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The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 1/To Woman


Woman! experience might have told me[1]
That all must love thee, who behold thee:
Surely experience might have taught
Thy firmest promises are nought;[2]
But, plac'd in all thy charms before me,
All I forget, but to adore thee.
Oh memory! thou choicest blessing,
When join'd with hope, when still possessing;[3]
But how much curst by every lover
When hope is fled, and passion's over.
Woman, that fair and fond deceiver,
How prompt are striplings to believe her!
How throbs the pulse, when first we view
The eye that rolls in glossy blue,
Or sparkles black, or mildly throws
A beam from under hazel brows!
How quick we credit every oath,
And hear her plight the willing troth!
Fondly we hope 'twill last for ay,
When, lo! she changes in a day.
This record will for ever stand,[4]
"Woman, thy vows are trac'd in sand."[5]

  1. Surely, experience.—[4to]
  2. A woman's promises are naught.—[4to]
  3. Here follows, in the Quarto, an additional couplet:—

    Thou whisperest, as our hearts are beating,
    "What oft we've done, we're still repeating."

  4. This Record will for ever stand
    That Woman's vows are writ in sand.—[4to]
  5. The last line is almost a literal translation from a Spanish proverb. [The last line is not "almost a literal translation from a Spanish proverb," but an adaptation of part of a stanza from the Diana of Jorge de Montemajor—

    "Mirà, el Amor, lo que ordena;
    Que os viene a hazer creer
    Cosas dichas por muger,
    Y escriptas en el arena."

    Southey, in his Letters from Spain, 1797, pp. 87-91, gives a specimen of the Diana, and renders the lines in question thus—

    "And Love beheld us from his secret stand,
    And mark'd his triumph, laughing, to behold me,
    To see me trust a writing traced in sand,
    To see me credit what a woman told me."

    Byron, who at this time had little or no knowledge of Spanish literature, seems to have been struck with Southey's paraphrase, and compressed the quatrain into an epigram.]