'Twas on a summer's night I lay repos'd,
In the kind arms of hospitable Rest;
When Fancy to my waking thought disclos'd
And deep the visionary scene imprest:
Close by my side in robes of morning-grey
A form celestial stood — or seem'd to stand;
Intranc'd in admiration as I lay,
She rais'd with aspect calm my feeble hand:
And while through all my veins the tumult ran,
With mild benignity — she placid thus began;
'Patience my name — of Lachesis the child,
Nor art thou unacquainted with my voice;
By me afflicted Virtue suffers mild,
And to th' eternal will submits its choice.
Behold, commission'd from the heavenly sphere,
I come to strengthen thy corrected sight;
To teach thee yet continued woes to bear,
And eye Misfortune in a friendly light:
Nor thou my present summons disobey,
But chearfully prepare to wait me on my way.'
'Daughter of Heaven (methought I strait replied)
Gladly by me thy summons is obey'd;
Content I follow thee, celestial guide,
Beneath thy sure protection undismay'd:
Oft in sharp perils and surrounding woes
Thy salutary presence have I found;
Then lead wherever thy direction shows,
To distant seas, or earth's remotest bound:
Ready am I to wait thy purpos'd flight,
Thine be the care to act the sovereign will aright!'
Sudden, enfolded in a fleecy cloud,
Through yielding air we cut our rapid way,
While the pale moon a dubious light bestow'd,
Lands as we pass'd and intermingled sea:
Nor ceas'd our voyage, till the blushing dawn
Dispell'd the glimmering of the starry host;
And Night's dark curtain by degrees withdrawn,
We found ourselves on Thule's sky-girt coast:
Where Silence sits on her untroubled throne,
As if she left the world to live and reign alone.
Here no invading noise the Goddess finds,
High as she sits o'er the surrounding deep;
But pleas'd she listens to the hollow winds,
Or the shrill mew, that lulls her evening-sleep;
Deep in a cleft-worn rock we found her laid,
Spangled the roof with many an artless gem:
Slowly she rose, and met us in the shade,
As half disturb'd that such intrusion came:
But at her sister's sight with look discreet,
She better welcome gave, and pointed each a seat.
Wide from her grotto to the dazzled eye
A boundless prospect! lay the azure waste,
Lost in the sightless limit sea and sky;
By measurable distance faintly trac'd;
Whence now arising from his wat'ry bed,
The sun emerging spread his golden ray;
When sweetly Patience rais'd her pensive head,
And thus the Goddess said, or seem'd to Say:
'Mark, mortal, with Attention's deepest care,
The swift approaching scene the hands of Heaven prepare.'
With look intent, across the shining void,
(An object to the weak beholder lost!)
Just in the horizon dim a sail I spied,
As if she made some long-expected coast:
Kind to her wishes blew the western breeze,
As, swift advancing o'er the placid main
She shap'd her course, increasing by degrees,
Till nearer sense made all her beauties plain;
And shew'd her on the yielding billows ride,
In all the gallant trim of ornamental pride!
Thus flew she onward with expanded sail,
A sight delightful to the pleasur'd eye!
Borne on the wings of the propitious gale,
Heedless, alas! of hidden danger nigh:
The joyful sailor, long on ocean tost,
Already thought his tedious sufferings o'er;
Already hail'd the hospitable coast,
And trod in thought along the friendly shore:
When, dreadful to behold! — disastrous shock!
Shipwreck'd, at once she struck on a wave-cover'd rock!
O Heaven! — it was a piteous sight to view
The wild confusion suddenly took place!
The different gestures of the frighted crew!
The fear that mark'd each death distracted face.
All one impassion'd scene of woe appear'd,
Some wildly rav'd, while others scarce could speak.
No order was observ'd, no reason heard,
For mortal paleness sate on every cheek!
I look'd at Patience!— as she sate me nigh,
And wonder'd, as I look'd, to see her tearless eye!
Again I turn'd — when, o'er the vessel's side,
Distinct I saw a manly youth appear,
Launch the oar'd pinnace to the swelling tides
Nor shew'd his steady brow a guilty fear!
The sad remainder with a mournful hail
His just design and bold departure blest;
With lifted eye he spread the slender sail,
As if he trusted Heaven to guide the rest:
Swift o'er the main the bark retreating flew,
And the tall ship at once was taken from my view.
Immediate Patience from her seat arose,
And all abrupt the transient visit broke!
While Silence, pleas'd, return'd to her repose
With air compos'd, for never word she spoke:
Again cloud-wafted we pursu'd our way
Westward, as gave the alter'd wind to ride,
When thus, methought, I heard the Goddess say
''Tis mine to wait yon' boat that braves the tide
For well, alas, too well I now foresee,
Much need yon voyagers will quickly have for me.'
Driven on the pinions of the eastern wind
O'er many a sea-girt isle, and rocky coast,
We left bleak Shetland's shadowy hills behind,
To watch the little bark in ocean tost:
For now from sight of land diverted clear,
They drove uncertain o'er the pathless deep,
Nor gave the adverse gale due course to steer,
Nor durst they the design'd direction keep:
The gathering tempest quickly rag'd so high,
The wave encompass'd boat but faintly reach'd my eye.
Yet could I mark, amidst the noisy waste,
The peaceful exit blameless Virtue gave;
Calm sate the youth in the loud threatening blast,
And firm prepar'd him for his wat'ry grave!
One fond regard, his latest debt, he paid,
Eastward, to Caledonia's native shore;
And thus (methought) in dying accents said,
'Farewell my country!' — he could say no more,
For the wild surge with rage devouring spread,
And whelm'd the hapless youth in Ocean's liquid bed.
