Imágenes de página

The Shipwreck. From Canto II*

But now there came a flash of hope once more; Day broke, and the wind lulled: the masts were gone,

The leak increased; shoals round her, but no shore,

The vessel swam, yet still she held her own. They tried the pumps again, and though before Their desperate efforts seemed all useless grown,

A glimpse of sunshine set some hands to bale— The stronger pumped, the weaker thrummed1 a sail.


Under the vessel's keel the sail was past,
And for the moment it had some effect;

But with a leak, and not a stick of mast,
Nor rag of canvas, what could they expect?

But still 't is best to struggle to the last,
'T is never too late to be wholly wrecked:

And though 't is true that man can only die once,

'T is not so pleasant in the Gulf of Lyons.

There winds and waves had hurled them, and
from thence,
Without their will, they carried them away;
For they were forced with Bteering to dispense,

And never had as yet a quiet day
On which they might repose, or even commence

A jurymast, or rudder, or could say The ship would swim an hour, which, by good luck,

Still swam,—though not exactly like a duck. 41

The wind, in fact, perhaps was rather less, But the ship laboured so, they scarce could hope

To weather out much longer; the distress
Was also great with which they had to cope

For want of water, and their solid mess
Was scant enough: in vain the telescope

Was used—nor sail nor shore appeared in sight,

Nought but the heavy sea, and coming night.


Again the weather threatened,—again blew

A gale, and in the fore and after hold Water appeared; yet, though the people knew

i wove In bits of rope-yarn (usually clone to prevent chafing)

* Don Juan, with his servants and his tutor Pedrlllo, moots with shipwreck in the Mediterranean.

All this, the most were patient, and some bold,

Until the chains and leathers were worn through

Of all our pumps:—a wreck complete she rolled,

At mercy of the waves, whose mercies are
Like human beings' during civil war.


Then came the carpenter, at last, with tears In his rough eyes, and told the captain he

Could do no more: he was a man in years, And long had voyaged through many a stormy sea,

And if he wept at length, they were not fears

That made his eyelids as a woman's be, But he, poor fellow, had a wife and children,— Two things for dying people quite bewildering.


The ship was evidently settling now

Fast by the head; and, all distinction gone,

Some went to prayers again, and made a vow Of candles to their saints—but there were none

To pay them with; and some looked o'er the bow;

Some hoisted out the boats; and there was


That begged Pedrillo for an absolution,

Who told him to be damned—in his confusion.


Some lashed them in their hammocks; some put on

Their best clothes, as if going to a fair; Some cursed the day on which they saw the Sun,

And gnashed their teeth, and, howling, tore their hair; And others went on as they had begun,

Getting the boats out, being well aware That a tight boat will live in a rough sea, Unless with breakers close beneath her lee.


The worst of all was, that in their condition, Having been several days in great distress,

'T was difficult to get out such provision As now might render their long suffering less:

Men, even when dying, dislike inanition;
Their stock was damaged by the weather's

Two casks of biscuit and a keg of butter
Were all that could be thrown into the cutter.


But in the long-boat they contrived to stow Some pounds of bread, though injured by the wet;

Water, a twenty-gallon cask or so;

Six flasks of wine; and they contrived to get A portion of their beef up from below,

And with a piece of pork, moreover, met, But scarce enough to serve them for a luncheon—

Then there was rum, eight gallons in a puncheon.


The other boats, the yawl and pinnace, had
Been stove in the beginning of the gale;

And the long-boat's condition was but bad,
As there were but two blankets for a sail,

And one oar for a mast, which a young lad
Threw in by good luck over the ship's rail;

And two boats could not hold, far less be stored,

To save one half the people then on board.


'T was twilight, and the sunless day went down

Over the waste of waters; like a veil, Which, if withdrawn, would but disclose the frown

Of one whose hate is masked but to assail. Thus to their hopeless eyes the night was shown,

And grimly darkled o'er the faces pale, And the dim desolate deep: twelve days had Fear

Been their familiar, and now Death was here. 50

Some trial had been making at a raft,

With little hope in such a rolling sea, A sort of thing at which one would have laughed

If any laughter at such times could be, Unless with people who too much have quaffed,

And have a kind of wild and horrid glee, Half epileptical, and half hysterical:— Their preservation would have been a miracle.


