Don Juan "Man Is A Carnivorous Production"

Lord George Gordon Byron

"Man Is A Carnivorous Production"

Context: Don Juan, at sixteen, has succeeded in causing a divorce and one of the liveliest scandals in all Spain. As a remedy for his waywardness, the precocious offender has been packed off to sea "As if a Spanish ship were Noah's ark,/ To wean him from the wickedness of earth,/ And send him like a dove of promise forth." The repentent exile stands on the deck of the departing vessel, his eyes overflowing with tears as the shoreline of his homeland recedes into the distance, and the memory of his mother and his forbidden love weighs heavily on his heart. But both love and country are soon forgotten as the young hero is assailed by the pangs of seasickness, and, later, by the great storm that batters vessel and crew until the ship founders and sinks. With it go two hundred souls, leaving thirty survivors, including Don Juan, afloat in the long-boat. As the storm continues to rage, the castaways, for love of life ". . . stand like rocks the tempest's wear and tear;" but, alas! hunger proves stronger than fortitude and leads to deadly folly, for

. . . man is a carnivorous production,
And must have meals, at least one meal a day;
He cannot live, like woodcocks upon suction,
But, like the shark and tiger, must have prey;
Although his anatomical construction
Bears vegetables, in a grumbling way,
Your labouring people think beyond all question
Beef, veal, and mutton, better for digestion.
And thus it was with this our hapless crew;
For on the third day there came on a calm,
And though at first their strength it might renew,
And lying on their weariness like balm,
Lull'd them like turtles sleeping on the blue
Of ocean, when they woke they felt a qualm,
And fell all ravenously on their provision,
Instead of hording it with due precision.