Don Juan "The Best Of Life Is But Intoxication"

Lord George Gordon Byron

"The Best Of Life Is But Intoxication"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The young Don Juan, as punishment for an amorous scrape that has resulted in a divorce and a scandal which has all Spain talking, has been banished from his homeland and packed off to sea on his pious mother's assumption that the salt air will somehow bring about a change of heart and a return to innocence. Who knows but that her scheme might have worked had not a great storm come up, battering the ship to pieces, killing all of Juan's fellow voyagers, and depositing him, half-drowned, on an island coast. Two ladies, the beautiful Haidée, "The greatest heiress of the Eastern Isles," and her companion, find the unconscious and emaciated youth lying on the sand, carry him to a cave, and nurse him back to health and alas! to love. As the lovely Haidée accompanies the handsome Juan on his first venture from the cave since his rescue, the poet describes the "wild and breaker-beaten coast" along which the lovers stroll. He then digresses a bit and speaks up in favor of old wine!

And the small ripple spilt upon the beach
Scarcely o'erpassed the cream of your champagne,
When o'er the brim the sparkling bumpers reach,
That spring-dew of the spirit! the heart's rain!
Few things surpass old wine; and they may preach
Who please,–the more because they preach in vain,–
Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter,
Sermons and soda-water the day after.
Man, being reasonable, must get drunk;
The best of life is but intoxication:
Glory, the grape, love, gold, in these are sunk
The hopes of all men, and of every nation;
Without their sap, how branchless were the trunk
Of life's strange tree, so fruitful on occasion!
But to return,–Get very drunk; and when
You wake with headache, you shall see what then.