Short summary - Corsair
George Gordon Byron (Noel)
«Epic poem» - according to the author’s review, but in fact - a novel in poems, «Don Giovanni» - the most important and most ambitious work of the late stage of Byron’s work, the subject of constant reflection of the poet and fierce polemic of criticism.
Like Eugene Onegin, the late Byron’s masterpiece breaks short. Judging by the correspondence and reviews of contemporaries, who worked on Don Juan over the last seven years of his life, the poet managed to realize no more than two-thirds of his vast plan (the epic was conceived in 24 songs, and the author intended to show the life of his hero in Germany, Spain, Italy, and to finish the story with the death of Joan in France during the French Revolution).
In the first song, the poet sketches succulent satirical strokes of the existence of a fairly ordinary noble family in Seville in the second half of the 18th century, recreating the estate and family environment in which the future indomitable conqueror of female hearts could have come to light. The experience of the creator of Childe Harold, who was in Spain, could not fail to do good work to Byron: the images of the cheerful, optimistic don José and his "highbrow" donkey Inesa, seemingly painted by some of the Flemish masters of genre painting. The cunning author does not for a moment lose sight of the morals of the contemporary British aristocracy, emphasizing, in particular, the prevailing sense of hypocrisy and hypocrisy in the Seville rich house. A sixteen-year-old young hero undergoes the first lessons of erotic education in the arms of his mother’s best friend - the young (she’s only seven years older than the young man) don Julia, the wife of Don Alfonso, who had been connected in the past, the author hints that the bond between the mother of Joan is not a completely platonic friendship. But then the irreparable happens: the jealous Don Alfonso discovers a teenager in his wife’s bedroom, and Joan’s parents, trying to avoid a high-profile scandal, send their offspring on a long sea voyage.
A ship sailing in Livorno is wrecked, and most passengers die in the waves during a severe storm. At the same time, Juan loses his servant and mentor, and he himself, exhausted, unconscious, is thrown out on the shore of an unknown island. Thus begins a new stage in his biography - love for the beautiful Greek woman, Gaide.
A captivatingly beautiful girl, living with her pirate father in isolation from the outside world, finds a fabulously beautiful young man on the coast and gives him his love. Gaide unknown calculation and duplicity: "Gaide - as a daughter of a naive nature / And genuine passion - was born / Under the sultry sun of the south, where the peoples / Live, obeying the laws of love. / A beautiful chosen one for years / She surrendered herself with her soul and heart, / Without thinking, not worrying, not shy: / He was with her - and happiness was with her! »
However, like any utopia, this cloudless streak in the lives of heroes will soon be interrupted: Gaide’s father, who was known to have died in one of his smuggling «expeditions», returns to the island and, without heeding his daughter’s prayers, connects Joan and sends him to other captives to the market slaves to Constantinople. A girl shocked by her experiences falls into unconsciousness and after some time dies.
Joan, in turn, along with his fellow misfortune - the British John Johnson, who served in the army of Suvorov and was taken prisoner by the Janissaries, is sold in the harem of the Turkish Sultan. Having attracted the beloved wife of the Sultan, the beautiful Gulbei, he is hidden in a woman’s dress among charming odalis women and, unaware of the danger, «incurs» the favor of one of them - the beautiful Georgian Dudu. Jealous of the sultana, furious, but, obeying sober calculation, forced to help Joan and his friend Johnson, along with two unlucky concubines, escape from the harem.
The atmosphere of spicy erotic resignation changes dramatically when the fugitives find themselves at the disposal of the Russian troops, under the command of Field Marshal Suvorov, storming the Turkish fortress Izmail on the Danube (songs 7-8).
These pages of the novel are truly captivating - not only because Byron, who sought to give maximum historical and documentary credibility to his narrative, describes in detail and colorfully the fearless Russian commander (by the way, in these episodes there is a place for the future winner of Napoleon Kutuzov), but primarily because they fully expressed Byron’s passionate rejection of the inhumane practice of bloody and senseless wars, which constituted a significant - often leading - part of the foreign policy of all European powers. Byron, the anti-militarist, as usual, far ahead of his own time: idolizing freedom and independence and paying tribute to the courage and talent of Suvorov, his simplicity and democracy ("I confess to you - I myself am Suvorov / I call it a miracle without hesitation"), he says a decisive "no" to the monarchs- conquerors for the sake of ephemeral glory, throwing thousands of human lives into the mouth of a monstrous slaughter. "But, in essence, only a war for freedom / Worthy of a noble people."
To match the author and the hero: through ignorance, showing miracles of heroism during the siege of the Juan fortress, without hesitation for a second, he saves a five-year-old Turkish girl from the hands of furious Cossacks and later refuses to leave her, although this impedes his secular «career».
Be that as it may, he was awarded the Russian Order of Courage and sent to St. Petersburg with emails of Suvorov to Empress Catherine about the capture of the impregnable Turkish stronghold.
The "Russian episode" in the life of the Spanish hero is not too long, but Byron's report on the mores and customs of the Russian court testifies in sufficient detail and eloquently to the enormous work done by the poet, who has never been to Russia, but who sincerely and openly tried to understand the nature of the Russian autocracy. The ambiguous characterization given by Byron to Catherine and the unequivocally hostile assessment by the poet of favoritism, which flourishes, however, is not only in the imperial court, is also interesting.
The brilliant career of the beloved of the Russian sovereign, «lit up» to Joan, is soon interrupted: he becomes ill, and the all-powerful Catherine, supplying the handsome young man with the credentials of an envoy, sends him to England.
Passing Poland, Prussia, Holland, this minion of fate finds himself in the homeland of a poet who, without a hitch, expresses his very far from official attitude to the role played by what is known as the "freedom-loving" Britain in European politics ("she is the jailer of nations ...").
And again, the genre tonality of the story changes (from the 11th to the 17th song, on which the novel breaks off). Actually, the "picaresque" element triumphs here only in a short episode of the attack on Juan by street robbers on a London street. The hero, however, easily overcomes the situation by sending one of the attackers to the next world. Further - closely anticipating Pushkin's «Onegin» pictures of the high-society life of the capital and rural Albion, indicating both the increasing depth of Byron psychology, and the poet’s inherent incomparable skill of a caustic-satirical portrait.
It is difficult to get away from the idea that it was this part of the story that the author considered central to his grandiose design. It is hardly a coincidence that at the beginning of this period in the character’s existence the poet «says»: «I wrote twelve songs, but / All this is just a prelude for now.»
At this point, Juan is twenty-one years old. Young, erudite, charming, it is not without reason that he attracts the attention of young and not so young women. However, early anxieties and disappointments drove him into the virus of fatigue and satiety. Byronovsky Don Juan, perhaps, is all the more striking and different from folklore in that there is nothing «superhuman» in him.
Having become the object of purely secular interest from the brilliant aristocrat Lady Adeline Amondeville, Joan receives an invitation to stay in the luxurious country estate of Lord Amondeville - a beautiful but superficial representative of his estate, one hundred percent gentleman and passionate hunter.
His wife, however, is also flesh from the flesh of her environment with her mores and prejudices. Experiencing the emotional affection for Joan, she does not find anything better than ... to look for a suitable bride for her peer-foreigner. For his part, after a long break, he seems to really fall in love with the young girl Aurora Rabbi: "She reminded her heroines of Shakespeare's innocent grace."
But the latter does not enter into the calculations of Lady Adeline, who managed to look after one of her high-profile friends for the young man. The hero in the last pages of the novel encounters her in the night silence of an old rural mansion.
Alas, fate prevented the poet from continuing the story ...