The Boatswain’s Song
A CHEER to keep our hearts up,
A cup to drown our tears,
And we'll talk of those who perished,
Our mates in former years.
The Betsey was a vessel
As tight as ship could be--
And we cheered to keep our hearts up,
As she tossed upon the sea.
Thro' one dark day we struggled
To stem the foaming tide;
Night came--the straining vessel
All helplessly did ride.
The storm was raging loudly,
The angry heavens did frown--
A cheer to keep your hearts up--
The Betsey, she went down!
The morning broke which many
Might never see again,
And thick and blind and heavy
Came down the drenching rain
We got the smallest boat out,
Jack, Tom, and I, and gave
A cheer to keep our hearts up,
As we toiled against the wave.
Three days we struggled onward,
Without a sight of land;
And we grew so faint and failing,
We could scarcely bear a hand.
It's a bitter thing to battle
With the ocean for your foe:
We cheered to keep our hearts up,
But the cheer was hoarse and low.
Then we thought, with sinking spirits,
Of the shore we'd never see:
Tom wept, and thought of Mary--
Jack talked of home with me.
Each brawny arm grew fainter,
The boat was thinly stored:
A cheer to keep your hearts up--
Poor Jack went overboard!
At last, somehow we landed
Where the cliff was steep and high;
We told Jack's poor old mother,
(We were too much men to cry.)
They'd ha' liked to see me Boatswain,
The Betsey's gallant crew.
Come, a cheer to keep our hearts up,
We shall all of us die too.
The Undying One - Canto Iv
'TIS done--the night has pass'd away;
And, basking in the sunny day,
The laughing fountain's waters bear
No record of each burning tear;--
The silent echoes give no sound
Of shriek or moan; and nothing round
Can tell what breaking hearts have been
So lately in that quiet scene.
But ere the evening falls again,
Many a step o'er mount and glen
Shall hurry far and wide, to seek
Her of the pallid brow and cheek.
Proud is the eye of the bridegroom lord!
He hath girt him round with a trusty sword,
And the horse that hath borne him to battle for years,
Gladly his angry summons hears.
His red nostrils snuffing the morning air,
Nothing he heeds their heavy care,
But waits till his high curving neck shall be freed,
To bound o'er the hills with an arrow's speed.
He is gone--full swiftly he dashes by--
And many a bright and beautiful eye
Follows the rider's form;--and dreams
Of pleasant walks by the dancing streams,
Of moonlight whisperings in the grove,
Of looks of ardour, and vows of love,
Fill those young hearts: and they wonder why
Visions so happy should make them sigh:
And more they wonder, that any one
Of the numberless forms their eyes have known,
Should have stolen a heart which Carlos woo'd
By the fount, and the lone wood's solitude.
Oh! love--real love! intoxicating dream
Of beauty and of happiness! how vain
Are our aspirings after thee, which seem
To bring thee near us!--doubt and causeless pain,
And jealousies, and most unconstant sighs
For something fairer than this world supplies;
And fondness which doth end in faint disgust;
And airy hopes that crumble down to dust ;--
These are not love,--though these too oft impart
A false excitement to the swelling heart.
To look upon the fairy one, who stands
Before you, with her young hair's shining bands,
And rosy lips half parted;--and to muse,
Not on the features which you now peruse,
Not on the blushing bride,--but look beyond
Unto the aged wife, nor feel less fond:
To feel, that while thy arm can strike them dead,
No breathing soul shall harm that gentle head:
To know, that none with fierce and sudden strife
Shall tear thee from her, save with loss of life:
To keep thee but to one, and let that one
Be to thy home what warmth is to the sun;
To gaze, and find no change, when time hath made
Youth's dazzling beauty darken into shade,
But fondly--firmly--cling to her, nor fear
The fading touch of each declining year:--
This is true love, when it hath found a rest
In the deep home of manhood's faithful breast.
To worship silently at some heart's shrine,
And feel, but paint not, all its fire in thine:
To pray for that heart's hopes, when thine are gone,
Nor let its after coldness chill thine own:
To hold that one, with every fault, more dear
Than all who whisper fondness in thine ear:
To joy thee in his joy, and silently
Meet the upbraiding of his angry eye:
To bear unshrinking all the blows of fate,
Save that which leaves thy sorrow desolate:
Nor deem that woe, which thou canst feel is still
Borne with him, and for him; through every ill
To smile on him,--nor weep, save when apart,
God, and God only; looks into thy heart:
To keep unchanged thy calm, pure, quiet love,
If he, inconstant, doth a new one prove;
To love all round him as a part of him,
Ev'n her he worships:--though thine eye be dim
With weeping for thyself--to pray that not
One cloud may darken o'er their earthly lot:
With the affection of true hearts, to see
His happiness, which doth not hang on thee :--
Oh! this is woman's love--its joy--its pain;
And this--it hath been felt--and felt in vain.
They are dancing again, by the misty veil
Of the star-lit sky and the moonlight pale.
Laughing and murmuring voices rise
With their gladsome tones, to the peaceful skies:
And no one voice hath a sadder tone
For the sake of her whose form is gone,
Though her step was light in the dance, and her brow
Fairer than any which gleam there now.
Yet after the dance is done, and faint
Each languid limb on the turf is thrown,
Their gathering voices strive to paint
The stranger-heart that Linda won.
And still, as his wasted form, pale brow,
And mournful looks to their thoughts appear;
With his deep, sad voice, they wonder how
He hath pleaded his tale in Linda's ear.
And some dream wildly of wizard bower
Which hath tempted those fair young feet to stray:
And some of the sweet and charmed power
Which lies in the moonlight's holy ray:
And some who love--oh! they fondly feel,
In the hopeful heart of the promised bride,
That her soul may be bound in the woe or weal
Of the stranger by the fountain's side:
And none be able to know, or tell,
How such a love in her young heart grew--
Till the charm have bound their souls as well,
And the flame burn bright in their bosoms too.
They travel fast--the bridegroom lord,
With his prancing steed and his trusty sword;
And the brother-tyrant by his side,
With marble brow and heart of pride.
But vainly they follow o'er vale and hill,
Through the tufted heath, or the cool clear rill;
That mournful pair are far before,
Where the bleak sands lie, and the billows roar.
Far from the smiling land of her birth,
Her early home on the boundless earth,
Hath Linda, with tears, resolved to go,
For her mother's son is her deadly foe.
Stern as he was when she watch'd each look,
And obey'd ere he spoke--oh! how shall he brook
That her heart hath swerved, and her vows are naught
For the sake of the love which a stranger brought?
Oh! far may her white foot seek, and reach,
A home on Erin's shingled beach!
Where Miriam dwelt--in their bless'd land
Of the free warm heart, and the open hand;
Where no hypocrite sneer their wrath disguises,
But the sword springs out as the heart's blood rises;
There hath she chosen her home to be:
And their bark bounds over the foaming sea.
Silently watching by Isbal's side,
Sadly she looks on the curling tide;
And, gloomily as it roams o'er all,
His eye is a guide where hers shall fall.
Sudden a light shot o'er that eye,
And a quivering through him came;
And Linda, though she knows not why,
Clings trembling to his frame.
