Lord Byron's Poems

Early Poems: To Woman

Woman! experience might have told me i

That all must love thee, who behold thee:

Surely experience might have taught

Thy firmest promises are nought; ii

But, plac'd in all thy charms before me,

All I forget, but to 'adore' thee.

Oh memory! thou choicest blessing,

When join'd with hope, when still possessing; iii

But how much curst by every lover

When hope is fled, and passion's over.

Woman, that fair and fond deceiver,

How prompt are striplings to believe her!

How throbs the pulse, when first we view

The eye that rolls in glossy blue,

Or sparkles black, or mildly throws

A beam from under hazel brows!

How quick we credit every oath,

And hear her plight the willing troth!

Fondly we hope 'twill last for ay,

When, lo! she changes in a day.

This record will for ever stand,'

"Woman, thy vows are trac'd in sand." 1 iv

Footnote i:

'Surely, experience'.

Footnote ii:

'A woman's promises are naught'.

Footnote iii: Here follows, in the Quarto, an additional couplet: -

'Thou whisperest, as our hearts are beating,

"What oft we've done, we're still repeating',"

Footnote iv:

'This Record will for ever stand

That Woman's vows are writ in sand'.

Footnote 1: The last line is almost a literal translation from a Spanish proverb.

(The last line is not "almost a literal translation from a Spanish proverb," but an adaptation of part of a stanza from the 'Diana' of Jorge de Montemajor -

"Mira, el Amor, lo que ordena;

Que os viene a hazer creer

Cosas dichas por muger,

Y escriptas en el arena."

Southey, in his 'Letters from Spain', 1797, pp. 87-91, gives a specimen of the 'Diana', and renders the lines in question thus -

"And Love beheld us from his secret stand,

And mark'd his triumph, laughing, to behold me,

To see me trust a writing traced in sand,

To see me credit what a woman told me."

Byron, who at this time had little or no knowledge of Spanish literature, seems to have been struck with Southey's paraphrase, and compressed the quatrain into an epigram.