At half-past eight o'clock, booms, hencoops, spars,

And all things, for a chance, had been cast loose

That still could keep afloat the struggling tars, For yet they strove, although of no great use:

There was no light in heaven but a few stars. The boats put off o'ercrowded with their crews;

She gave a heel, and then a lurch to port, And, going down head-foremost—sunk, in short.


Then rose from sea to sky the wild farewell— Then shrieked the timid, and stood still the brave—

Then some leaped overboard with dreadful yell, As eager to anticipate their grave;

And the sea yawned around her like a hell, And down she sucked with her the whirling wave,

Like one who grapples with his enemy,
And strives to strangle him before he die.


And first one universal shriek there rushed,
Louder than the loud ocean, like a crash

Of echoing thunder; and then all was hushed,
Save the wild wind and the remorseless dash

Of billows; but at intervals there gushed,
Accompanied with a convulsive splash,

A solitary shriek, the bubbling cry

Of some strong swimmer in his agony.

The Isles or Greece. From Canto III* 78

And now they were diverted by their suite, Dwarfs, dancing girls, black eunuchs, and a poet,

Which made their new establishment complete; The last was of great fame, and liked to show it;

His verses rarely wanted their due feet—

And for his theme—he seldom sung below it, He being paid to satirize or flatter, As the psalm says, '' inditing a good matter.''


He praised the present, and abused the past, Beversing the good custom of old days,

An Eastern anti-jacobini at last He turned, preferring pudding to no praise2

For some few years his lot had been o'ercast

By his seeming independent in his lays, But now he sung the Sultan and the Pacha With truth like Southey, and with verse like Crashaw.s


He was a man who had seen many changes, And always changed as true as any needle; His polar star being one which rather ranges,

1 Anti-revolutionary, antl democratic.

2 See Tope The Dunciad,

3 Southey, as poet laureate, flattered royalty. The

name of Crashaw serves chiefly for a rhyme.

* Juan and naldee. the daughter of Lamhro. a pirate, and lord of one of the Grecian Isles, hold a leapt In Lambro's halls during his absence.

And not the fixed—he knew the way to wheedle;

So vile he 'scaped the doom which oft avenges; And being fluent (save indeed when fee'd ill),

He lied with such a fervour of intention— There was no doubt he earned his laureate pension.


Thus, usually, when he was asked to sing, He gave the different nations something national;

'Twas all the same to him—"God save the King,"

Or, 1' t'a ira,' '* according to the fashion all: His Muse made increment of anything,

From the high lyric down to the low rational; If Pindar' sang horse-races, what should hinder Himself from being as pliable as Pindar.


In France, for instance, he would write a chanson;

In England a six canto quarto tale;
In Spain he'd make a ballad or romance on

The last war—much the same in Portugal; In Germany, the Pegasus he'd prance on

Would be old Goethe's (see what says Do Stael«);

In Italy he'd ape the "Treecntisti; In Greece, he'd sing some sort of hymn like this t' ye:

The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece!

Where burning Sappho loved and sung. Where grew the arts of war and peace,—

Where Delos8 rose, and Phoebus sprung!
Eternal summer gilds them yet,
But all, except their sun, is set. <

The Scian and the Teian muse,"
The hero's harp, the lover's lute,

Have found the fame your shores refuse:
Their place of birth alone is mute

[blocks in formation]

To sounds which echo further west

Than your sires' '' Islands of the Blest. "*» 12

The mountains look on Marathon—

And Marathon looks on the sea; And musing there an hour alone,

I dreamed that Greece might still be free;
For standing on the Persians' grave,
I could not deem myself a slave. 1*

A king sate on the rocky brow
Which looks o 'er sea-born Salamis;

And ships, by thousands, lay below,
And men in nations;—all were his!

He counted them at break of day—

And when the sun set, where were they? 24

And where are theyt and where art thou,
My country? On thy voiceless shore

The heroic lay is tuneless now—
The heroic bosom beats no morel

And must thy lyre, so long divine,

Degenerate into hands like mine? 30

'Tis something, in the dearth of fame,
Though linked among a fettered race,

To feel at least a patriot's shame,
Even as I sing, suffuse my face;

For what is left the poet here?

For Greeks a blush—for Greece a tear.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Must we but weep o'er days more blest?

Must vce but blush f—Our fathers bled. Earth! render back from out thy breast

A remnant of our Spartan dead! Of the three hundred grant but three, To make a new Thermopylae!

What, silent still? and silent all?