Hurriedly he spoke,
As the deep flush broke
O'er his face:
'There is a vessel--would it were a wreck!--
I know it by the flag; and on that deck
Are forms my soul can trace.
Though yet I see them not, I know
That, could we meet, a bitter woe
Were thine, their power beneath:
Though yet I hear them not, I feel
Each voice would tear the polish'd steel
From out its idle sheath.
Curse on the sails, whose lagging speed
Doth leave us in our hour of need!
Is there no wind in heaven?
They come--oh! Linda, cling to me:
Come closer yet: more strength will be
To love and vengeance given!'
Vain wrath! Young Linda gazes on the sight
Which thus hath conjured up a desperate fight;
And, in the distance she doth spy a sail,
With its flag fluttering gently on the gale,
White, calm, and peaceful:--strange in truth it seems,
That such a sight hath power to wake such dreams.
Yet doth she shudder, as with vehement force
He clasps her round, and views the vessel's course.
It nears--it nears--and through the signal glass,
The distant forms of crew and captain pass.--
'Tis they! 'tis they! Her brother's haughty form,
Proudly erect, defies the coming storm:
And, seated near him, in his mantle clad,
With brow almost as haughty, but more sad,
Is he who woo'd her heart, when love was yet
A dream--which those who wake, strive vainly to forget!
She sees them, but all unconscious they,
Who tracks them thus on their distant way.
They hail the vessel, then turn to gaze
Upon the sunset's parting rays;
And veering in their course, they sever,
Careless if they should part for ever!
But Isbal hath fix'd his straining sight
On the gleamy look of her canvas white,
And with impatient glance on high
Chides the full sails that hide the sky;
And yearns, till that distant land be won,
For spirits' wings to bear him on.
Bounds the light ship on her foamy track,
With her crimson pennant floating back:
Onward impell'd by the steady gales,
That are firmly pressing the swelling sails.
On she goes, and the waves are dashing
Under her stern, and under her prow;
Oh! pleasant the sound of the waters splashing
To those who the heat of the desert know.
On she goes--and the light is breaking
In a narrow streak o'er the distant sea;
And the shouts confused of the crew are waking
The silent air with an echo free.
On she goes--and the moon hath risen--
The holy moon that her veil doth shroud;
And like a mournful face from prison,
She looketh out of her watery cloud.
Graceful as earth's most gentle daughters,
That good ship sails through the gleaming spray--
Like a beautiful dream on the darken'd waters,
Till she anchors in Killala bay.
Erin!--be hush'd, my lyre! Oh! thou,
With ardent mind and eager brow;
With heart and harp together strung,
The hero's soul, the poet's tongue;
Who shall attempt the chorded shell
Which thou hast breathed upon so well?
Or who shall seek that land to praise,
Nor seem to echo back thy lays?
That land, 'the land that bore thee;' never
Shall aught thy name from Erin's sever--
Nor dream of Erin's beauty be,
That doth not also breathe of thee.
And if perchance, in after years,
Some other harp shall wake our tears;
Or, with a burst of glorious song,
Bear our rapt souls in dreams along:
The songs they sing, the lays they pour,
Shall bring us back thy genius--Moore!
Oh! yes--by all that others feel,
When from thy lip the low words steal:
By many an unregarded sigh
The winds have caught in passing by:
By wild far dreams of light divine,
That come not, save to souls like thine:
By the heart-swelling thou hast wrought:
By thy deep melody of thought:
By tear, and song, and ardour won--
The harp of Erin is thine own!
A storm is in the sky; a storm on earth;
And terror pale hath hush'd the voice of mirth.
And strong determination gleams forth now
From the deep lines of many a careless brow.
A storm is on the sea; a storm in heaven;
And wildly on the vessel's course is driven.
Forth rushes lightning from the lurid skies,
And ere the pilot's lips can pray,--he dies!
Aghast they stand;--the blacken'd corse lies there,
Sickening their helpless hearts with deep despair:
While Isbal waves his vainly lifted hand,
And shouts in deafen'd ears his proud command:
'Each to his post! Myself will take the helm,
Though lightnings dart, and billows overwhelm.
Why dream ye thus? Is death so dreadful then
To shrinking things that boast the name of men?
Will ye be daunted that one soul hath gone
Ere he had time to say, 'I go alone!'
Struggle for life! for soon the yawning tide,
Which howls and dashes o'er the good ship's side,
Shall come to claim its prey:--each to his post,
And strain and labour, or the ship is lost!'
Alarm, and shame, and wonder fill their hearts;
And then his fiery speech some warmth imparts.
All hands aboard with silent strength obey,
And the strain'd vessel ploughs her labour'd way.
A bark--a bark comes tossing o'er the wave,
(On the dark face of heaven, more darkly seen)
Right on the vessel's course,--while ev'n the brave
Shudder for breath;--what doth the helmsman mean?
Onward she comes--by raging wave and wind
Helplessly driven with a meteor's speed:
Almost she touches:--is the helmsman blind,
That of such danger he doth take no heed?
Well doth he know that ship, whose eye hath watch'd
All the long day; and now doth glaring stand,
His only fear that heaven perchance hath snatch'd
His deep revenge from out his desperate hand.
She comes!--a shock--a hollow whiffing sound--
A wail that o'er the troubled waters went
Of many howling voices;--a harsh sound
Of the keel grating o'er that bark's descent;
And all was over!--Oh! in those few words
How much of agony, and hope, and fear,
And yearnings after life, and treasured hoards
Of young hearts' feelings, cease and disappear!
All--all was over! what, we may not know;
But, looking back, in our own breasts we feel
Much perish'd, with the separate all of those
Who sank beneath that vessel's grating keel.
And with them perish'd Linda's brother stern,
And the young bridegroom in his hour of youth:
And Linda feels her brain and bosom burn--
Oh! it had madden'd her to know the truth!
The murderous truth, that he she loved--for whom
And for whose love she broke her plighted troth,
With strong and ruthless hand prepared the doom,
Which sickens her to dream upon--for both.
But as it was, she gazed into his face,
And round upon the black and empty space,
And then with shudderings cold she bow'd her head,
And gazed upon the waters.--
Have the dead
Power to rise? She sees a single form
All impotently struggling with the storm,
And tossing high his arm, as if to crave
A rescue from his comrades' watery grave.
Oh! save him!--save him! Swift a rope is thrown,
And on the deck, with an exhausted groan,
The half-drown'd wretch is laid. With greedy glare
Doth Isbal watch him for a moment there;
And then with faded glance draws calmly back,
And seems to watch the vessel's furrow'd track.
Meanwhile full many a rough but hearty grasp
Greets the lone stranger; but his hand the clasp
Returns not--and their words of welcome seem
Spoken to one who hears not, but doth dream.
Wistfully gazing up into their eyes,
As though he understood them not--awhile
All motionless he stands; then to the skies,
Then on the sea, with a most bitter smile.
And thus he spoke, but whom he loved, or why,
Is in His book who suffer'd them to die:--
'It was a pleasant dream--possessing thee,
Albeit thy stay was very short on earth:
And still my hopes and heart are blessing thee,
Thou of the glad bright eyes and voice of mirth.
