Here’s a recording — about 2-years old — of Canto IX of Don Juan.
The recording (MP3) is in three parts. It’s best to read along with the text of the poem if you can because the verse is quite complex. Also please use headphones. You’ll find the quality much better.
[There is 5–10 seconds of silence at the head of each recording]
- Verses 1–21
- An attack on the Duke of Wellington for being a Tory and a leech; too vain to know the true impact his victories had on European freedom
- An apostrophe (“Death laughs..”) to death —- the subject is never far from the surface of Don Juan
- A meandering philosophical rumination on “being” that is short and witty enough to hold its place in the poem
- An abrupt transition to…
2. Verses 21–42
- A brief glimpse of Juan en-route to St Petersburg whose distant prospect leads to…
- An aside on autocracy, demagoguery and the abuse of power that ends when Byron seems to remember himself and returns briefly to…
- Juan on the snowy road with Leila. Shortly afterwards, in the midst of a rhetorical figure about Fame, Byron pretends to have lost the thread of his argument and bequeathes it to posterity… which results in…
- A speculation about the future and how the Georgian era (and George IV) will appear when reduced to being the subject of a future archeology.
- Then, once more, Byron pulls himself up and determines to restart the narrative. He cuts straightway to the court of the Empress Catherine where Juan is to present general Suvorov’s dispatches from the successful siege of Ismail.
3. Verses 43–85
- Juan’s appearance at Court
- Catherine’s court, courtiers, her appearance, bloodiness and promiscuity
- Juan’s presentation to the Queen and her infatuation with him
- A series of asides on lust and power and an apostrophe, to the vagina
- Juan’s flattered but ‘gentlemanly’ acquiescence in an ‘assignment’ — in Catherine’s boudoir — likely to make him wealthy and powerful at Court
- A closing scene in which Juan is taken in hand by a woman who “checks-out” the Queen’s prospective lovers.
I hope you enjoy the reading. Comments are welcome.