"He Makes A Solitude And Calls It–peace!"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: This "Turkish Tale" by Lord Byron has as chief character one of the "Byronic heroes," satiated with pleasure and with civilized society. Though deeply loving a woman, he tries to suppress all tender feeling, along with an equal feeling of guilt for some youthful sin. Byron's halfdozen similar poems take place in the romantic Orient. This one by its title localizes the story on the Dardanelles. Zuleika, daughter of Pasha Giaffir, is supposed to marry the son of Bey Oglou, but suddenly Selim, long thought to be her brother and the Pasha's cowardly son, reveals himself in romantic fashion as leader of a band of pirates who believe it is human nature to prey on their enemies. Only when the foes are wiped out can peace come. Madly in love with her, Selim urges her to flee with him. He promises that "the spoils of nations shall bedeck her," and paints their joys, promising, in words that echo the phrase of Tacitus: "When they make a wilderness, they call it peace":

To sooth each sorrow; share in each delight,
Blend every thought, do all–but disunite!
Once free, 't is mine our horde again to guide;
Friends to each other, foes to aught beside;
Yet there we follow but the bent assign'd
By fatal Nature to man's warring kind;
Mark! where his courage and his conquests cease!
He makes a solitude, and calls it–peace!