Then only may they leave the waste of brine In which they welter here, And rise above the hills of earth, and shine In a serener sphere.
Voices from the mountains speak, Apennines to Alps reply; Vale to vale and peak to peak Toss an old-remembered cry: "Italy Shall be free!" Such the mighty shout that fills All the passes of her hills.
All the old Italian lakes Quiver at that quickening word; Como with a thrill awakes; Garda to her depths is stirred; Mid the steeps Where he sleeps, Dreaming of the elder years, Startled Thrasymenus hears.
Sweeping Arno, swelling Po, Murmur freedom to their meads. Tiber swift and Liris slow Send strange whispers from their reeds. "Italy Shall be free!" Sing the glittering brooks that slide, Toward the sea, from Etna's side.
Long ago was Gracchus slain; Brutus perished long ago; Yet the living roots remain Whence the shoots of greatness grow; Yet again, Godlike men, Sprung from that heroic stem, Call the land to rise with them.
They who haunt the swarming street, They who chase the mountain-boar, Or, where cliff and billow meet, Prune the vine or pull the oar, With a stroke Break their yoke; Slaves but yestereve were they— Freemen with the dawning day.
Looking in his children's eyes, While his own with gladness flash, "These," the Umbrian father cries, "Ne'er shall crouch beneath the lash! These shall ne'er Brook to wear Chains whose cruel links are twined Round the crushed and withering mind."
Monarchs! ye whose armies stand Harnessed for the battle-field! Pause, and from the lifted hand Drop the bolts of war ye wield. Stand aloof While the proof Of the people's might is given; Leave their kings to them and Heaven!
Stand aloof, and see the oppressed Chase the oppressor, pale with fear, As the fresh winds of the west Blow the misty valleys clear. Stand and see Italy Cast the gyves she wears no more To the gulfs that steep her shore.
A day-dream by the dark-blue deep; Was it a dream, or something more? I sat where Posilippo's steep, With its gray shelves, o'erhung the shore.
On ruined Roman walls around The poppy flaunted, for 'twas May; And at my feet, with gentle sound, Broke the light billows of the bay.
I sat and watched the eternal flow Of those smooth billows toward the shore, While quivering lines of light below Ran with them on the ocean-floor:
Till, from the deep, there seemed to rise White arms upon the waves outspread, Young faces, lit with soft blue eyes, And smooth, round cheeks, just touched with red.
Their long, fair tresses, tinged with gold, Lay floating on the ocean-streams, And such their brows as bards behold— Love-stricken bards—in morning dreams.
Then moved their coral lips; a strain Low, sweet and sorrowful, I heard, As if the murmurs of the main Were shaped to syllable and word.
"The sight thou dimly dost behold, Oh, stranger from a distant sky! Was often, in the days of old, Seen by the clear, believing eye.
"Then danced we on the wrinkled sand, Sat in cool caverns by the sea, Or wandered up the bloomy land, To talk with shepherds on the lea.
"To us, in storms, the seaman prayed, And where our rustic altars stood, His little children came and laid The fairest flowers of field and wood.
"Oh woe, a long, unending woe! For who shall knit the ties again That linked the sea-nymphs, long ago, In kindly fellowship with men?
"Earth rears her flowers for us no more; A half-remembered dream are we; Unseen we haunt the sunny shore, And swim, unmarked, the glassy sea.
"And we have none to love or aid, But wander, heedless of mankind, With shadows by the cloud-rack made, With moaning wave and sighing wind.
"Yet sometimes, as in elder days, We come before the painter's eye, Or fix the sculptor's eager gaze, With no profaner witness nigh.
"And then the words of men grow warm With praise and wonder, asking where The artist saw the perfect form He copied forth in lines so fair."
As thus they spoke, with wavering sweep Floated the graceful forms away; Dimmer and dimmer, through the deep, I saw the white arms gleam and play.
Fainter and fainter, on mine ear, Fell the soft accents of their speech, Till I, at last, could only hear The waves run murmuring up the beach.
THE RUINS OF ITALICA.
FROM THE SPANISH OF RIOJA.