Ah! no;—the voices of the dead Sound like a distant torrent's fall,

And answer, "Let one living head, But one arise,—we come, we cornel" 'Tis but the living who are dumb.

In vain—in vain: strike other chords;

Fill high the cup with Samian wine! Leave battles to the Turkish hordes,

And shed the blood of Scio's vine! Hark! rising to the ignoble call— How answers each bold Bacchanal!

You have the Pyrrhic dance'1 as yet;

Where is the Pyrrhic phalanx'2 gone? Of two such lessons, why forget

The nobler and the manlier one?

10 The fabled Western Isles, lying somewhere In

the Atlantic, u A war-dance.

12 The Greek phalanx as employed by the great general. Pyrrhus.

[ocr errors]

You have the letterB Cadmus" gave—

Think ye he meant them for a slave? 60

Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!

We will not think of themes like these! It made Anacreon's song divine;

He served—but Berved Polycratesi*— A tyrant; but our masters then Were still, at least, our countrymen. 66

The tyrant of the Chersonese"

Was freedom's best and bravest friend;

That tyrant was Miltiades!

Oh! that the present hour would lend

Another despot of the kind!

Such chains as his were sure to bind. 72

Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!

On Suli's rock, and Parga's shore, '« Kiists the remnant of a line

Such as the Doric mothers bore;
And there, perhaps, some seed is sown,
The Heracleidan" blood might own. 78

Trust not for freedom to the Franks—
They have a king who buys and sells;

In native swords and native ranks,
The only hope of courage dwells:

But. Turkish force, and Latin fraud,

Would break your shield, however broad. 84

Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!

Our virgins dance beneath the shade— I see their glorious black eyes shine;

But gazing on each glowing maid,
My own the burning tear-drop laves,
To think such breasts must suckle slaves. 90

Place me on Sunium's18 marbled steep,
Where nothing, save the waves and I,

May hear our mutual murmurs sweep;
There, swan-like, let me sing and die:

A land of slaves shall nc 'er be mine—

Dash down yon cup of Samian wine! 96


Thus sung, or would, or could, or should have sung,

The modern Greek, in tolerable verse; If not like Orpheus quite, when Greece was young,

Yet in these times he might have done much worse:

13 Cadmus was said to have introduced the Greek

alphabet from I'btpnlcla.

14 Tyrant (ruler) of Samos, who gave refuge to


15 A Thraclan peninsula. i« In western Greece.

It 1. e., ancient Greek

18 The southernmost promontory of Attica,

His strain displayed some feeling—right or wrong;

And feeling, in a poet, is the source Of others' feeling; but they are such liars, And take all colours—like the hands of dyers.1"


But words are things, and a small drop of ink,

Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think;

'Tis strange, the shortest letter which man uses

Instead of •peecb, may form a lasting link

Of ages; to what straits old Time reduces Frail man when paper—even a rag like this, Survives himself, his tomb, and all that's his!


T' our tale.—The feast was over, the slaves gone,

The dwarfs and dancing girls had all retired: The Arab lore and poet's song were done,

And every sound of revelry expired; The lady and her lover, left alone,

The rosy flood of twilight's sky admired; Ave Maria! o'er the earth and sea, That heavenliest hour of Heaven is worthiest thee!


Ave Maria! blessed be the hour!

The time, the clime, the spot, where I so oft Have felt that moment in its fullest power

Sink o'er the earth so beautiful and soft, While swung the deep bell in the distant tower,

Or the faint dying day-hymn stole aloft, And not a breath crept through the rosy air. And yet the forest leaves seemed stirred with prayer.


Ave Maria! 'tis the hour of prayer!

Ave Maria! 'tis the hour of love! Ave Maria! may our spirits dare

Look up to thine and to thy Son's above! Ave Maria! oh that face so fair!

Those downcast eyes beneath the Almighty dove—

What though 't is but a pictured image?— strike—

That painting is no idol,— 't is too like. 104

Some kinder casuists are pleased to say,

In nameless print—that T have no devotion; But set those persons down with me to pray,

i» Shakespeare: Sonnet 111.

And you shall see who has the properest notion

Of getting into heaven the shortest way;

My altars are the mountains and the ocean, Earth, air, stars,—all that springs from the

great Whole, Who hath produced, and will receive the soul.