It was a pleasant dream--but thou art gone,
By many a billow cover'd from my sight:
Thou'lt come no more to cheer me when alone--
Thy lips are mute--thine eyes no more are bright.
Oh! thou in whom my life was all bound up,
What is that life without thee? Long ere now
I deem'd that I had drain'd pale sorrow's cup--
Alas! I had not seen death on thy brow.
'Oft, when with boding fears I've sat to watch
For thy dear coming, with dim weary gaze,
Or wander'd out thine eye's first glance to catch,
Fancy hath painted them with fading rays.
I've dream'd of danger and of death; and when
Thine answering look hath met my anxious eye;
When I have clasp'd thee to my heart again--
That heart's full joy hath strain'd to agony.
But it hath come at last--the long dark day,
The cheerless absence which hath no return;
And what is left to me? where lies thy clay--
There--there, beloved, doth my beacon burn!'
Wildly he gazed upon the green deep wave,
As if he sought a spot to be his grave;
Then turning him where Isbal stood aside,
'My curse upon thee, helmsman!' loud he cried.
He leapt--the waters closed, and murmur'd o'er:
The heart that beat to suffer--felt no more.
And Isbal started, and young Linda wept;
And the heavens brighten'd, and the loud winds slept.
The cold pale moon began once more to shine,
And the tall vessel sped athwart the brine.
'Tis deep blue midnight--many a star
Is twinkling in the heavens afar.
The autumn winds are blowing keen
The straight and steady masts between;
And motionless the vessel lies,
As she were traced upon the skies.
Within that anchor'd ship are some
Fond simple hearts who dream of home;
And murmuring in their sleep, they hear
Far distant voices whispering near.
Within that anchor'd ship are many
Whose careless dreams (if they have any)
Bring back some lightly-utter'd jest,
To brighten o'er their lonely rest.
Within that anchor'd ship are none
Who sleep not, save the watch--and one
Who may not rest--who dares not dream;
And he--whence glows that sudden beam
That shot along his pallid brow?
Again--again--'tis brighter now--
Awake! awake! 'tis danger--death!--
The flames are round, above, beneath;
Fire! on the lonely waste of sea--
Fire! where no human help can be!
Wild, breathless, and aghast, the crew
Crowd the scorch'd deck. A busy few,
With the rude instinct that doth make
Man struggle for existence' sake,
Lower the boats:--one after one
Those frail light barks are landward gone,
Ere Isbal from his vision'd trance
Is roused.--What meets his hurried glance?
Half burnt, half drown'd, around him dying,
Are wretches on the waters lying.
He gazes on all with shivering start--
''Tis the curse--'tis the curse of that broken heart!'
He hails the last boat--'Oh! not for my life
Do I ask you to brave the element's strife;
But for her who is dearer than life'--in vain!
A hoarse voice answers him again:
'When thou wert helmsman, the ship went down,
And the heavens look'd out with an angry frown.
How know we who or what thou art,
A man in form, but a fiend in heart!
Thou didst not shudder, nor quail, nor shrink,
When we heard the waves their death-sob drink;
Though brave men held their breath, to see
Their fellows die so suddenly!
The wrath of Heaven is on thy head,
And a cry is come up from the early dead--
It hath wrought on us this awful sign;
And we will not perish for thee or thine!'
It was over now!--and alone they stood
In that fiery ship, on the glowing flood;
With a woman's love, and a woman's fear,
She clung to that bosom, now doubly dear;
And she look'd up into his death-like face,
From the eager clasp of his firm embrace,
With a strange wild smile, which seem'd to say,
'Let us die together.' He turn'd away,
And he gazed far out on the lonely sea,
Where the billows are raging desperately;
He gazed far out to the utmost verge,
But the sickening sound of the booming surge,
And the dashing waves, with their ceaseless strife,
Coursing each other like things of life--
And a howl through the lighted firmament,
As the boat, and the boat's crew downward went--
Sounds of sorrow, and sights of fear,
Were all which struck on his eye and ear.
He look'd around him:--the fiery blaze
Mocking the pale moon's quiet rays;
The red flames licking the top-mast high,
As if climbing to reach the cool clear sky;
And the waters which came with a hissing,
On the side of the burning ship to dash;
The fire-tinged sails, and the lonely deck,
Which must soon be a black and helpless wreck;
The perishing fragments of all which lay
So proudly bright at the close of day;
And the memory of that grating sound,
When the keel pass'd over the wretches drown'd:
These, and the thoughts such scenes impart,
Were all that struck on his eye and heart.
All--was it all? Was there no pale form,
Shining amid the element's storm,
With her lip compress'd, and her dark eye proud,
While the flames rose high, and the blast blew loud?
Feeling that now no earthly power
Could sever their hearts for one short hour,
And careless of death, because she knew
That where he sank, she must perish too!
He look'd on her, and his heart grew sick,
And his filmy glance was dull and thick,
As wildly earnest he gazed once more
From the rolling sea to the distant shore.
A wild light shot o'er his gloomy brow;
'Oh! Heaven, dear Linda, is with us now!
Amid these scenes of fear and dread,
Thy Isbal, still secure, might tread:
The floating wave would bear him on
To live--but he would live alone.
Oh! by the love thou bear'st me still,
Though to me thou owest all earthly ill;
By the hours, and days, and years of bliss
Which made thy dreams, ere life sank to this;
By the hope that hath been, and that still may be,
Plunge into the waves, beloved, with me.'
Wildly she gazes, and shrouds her eyes
From the dark confusion of sea and skies.
Oh! woman's heart! to die by his side
Less fearful seems than to stem that tide;
Those roaring, raging, horrible waves,
Which are rolling o'er her shipmates' graves.
Onward--onward--and Isbal draws
His labour'd breath with a gasping pause;
The curse is light
On his soul that night;
For a heart is beating against his breast,
Where his lonely thoughts have found sweet rest,
And a calm delight.
Onward--onward--she faints not yet--
Though her cheek be cold, and her long hair wet;
And Isbal yearns,
As her fond eye turns
To search for hope in his eager face;
For land, and a mossy resting-place,
Where nothing burns.
Onward--onward--for weary miles
Through the lone chill waters, where nothing smiles,
And the light hath shrunk--
And the wave hath drunk
The last dull, cheerless, ruddy gleam,
And naught remains but an awful dream
Of the good ship sunk.
Onward--onward--in darkness now,
And the dew is standing on Isbal's brow;
And his soul is wrung,
As the arms which clung
Confidingly, droop in their beauty there
On the nervous strength of his shoulder bare,
Where her long hair hung.
Onward--onward--he hears once more
Murmurs and sounds from the blessed shore.
He heedeth not
His long dark lot,
But strains that form in a long embrace,
And tenderly kisses her cold pale face,
And his toil is forgot.
'Thou'rt saved, my Linda! See, the land is won--
The pleasant land where we may live alone:
The deep firm land, where we may stand and gaze
Upon the ocean in its stormiest days.