Fabius, this region, desolate and drear, These solitary fields, this shapeless mound, Were once Italica, the far-renowned; For Scipio, the mighty, planted here His conquering colony, and now, o'erthrown, Lie its once-dreaded walls of massive stone, Sad relics, sad and vain, Of those invincible men Who held the region then. Funereal memories alone remain Where forms of high example walked of yore. Here lay the forum, there arose the fane— The eye beholds their places, and no more. Their proud gymnasium and their sumptuous baths Resolved to dust and cinders, strew the paths; Their towers, that looked defiance at the sky, Fallen by their own vast weight, in fragments lie.
This broken circus, where the rock-weeds climb, Flaunting with yellow blossoms, and defy The gods to whom its walls were piled so high, Is now a tragic theatre, where Time Acts his great fable, spreads a stage that shows Past grandeur's story and its dreary close. Why, round this desert pit, Shout not the applauding rows Where the great people sit? Wild beasts are here, but where the combatant; With his bare arms, the strong athleta where? All have departed from this once gay haunt Of noisy crowds, and silence holds the air. Yet, on this spot, Time gives us to behold A spectacle as stern as those of old. As dreamily I gaze, there seem to rise, From all the mighty ruin, wailing cries.
The terrible in war, the pride of Spain, Trajan, his country's father, here was born; Good, fortunate, triumphant, to whose reign Submitted the far regions, where the morn Rose from her cradle, and the shore whose steeps O'erlooked the conquered Gaditanian deeps. Of mighty Adrian here, Of Theodosius, saint, Of Silius, Virgil's peer, Were rocked the cradles, rich with gold, and quaint With ivory carvings; here were laurel-boughs And sprays of jasmine gathered for their brows, From gardens now a marshy, thorny waste. Where rose the palace, reared for Caesar, yawn Foul rifts to which the scudding lizards haste. Palaces, gardens, Caesars, all are gone, And even the stones their names were graven on.
Fabius, if tears prevent thee not, survey The long-dismantled streets, so thronged of old, The broken marbles, arches in decay, Proud statues, toppled from their place and rolled In dust, when Nemesis, the avenger, came, And buried, in forgetfulness profound, The owners and their fame. Thus Troy, I deem, must be, With many a mouldering mound; And thou, whose name alone remains to thee, Rome, of old gods and kings the native ground; And thou, sage Athens, built by Pallas, whom Just laws redeemed not from the appointed doom. The envy of earth's cities once wert thou— A weary solitude and ashes now! For Fate and Death respect ye not; they strike The mighty city and the wise alike.
But why goes forth the wandering thought to frame New themes of sorrow, sought in distant lands? Enough the example that before me stands; For here are smoke-wreaths seen, and glimmering flame, And hoarse lamentings on the breezes die; So doth the mighty ruin cast its spell On those who near it dwell. And under night's still sky, As awe-struck peasants tell, A melancholy voice is heard to cry, "Italica is fallen!" the echoes then Mournfully shout "Italica" again. The leafy alleys of the forest nigh Murmur "Italica," and all around, A troop of mighty shadows, at the sound Of that illustrious name, repeat the call, "Italica!" from ruined tower and wall.
WAITING BY THE GATE.
Beside a massive gateway built up in years gone by, Upon whose top the clouds in eternal shadow lie, While streams the evening sunshine on quiet wood and lea, I stand and calmly wait till the hinges turn for me.
The tree-tops faintly rustle beneath the breeze's flight, A soft and soothing sound, yet it whispers of the night; I hear the wood-thrush piping one mellow descant more, And scent the flowers that blow when the heat of day is o'er.
Behold, the portals open, and o'er the threshold, now, There steps a weary one with a pale and furrowed brow; His count of years is full, his allotted task is wrought; He passes to his rest from a place that needs him not.
In sadness then I ponder how quickly fleets the hour Of human strength and action, man's courage and his power. I muse while still the wood-thrush sings down the golden day, And as I look and listen the sadness wears away.
Again the hinges turn, and a youth, departing, throws A look of longing backward, and sorrowfully goes; A blooming maid, unbinding the roses from her hair, Moves mournfully away from amid the young and fair.
O glory of our race that so suddenly decays! O crimson flush of morning that darkens as we gaze! O breath of summer blossoms that on the restless air Scatters a moment's sweetness, and flies we know not where!
I grieve for life's bright promise, just shown and then withdrawn; But still the sun shines round me: the evening bird sings on, And I again am soothed, and, beside the ancient gate, In this soft evening sunlight, I calmly stand and wait.
