brave men were living before agamemnon

and since, exceeding valorous and sage

a good deal like him too, though quite the same none

but then they shone not on the poet’s page

and so have been forgotten: i condemn none

but can’t find any in the present age

fit for my poem, that is my new one

so, as i say, i’ll take my friend don juan

most epic poets plunge “in medias res”

horace makes this the heroic turnpike road

and then your hero tells, whenever you please

what went before, by way of episode

while seated after dinner at his ease

beside his mistress in some soft abode

palace, or garden, paradise, or cavern

which serves the happy couple for a tavern

that is the usual method, but not mine

my way is to begin with the beginning

the regularity of my design

forbids all wandering as the worst of sinning

and therefore i shall open with a line

although it cost me half an hour in spinning

narrating somewhat of don juan’s father

and also of his mother, if you’d rather

in seville, was he born a pleasant city

famous for oranges and women he

who has not seen it will be much to pity

so says the proverb and i quite agree

of all the spanish towns is none more pretty

madrid perhaps but that you soon may see

don juan’s parents lived beside the river

a noble stream, and called guadalquivir

his father’s name was jose, don of course

a true hidalgo, free from every stain

of moor or hebrew blood, he traced his source

through the most gothic gentlemen of spain

a better cavalier never mounted horse

or, being mounted, ever got down again

than jose, who begot our hero, who

begot, but that is to come, well, to renew

his mother was a learned lady, famed

for every branch of every science known

in every christian language ever named

with virtues equalled by her wit alone

she made the cleverest people quite ashamed

and even the good with inward envy groan

finding themselves very much exceeded

in their own way by all the things she did

it is only when we teach ourselves that we find our genius