Then Patience meek, as from my rending heart,
She heard deep utter'd the expressive sighs,
'Seest thou (she said) that youth's undaunted parts
Who yonder ev'n in death unvanquish'd lies?
There view the blest effects from Virtue flow,
The cow'rd from Fate to shameful Safety flies;
The truly valiant dares to meet the foe,
Nor shrinks from danger, but with honour dies:
For guilt of all defence disarms the slave,
But innocence in death supports the good and brave.
'Yet, ere yon setting sun his light renew,
Shalt thou behold the decent honors paid
To the pale corse now floating in thy view,
And see it in the earth lamented laid;
For though he dies from each expecting friend,
Whose vows were offer'd for his safe return;
The mournful stranger o'er his grave shall bend,
The blushing virgins weep around his urn!
Such privilege his spotless truth shall boast,
Though to your distant world in dark oblivion lost!'
The tempest ceas'd — and all the sober night
Intent our course aerial we pursued
Till as Aurora dawn'd with ruddy light,
An island we perceiv'd that stemm'd the flood
No hills, nor trees adorn'd the level soil,
Where bleating flocks a plenteous herbage found;
Low lay the prospect of the bleating isle
With here and there a spot of tillage ground:
By which the humble village stood descried
Where never enter'd arts, or luxury, or pride!
O'er many a sea-green holm we wafted went
Where undisturb'd the feather'd nations lay!
Till lighting on the plain with soft descent,
We saw a reverend form advance our way;
And now approaching with an easy pace,
The venerable sage before us stands,
White were his hairs, and chearful was his face,
At once delights his aspect and commands:
I felt all care suspended at his view,
Whom better far than I his kindred Goddess knew.
Of homespun russet was the garb he bore,
Girt with a velvet seal's divided skin:
Of wollen yarn the mittens which he wore
To keep him from the breath of Boreas thin:
An easy path along the verdant ground
Soon to his hospitable cottage led,
Ere yet instructed I my error found,
Nor knew the cause my first emotion bred,
Till, as into his clean abode we went,
Kind Patience whisper'd me our host was call'd Content.
Sweet was his earthen floor with rushes spread,
Sweet was each shell-wrought bowl, and wooden dish,
Sweet was the quilt compos'd his healthy bed,
Nor wanted he for fowl, or sun-dried fish;
And milk of sheep, and turf, a plenteous store,
Which lay beneath his comfortable roof;
No storms, no accidents, could make him poor,
He and his house, I ween, were weather proof.
A batchelor he wonde, devoid of care,
Which made him now appear so healthy and so fair.
Long time with Patience fair discourse he held,
(Oft had the Goddess been his welcome guest)
Nor she the friendly intercourse repell'd,
But the good sire familiarly address'd:
Thus were we happily conversant set,
When from the neighbouring village rose a cry,
And drew our hasty steps where numbers met,
Like us, appear'd to know the reason — why?
Nor needed answer: on the sea-weed spray,
Too visible reply! — the wave-toss'd body lay.
How stood I shock'd — when in the semblant face,
(By death unalter'd, or the cruel flood)
I could of Lycidas each feature trace,
Young Lycidas, the learned and the good!
'O Heaven (cried I) what sorrows will he feel,
Debarr'd the promis'd hope of thy return?
Not all his skill the mental wound can heal,
Or cure a loss he must so justly mourn!
How will he weep when in the ocean-grave,
He hears a brother lost he could have died to save!'
Here with observant eye, and look serene,
Thus check'd the good old man my plaintive speech;
'Best in submission piety is seen,
That lesson let thy kind conduc'tress teach:
But lest the youth, thy friend bewails, should want
The rites departed merit ought to find,
Let these assembled natives kindly grant
The unpolluted grave, by Heaven assign'd:
A corpse that claim'd a due interment more,
Yet never wafted wave to Faroe's guiltless shore!'
He said — obedient to his just commands
The zealous youth the breathless body bear,
Some form the sepulchre with careful hands,
While round the virgins dropp the artless tear.
Such flowers as Nature grants the ruder clime,
Such flowers around with pious care they shed,
And sing the funeral dirge in Runic rhyme,
Allotted to the sage, or warrior dead:
While as these fruitless honors are bestow'd,
Content with sober speech his purpose thus avow'd:
'What boots thee now, lost youth! that cross the main,
Thou spread the daring sail from pole to pole,
Wealth to acquire, and knowledge to attain:
Knowledge, the nobler treasure of thy soul!
Beneath the scorching of the medial line,
On Afric's sand, and India's golden coast;
Virtue gave thee with native truth to shine,
Drest in each excellence that youth could boast,
And now she gives thee from the wave to rise,
And reach the safer port prepar'd thee in the skies.
'Yet take these honors, thy deserv'd reward!
Call this untroubled spot of earth thy own;
Here shall thy ashes find a due regard,
And annual sweets around thy grave be thrown.
Directing Heaven ordain'd thy early end,
From fraud and guilt to save thy blameless youth,
To show that Death no terrors can attend,
Where Piety resides and holy Truth:
Here take thy rest within this hallow'd ground,
Till the last trump emit the dead awakening sound!'
He ceas'd — attentive to the words he said,
In earth the natives place the honor'd clay;
With holy rites they cover up his head,
A spotless grave, where never mortal lay!
Charm'd with the simple manners of the isle,
I wish'd some further knowledge to receive;
Here could have dwelt with old Content awhile,
And learn'd of him the happiness to live!
When Patience from my side abruptly broke,
And starting at the loss, I suddenly awoke!