Once more the gates are opened; an infant group go out, The sweet smile quenched forever, and stilled the sprightly shout. O frail, frail tree of Life, that upon the greensward strows Its fair young buds unopened, with every wind that blows!
So come from every region, so enter, side by side, The strong and faint of spirit, the meek and men of pride. Steps of earth's great and mighty, between those pillars gray, And prints of little feet, mark the dust along the way.
And some approach the threshold whose looks are blank with fear, And some whose temples brighten with joy in drawing near, As if they saw dear faces, and caught the gracious eye Of Him, the Sinless Teacher, who came for us to die.
I mark the joy, the terror; yet these, within my heart, Can neither wake the dread nor the longing to depart; And, in the sunshine streaming on quiet wood and lea, I stand and calmly wait till the hinges turn for me.
Oh country, marvel of the earth! Oh realm to sudden greatness grown! The age that gloried in thy birth, Shall it behold thee overthrown? Shall traitors lay that greatness low? No, land of Hope and Blessing, No!
And we, who wear thy glorious name, Shall we, like cravens, stand apart, When those whom thou hast trusted aim The death-blow at thy generous heart? Forth goes the battle-cry, and lo! Hosts rise in harness, shouting, No!
And they who founded, in our land, The power that rules from sea to sea, Bled they in vain, or vainly planned To leave their country great and free? Their sleeping ashes, from below, Send up the thrilling murmur, No!
Knit they the gentle ties which long These sister States were proud to wear, And forged the kindly links so strong For idle hands in sport to tear? For scornful hands aside to throw? No, by our fathers' memory, No!
Our humming marts, our iron ways, Our wind-tossed woods on mountain-crest, The hoarse Atlantic, with its bays, The calm, broad Ocean of the West, And Mississippi's torrent-flow, And loud Niagara, answer, No!
Not yet the hour is nigh when they Who deep in Eld's dim twilight sit, Earth's ancient kings, shall rise and say, "Proud country, welcome to the pit! So soon art thou, like us, brought low!" No, sullen group of shadows, No!
For now, behold, the arm that gave The victory in our fathers' day, Strong, as of old, to guard and save— That mighty arm which none can stay— On clouds above and fields below, Writes, in men's sight, the answer, No!
OUR COUNTRY'S CALL.
Lay down the axe; fling by the spade; Leave in its track the toiling plough; The rifle and the bayonet-blade For arms like yours were fitter now; And let the hands that ply the pen Quit the light task, and learn to wield The horseman's crooked brand, and rein The charger on the battle-field.
Our country calls; away! away! To where the blood-stream blots the green. Strike to defend the gentlest sway That Time in all his course has seen. See, from a thousand coverts—see, Spring the armed foes that haunt her track; They rush to smite her down, and we Must beat the banded traitors back.
Ho! sturdy as the oaks ye cleave, And moved as soon to fear and flight, Men of the glade and forest! leave Your woodcraft for the field of fight. The arms that wield the axe must pour An iron tempest on the foe; His serried ranks shall reel before The arm that lays the panther low.
And ye, who breast the mountain-storm By grassy steep or highland lake, Come, for the land ye love, to form A bulwark that no foe can break. Stand, like your own gray cliffs that mock The whirlwind, stand in her defence; The blast as soon shall move the rock As rushing squadrons bear ye thence.
And ye, whose homes are by her grand Swift rivers, rising far away, Come from the depth of her green land, As mighty in your march as they; As terrible as when the rains Have swelled them over bank and bourne With sudden floods to drown the plains And sweep along the woods uptorn.
And ye, who throng, beside the deep, Her ports and hamlets of the strand, In number like the waves that leap On his long-murmuring marge of sand— Come like that deep, when, o'er his brim, He rises, all his floods to pour, And flings the proudest barks that swim, A helpless wreck, against the shore!
Few, few were they whose swords of old Won the fair land in which we dwell; But we are many, we who hold The grim resolve to guard it well. Strike, for that broad and goodly land, Blow after blow, till men shall see That Might and Right move hand in hand, And glorious must their triumph be!
