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Are the true lords of Europe. Every loan
Is not a merely speculative hit,
But seats a nation or upsets a throne.
Republics also get involved a bit;
Columbia™s stock hath holders not unknown
On ™Change; and even thy silver soil, Peru,
Must get itself discounted by a Jew.
(©©. µ“)

These stanzas juxtapose a sense of chance or change (˜pain / Or plea-
sure™, ˜seats a nation or upsets a throne™, ˜™Change™ for ˜Exchange™) with
the imperatives of those ˜merely™ speculating. By calling the ¬nancial
control of Europe ˜The shade of Bonaparte™s noble daring™, Byron fore-
grounds a sense of loss:
I have seen Napoleon, who seemed quite a Jupiter,
Shrink to a Saturn
I have seen a Congress doing all that™s mean.
(©. “)

But the loss is not experienced as nostalgia for something located in
the past; it is an experience of movement, or the instant of change. In
The Age of Bronze, it can be felt as satirical dynamic when Byron considers
±·
˜Don Juan™, moral England and feminine caprice
the transformation of Marie Louise:
She comes! “ the Andromache (but not Racine™s,
Nor Homer™s) Lo! on Pyrrhus™ arm she leans!
Yes! the right arm, yet red from Waterloo,
Which cut her lord™s half shattered sceptre through,
Is offered and accepted! Could a slave
Do more? or less? “ and he in his new grave!
Her eye, her cheek, betray no inward strife,
And the Ex-Empress grows as Ex a wife!
(ll. ·µ·“)±·
The present tense commentary of this passage alerts us to its newspaper
origin.± What Byron sees is a scene described in Galignani™s Messenger on
 December ±:
“ on her arrival, the Duke of Wellington was in waiting to receive her Imperial
Highness, and he led her leaning on his arm to the Grand Salon. What must
have been her sensations at that moment! What must she have felt while thus
taking the arm that had hurled both her husband and herself from the greatest
Throne in the universe. Apparently, however, she betrayed not the slightest
emotion. (GM, no. ±)
Byron has supplanted the rhetorical questions with digressive allusion:
by digressing to point out that this Andromache was ˜not Racine™s, / Nor
Homer™s™, he introduces the extreme emotion of high culture in order to
negate it. Byron does not locate Waterloo in the distant past “ by pointing
to ˜the right arm, yet red™, he seems to bring Waterloo into the present
while the reference to Napoleon, ˜and he in his new grave™ has all the
scandalised emphasis of a very recent piece of gossip. What the reader is
given is a compound scene of (cancelled) classical agony, amputated limbs
at Waterloo, the burial of Napoleon, a soir©e at Verona and, in place of
fortune, the ¬ckleness of women. This matrix leads us to a consideration
of the woman™s place within Byron™s mode of digressive allusion.
Throughout Don Juan, remarks about Byron™s female readers, those
whom Cohen called ˜the supreme arbiters of the destiny and reputation
of the new poetry™, sustain these links we have traced between digression
and transgression.± Juan, we are told,
had good looks; “ that point was carried
Nem. con. amongst the women, which I grieve
To say leads oft to crim. con. with the married “
A case which to the Juries we may leave,
Since with digressions we too long have tarried.
(. )
± Byron, Poetics and History
Digressions in this stanza comprehend both verbal deviations shared by
reader and narrator, and sexual diversions in the plot.° The seductive
potential of Don Juan was legendary before the ¬rst cantos were published.
According to a letter printed in the Examiner on ±° November ±, the
reputation of the poem was such that ˜all ladies of character blush at its
very mention™. As we saw in the ¬rst chapter, reviewers presented it as
a work which could prompt ˜palpable™ ill effect. As a poem which could
˜captivate and corrupt™ it was of¬cially out of bounds for most women
readers although several male reviewers shared the fear of the Literary
Chronicle that Don Juan was ˜abjured by married men and read in secret
by their wives™. By focusing on the element of sexual transgression latent
in digression, we can brie¬‚y re-examine the repeated allusions to the
myth of the Fall which have been seen by many critics as a determining
pattern in Don Juan.± References to Eve™s fall and the lost Eden occur
throughout the poem, but there is a concentration of allusions in canto
© when the narrator considers the ˜real sufferings of their she condition™
and introduces Adeline™s plans to intervene in the ˜ “tracasserie” ™ between
Juan and Fitz-Fulke (©. ±).
The frequency of Miltonic allusion at this point in the poem invites
us to compare the marriage of Adeline and Lord Henry with Milton™s
picture of the relationship between Adam and Eve (˜At eighteen . . . /She
had consented to create again / That Adam, called “the Happiest of
Men”™(©. µµ)). Although Bernard Beatty argues that the reader should
be prepared to see Aurora as an ideal Edenic ¬gure in the last cantos
of the poem, I would suggest that the reader is equally prepared to see
Adeline as an about-to-fall Eve, ready to move out of mythical stasis and
into the ¬‚ux of history. Just as Paradise Lost moves forward ¬rstly with
Satan™s and then Eve™s desire, Don Juan places its plot in the hands of
a woman. Milton™s Eve and Byron™s Adeline generate the digressions
which are both the matter and the dynamic of their respective poems.
Milton™s Eve famously prefers digression to any other narrative mode:
Her husband the relater she preferred
Before the angel, and of him to ask
Chose rather; he, she knew would intermix
Grateful digressions, and solve high dispute
With conjugal caresses, from his lip
Not words alone pleased her.
(Paradise Lost, ©©©. ll. µ“·)

