Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > British
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. VI–IX: British
 
Don Juan’s Sea-Sickness
By Lord Byron (1788–1824)
 
From “Don Juan”

DON JUAN bade his valet pack his things
  According to direction, then received
A lecture and some money: for four springs
  He was to travel; and though Inez grieved
(As every kind of parting has its stings),        5
  She hoped he would improve—perhaps believed.
A letter, too, she gave (he never read it)
Of good advice—and two or three of credit.
 
In the meantime, to pass her hours away,
  Brave Inez now set up a Sunday-school        10
For naughty children, who would rather play
  (Like truant rogues) the devil, or the fool.
Infants of three years old were taught that day,
  Dunces were whipt, or set upon a stool;
The great success of Juan’s education,        15
Spurred her to teach another generation.
 
Juan embarked—the ship got under way,
  The wind was fair, the water passing rough;
A devil of a sea rolls in that bay,
  As I, who’ve crossed it oft, know well enough;        20
And, standing upon deck, the dashing spray
  Flies in one’s face, and makes it weather-tough;
And there he stood to take, and take again,
His first—perhaps his last—farewell of Spain.
 
I can’t but say it is an awkward sight        25
  To see one’s native land receding through
The growing waters; it unmans one quite,
  Especially when life is rather new.
I recollect Great Britain’s coast looks white,
  But almost every other country’s blue,        30
When gazing on them, mystified by distance,
We enter on our nautical existence.
 
So Juan stood, bewildered on the deck:
  The wind sung, cordage strained, and sailors swore,
And the ship creaked, the town became a speck,        35
  From which away so fair and fast they bore.
The best of remedies is a beef-steak
  Against sea-sickness: try it, sir, before
You sneer, and I assure you this is true,
For I have found it answer—so may you.        40
 
Don Juan stood, and, gazing from the stern,
  Beheld his native Spain receding far:
First partings form a lesson hard to learn,
  Even nations feel this when they go to war;
There is a sort of unexprest concern,        45
  A kind of shock that sets one’s heart ajar;
At leaving even the most unpleasant people
And places, one keeps looking at the steeple.
 
But Juan had got many things to leave,
  His mother, and a mistress, and no wife,        50
So that he had much better cause to grieve
  Than many persons more advanced in life;
And if we now and then a sigh must heave
  At quitting even those we quit in strife,
No doubt we weep for those the heart endears—        55
That is, till deeper griefs congeal our tears.
 
So Juan wept, as wept the captive Jews
  By Babel’s waters, still remembering Sion.
I’d weep—but mine is not a weeping Muse,
  And such light griefs are not a thing to die on;        60
Young men should travel, if but to amuse
  Themselves; and the next time their servants tie on
Behind their carriages their new portmanteau,
Perhaps it may be lined with this my canto.
 
And Juan wept, and much he sighed and thought,        65
  While his salt tears dropped into the salt sea,
“Sweets to the sweet” (I like so much to quote;
  You must excuse this extract—’tis where she,
The Queen of Denmark, for Ophelia brought
  Flowers to the grave); and, sobbing often, he        70
Reflected on his present situation,
And seriously resolved on reformation.
 
“Farewell, my Spain—a long farewell!” he cried.
  “Perhaps I may revisit thee no more,
But die, as many an exiled heart hath died,        75
  Of its own thirst to see again thy shore.
Farewell, where Guadalquivir’s waters glide!
  Farewell, my mother! And, since all is o’er,
Farewell, too, dearest Julia!” (Here he drew
Her letter out again, and read it through.)        80
 
“And oh! if e’er I should forget, I swear—
  But that’s impossible, and cannot be—
Sooner shall this blue ocean melt to air,
  Sooner shall earth resolve itself to sea,
Than I resign thine image, oh, my fair!        85
  Or think of anything excepting thee;
A mind diseased no remedy can physic.”
(Here the ship gave a lurch and he grew sea-sick.)
 
“Sooner shall heaven kiss earth!” (Here he fell sicker.)
  “Oh, Julia! what is every other woe?        90
(For God’s sake let me have a glass of liquor;
  Pedro, Battista, help me down below.)
Julia, my love! (you rascal, Pedro, quicker)
  Oh, Julia! (this curst vessel pitches so)
Beloved Julia, hear me still beseeching!”        95
(Here he grew inarticulate with retching.)
 
He felt that chilling heaviness of heart,
  Or rather stomach, which, alas! attends,
Beyond the best apothecary’s art,
  The loss of love, the treachery of friends,        100
Or death of those we dote on, when a part
  Of us dies with them as each fond hope ends.
No doubt he would have been much more pathetic,
But the sea acted as a strong emetic.
 
Love’s a capricious power: I’ve known it hold        105
  Out through a fever caused by its own heat,
But be much puzzled by a cough and cold,
  And find a quinsy very hard to treat;
Against all noble maladies he’s bold,
  But vulgar illnesses don’t like to meet,        110
Nor that a sneeze should interrupt his sigh,
Nor inflammations redden his blind eye.
 
But worst of all is nausea, or a pain
  About the lower region of the bowels;
Love, who heroically breathes a vein,        115
  Shrinks from the application of hot towels,
And purgatives are dangerous to his reign,
  Sea-sickness death. His love was perfect, how else
Could Juan’s passion, while the billows roar,
Resist his stomach, ne’er at sea before?        120
 
 
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