T is poetry-at least by his assertion,; and Southey's predecessor as Laureate, Henry James Pye in the use of and pun on the old song Sing a Song of Sixpence, four and twenty Blackbirds in a pye.


The poem is in eight line iambic pentameter with the rhyme scheme ab ab ab cc - often the last rhyming couplet is used for a humor comic line or humorous bathos. There are mostly 10 syllables per line. The rhyme scheme of each stanza is known as ottava rima. In Italian, because of the common rhymed endings, the effect of ottava rima is often highly comedic or highly tragic. Because of its few rhymed endings, the effect of ottava rima in English is often comic, and Byron chose it for this reason


  • The saying "truth is stranger than fiction" originates from cantos 14: "'Tis strange — but true; for truth is always strange; Stranger than fiction". In 1858, Josiah Henson (1789-1883), a Maryland-born slave, wrote an autobiography titled Truth Stranger than Fiction. Henson was supposedly the real-life Uncle Tom in Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.[2]
  • Perth rock band Eleventh He Reaches London are named in reference to the eleventh canto of the poem, in which Don Juan arrives in London. Their debut album, The Good Fight for Harmony also featured a track entitled "What Would Don Juan Do?"
  • According to, the history of the phrase "to break the ice" comes from Bryon's Don Juan. The site claims that its meaning of "to start enterprise" originated from this.


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Don Juan (1818-1824) is a long, digressive satiric poem by Lord Byron, based on the legend of Don Juan, which Byron reverses, portraying Juan not as a womaniser but someone easily seduced by women. It is a variation on the epic form. Unlike the more tortured early romantic works by Byron, exemplified by Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Don Juan has a more humorous, satirical bent. Modern critics generally consider it to be Byron's masterpiece. The poem was never completed upon Byron's death in 1824.



  • Explaining Metaphysics to the nation —
    I wish he would explain his explanation.

Canto I (1818)

  • Brave men were living before Agamemnon.
    • Stanza 5. Compare: "Vixerunt fortes ante Agamemnona / Multi", Horace, Ode iv, 9, 25.
  • In vitues nothing earthly could surpass her,
    Save thine "incomparable oil," Macassar!
    • Stanza 17.
  • But — Oh! ye lords of ladies intellectual,
    Inform us truly, have they not hen-peck'd you all?
    • Stanza 22.
  • The languages, especially the dead,
    The sciences, and most of all the abstruse,
    The arts, at least all such as could be said
    To be the most remote from common use.
    • Stanza 40.
  • She, in sooth,
    Possess'd an air and grace by no means common:
    Her stature tall — I hate a dumpy woman.
    • Stanza 61 .
  • What men call gallantry, and gods adultery,
    Is much more common where the climate 's sultry.
    • Stanza 63.
  • Christians have burnt each other, quite persuaded
    That all the Apostles would have done as they did.
    • Stanza 83.
  • A little still she strove, and much repented
    And whispering 'I will ne'er consent' — consented.
    • Stanza 117.
  • 'Tis sweet to hear the watch-dog's honest bark
    Bay deep-mouth'd welcome as we draw near home;
    'Tis sweet to know there is an eye will mark
    Our coming, and look brighter when we come.
    • Stanza 123.
  • Sweet is revenge — especially to women.
    • Stanza 124.
  • Pleasure's a sin, and sometimes sin's a pleasure.
    • Stanza 133.
  • And truant husband should return, and say,
    "My dear, I was the first who came away".
    • Stanza 141.
  • Man's love is of man's life a thing apart,
    'Tis woman's whole existence.
    • Stanza 194.
  • In my hot youth, when George the Third was king.
    • Stanza 212.
  • So for a good old-gentlemanly vice
    I think I must take up with avarice. 31
    • Stanza 216. Compare: "That disease / Of which all old men sicken,—avarice", Thomas Middleton, The Roaring Girl, Act i, Scene 1.
  • What is the end of fame? 'T is but to fill
    A certain portion of uncertain paper.
    • Stanza 218.

Canto II (1819)

  • At leaving even the most unpleasant people
    And places, one keeps looking at the steeple.
    • Stanza 14.
  • There's nought, no doubt, so much the spirit calms
    As rum and true religion.
    • Stanza 34.
  • A solitary shriek, the bubbling cry
    Of some strong swimmer in his agony.
    • Stanza 53.
  • If this be true, indeed,
    Some Christians have a comfortable creed.
    • Stanza 86.
  • All who joy would win
    Must share it,—happiness was born a twin.
    • Stanza 172.
  • Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter,
    Sermons and soda water the day after.
    • Stanza 178.
  • A long, long kiss,—a kiss of youth and love.
    • Stanza 186
  • Alas, the love of women! it is known
    To be a lovely and a fearful thing.
    • Stanza 199.

Canto III (1821)

  • In her first passion woman loves her lover:
    In all the others, all she loves is love.
    • Stanza 3. Compare: "Dans les premières passions les femmes aiment l'amant, et dans les autres elles aiment l'amour", Francis, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Maxim 471.
  • Think you, if Laura had been Petrarch's wife,
    He would have written sonnets all his life?
    • Stanza 8.
  • He was the mildest-mannered man
    That ever scuttled ship or cut a throat.
    • Stanza 41.
  • Even good men like to make the public stare.
    • Stanza 81.
  • But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
    Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
    That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think
    • Stanza 88.
  • The isles of Greece, the Isles of Greece!
    Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
    Where grew the arts of war and peace,
    Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung!
    Eternal summer gilds them yet,
    But all, except their sun, is set.
    • Stanza 86-1 (The Isles of Greece, Stanza 1).
  • The mountains look on Marathon —
    And Marathon looks on the sea;
    And musing there an hour alone,
    I dream'd that Greece might still be free.
    • Stanza 86-3 (The Isles of Greece, Stanza 3).
  • And where are they? and where art thou,
    My country? On thy voiceless shore
    The heroic lay is tuneless now —
    The heroic bosom beats no more!
    And must thy lyre, so long divine,
    Degenerate into hands like mine?
    • Stanza 86-5 (The Isles of Greece, Stanza 5).
  • Earth! render back from out thy breast
    A remnant of our Spartan dead!
    Of the three hundred grant but three,
    To make a new Thermopylae!
    • Stanza 86-7 (The Isles of Greece, Stanza 7).
  • You have the Pyrrhic dance as yet,
    Where is the Pyrrhic phalanx gone?
    Of two such lessons, why forget
    The nobler and the manlier one?
    You have the letters Cadmus gave —
    Think ye he meant them for a slave?
    • Stanza 86-10 (The Isles of Greece, Stanza 10).
  • Place me on Sunium's marbled steep,
    Where nothing, save the waves and I,
    May hear our mutual murmurs sweep;
    There, swan-like, let me sing and die:
    A land of slaves shall ne'er be mine —
    Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!
    • Stanza 86-16 (The Isles of Greece, Stanza 16).
  • But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
    Falling like dew upon a thought, produces
    That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.
    • Stanza 88.
  • Ah, surely nothing dies but something mourns.
    • Stanza 108.

Canto IV (1821)

  • And if I laugh at any mortal thing,
    'Tis that I may not weep.
    • Stanza 4.
  • The precious porcelain of human clay.
    • Stanza 11. Compare: "This is the porcelain clay of humankind", John Dryden, Don Sebastian, Act i, Scene 1.
  • Perhaps the early grave
    Which men weep over may be meant to save.
    • Stanza 12.
  • "Whom the gods love die young", was said of yore.
    • Stanza 12. Compare: "The good die first, / And they whose hearts are dry as summer dust / Burn to the socket", William Wordsworth, The Excursion, Book i.
  • And her face so fair
    Stirr'd with her dream, as rose-leaves with the air.
    • Stanza 29. Compare: "All her innocent thoughts / Like rose-leaves scatter'd", John Wilson, On the Death of a Child (1812.)
  • These two hated with a hate
    Found only on the stage.
    • Stanza 93.
  • "Arcades ambo,"—id est, blackguards both.
    • Stanza 93.
  • I've stood upon Achilles' tomb,
    And heard Troy doubted; time will doubt of Rome.
    • Stanza 101.
  • Oh! "darkly, deeply, beautifully blue,"
    As someone somewhere sings about the sky.
    • Stanza 110.

Canto V (1821)

  • There's not a sea the passenger e'er pukes in,
    Turns up more dangerous breakers than the Euxine.
    • Stanza 5.
  • And puts himself upon his good behaviour.
    • Canto V, stanza 47.
  • No Method's more sure at moments to take hold
    Of the best feelings of mankind, which grow
    More tender, as we every day behold,
    Than that all-softening, overpowering knell,
    The tocsin of the soul — the dinner-bell.
    • Stanza 49
  • There was no end unto the things she bought,
    Nor to the trouble which her fancies caused;
    Yet even her tyranny had such a grace,
    The women pardon'd all except her face.
    • Stanza 113.

