Изображения страниц


And o'er him bent his sire, and never raised

His eyes from off his face, but wiped the foam From his pale lips, and ever on him gazed ;

And when the wished-for shower at length was come, And the boy's eyes, which the dull film half glazed, Brighten'd and for a moment seem'd to roam, He squeezed from out a rag some drops of rain Into his dying child's mouth—but in vain.


The boy expired—the father held the clay,

And look'd upon it long; and when at last Death left no doubt, and the dead burthen lay

Stiff on his heart, and pulse and hope were past, He watch'd it wistfully, until away

'Twas borne by the rude wave wherein 'twas cast; Then he himself sunk down all dumb and shivering, And gave no sign of life, save his limbs quivering.


Now overhead a rainbow, bursting through

The scattering clouds, shone, spanning the dark sea, Resting its bright base on the quivering blue, And all within its arch appear'd to be Clearer than that without, and its wide hue

Wax'd broad and waving like a banner free, Then changed like to a bow that's bent, and then Forsook the dim eyes of these shipwreck'd men.


It changed, of course; a heavenly chameleon,
The airy child of vapour and the sun,
Brought forth in purple, cradled in vermilion,
Baptized in molten gold, and swathed in dun,

Glittering like crescents o'er a Turk's pavilion,

And blending every colour into one, Just like a black eye in a recent scuffle (For sometimes we must box without the muffle).


Our shipwreck'd seamen thought it a good omen— It is as well to think so now and then : 'Twas an old custom of the Greek and Roman,

And may become of great advantage when Folks are discouraged: and most surely no men Had greater need to nerve themselves again, Than these, and so this rainbow look'd like hope— Quite a celestial kaleidoscope.


About this time a beautiful white bird,
Web-footed, not unlike a dove in size
And plumage (probably it might have err'd

Upon its course), pass'd oft before their eyes,
And tried to perch, although it saw and heard

The men within the boat, and in this guise
It came and went, and flutter'd round them till
Night fell-this seem'd a better omen still.


But in this case I also must remark,

'Twas well this bird of promise did not perch, Because the tackle of our shatter'd bark

Was not so safe for roosting as a church; And had it been the dove from Noah's ark,

Returning there from her successful search, Which in their way that moment chanced to fall, They would have eat her, olive-branch and all.


With twilight it again came on to blow,

But not with violence; the stars shone out, The boat made way; yet now they were so low

They knew not where nor what they were about: Some fancied they saw land, and some said No!" The frequent fog-banks gave them cause to doubtSome swore that they heard breakers, others guns, And all mistook about the latter once.


[ocr errors]

As morning broke, the light wind died away,

When he who had the watch sung out and swore, If 'twas not land that rose with the sun's ray,

He wish'd that land he never might see more; And the rest rubb'd their eyes, and saw a bay,

Or thought they saw, and shaped their course for shore; For shore it was, and gradually grew Distinct and high, and palpable to view.


And then of these some part burst into tears,
And others, looking with a stupid stare,
Could not yet separate their hopes from fears,

And seem'd as if they had no further care;
While a few pray'd—(the first time for some years)—
And at the bottom of the boat three were
Asleep: they shook them by the hand and head,
And tried to awaken them, but found them dead.


The day before, fast sleeping on the water,

They found a turtle of the hawk's-bill kind, And by good fortune, gliding softly, caught her, Which yielded a day's life, and to their mind

Proved even still a more nutritious matter,
Because it left encouragement behind :
They thought that in such perils, more than chance
Had sent them this for their deliverance.


The land appear'd a high and rocky coast,
And higher grew the mountains as they drew,
Set by a current, toward it; they were lost
In various conjectures, for none knew

To what part of the earth they had been tost,
So changeable had been the winds that blew :
Some thought it was Mount Etna, some the highlands
Of Candia, Cyprus, Rhodes, or other islands.


Meantime the current, with a rising gale,

Still set them onwards to the welcome shore, Like Charon's bark of spectres, dull and pale;

Their living freight was now reduced to four, And three dead, whom their strength could not avail To heave into the deep with those before, Though the two sharks still follow'd them, and dash'd The spray into their faces as they splash'd.


Famine, despair, cold, thirst, and heat, had done

Their work on them by turns, and thinn'd them to Such things, a mother had not known her son Amidst the skeletons of that gaunt crew: By night chill'd, by day scorch'd, thus one by one They perish'd, until wither'd to these few, But chiefly by a species of self-slaughter, In washing down Pedrillo with salt water,


As they drew nigh the land, which now was seen
Unequal in its aspect here and there,
They felt the freshness of its growing green,

That waved in forest tops, and smooth'd the air, And fell upon their glazed eyes like a screen

From glistening waves, and skies so hot and bareLovely seem'd any object that should sweep Away the vast, salt, dread, eternal deep.


The shore look'd wild, without a trace of man,
And girt by formidable waves; but they
Were mad for land, and thus their course they ran,
Though right ahead the roaring breakers lay:
A reef between them also now began

To show its boiling surf and bounding spray;
But finding no place for their landing better,
They ran the boat for shore-and overset her.


But in his native stream, the Guadalquivir,

Juan to lave his youthful limbs was wont; And having learnt to swim in that sweet river, Had often turn'd the art to some account: A better swimmer you could scarce see ever,

He could, perhaps, have passed the Hellespont, As once (a feat on which ourselves we prided) Leander, Mr. Ekenhead, and I did.


So here, though faint, emaciated, and stark,

He buoy'd his boyish limbs, and strove to ply With the quick wave, an gain, ere it was dark,

The beach which lay before him, high and dry;

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »