The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 3/Farewell to Malta
FAREWELL TO MALTA.
Adieu, ye joys of La Valette!
Adieu, Sirocco, sun, and sweat!
Adieu, thou palace rarely entered!
Adieu, ye mansions where—I've ventured!
Adieu, ye curse'd streets of stairs!
(How surely he who mounts them swears!)
Adieu, ye merchants often failing!
Adieu, thou mob for ever railing!
Adieu, ye packets—without letters!
Adieu, ye fools—who ape your betters!10
Adieu, thou damned'st quarantine,
That gave me fever, and the spleen!
Adieu that stage which makes us yawn, Sirs,
Adieu his Excellency's dancers!
Adieu to Peter—whom no fault's in,
But could not teach a colonel waltzing;
Adieu, ye females fraught with graces!
Adieu red coats, and redder faces!
Adieu the supercilious air
Of all that strut en militaire!20
I go—but God knows when, or why,
To smoky towns and cloudy sky,
To things (the honest truth to say)
As bad—but in a different way.
Farewell to these, but not adieu,
Triumphant sons of truest blue!
While either Adriatic shore,
And fallen chiefs, and fleets no more,
And nightly smiles, and daily dinners,
Proclaim you war and women's winners.30
Pardon my Muse, who apt to prate is,
And take my rhyme—because 'tis "gratis."
And now I've got to Mrs. Fraser,
Perhaps you think I mean to praise her—
And were I vain enough to think
My praise was worth this drop of ink,
A line—or two—were no hard matter,
As here, indeed, I need not flatter:
But she must be content to shine
In better praises than in mine,40
With lively air, and open heart,
And fashion's ease, without its art;
Her hours can gaily glide along.
Nor ask the aid of idle song.
And now, O Malta! since thou'st got us,
Thou little military hot-house!
I'll not offend with words uncivil,
And wish thee rudely at the Devil,
But only stare from out my casement,
And ask, "for what is such a place meant?"50
Then, in my solitary nook,
Return to scribbling, or a book,
Or take my physic while I'm able
(Two spoonfuls hourly, by this label),
Prefer my nightcap to my beaver,
And bless my stars I've got a fever.
May 26, 1811.
[First published, 1816.]
- [These lines, which are undoubtedly genuine, were published for the first time in the sixth edition of Poems on his Domestic Circumstances (W. Hone, 1816). They were first included by Murray in the collected Poetical Works, in vol. xvii., 1832.]
- ["The principal streets of the city of Valetta are flights of stairs."—Gazetteer of the World.]
- [Major-General Hildebrand Oakes (1754-1822) succeeded Admiral Sir Richard Goodwin Keates as "his Majesty's commissioner for the affairs of Malta," April 27, 1810. There was an outbreak of plague during his tenure of office (1810-13).—Annual Register, 1810, p. 320; Dict. Nat. Biog., art. "Oakes."]
- ["Lord Byron ... was once rather near fighting a duel—and that was with an officer of the staff of General Oakes at Malta." (1809).—Westminster Review, January, 1825, iii. 21 (by J. C. Hobhouse). (See, too, Life (First Edition, 1830, 4to), i. 202, 222.)]
- [On March 13, 1811, Captain (Sir William) Hoste (1780-1828) defeated a combined French and Italian squadron off the island of Lissa, on the Dalmatian coast. "The French commodore's ship La Favorite was burnt, himself (Dubourdieu) being killed." The four victorious frigates with their prizes arrived at Malta, March 31, when the garrison "ran out unarmed to receive and hail them." The Volage, in which Byron returned to England, took part in the engagement. Captain Hoste had taken a prize off Fiume in the preceding year.—Annual Register, 1811; Memoirs and Letters of Sir W. Hoste, ii. 79.]
- ["We have had balls and fêtes given us by all classes here, and it is impossible to convey to you the sensation our success has given rise to."—Memoirs and Letters of Sir W. Hoste, ii. 82.]
- [Mrs. (Susan) Fraser published, in 1809, "Camilla de Florian (the scene is laid in Valetta) and Other Poems. By an Officer's Wife." Byron was, no doubt, struck by her admiration for Macpherson's Ossian, and had read with interest her version of "The Address to the Sun," in Carthon, p. 31 (see Poetical Works, 1898, i. 229). He may, too, have regarded with favour some stanzas in honour of the Bolero (p. 82), which begin, "When, my Love, supinely laying."]
- [Byron left Malta for England June 13, 1811. (See Letter to H. Drury, July 17, 1811, Letters, 1898, i. 318.)]