Linda, my beautiful! oh, blessed be
That day of well-remember'd agony
Which stamp'd the brand of darkness on my brow--
Since I have lived, beloved, to save thee now.'
He hath lifted her and laid her down,
And taken her soft hand in his own,
And wrung the brine from out her hair,
And raised its weight from her bosom fair,
Its cold damp weight, that her breath may come
Free from its pure and lovely home.
He hath press'd his cheek close, close to hers,
To feel when the first pulsation stirs,
And now he watches with patient love
Till that fainting form begin to move.
Long may he watch. Oh! never more
By the rolling sea, or the pleasant shore,
Shall her mournful voice with its gentle sigh
Whisper soft words of melody.
Never, oh! never more, her form
With faithful step, through sun and storm,
Shall follow him from land to land
Or like his guardian spirit stand.
Long may he watch for that head to rise,
For the gentle glance of those waking eyes:
Cold and pale as she lieth now--
With her weary limbs, and her faded brow,
So must she lie for evermore--
She hath pass'd her trials, and reach'd the shore!
Ah! who shall tell their agonized despair,
Who, after watchful nights of ceaseless prayer,
And days of toil, and hours of bitter tears,
And agony that does the work of years--
Stand by the bed of death with whirling brain,
And feel they toil'd, and loved, and pray'd, in vain.
Sadly and fearfully they shrink from those
Whose looks confirm the story of their woes,
And seek with visionary words to buoy
Their spirits up with prophecies of joy:
Ev'n while their blanch'd lips quiver in their dread,
The faint tongue murmurs, 'No, they are not dead!'
And yet we feel they are. So Isbal stood
By the deep, rolling, and eternal flood;
And so he sought some comfort to impart
With a fond falsehood to his conscious heart;
And still repeated, 'Lo, she breathes! she stirs!'
When his own breath had waved a tress of hers.
The oft repeated echo died away
Of those vain words; and as the ocean spray
With its light snow-shower drenches her again,
His lip gives forth uncertain sounds of pain.
In his wrung heart he seeks to guess
When perish'd so much of loveliness;
And in Fancy's dream her arms again
Cling, as they clung around him then.
Which of the mountain waves that rose,
Bade her meek eyes for ever close?
Was it her corpse that he bore for miles,
When he gladly dreamt of her grateful smiles?
Or did her white feet touch the shore,
Ere her spirit departed for evermore?
With a straining force his deep thoughts dwell
On each murmur that rose 'mid the ocean's swell.
Was it, when feebly her young arms sank,
That the dashing waters her spirit drank,
And her breath pass'd out on the billows high
With a faint and an unremember'd sigh?
But no--for long after he spoke to cheer,
And her sweet voice answer'd in his ear.
Was it when darkness fell around,
And the red ship sank with a gurgling sound--
That her angel soul to its haven past
On the unseen wings of the midnight blast?
Did she yearn for the far land hopelessly,
As her stiff limbs shrank from the foaming sea:
Or did she yield her up to death,
With a weary moan, and a gasping breath?
Vainly he searches his tortured brain
For a farewell word, or a sigh of pain;
Silently as he bore her on,
Her soul from its gentle frame hath gone,
And never on earth shall his heart discover
The moment her love and her life were over;
Only this much shall the lost one know--
Where she hath departed, he may not go!
With sternly folded arms, and indrawn breath,
He stands and gazes on that form of death.
The deep--the sickening certainty is there,
The doom eternal of his long despair.
O'er the dim wave he flung his desperate arm,
Forgetful in his anguish of the charm
That bound his life. With effort wild and vain
He plunges headlong in the treacherous main;
While the lone sea, with melancholy sound,
Returns him groaning to the mossy ground.
Again he leaps the tide-wash'd bank, which late
He deem'd a shelter from the storms of fate:
The dashing waters yield, and then divide;
But still he sinks not in the whelming tide.
Proudly he stemm'd the billows, when his arms
Bore the faint burden of his Linda's charms:
Proudly he gazed upon the waters high,
Whose strength contain'd no power to bid him die:
But now he curses, with a bitter voice,
The ocean, which doth triumph and rejoice,
As the green billows, heaving in the day,
Greedily roar around that lifeless clay.
Hark! the wild howl that echoes through the land,
As his foot spurns the smooth and glittering sand.
That wave its floating weight on shore hath thrown;
And 'the Undying One' is left alone.
The Child Of The Islands - Summer
FOR Summer followeth with its store of joy;
That, too, can bring thee only new delight;
Its sultry hours can work thee no annoy,
Veiled from thy head shall be its glowing might.
Sweet fruits shall tempt thy thirsty appetite;
Thy languid limbs on cushioned down shall sink;
Or rest on fern-grown tufts, by streamlets bright,
Where the large-throated deer come down to drink,
And cluster gently round the cool refreshing brink.
There, as the flakèd light, with changeful ray
(From where the unseen glory hotly glows)
Through the green branches maketh pleasant way,
And on the turf a chequered radiance throws,
Thou'lt lean, and watch those kingly-antlered brows--
The lustrous beauty of their glances shy,
As following still the pace their leader goes,
(Who seems afraid to halt--ashamed to fly,)
Rapid, yet stately too, the lovely herd troop by.
This is the time of shadow and of flowers,
When roads gleam white for many a winding mile;
When gentle breezes fan the lazy hours,
And balmy rest o'erpays the time of toil;
When purple hues and shifting beams beguile
The tedious sameness of the heath-grown moor;
When the old grandsire sees with placid smile
The sunburnt children frolic round his door,
And trellised roses deck the cottage of the poor.
The time of pleasant evenings! when the moon
Riseth companioned by a single star,
And rivals e'en the brilliant summer noon
In the clear radiance which she pours afar;
No stormy winds her hour of peace to mar,
Or stir the fleecy clouds which melt away
Beneath the wheels of her illumined car;
While many a river trembles in her ray,
And silver gleam the sands round many an ocean bay!
Oh, then the heart lies hushed, afraid to beat,
In the deep absence of all other sound;
And home is sought with loth and lingering feet,
As though that shining tract of fairy ground,
Once left and lost, might never more be found!
And happy seems the life that gipsies lead,
Who make their rest where mossy banks abound,
In nooks where unplucked wild-flowers shed their seed;
A canvass-spreading tent the only roof they need!
Wild Nomades of our civilised calm land!
Whose Eastern origin is still betrayed
By the swart beauty of the slender hand,--
Eyes flashing forth from over-arching shade,--
And supple limbs, for active movement made;
How oft, beguiled by you, the maiden looks
For love her fancy ne'er before pourtrayed,
And, slighting village swains and shepherd-crooks,
Dreams of proud youths, dark spells, and wondrous magic books!
Lo! in the confines of a dungeon cell,
(Sore weary of its silence and its gloom!)
One of this race: who yet deserveth well
The close imprisonment which is her doom:
Lawless she was, ere infancy's first bloom
Left the round outline of her sunny cheek;
Vagrant, and prowling Thief;--no chance, no room
To bring that wild heart to obedience meek;
Therefore th' avenging law its punishment must wreak.