Sweet hour of twilight!—in the solitude
Of the pine forest, and the silent shore

Which bounds Ravenna's immemorial wood, Rooted where once the Adrian^ wave flowed o'er,

To where the last CVsarean fortress stood,

Evergreen forest! which Boccaccio's lore And Dryden's lay made haunted ground to me,21

How have I loved the twilight hour and theel 106

The shrill cicalas, people of the pine,

Making their summer lives one ceaseless song, Were the sole echoes, save my steed's and mine,

And vesper bell's that rose the boughs along; The spectre huntsman of Onesti's line,

His hell-dogs, and their chase, and the fair throng

Which learned from this example not to fly From a true lover,—shadowed my mind's eye.


Oh, Hesperus! thou bringest all good things— Home to the weary, to the hungry cheer,

To the young bird the parent's brooding wings, The welcome stall to the o'crlaboured steer;

Whate'er of peace about our hearthstone clings, Whate'er our household gods protect of dear,

Are gathered round us by thy look of rest;

Thou bring'st the child, too, to the mother's breast.


Soft hour! which wakes the wish and melts the heart

Of those who sail the seas, on the first day When they from their sweet friends are torn apart;

Or fills with love the pilgrim on his way As the far bell of vesper makes him start,

Seeming to weep the dying day's decay; Is this a fancy which our reason scorns? Ah! surely, nothing dies but something

mourns! so The Adriatic.

81 Dryden's Theodore and Tonorta is a translation from Boccaccio of the talc of a spectre huntsman who haunted this region. Ityron lived for some time at Ravenna and frequently rode In the adjoining forest.



Nondum amabam, ct amare amabam, quierebam quid amarem, amans amare.t—Confet. St. August.


The poem entitled Alaator may be considered as allegorical of one of the most interesting situations of the human mind. It represents a youth of uncorrupted feelings and adventurous genius led forth by an imagination inflamed and purified through familiarity with all that is excellent and majestic, to the contemplation of the universe. He drinks deep of the fountains of knowledge, and is still insatiate. The magnificence and beauty of the external world sinks profoundly into the frame of his conceptions, and affords to tbelr modifications a variety not to be exhausted. So long as It is possible for bis desires to point towards objects thus infinite and unmeasured, be is Joyous, and tranquil, and self-possessed. But the period arrives when these objects cease to suffice. His mind is at length suddenly awakened and thirsts for intercourse with an intelligence similar to itself. He images to himself the Being whom be loves. Conversant with speculations of the sublimest and most perfect natures, tbe vision in which he embodies his own imaginations unites all of wonderful, or wise, or beautiful, which the poet, the philosopher, or the lover, could depicture. The intellectual faculties, the imagination, the functions of sense, have their respective requisitions on the sympathy of corresponding powers in other human beings. The Poet is represented as uniting these requisitions, and attaching them to a single Image. He seeks in vain for a prototype of his conception. Blasted by his disappointment, be descends to an untimely grave.

The picture Is not barren of Instruction to actual men. The Poet's self-centred seclusion was avenged by the furies of an Irresistible passion pursuing him to speedy ruin. But that Power which strikes the luminaries of tbe world with sudden darkness and extinction, by awakening them to too exquisite a perception of its imlu

• The word Alaator means "the spirit of solitude." which is treated here as a spirit of evil, or a spirit leading to disaster; it must not be mistaken for the name of the hero of the poem. In the Introduction (lines 1-49) Shelley speaks in his own person; but the Poet whose history he then proceeds to relate bears very markedly his own traits, and the whole must be considered as largely a spiritual autobiography. It Is difficult to resist calling attention to some of the features of this Impressive poem; to its quiet mastery of theme and sustained poetic power: to its blank-rerse harmonies subtler than rhymes; to the graphic descriptions, as in lines 239369, whence Bryant, Poe, and Tennyson have manifestly all drawn inspiration: to occasional lines of an Impelling swiftness (612, 613), or occasional phrases of startling strength (676. 681); to the fervent exaltation of self-sacrifice in the prayer that one life might answer for all. and the pangs of death be henceforth banished from the world (609-624): or to the unapproachable beauty of the description of slow-coming death itself —a euthanasia In which life passes nway like a strain of music or like an "exhalation." There can be no higher definition of poetry than is implicit In these things.

t "Not yet did I love, yet I yearned to love: I sought what I might love, yearning to love." In this vain pursuit of ideal loveliness, said Mrs. Shelley, is the deeper meaning of .l/o«for to be found,

« AnteriorContinuar »