O Constellations of the early night, That sparkled brighter as the twilight died, And made the darkness glorious! I have seen Your rays grow dim upon the horizon's edge, And sink behind the mountains. I have seen The great Orion, with his jewelled belt, That large-limbed warrior of the skies, go down Into the gloom. Beside him sank a crowd Of shining ones. I look in vain to find The group of sister-stars, which mothers love To show their wondering babes, the gentle Seven. Along the desert space mine eyes in vain Seek the resplendent cressets which the Twins Uplifted in their ever-youthful hands. The streaming tresses of the Egyptian Queen Spangle the heavens no more. The Virgin trails No more her glittering garments through the blue. Gone! all are gone! and the forsaken Night, With all her winds, in all her dreary wastes, Sighs that they shine upon her face no more Now only here and there a little star Looks forth alone. Ah me! I know them not, Those dim successors of the numberless host That filled the heavenly fields, and flung to earth Their quivering fires. And now the middle watch Betwixt the eve and morn is past, and still The darkness gains upon the sky, and still It closes round my way. Shall, then, the Night Grow starless in her later hours? Have these No train of flaming watchers, that shall mark Their coming and farewell? O Sons of Light! Have ye then left me ere the dawn of day To grope along my journey sad and faint? Thus I complained, and from the darkness round A voice replied—was it indeed a voice, Or seeming accents of a waking dream Heard by the inner ear? But thus it said: O Traveller of the Night! thine eyes are dim With watching; and the mists, that chill the vale Down which thy feet are passing, hide from view The ever-burning stars. It is thy sight That is so dark, and not the heavens. Thine eyes, Were they but clear, would see a fiery host Above thee; Hercules, with flashing mace, The Lyre with silver chords, the Swan uppoised On gleaming wings, the Dolphin gliding on With glistening scales, and that poetic steed, With beamy mane, whose hoof struck out from earth The fount of Hippocrene, and many more, Fair clustered splendors, with whose rays the Night Shall close her march in glory, ere she yield, To the young Day, the great earth steeped in dew. So spake the monitor, and I perceived How vain were my repinings, and my thought Went backward to the vanished years and all The good and great who came and passed with them, And knew that ever would the years to come Bring with them, in their course, the good and great, Lights of the world, though, to my clouded sight, Their rays might seem but dim, or reach me not.
THE THIRD OF NOVEMBER, 1861.
Softly breathes the west-wind beside the ruddy forest, Taking leaf by leaf from the branches where he flies. Sweetly streams the sunshine, this third day of November, Through the golden haze of the quiet autumn skies.
Tenderly the season has spared the grassy meadows, Spared the potted flowers that the old world gave the new. Spared the autumn-rose and the garden's group of pansies, Late-blown dandelions and periwinkles blue.
On my cornice linger the ripe black grapes ungathered; Children fill the groves with the echoes of their glee, Gathering tawny chestnuts, and shouting when beside them Drops the heavy fruit of the tall black-walnut tree.
Glorious are the woods in their latest gold and crimson, Yet our full-leaved willows are in their freshest green. Such a kindly autumn, so mercifully dealing With the growths of summer, I never yet have seen.
Like this kindly season may life's decline come o'er me; Past is manhood's summer, the frosty months are here; Yet be genial airs and a pleasant sunshine left me, Leaf, and fruit, and blossom, to mark the closing year!
Dreary is the time when the flowers of earth are withered; Dreary is the time when the woodland leaves are cast— When, upon the hillside, all hardened into iron, Howling, like a wolf, flies the famished northern blast.
Dreary are the years when the eye can look no longer With delight on Nature, or hope on human kind; Oh, may those that whiten my temples, as they pass me, Leave the heart unfrozen, and spare the cheerful mind!
THE MOTHER'S HYMN.
Lord, who ordainest for mankind Benignant toils and tender cares! We thank Thee for the ties that bind The mother to the child she bears.
We thank Thee for the hopes that rise, Within her heart, as, day by day, The dawning soul, from those young eyes, Looks, with a clearer, steadier ray.
And grateful for the blessing given With that dear infant on her knee, She trains the eye to look to heaven, The voice to lisp a prayer to Thee.
Such thanks the blessed Mary gave, When, from her lap, the Holy Child, Sent from on high to seek and save The lost of earth, looked up and smiled.
All-Gracious! grant, to those that bear A mother's charge, the strength and light To lead the steps that own their care In ways of Love, and Truth, and Right.