The physical intimacy of Milton™s couple before the Fall contrasts with
the ˜conjugal, but cold™ relationship between Henry and Adeline whose
±
˜Don Juan™, moral England and feminine caprice
interview in canto © is closed, not intermixed, with kisses. Lord Henry,
we are told, ˜Had still preserved his perpendicular™ (©. ·±), but the nar-
rator feels, ˜Still there was something wanting™ (©. ·). That something,
it is tempting to assume, is a form of digression. In canto © a variant for
stanza  shows Byron returning from his asides to the reader to re¬‚ect
that a ˜poem™s progress should be perpendicular™ (CPW, , p. ·). Lord
Henry displays the linear purpose which the poem itself eschews. Like
Eve™s, Adeline™s act of digression might be or will be ˜fatal™, but the poem™s
attention to feminine sexual misdemeanour is remarkable for the way in
which it realises a liberating movement in the fall from social grace.
Perhaps our ¬rst intimation of the poem™s receptivity to digression as
a feminine tendency comes as the narrator describes his own Eve-like
enjoyment of instruction:
™Tis pleasing to be school™d in a strange tongue
By female lips and eyes “ that is, I mean,
When both the teacher and the taught are young,
As was the case, at least, where I have been;
They smile so when one™s right, and when one™s wrong
They smile still more, and then there intervene
Pressure of hands, perhaps even a chaste kiss; “
I learn™d the little that I know by this.
(©©. ±)

The hesitation at the end of the second line duplicates someone stumbling
˜in a strange tongue™ and the verb ˜intervene™ hangs on the end of the line
allowing the reader to pause on the brink of the couplet. In this way, the
interventions which the poem celebrates are wrought in the texture of
the verse. An often repeated half-truth about Byron™s use of the Don Juan
myth is that, unlike the legend, he makes women prey on a man. With
the exception of Catherine and possibly Fitz-Fulke, however, taking the
sexual initiative repeatedly or over the long term is not possible for Juan™s
women: English women, in particular, may experience only one plunge
of sexual recklessness. This is why feminine acts of digression occur as
accidental and unique demonstrations of the liberating valency enjoyed
throughout by the narrator.
The libertinism of digression has been discussed in Peter Conrad™s
study, Shandyism: The Character of Romantic Irony. In his study of virtu-
oso performances, Conrad ¬nds that ˜for Byron the picaresque is the
promiscuous: Juan™s malleable eagerness to slide into any erotic attach-
ment which presents itself answers to Byron™s own gleeful irresponsibility
with narrative and style™. For Conrad it is the narrator rather than Juan
±µ° Byron, Poetics and History
who performs as libertine, displaying ˜a random, opportunistic willing-
ness to take pleasure wherever he ¬nds it™. This is demonstrated in the
way Byron handles his ottava rima, ˜as unscrupulous in his manipulation
of a ductile stanza form, as his hero is meant to be with women™. But
Byron actually treats his stanza form with respect: the rhymes of ottava
rima are audacious, but the challenge is levelled at the reader, not the
language. ˜Palpable™ disruption was experienced by readers struggling
to distort their pronunciation and to set visual anticipation against aural
expectation of the rhyme.
Performing another version of the Romantic ironist as hero, Conrad
offers what could be described as a phallo-centric view of the process of
Don Juan which does not do justice to the way the poem feminises di-
gressive activity. Similarly, Bernard Beatty™s study of Don Juan detects
a ˜likeness between poetic and erotic procedures™, ¬rstly in ˜the co-
operation of accident and signi¬cance™ in the rhyme scheme and then in
the ˜outrageous gaps™ between episodes in the poem which challenge the
reader to ˜see a connection between them™. This completion, accord-
ing to Beatty, hints at an af¬nity between love-making and the writing of
poetry:
It is in the gaps and jumps of the narrator™s artfully mirrored consciousness that
we come into closest contact with Lord George Gordon Byron himself for he
does not know, yet makes available, the sources on which he relies. He gives
himself away . . . The ¬‚ow of sexual life, when it is not interrupted and self-
regarding, involves a similar intensi¬cation yet yielding of consciousness and
selfhood. (Beatty, Byron™s Don Juan, p. ±)
For Beatty, the reader™s experience of Don Juan offers an erotics of con-
versation. Yet Beatty does not consider how the reader is to give him- or
herself away in response to Byron™s generosity. Indeed, towards the end
of his discussion of ˜The Amorous Sphere™, Beatty seems to withdraw
the process of the poem from both narrator and reader:
it is the circumstances themselves, in all their unforeseen contingency, which
must carry some natural tendency to produce those kinds of proximity which
provoke and promote the glow of conscious union. The forward movement of
the poem itself is clearly analogous to this. (pp. ±·“)
Here, juxtaposition is held to be responsible for erotic tension, calling into
question Beatty™s earlier emphasis on synthesis. His belief that discontinu-
ity af¬rms the ˜glowing™ presence of continuity overlooks the reader™s part
in interruption and deviation. There is an af¬rmative value in narrative
intermission which is different from the effect of subsuming all contin-
gencies into ˜some natural tendency™. Put another way, Byron offers a
±µ±
˜Don Juan™, moral England and feminine caprice
fuller appreciation of the arti¬ce and intricacy of different sexual roles
evident in Pope™s ˜Epistle to a Lady™: ˜Woman™s at best a Contradiction
still™ (l. ·°).
Throughout Don Juan we can see Byron experimenting with the idea
that women are unique indicators of movement, whether by offering an
internal geography to be mapped, or, as happens later in the English
cantos, by their own capacity for liberating movement. The similarity
which many critics have detected between Adeline™s ˜mobility™ and the
narrative style of Don Juan is not an isolated point of contact, but part
of the texture of the poem.µ It may be argued that the plot only moves
forward as Juan™s love affairs are interrupted by other men, but masculine
activity is interrupted, in turn, by the narrator™s digressions. Lambro™s
return to his home, for example, is delayed by a series of re¬‚ections,
one of which juxtaposes the masculine activity of tour, exploration or
Odyssean quest with feminine travel in the domestic sphere:
The approach of home to husbands and to sires,
After long travelling by land or water,
Most naturally some small doubt inspires “
A female family™s a serious matter;
(None trusts the sex more, or so much admires “
But they hate ¬‚attery, so I never ¬‚atter;)
Wives in their husbands™ absences grow subtler,
And daughters sometimes run off with the butler.
(©©©. )

