From Byron's Don Juan:

"My breast has been all weakness, is so yet;
But still I think I can collect my mind;
My blood still rushes where my spirit's set,
As roll the waves before the settled wind;
My heart is feminine, nor can forget—
To all, except one image, madly blind;
So shakes the needle, and so stands the pole,
As vibrates my fond heart to my fix'd soul.

What is the meaning of these lines? What kind of needle/pole is it? Why does the needle shake, and why does the pole stand? And why are they compared to her heart? And how can a heart vibrate to a soul? So cryptic.

  • 3
    Magnetic needle in a compass. Commented Jan 1, 2018 at 22:45

1 Answer 1


The "needle" is a magnetic needle, and the "pole" one of the earth's poles.

This is the image that immediately springs to mind upon hearing the words "needle" and "pole" together, and it fits with the metaphor. The writer is telling her lover that her heart gravitates towards him just as the compass needle towards the pole. The pole "stands" still, and the needle moves around ("shakes") before deciding firmly to point at it. In her mind, her lover is likewise a "fix'd" thing, and her emotions quiver around ("vibrate") before deciding firmly to point at him.

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