Hear now a legend of the days of old— The days when there were goodly marvels yet, When man to man gave willing faith, and loved A tale the better that 'twas wild and strange. Beside a pleasant dwelling ran a brook Scudding along a narrow channel, paved With green and yellow pebbles; yet full clear Its waters were, and colorless and cool, As fresh from granite rocks. A maiden oft Stood at the open window, leaning out, And listening to the sound the water made, A sweet, eternal murmur, still the same, And not the same; and oft, as spring came on, She gathered violets from its fresh moist bank, To place within her bower, and when the herbs Of summer drooped beneath the mid-day sun, She sat within the shade of a great rock, Dreamily listening to the streamlet's song. Ripe were the maiden's years; her stature showed Womanly beauty, and her clear, calm eye Was bright with venturous spirit, yet her face Was passionless, like those by sculptor graved For niches in a temple. Lovers oft Had wooed her, but she only laughed at love, And wondered at the silly things they said. 'Twas her delight to wander where wild-vines O'erhang the river's brim, to climb the path Of woodland streamlet to its mountain-springs, To sit by gleaming wells and mark below The image of the rushes on its edge, And, deep beyond, the trailing clouds that slid Across the fair blue space. No little fount Stole forth from hanging rock, or in the side Of hollow dell, or under roots of oak; No rill came trickling, with a stripe of green, Down the bare hill, that to this maiden's eye Was not familiar. Often did the banks Of river or of sylvan lakelet hear The dip of oars with which the maiden rowed Her shallop, pushing ever from the prow A crowd of long, light ripples toward the shore. Two brothers had the maiden, and she thought, Within herself: "I would I were like them; For then I might go forth alone, to trace The mighty rivers downward to the sea, And upward to the brooks that, through the year, Prattle to the cool valleys. I would know What races drink their waters; how their chiefs Bear rule, and how men worship there, and how They build, and to what quaint device they frame, Where sea and river meet, their stately ships; What flowers are in their gardens, and what trees Bear fruit within their orchards; in what garb Their bowmen meet on holidays, and how Their maidens bind the waist and braid the hair. Here, on these hills, my father's house o'erlooks Broad pastures grazed by flocks and herds, but there I hear they sprinkle the great plains with corn And watch its springing up, and when the green Is changed to gold, they cut the stems and bring The harvest in, and give the nations bread. And there they hew the quarry into shafts, And pile up glorious temples from the rock, And chisel the rude stones to shapes of men. All this I pine to see, and would have seen, But that I am a woman, long ago." Thus in her wanderings did the maiden dream, Until, at length, one morn in early spring, When all the glistening fields lay white with frost, She came half breathless where her mother sat: "See, mother dear," she said, "what I have found, Upon our rivulet's bank; two slippers, white As the midwinter snow, and spangled o'er With twinkling points, like stars, and on the edge My name is wrought in silver; read, I pray, Sella, the name thy mother, now in heaven, Gave at my birth; and sure, they fit my feet!" "A dainty pair," the prudent matron said, "But thine they are not. We must lay them by For those whose careless hands have left them here; Or haply they were placed beside the brook To be a snare. I cannot see thy name Upon the border—only characters Of mystic look and dim are there, like signs Of some strange art; nay, daughter, wear them not." Then Sella hung the slippers in the porch Of that broad rustic lodge, and all who passed Admired their fair contexture, but none knew Who left them by the brook. And now, at length, May, with her flowers and singing birds, had gone, And on bright streams and into deep wells shone The high, midsummer sun. One day, at noon, Sella was missed from the accustomed meal. They sought her in her favorite haunts, they looked By the great rock and far along the stream, And shouted in the sounding woods her name. Night came, and forth the sorrowing household went With torches over the wide pasture-grounds, To pool and thicket, marsh and briery dell, And solitary valley far away. The morning came, and Sella was not found. The sun climbed high; they sought her still; the noon, The hot and silent noon, heard Sella's name, Uttered with a despairing cry, to wastes O'er which the eagle hovered. As the sun Stooped toward the amber west to bring the close Of that sad second day, and, with red eyes, The mother sat within her home alone, Sella was at her side. A shriek of joy Broke the sad silence; glad, warm tears were shed, And words of gladness uttered. "Oh, forgive," The maiden said, "that I could e'er forget Thy wishes for a moment. I just tried The slippers