She lies, crouched up upon her pallet bed,
Her slight limbs starting in unquiet sleep;
And oft she turns her feverish, restless head,
Moans, frets, and murmurs, or begins to weep:
Anon, a calmer hour of slumber deep
Sinks on her lids; some happier thought hath come;
Some jubilee unknown she thinks to keep,
With liberated steps, that wander home
Once more with gipsy tribes a gipsy life to roam.
But no, her pale lips quiver as they moan:
What whisper they? A name, and nothing more:
But with such passionate tenderness of tone,
As shews how much those lips that name adore.
She dreams of one who shall her loss deplore
With the unbridled anguish of despair!
Whose forest-wanderings by her side are o'er,
But to whose heart one braid of her black hair
Were worth the world's best throne, and all its treasures rare.
The shadow of his eyes is on her soul--
His passionate eyes, that held her in such love!
Which love she answered, scorning all control
Of reasoning thoughts, which tranquil bosoms move.
No lengthened courtship it was his to prove,
(Gleaning capricious smiles by fits and starts)
Nor feared her simple faith lest he should rove:
Rapid and subtle as the flame that darts
To meet its fellow flame, shot passion through their hearts.
And though no holy priest that union blessed,
By gipsy laws and customs made his bride;
The love her looks avowed, in words confessed,
She shared his tent, she wandered by his side,
His glance her morning star, his will her guide.
Animal beauty and intelligence
Were her sole gifts,--his heart they satisfied,--
Himself could claim no higher, better sense,
So loved her with a love, wild, passionate, intense!
And oft, where flowers lay spangled round about,
And to the dying twilight incense shed,
They sat to watch heaven's glittering stars come out,
Her cheek down-leaning on his cherished head--
That head upon her heart's soft pillow laid
In fulness of content; and such deep spell
Of loving silence, that the word first said
With startling sweetness on their senses fell,
Like silver coins dropped down a many-fathomed well.
Look! her brows darken with a sudden frown--
She dreams of Rescue by his angry aid--
She dreams he strikes the Law's vile minions down,
And bears her swiftly to the wild-wood shade!
There, where their bower of bliss at first was made,
Safe in his sheltering arms once more she sleeps:
Ah, happy dream! She wakes; amazed, afraid,
Like a young panther from her couch she leaps,
Gazes bewildered round, then madly shrieks and weeps!
For, far above her head, the prison-bars
Mock her with narrow sections of that sky
She knew so wide, and blue, and full of stars,
When gazing upward through the branches high
Of the free forest! Is she, then, to die?
Where is he--where--the strong-armed and the brave,
Who in that vision answered her wild cry?
Where is he--where--the lover who should save
And snatch her from her fate--an ignominious grave?
Oh, pity her, all sinful though she be,
While thus the transient dreams of freedom rise,
Contrasted with her waking destiny!
Scorn is for devils; soft compassion lies
In angel-hearts, and beams from angel-eyes.
Pity her! Never more, with wild embrace,
Those flexile arms shall clasp him ere she dies;
Never the fierce sad beauty of her face
Be lit with gentler hope, or love's triumphant grace!
Lonely she perishes; like some wild bird
That strains its wing against opposing wires;
Her heart's tumultuous panting may be heard,
While to the thought of rescue she aspires;
Then, of its own deep strength, it faints and tires:
The frenzy of her mood begins to cease;
Her varying pulse with fluttering stroke expires,
And the sick weariness that is not peace
Creeps slowly through her blood, and promises release.
Alas, dark shadows, press not on her so!
Stand off, and let her hear the linnet sing!
Crumble, ye walls, that sunshine may come through
Each crevice of your ruins! Rise, clear spring,
Bubbling from hidden fountain-depths, and bring
Water, the death-thirst of her pain to slake!
Come from the forest, breeze with wandering wing!
There, dwelt a heart would perish for her sake,--
Oh, save her! No! Death stands prepared his prey to take.
But, because youth and health are very strong,
And all her veins were full of freshest life,
The deadly struggle must continue long
Ere the free heart lie still, that was so rife
With passion's mad excess. The gaoler's wife
Bends, with revolted pity on her brow,
To watch the working of that fearful strife,
Till the last quivering spark is out. And now
All's dark, all's cold, all's lost, that loved and mourned below.
She could not live in prison--could not breathe
The dull pollution of its stagnant air,--
She, that at dewy morn was wont to wreathe
The wild-briar roses, singing, in her hair,--
She died, heart-stifled, in that felon-lair!
No penitence; no anchor that held fast
To soothing meditation and meek prayer,
But a wild struggle, even to the last--
In death-distorted woe her marble features cast!
And none lament for her, save only him
Who choking back proud thoughts and words irate,
With tangled locks, and glances changed and dim,
Bows low to one who keeps the prison-gate,
Pleading to see her; asking of her fate;
Which, when he learns, with fierce and bitter cries
(Howling in savage grief for his young mate)
He curseth all, and all alike defies;--
Despair and fury blent, forth flashing from worn eyes!
With vulgar terror struck, they deem him wild--
Fit only for the chains which madmen clank.
But soon he weepeth, like a little child!
And many a day, by many a sunny bank,
Or forest-pond, close fringed with rushes dank,
He wails, his clenched hands on his eyelids prest;
Or by lone hedges, where the grass grows rank,
Stretched prone, as travellers deem, in idle rest,
Mourns for that murdered girl, the dove of his wild nest.
Little recks he, of Law and Law's constraint,
Reared in ill-governed sense of Liberty!
At times he bows his head, heart-stricken, faint;
Anon--in strange delirious agony--
He dreams her yet in living jeopardy!
His arm is raised,--his panting breast upheaves,--
Ah! what avails his youth's wild energy?
What strength can lift the withering autumn leaves,
Light as they drifting lie on her for whom he grieves!
Her SPRING had ripened into Summer fruit;
And, if that fruit was poison, whose the blame?
Not hers, whose young defying lips are mute--
Though hers the agony, though hers the shame--
But theirs, the careless crowd, who went and came,
And came and went again, and never thought
How best such wandering spirits to reclaim;
How earnest minds the base have trained and taught,
As shaping tools vile forms have into beauty wrought.
The land that lies a blank and barren waste
We drain, we till, we sow, with cheerful hope:
Plodding and patient, looking yet to taste
Reward in harvest, willingly we cope
With thorns that stay the plough on plain and slope,
And nipping frosts, and summer heats that broil.
Till all is done that lies within the scope
Of man's invention, to improve that soil,
Earnest we yet speed on, unceasing in our toil.
But for the SOUL that lieth unreclaimed,
Choked with the growth of rankest weeds and tares,
No man puts forth his hand, and none are blamed;
Though plenteous harvest might repay his cares,
Though he might 'welcome angels, unawares.'
The earth he delves, and clears from every weed,
But leaves the human heart to sinful snares;
The earth he sows with costly, precious seed,
But lets the human heart lie barren at its need.
Once I beheld (and, to my latest hour,
That sight unfaded in my heart I hold)
A bright example of the mighty power
One human mind, by earnest will controlled,
Can wield o'er other minds--the base and bold,
Steeped in low vice, and warped in conscious wrong;
Or weaker wanderers from the Shepherd's fold,
Who, sinning with averted faces, long
To turn again to God, with psalm and angel-song.
