Last Updated on June 3, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 185
Context: This lyric poem, a lament for the present slavery of Greece, is inserted bodily between Stanzas 86 and 87 of Don Juan, Canto III. It purports to be the song of a poet who is entertaining Juan and Haidée in the absence of the latter's pirate father. The poet is a clever fellow who can suit his song to any audience: "In France, for instance, he would write a chanson;/ In England a six canto quarto tale;/ In Spain he'd make a ballad or romance . . ./ In Greece, he'd sing some sort of hymn like this . . . (Stanza 86). Sappho (fl. about 600 B.C.) was a native of Lesbos, an island of Greece. Only a few fragments of her poetry survive, but these are marked by great beauty and passion, the kind of poetry that would appeal to Byron. The first stanza of the poem is as follows:
The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece!
Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung!
Eternal summer gilds them yet,
But all, except their sun, is set.