When we last left Don Juan he was in a Turkish harem disguised as a maid. The sultan’s wife, Gulbeyaz, was about to kill him for sleeping with Dudu. So what happens next?
That’s right. Forget Gulbeyaz and Dudu. Byron wants to tell us about The Battle of Ismail.
The Russians now were ready to attack;
But oh, ye goddesses of war and glory!
How shall I spell the name of each Cossack
Who were immortal, could one tell their story?
Alas! what to their memory can lack?
Achilles self was not more grim and gory
Than thousands of this new and polish’d nation,
Whose names want nothing but – pronunciation.
-Canto VII, Stanza 14
Byron tells us most of the men who die in war are forgotten.
But here are men who fought in gallant actions
As gallantly as ever heroes fought,
But buried in the heap of such transactions-
Their names are seldom found, nor often sought.
Thus even good fame may suffer sad contractions,
And is extinguish’d sooner than she ought:
Of all our modern battles, I will bet
You can’t repeat nine names from each gazette.
-Canto VII, Stanza 34
The Turks think the Russians are retreating at one point.
Our friends the Turks, who with loud “Allas” now
Began to signalize the Russ retreat,
Were damnably mistaken: few are slow
In thinking that their enemy is beat
(Or beaten, if you insist on grammar, though
I never think about it in a heat);
But here I say the Turks were much mistaken,
Who, hating hogs, yet wish’d to save their bacon.
-Canto VII, Stanza 42
At only 87 stanzas, this is probably the shortest canto so far. After much description of battle, Don Juan and the Englishman John Johnson (remember him?) suddenly appear in Ismail with a eunuch and a couple unnamed women. Never mind how they escaped from Constantinople or why they came to Ismail. They’re here now. That’s what’s important. We end with Juan getting conscripted into the Russian army to serve under General Suvorov (or as Byron calls him, Suwarrow).
Well, if you want to learn Juan’s further fate, join me when I next review Canto Eight.