Canto VI (1823)

  • Heroic, stoic Cato, the sententious,
    Who lent his lady to his friend Hortensius.
    • Stanza 7.
  • Polygamy may well be held in dread,
    Not only as a sin, but as a bore:
    Most wise men, with one moderate woman wed,
    Will scarcely find philosophy for more.
    • Stanza 12.
  • A lady of "a certain age," which means
    Certainly aged.
    • Stanza 69.
  • A "strange coincidence," to use a phrase
    By which such things are settled nowadays.
    • Stanza 78.

Canto VII (1823)

  • But ne'ertheless I hope it is no crime
    To laugh at all things — for I wish to know
    What, after all, are all things — but a show?
    • Stanza 2.

Canto VIII (1823)

  • The drying up a single tear has more
    Of honest fame than shedding seas of gore.
    • Stanza 3.
  • Not so Leonidas and Washington,
    Whose every battle-field is holy ground,
    Which breathes of nations saved, not worlds undone.
    • Stanza 5.
  • Thrice happy he whose name has been well spelt
    In the despatch: I knew a man whose loss
    Was printed Grove, although his name was Grose.
    • Stanza 18.

Canto IX (1823)

  • At least he pays no rent, and has best right
    To be the first of what we used to call
    'Gentlemen farmer' — a race worn out quite,
    Since lately there have been no rents at all,
    And 'gentlemen' are in a piteous plight,
    And 'farmers' can't raise Ceres from her fall.
    • Stanza 32.
  • As fall the dews on quenchless sands,
    Blood only serves to wash Ambition's hands!
    • Stanza 59.
  • What a strange thing is man! and what a stranger
    Is woman!
    • Stanza 64.

Canto X (1823)

  • And wrinkles, the damned democrats, won't flatter.
    • Stanza 24.
  • Oh for a forty-parson power!
    • Stanza 34.

Canto XI (1823)

  • When Bishop Berkeley said 'there was no matter,'
    And proved it — 'twas no matter what he said.
    • Stanza 1. Compare: "What is mind? No matter. What is matter? Never mind", T. H. Key (once Head Master of University College School), reported by F. J. Furnivall.
  • And, after all, what is a lie? 'Tis but
    The truth in masquerade.
    • Stanza 37.
  • 'Tis strange the mind, that very fiery particle,
    Should let itself be snuff'd out by an article.

Canto XII (1823)

  • Ready money is Aladdin's lamp.
    • Stanza 12.

Canto XIII (1823)

  • Of all tales 't is the saddest,—and more sad,
    Because it makes us smile.
    • Stanza 9.
  • Cervantes smiled Spain's chivalry away.
    • Stanza 11.
  • The English winter — ending in July,
    To recommence in August.
    • Stanza 42.
  • Society is now one polish'd horde,
    Form'd of two mighty tribes, the Bores and Bored.
    • Stanza 95.
  • All human history attests
    That happiness for man — the hungry sinner! —
    Since Eve ate apples, much depends on dinner.
    • Stanza 99. Compare: "For a man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner", Piozzi, Anecdotes of Samuel Johnson, p. 149.
  • And such is victory, and such is Man!
    At least nine tenths of what we call so; —God
    May have another name for half we scan
    As human beings, or his ways are odd."
    • Stanza 104.

Canto XIV (1823)

  • Of all the horrid, hideous notes of woe,
    Sadder than owl-songs or the midnight blast,
    Is that portentous phrase, I told you so.
    • Stanza 50.
  • 'Tis strange, — but true; for truth is always strange;
    Stranger than fiction.
    • Stanza 101.

Canto XV (1824)

  • The Devil hath not, in all his quiver's choice,
    An arrow for the heart like a sweet voice.
    • Stanza 13.
  • A lovely being, scarcely formed or moulded,
    A rose with all its sweetest leaves yet folded.
    • Stanza 43.
  • But if a writer should be quite consistent,
    How could he possibly show things existent?
    • Stanza 87.

Canto XVI (1824)

  • The antique Persians taught three useful things —
    To draw the bow, to ride, and speak the truth.
    • Stanza 1.

Canto XVII (1824)

  • But not to go too far, I hold it law,
    That where their education, harsh or mild,
    Trangresses the great bounds of love or awe,
    The sufferers — be't in heart or intellect —
    Whate'er the cause, are orphans in effect.
    • Stanza 2.
  • Great Galileo was debarr'd the Sun
    Because he fix'd it; and, to stop his talking,
    How Earth could round the solar orbit run,
    Found his own legs embargo'd from mere walking:
    The man was well-nigh dead, ere men begun
    To think his skull had not some need of caulking;
    But now, it seems, he's right — his notion just:
    No doubt a consolation to his dust.
    • Stanza 8.

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