"Squandered A Whole Summer While 'twas May"

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Last Updated on June 3, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 320

Context: Lord Byron, after bringing to its tempestuous and unseemly end the young Don Juan's first amorous scrape, sets to musing. The future of his projected poem, he says, will depend on the public's reaction to its hero's first adventure. The work is to be an epic, he assures his readers, with the epic's requisite number of books, loves, wars, gales, lists, and episodes, after the style of Virgil and Homer but with–at least–one advantage over his great forebears who ". . . so embellish, that 'tis quite a bore/ Their labyrinth of fables to thread through,/ Whereas this story's actually true." And should any reader assume that this tale will not be moral, he begs that he not cry out before he's hurt. After all, in Canto XII, doesn't he intend to "show the very place where wicked people go?" Nor should the public fail to take his word about the matter rather than listen to the opinions of the hostile Edinburgh Review and The Quarterly, both of which had attacked his early poetry, and both of which, he in turn, had attacked in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809).

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But now at thirty years my hair is grey–
(I wonder what it will be like at forty?
I thought of a peruke the other day–)
My heart is not much greener; and, in short, I
Have squander'd my whole summer while 'twas May,
And feel no more spirit to retort; I
Have spent my life, both interest and principal,
And deem not, what I deem'd, my soul invincible.
No more–no more–Oh! never more on me
The freshness of the heart can fall like dew,
Which out of all the lovely things we see
Extracts emotions beautiful and new;
Hived in our bosoms like the bag o' the bee.
Think'st thou the honey with those objects grew?
Alas! 'twas not in them, but in thy power
To double even the sweetness of a flower.

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