I saw one man, armed simply with God's Word,
Enter the souls of many fellow-men,
And pierce them sharply as a two-edged sword,
While conscience echoed back his words again;
Till, even as showers of fertilising rain
Sink through the bosom of the valley clod,
So their hearts opened to the wholesome pain,
And hundreds knelt upon the flowery sod,
One good man's earnest prayer the link 'twixt them and God.
That amphitheatre of awe-struck heads
Is still before me: there the Mother bows,
And o'er her slumbering infant meekly sheds
Unusual tears. There, knitting his dark brows,
The penitent blasphemer utters vows
Of holy import. There, the kindly man,
Whose one weak vice went near to bid him lose
All he most valued when his life began,
Abjures the evil course which erst he blindly ran.
There, with pale eyelids heavily weighed down
By a new sense of overcoming shame,
A youthful Magdalen, whose arm is thrown
Round a young sister who deserves no blame;
(As though like innocence she now would claim,
Absolved by a pure God!) And, near her, sighs
The Father who refused to speak her name:
Her penitence is written in her eyes--
Will he not, too, forgive, and bless her, ere she rise?
Renounce her not, grieved Father! Heaven shall make
Room for her entrance with the undefiled.
Upbraid her not, sad Mother! for the sake
Of days when she was yet thy spotless child.
Be gentle with her, oh, thou sister mild!
And thou, good brother! though by shame opprest;
For many a day, amid temptations wild,
Madly indulged, and sinfully carest,
She yearned to weep and die upon thy honest breast.
Lost Innocence!--that sunrise of clear youth,
Whose lovely light no morning can restore;
When, robed in radiance of unsullied truth,
Her soul no garment of concealment wore,
But roamed its paradise of fancies o'er
In perfect purity of thought--is past!
But He who bid the guilty 'sin no more'
A gleam of mercy round her feet shall cast,
And guide the pilgrim back to heaven's 'strait Gate' at last.
By that poor lost one, kneel a happier group,
Children of sinners, christened free from sin;
Smiling, their curled and shining heads they stoop,
Awed, but yet fearless; confident to win
Blessings of God; while early they begin
(The Samuels of the Temple) thus to wait
HIS audible voice, whose Presence they are in,
And formally, from this auspicious date,
Themselves, and their young lives, to HIM to dedicate.
While, mingling with those glad and careless brows,
And ruddy cheeks, embrowned with honest toil;
Kneels the pale artisan (who only knows
Of Luxury--how best its glittering spoil,
Midst whirring wheels, and dust, and heat, and oil,
For richer men's enjoyment to prepare);
And ill-fed labourers of a fertile soil,
Whose drunkenness was Lethe to their care,--
All met, for one good hope, one blessing, and one prayer!
I will not cavil with the man who sneers
At priestly labours, as the work of hell;
I will not pause to contradict strange fears
Of where the influence ends, begun so well;
One only thought remained with me to dwell,
For ever with remembrance of that scene,
When I beheld hearts beat and bosoms swell,
And that melodious voice and eye serene
Govern the kneeling crowd, as he their God had been.
I thought, in my own secret soul, if thus,
(By the strong sympathy that knits mankind)
A power untried exists in each of us,
By which a fellow-creature's wavering mind
To good or evil deeds may be inclined;
Shall not an awful questioning be made,
(And we, perchance, no fitting answer find!)
'Whom hast THOU sought to rescue, or persuade?
Whom roused from sinful sloth? whom comforted, afraid?'
For whom employed,--e'en from thy useless birth,--
The buried Talent at thy Lord's command?
Unprofitable servant of the earth!
Though here men fawned on thee, and licked thy hand
For golden wealth, and power, and tracts of land;
When the Eternal Balance justly weighs,
Above thee, in the ranks of heaven, shall stand,
Some wretch obscure, who through unnoticed days,
Taught a poor village school to sing their Maker's praise.
A mournful memory in my bosom stirs!
A recollection of the lovely isle
Where, in the purple shadow of thy firs
Parkhurst! and gloomy in the summer smile,
Stands the CHILD'S PRISON: (since we must defile
So blest a refuge, with so curst a name)
The home of those whose former home was vile;
Who, dogged, sullen, scoffing, hither came,
Tender in growth and years, but long confirmed in shame.
Alas! what inmates may inhabit there?
Those to whose infant days a parent's roof,
In lieu of a protection, was a snare;
Those from whose minds instruction held aloof,
No hope, no effort made in their behoof;
Whose lips familiar were with blasphemy,
And words obscene that mocked at all reproof,
But never uttered prayer to the Most High,
Or learned one gentle hymn, His name to glorify.
Th' Untaught, Uncared-for, 'neath whose stolid look
The Scriptures might have lain, a block of wood,
Hewn to the shape and semblance of a book,
For any thing they knew in it of good,
Or any text they heard or understood.
THESE are your Prisoned Children! Germs of Men,
Vicious, and false, and violent of mood,
Such as strange carelessness first rears, and then
Would crush the sting out by a death of pain!
But skilful hands have drawn the arrow's barb
From the unfestered wound which Time shall heal!
And though 'tis mournful, in their prison garb,
To see them trooping to their silent meal;
And though, among them, many brows reveal
Sorrow too bitter for such childish hearts;
Yet the most pitiful (if just) must feel
(E'en while the tear of forced compassion starts)
That blessed is the hope their suffering imparts!
The Saved are there, who would have been the Lost;
The Checked in crime, who might have been the Doomed;
The wildbriar buds, whose tangled path was crost
By nightshade poison trailing where they bloomed!
The Wrecked, round whom the threatening surges boomed,
Borne in this Life-boat far from peril's stress;
The Sheltered, o'er whose heads the thunder loomed;
Convicts (convicted of much helplessness
Exiles, whom Mercy guides through guilt's dark wilderness.
I saw One sitting in that Island Prison
Whose day in solitude was going down,
E'en as in solitude its light had risen!
His little savage sullen face, bent down,
From all kind words, with an averted frown--
A world of dumb defiance in his scowl!
Or, looking up, with gaze that seemed to own,
'I scorn the smiting of your forced control;
My body scourge or slay, you shall not bend my soul!'
But one was weeping--weeping bitter tears!
Of softer mould his erring heart was made;
And, when the sound of coming steps he hears
Advancing to his lone cell's cheerless shade,
He turns, half welcoming and half afraid,
Trustful of pity, willing to be saved;
Stepping half way to meet the proffered aid;
Thankful for blessings kind and counsel grave;
Strange to this new sad life, but patient, calm, and brave.
Brave! for what courage must it not require
In a child's heart, to bear those dreadful hours?
Think how WE find the weary spirit tire,
How the soul sinks with faint and flagging powers,
Pent in, in these indulgent lives of ours,
By one monotonous day of winter's rain!
Woe for the prisoned boy, who sadly cowers,
In his blank cell, for days of dreary pain,
Pining for human looks and human tones in vain.
Nor let it be forgot, for these young spirits,
(Although by gross and vulgar sin defiled,)
How differently judged were their demerits,
Were each a noble's or a gentle's child.