By placing his ˜trust™ in parenthesis alongside ˜¬‚attery™, the narrator sug-
gests that trust in women, as much as ¬‚attery of them, is an ornamental
embellishment. This digression offers another space in which to hint at
feminine deviation for as we emerge from the parenthetical attention on
˜the sex™ we discover that wives and daughters have slipped away in the
interim. By locating this sort of female errant activity in the context of
˜husbands™ absences™, however, Byron quali¬es the clich© of ˜the Incon-
stancy of Woman™ with the suggestion that feminine digression may only
be a different route of escape from the home repeatedly left by men for
˜long travelling by land or water™.·
Connecting his own style with the erring of his characters, the narrator
mockingly characterises digression as a form of romantic isolation:
But let me to my story: I must own,
If I have any fault, it is digression;
Leaving my people to proceed alone,
While I soliloquize beyond expression.
(©©©. )
±µ Byron, Poetics and History
This translates the process of the poem into a shared journey in which
Byron lags behind the main party. A variant for the stanza has the nar-
rator ˜chattering™ instead of soliloquising and it could be argued that by
trailing behind and talking, leaving others to push the expedition for-
wards, Byron is adopting a feminised subject position. Jane Austen, for
example, makes use of digressive walking parties in Pride and Prejudice
and Persuasion where potential lovers linger behind or walk on ˜without
knowing in what direction™.
As we proceed through the poem, connections between digression
and women proliferate. Gulbeyaz is ¬rst seen as the framed subject of a
painting (˜As Venus rose . . . from the wave™ (. )); through digressive
allusion, however, she surmounts the restrictions placed on her and rebels
like a masculine hero:
Her form had all the softness of her sex,
Her features all the sweetness of the devil,
When he put on the cherub to perplex
Eve, and paved (God knows how) the road to evil;
The sun himself was scarce more free from specks
Than she from aught at which the eye could cavil;
Yet, somehow, there was something somewhere wanting
As if she rather order™d than was granting.
(. ±°)

In his commentary on canto , McGann sees this as an amalgam
of proverbial wisdom, Hamlet, and the conventions of early church
painting. There is evidence to suggest, however, that Byron is allud-
ing in a deliberately casual manner to Paradise Lost. Gulbeyaz embodies
Satan™s trajectory as he alights as a spot on the sun, disguises himself as ˜a
stripling cherub™ (©©©. ), and opens the way for Sin and Death to pave
a route ˜by wondrous art™ (. ±±) between Hell and the world. These
hints of Paradise Lost enlarge our conception of Gulbeyaz by supplying
her with the sublime inner space which we associate with the Miltonic
abyss, and the swift changes of Satan™s movement across the universe.
Byron addresses her changeability three stanzas further on:
Judge, then, if her caprices e™er stood still;

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