Yet mark their mirth—ere Lenten days begin,
That penance which their holy rites prepare
To shrive from Man his weight of mortal sin,
By daily abstinence and nightly prayer;
But ere his sackcloth garb Repentance wear,
Some days of joyaunce are decreed to all,
To take of pleasaunce each his secret share,
In motley robe to dance at masking ball,
And join the mimic train of merry Carnival.
And whose more rife with merriment than thine,
Oh Stamboul! once the Empress of their reign?
Though turbans now pollute Sophia's shrine,
And Greece her very altars eyes in vain:
(Alas! her woes will still pervade my strain!)
Gay were her minstrels once, for free her throng,
All felt the common joy they now must feign,
Nor oft I've seen such sight, nor heard such song,
As wooed the eye, and thrilled the Bosphorus along.
- [Byron spent two months in Constantinople (Stamboul, i.e. εἰς τὴν πόλιν)—from May 14 to July 14, 1810. The "Lenten days," which were ushered in by a carnival, were those of the second "great" Lent of the Greek Church, that of St. Peter and St. Paul, which begins on the first Monday after Trinity, and ends on the 29th of June.]