Are there no sons at college, 'sadly wild?'
No children, wayward, difficult to rear?
Are THEY cast off by Love? No, gleaming mild
Through the salt drops of many a bitter tear,
The rainbow of your hope shines out of all your fear!
For they are YOUNG, you say; and this green stem
With shoots of good shall soon be grafted in:
Meanwhile, how much is FROLIC, done by them,
Which, in the poor, is punishable SIN?
Nor mark I this, a useless sigh to win,
(They lose their ground, who falsely, lightly chide,)
But to note down how much your faith you pin
Upon the worth of that, to them supplied--
Revealed Religion's light, and Education's guide.
Yea, for yourselves and sons, ye trusted it,
And knew no reed it was you leaned upon;
Therefore, whoso denies that benefit
To meaner men in ignorance chained down,
From each this true reproach hath justly won:--
'Oh, selfish heart! that owned the healing sure,
Yet would not help to save MY erring son!'
They cry to you, 'PREVENT!'--You cannot cure,
The ills that, once incurred, these little ones endure!
The criminal is in the felon's dock:
Fearful and stupified behold him stand!
While to his trial cold spectators flock,
And lawyers grave, and judges of the land.
At first he grasps the rail with nervous hand,
Hearing the case which learnedly they state,
With what attention ignorance can command:
Then, weary of such arguing of his fate,
Torpid and dull he sinks, throughout the long debate.
Vapid, incomprehensible to him
The skilful pleader's cross-examining wit;
His sullen ear receives, confused and dim,
The shouts of laughter at some brilliant hit,
When a shrewd witness leaves the Biter bit.
He shrinks not while the facts that must prevail
Against his life, unconscious friends admit;
Though Death is trembling in the adverse scale,
He recks no more than if he heard the autumn gale.
Oh, Eloquence, a moving thing art thou!
Tradition tells us many a mournful story
Of scaffold-sentenced men, with noble brow,
Condemned to die in youth, or weak and hoary,
Whose words survived in long-remembered glory!
But eloquence of words the power hath not
(Nor even their fate, who perished gaunt and gory)
To move my spirit like his abject lot,
Who stands there, like a dog, new-sentenced to be shot!
Look, now! Attention wakes, with sudden start,
The brutish mind which late so dull hath been!
Quick grows the heavy beating at his heart!
The solemn pause which rests the busy scene,
He knows, though ignorant, what that must mean--
The Verdict! With the Jury rests his chance!
And his lack-lustre eye grows strangely keen,
Watching with wistful, pleading, dreadful glance,
Their consultation cease, their foreman slow advance.
His home, his hopes, his life, are in that word!
His ties! (for think ye not that he hath ties?)
Alas! Affection makes its pleading heard
Long after better sense of duty dies,
Midst all that Vice can do to brutalise.
Hark to the verdict--'Guilty!'--All are foes!
Oh, what a sight for good, compassionate eyes,
That haggard man; as, stupified with woes,
Forth from the felon's dock, a wretch condemned he goes!
A wretch condemned, but not at heart subdued.
Rebellious, reckless, are the thoughts which come
Intruding on his sentenced solitude:--
Savage defiance! gnawing thoughts of home!
Plots to escape even now his threatened doom!
Sense of desertion, persecution!--all
Choke up the fount of grief, and bid the foam
Stand on his gnashing lips when tears should fall,
And mock the exhorting tones which for repentance call!
For if one half the pity and the pains,
The charity, and visiting, and talk,
Had been bestowed upon that wretch in chains,
While he had yet a better path to walk,
Life's flower might still have bloomed upon its stalk!
He might not now stand there, condemned for crime,
(Helpless the horror of his fate to balk!)
Nor heard the sullen bell, with funeral chime,
Summon him harshly forth, to die before his time!
CHILD OF THE ISLANDS! thou, whose cradle-bed
Was hallowed still with night and morning prayer!
Thou, whose first thoughts were reverently led
To heaven, and taught betimes to anchor there!
Thou, who wert reared with fond peculiar care,
In happiest leisure, and in holiest light!
Wilt THOU not feed the lamp whose lustre rare
Can break the darkness of this fearful night,
Midst dim bewild'ring paths to guide faint steps aright?
Wilt thou not help to educate the poor?
They will learn something, whether taught or no;
The Mind's low dwelling hath an open door,
Whence, wandering still uneasy, to and fro,
It gathers that it should, or should not, know.
Oh, train the fluttering of that restless wing!
Guide the intelligence that worketh woe!
So shall the Summer answer to the Spring,
And a well-guided youth an age of duty bring.
Thus,--freed from the oppressive pang which chokes
A young warm heart that pities men in vain,--
Thou'lt roam beneath thy Windsor's spreading oaks,
And see Life's course before thee, clear and plain,
And how to spare, and how to conquer, pain:
Or, greeting fair Etona's merry groups,
Thou'lt think, not only for this noble train,
The dovelike wing of Science brooding stoops,
But shadows many a head that else obscurely droops!
Glad shalt thou roam beneath those oaks, fair Boy!
While round thy conscious feet the earth's cold dust
Reflects a sunshine from the Poor Man's joy!
There dream of England's Glory: nor distrust
Thy cheering hopes, for men who seek to thrust
Cold counsel on thy young, inspired heart;
Pleading that, though 'tis politic and just
To fill each studded port and loaded mart,
Utopian are the schemes free knowledge to impart!
Yet shalt thou dream of England's commerce, too;
And the tall spreading trees,--which, branching round,
Thy footsteps to their covert coolness woo,--
Cast visionary shadows on the ground
Of floating ships for distant stations bound.
Unheard shall be the wild-bird's song! Instead,
Hoarsely the roar of fancied waves shall sound;
And o'er the shining sands thy soul shall tread,
With Albion's snowy cliffs high beetling o'er thy head!
Or Thought, in her strange chaos, shall display
That proudest sight reserved for English eyes--
The building ship--which soon shall cleave its way
Through the blue waters, 'neath the open skies.
The stately oak is felled, and low it lies,
Denuded of its lovely branches--bare
Of e'en the bark that wrapped its giant size
Roughly defying all the storms of air,
One fragment of its gnarled and knotted strength to tear.
Out of its swelling girth are aptly hewn
The timbers fitted for the massive frame;
By perfect rule and measurement foreshewn,
Plank after plank, each answering to the same,
The work goes on--a thing without a name--
Huge as a house, and heavy as a rock,
Enough the boldest looker-on to tame,
Standing up-gazing at that monstrous block,
Whose grand proportions seem his narrow sense to mock.
And ceaseless, hammering, shouting, pigmy forms
Work, crawl, and clatter on her bulging sides:
Are those the beings, who, in Heaven's wild storms,
Shall move that mass against opposing tides?
One, tread her decks, with proud impetuous strides?
Others, through yawning port-holes point the gun,--
Scattering the foe her glorious strength derides,
And shouting 'Victory' for a sea-fight won?
Oh, magic rule of MIND, by which such works are done!
