"A Sadness Sweeter Than A Smile"

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Last Updated on June 3, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 324

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Context: Don Jóse has died leaving his son and heir, Don Juan, in the hands of the child's mother, "Sagest of women, even of widows, . . ." This learned and virtuous lady has long since decided that her son shall be molded by her into a paragon worthy of the noble line from which he springs. All the accomplishments of chivalry plus the erudition for which she is so justly famous shall be his, but beyond these, Donna Inez (remembering her late lord's frailties) desires for him an education strictly moral with ". . . not a page of anything that's loose,/ Or hints continuation of the species, . . ." With his tutors, his confessor, and his mother his every-day companions, the child grows in beauty, charm, and grace. The only other female he ever sees except the household's ancient maids is the lovely young Donna Julia, his mother's friend, who ". . . saw, and, as a pretty child,/ Caress'd him often–. . .", a thing quite innocent when she was twenty and he thirteen. But now she is twenty-three and he sixteen, and suddenly there is a subtle change, the reason for which is all too apparent to the married Donna Julia though lost on the long-sequestered Juan.

Whate'er the cause might be, they had become
Changed; for the dame grew distant, the youth shy,
Their looks cast down, their greetings almost dumb,
And much embarrassment in either eye;
There surely will be little doubt with some
That Donna Julia knew the reason why,
But as for Juan, he had no more notion
Than he who never saw the sea of ocean.
. . .
And if she met him, though she smiled no more,
She look'd a sadness sweeter than her smile,
As if her heart had deeper thoughts in store
She must not own, but cherish'd more the while
For that compression in its burning core;
Even innocence itself has many a wile,
And will not dare to trust itself with truth,
And love is taught hypocrisy from youth.


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