The Corsair (Byron, 1814)/NOTES

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The time in this poem may seem too short for the occurrences, but the whole of the Ægean isles are within a few hours sail of the continent, and the reader must be kind enough to take the wind as I have often found it.

Note 1, page 23, line 2.
"Of fair Olympia lov'd and left of old,

Orlando, Canto 10.

Note 2, page 29, line 10.
Around the waves' phosphoric brightness broke;

By night, particularly in a warm latitude, every stroke of the oar, every motion of the boat or ship, is followed by a slight flash like sheet lightning from the water.

Note 3, page 33, line 1.
Though to the rest the sober berry's juice.


Note 4, page 33, line 3.
The long Chibouque's dissolving cloud supply,


Note 5, page 33, line 4.
While dance the Almas to wild minstrelsy:


Note to Canto II. page 33, line 18.

It has been objected that Conrad's entering disguised as a spy is out of Nature.—Perhaps so. I find something not unlike it in history.

"Anxious to explore with his own eyes the state of the Vandals, Majorian ventured, after disguising the colour of his hair, to visit Carthage in the character of his own ambassador; and Genseric was afterwards mortified by the discovery, that he had entertained and dismissed the Emperor of the Romans. Such an anecdote may be rejected as an improbable fiction; but it is a fiction which would not have been imagined unless in the life of a hero." Gibbon, D. and F. Vol. VI. p. 180.

That Conrad is a character not altogether out of nature I shall attempt to prove by some historical coincidences which I have met with since writing "The Corsair."

"Eccelin prisonnier" dit Kolandini, "s'enfermoit dans un silence menacant, il fixoit sur la terre son visage feroce, et ne donnoit point d'essor a sa profonde indignation.—De toutes partes cependant les soldats & les peuples accouroient; ils vouloient voir cet homme, jadis si puissant, et la joie universelle eclatoit de toutes parts.


"Eccelin etoit d'une petite taille; mais tout l'aspect de sa personne, tous ses mouvemens indiquoient un soldat.—Son langage etoit amer, son deportment superbe—et par son seul egard, il faisoit trembler les plus hardis." Sismondi, tome III, page 219, 220.

"Gizericus (Genseric, king of the Vandals, the conqueror of both Carthage and Rome,) statura mediocris, et equi casu clandicans, animo profundus, sermone rarus, luxuriæ contemptor, irâ turbidus habendi, cupidus, ad solicitandas gentes providentissimus, &c. &c. Jornandes de Rebus Getiusy, c. 33.

I beg leave to quote these gloomy realities to keep in countenance my Giaour and Corsair.

Note 6, page 37, line 15.
"And my stern vow and order's laws oppose

The Dervises are in colleges, and of different orders, as the monks.

Note 7, page 39, line 9.
They seize that Dervise!—seize on Zatanai!


Note 8, page 40, line 8.
He tore his beard, and foaming fled the fight,

A common and not very novel effect of Mussulman anger. See Prince Eugene's Memoirs, page 24. "The Seraskier received a wound in the thigh; he plucked up his beard by the roots, because he was obliged to quit the field."

Note 9, page 42, line 11.
Brief time had Conrad now to greet Gulnare,

Gulnare, a female name; it means, literally, the flower of the Pomegranate.

Note 10, page 53, line 13.
Till even the scaffold echoes with their jest!

In Sir Thomas More, for instance, on the scaffold, and Anne Boleyn in the Tower, when grasping her neck, she remarked, that it "was too slender to trouble the headsman much." During one part of the French Revolution, it became a fashion to leave some "mot" as a legacy; and the quantity of facetious last words spoken during that period would form a melancholy jest-book of a considerable size.

Note 11, page 62, line 12.
That closed their murder'd sage's latest day!

Socrates drank the hemlock a short time before sunset (the hour of execution), notwithstanding the entreaties of his disciples to wait till the sun went down.

Note 12, page 63, line 4.
The queen of night asserts her silent reign.

The twilight in Greece is much shorter than in our own country; the days in winter are longer, but in summer of shorter duration.

Note 13, page 63, line 14.
The gleaming turret of the gay Kiosk,

The Kiosk is a Turkish summer-house; the palm is without the present walls of Athens, not far from the temple of Theseus, between which and the tree the wall intervenes.—Cephisus' stream is indeed scanty, and Ilissus has no stream at all.

Note 14, page 64, line 4.
That frown—where gentler ocean seems to smile.

The opening lines as far as section II. have, perhaps, little business here, and were annexed to an unpublished (though printed) poem; but they were written on the spot in the Spring of 1811, and—I scarce know why—the reader must excuse their appearance here if he can.

Note 15, page 68, line 9.
His only bends in seeming o'er his beads,

The Comboloio, or Mahometan rosary; the beads are in number ninety-nine.

Note 16, page 91, line 1.
And the cold flowers her colder hand contain'd.

In the Levant it is the custom to strew flowers on the bodies of the dead, and in the hands of young persons to place a nosegay.