But, first, the Launch must send our ship afloat:
Assembled thousands wait the glorious sight:
Gay-coloured streamers deck each tiny boat,
And glistening oars reflect a restless light:
Till some fair form, with smiles and blushes bright,
And active hand (though delicate it seem)
Advances to perform the 'Christening Rite;'
The fragile crystal breaks, with shivering gleam,
And the grand mass comes forth, swift gliding, like a dream.
Now give her MASTS and SAILS!--those spreading wings
Whose power shall save from many a dangerous coast!
Her ROPES, with all their bolts, and blocks, and rings;
Her glorious FLAG, no foe shall dare to brave
Who sees it come careering o'er the wave!
Give her, the HEARTS of OAK, who, marshalled all,
Within her creaking ribs when tempests rave
And the fierce billows beat that echoing walls
Fearless and calm obey the Boatswain's mustering call.
Give her, those giant ANCHORS, whose deep plunge
Into the startled bosom of the Sea,
Shall give the eager sailor leave to lounge
In port awhile, with reckless liberty.
Soon shall his changeful heart impatiently,
For their unmooring and upheaving long;
For 'Sailing-orders' which shall set him free;
While his old messmates, linked in brawny throng,
Coil up the Cable's length--huge, intricate, and strong!)
Give her, her CAPTAIN! who, from that day forth,
With her loved beauty all his speech shall fill;
And all her wanderings, East, West, South, and North,
Narrate,--with various chance of good and ill,--
As though she lived, and acted of free will.
Yet, let no lip with mocking smile be curled ;--
These are the souls, that man with dauntless skill,
Our Wooden Walls; whose Meteor-flag, unfurled,
Bids England 'hold her own' against th' united world!
Dear Island-Home!--and is the boast so strange
Which bids thee claim the Empire of the Sea?
O'er the blue waters as we fearless range,
Seem not the waves familiar friends to be?
We knew them in the Country of the Free!
And now they follow us with playful race,
Back rolling to that land of liberty,
And dashing round her rocks with rough embrace,
Like an old shaggy dog that licks its Master's face.
Yea, and a Watch-dog too, if there be need!
A low determined growl, when danger lowers,
Shall, from the gloomy port-holes, grimly speed,
To rouse our Heroes, and our armed Powers.
Let the land-circled nations keep their towers,
Their well-scanned passports, and their guards secure,--
We'll trust this floating, changeful wall of ours,
And, long as ocean-waves and rocks endure,
So long, dear Island-Home, we'll hold thy freedom sure!
Back to our ship! She breasts the surging tide;
The fair breeze freshens in the flowing sheet!
With deafening cheers the landsmen see her glide,
And hearts, that watch her progress, wildly beat.
Oh! where and when shall all the many meet,
Who part to-day? That secret none may sound!
But slowly falls the tread of homeward feet;
And, in the evening, with a sigh goes round,
That brief, but thrilling toast, 'Health to the Outward-Bound!'
Health to the Outward-Bound! How many go
Whose homeward voyage never shall be made!
Who but that drear Sea-Burial shall know,
Which bids the corse the shifting flood invade!
No grave--no stone beneath the cypress-shade,
Where mourning friends may gather round and weep,
Whose distant wretchedness is yet delayed:
Orphans at home a jubilee may keep,
While Messmates' hands commit a Father to the deep!
Some, whom the cry of 'FIRE!' doth overtake
On the wide desert of the lonely seas,
Their vague escape in open boats shall make;
To suffer quenchless thirst, and parched disease,
And hunger-pangs the DEATH-LOT shall appease.
Some, crashing wrecked in one stupendous shock,
Endure more helpless rapid fate than these,
And vainly clinging to the foam-washed block,
Die, drifted like weak weeds from off the slippery rock.
Some, scarcely parted twice a cable's length
From those who on the firm earth safely stand,
Shall madly watch the strained united strength
And cheers and wavings of the gallant band,
Who launch their life-boat with determined hand.
Ah! none shall live, that zealous aid to thank;
The wild surge whirls the life-boat back to land,--
The hazy distance suddenly grows blank,--
In that last labouring plunge the fated vessel sank!
And some shall plough their homeward track in vain,
Dying, it may be, within sight of shore:
While others, (dreariest horror of the main!)
Are vaguely 'lost' and never heard of more.
Ah, me! how many now such fate deplore,
As hisfor whom Grief's wild and piercing cry
Followed, e'er yet lamenting tears were o'er,
Shed for his brother; doomed, like him, to die
In youth,--but not like him without one kinsman nigh!
Peace to thy woeful heart, thou grey-haired sire;
Each, had he lived, his duty would have done:
Towards gallant deeds unwearied to aspire,
Was thine own heritage to either son.
Yet thou hast wept,--like him whose race is run,--
Who rose a happy Father when the day
Through morning clouds, with misty radiance shone;
But when at eve his ship got under way,
Left his unburied son in wild Algoa Bay!
His generous son, who risked his own young life
Hoping another from that doom to save;
And battled nobly with the water's strife,
E'er the green billows were his floating grave.
Nor died alone, beneath the whelming wave;
Others,--less known perhaps,--not cherished less
By those who for their presence vainly crave,--
Sank struggling down in utter weariness,
Lost in that wild dark night of terrible distress.
Oh, hearts have perished, neither faint nor few,
Whose names have left no echo save at home;
With many a gallant ship, whose fearless crew
Set sail with cheerful hope their course to roam!
Buried 'neath many a fathom's shifting foam,--
By the rude rocks of many a distant shore,--
Their visionary smiles at midnight come
To those whose waking eyes their loss deplore,--
Dreaming of their return, who shall return no more!
CHILD OF THE ISLANDS! some such saddening tales,
Thou, in thine infancy, perchance shalt hear;
Linked with the names a Nation still bewails,
And warrior-deeds to England's glory dear.
Ah! let them not fall lightly on thine ear!
Though Death calmed down that anguish, long ago,
The record is not ended; year by year
Recurring instances of loss and woe
Shall bid thee, for like grief, a like compassion show!
Neglect not, Thou, the sons of men who bled
To do good service in the former time;
Slight not some veteran father of the Dead,
Whose noble boys have perished in their prime.
Accept not selfishly, the love sublime
And loyalty which in such souls hath burned.
What though it be thy right; the lack, a crime?
Yet should no honest heart by thine be spurned--
True service paid with smiles, and thanks, is cheaply earned.
Keep Thou the reverence of a youthful heart
To Age and Merit in thy native land;
Nor deem CONDITION sets thee far apart:
ABOVE, but not ALOOF, a Prince should stand:
Still near enough, to stretch the friendly hand
To those whose names had never reached the throne,
But for great deeds, performed in small command:
Since thus the gallant wearers first were known,
Hallow those names; although not Royal like thine own.
And let thy Smile be like the Summer Sun,
Whose radiance is not kept for garden-flowers,
But sends its genial beams to rest upon
The meanest blushing bud in way-side bowers.
Earth's Principalities, and Thrones, and Powers,
If Heaven's true Delegates on Earth they be,
Should copy Heaven; which giveth fertile Showers,
The Dew, the Warmth, the Balm, the Breezes free,
Not to one Class alone,--but all Humanity!