on, amazed to see them shaped So fairly to my feet, when, all at once, I felt my steps upborne and hurried on Almost as if with wings. A strange delight, Blent with a thrill of fear, o'ermastered me, And, ere I knew, my splashing steps were set Within the rivulet's pebbly bed, and I Was rushing down the current. By my side Tripped one as beautiful as ever looked From white clouds in a dream; and, as we ran, She talked with musical voice and sweetly laughed. Gayly we leaped the crag and swam the pool, And swept with dimpling eddies round the rock, And glided between shady meadow-banks. The streamlet, broadening as we went, became A swelling river, and we shot along By stately towns, and under leaning masts Of gallant barks, nor lingered by the shore Of blooming gardens; onward, onward still, The same strong impulse bore me, till, at last, We entered the great deep, and passed below His billows, into boundless spaces, lit With a green sunshine. Here were mighty groves Far down the ocean-valleys, and between Lay what might seem fair meadows, softly tinged With orange and with crimson. Here arose Tall stems, that, rooted in the depths below, Swung idly with the motions of the sea; And here were shrubberies in whose mazy screen The creatures of the deep made haunt. My friend Named the strange growths, the pretty coralline, The dulse with crimson leaves, and, streaming far, Sea-thong and sea-lace. Here the tangle spread Its broad, thick fronds, with pleasant bowers beneath; And oft we trod a waste of pearly sands, Spotted with rosy shells, and thence looked in At caverns of the sea whose rock-roofed halls Lay in blue twilight. As we moved along, The dwellers of the deep, in mighty herds, Passed by us, reverently they passed us by, Long trains of dolphins rolling through the brine, Huge whales, that drew the waters after them, A torrent-stream, and hideous hammer-sharks, Chasing their prey. I shuddered as they came; Gently they turned aside and gave us room." Hereat broke in the mother: "Sella dear, This is a dream, the idlest, vainest dream." "Nay, mother, nay; behold this sea-green scarf, Woven of such threads as never human hand Twined from the distaff. She who led my way Through the great waters, bade me wear it home, A token that my tale is true. 'And keep,' She said, 'the slippers thou hast found, for thou, When shod with them, shalt be like one of us, With power to walk at will the ocean-floor, Among its monstrous creatures, unafraid, And feel no longing for the air of heaven To fill thy lungs, and send the warm, red blood Along thy veins. But thou shalt pass the hours In dances with the sea-nymphs, or go forth, To look into the mysteries of the abyss Where never plummet reached. And thou shalt sleep Thy weariness away on downy banks Of sea-moss, where the pulses of the tide Shall gently lift thy hair, or thou shalt float On the soft currents that go forth and wind From isle to isle, and wander through the sea.' "So spake my fellow-voyager, her words Sounding like wavelets on a summer shore, And then we stopped beside a hanging rock, With a smooth beach of white sands at its foot, Where three fair creatures like herself were set At their sea-banquet, crisp and juicy stalks, Culled from the ocean's meadows, and the sweet Midrib of pleasant leaves, and golden fruits Dropped from the trees that edge the southern isles, And gathered on the waves. Kindly they prayed That I would share their meal, and I partook With eager appetite, for long had been My journey, and I left the spot refreshed. "And then we wandered off amid the groves Of coral loftier than the growths of earth; The mightiest cedar lifts no trunk like theirs, So huge, so high toward heaven, nor overhangs Alleys and bowers so dim. We moved between Pinnacles of black rock, which, from beneath, Molten by inner fires, so said my guide, Gushed long ago into the hissing brine, That quenched and hardened them, and now they stand Motionless in the currents of the sea That part and flow around them. As we went, We looked into the hollows of the abyss, To which the never-resting waters sweep The skeletons of sharks, the long white spines Of narwhal and of dolphin, bones of men Shipwrecked, and mighty ribs of foundered barks. Down the blue pits we looked, and hastened on. "But beautiful the fountains of the sea Sprang upward from its bed: the silvery jets Shot branching far into the azure brine, And where they mingled with it, the great deep Quivered and shook, as shakes the glimmering air Ahove a furnace. So we wandered through The mighty world of waters, till at length I wearied of its wonders, and my heart Began to yearn for my dear mountain-home. I prayed my gentle guide to lead me back To the upper air. 'A glorious realm,' I said, 'Is this thou openest to me; but I stray Bewildered in its vastness; these strange sights And this strange light oppress me. I must see The faces that I love, or I shall die.' "She took my hand, and, darting through the waves Brought me to where the stream, by which we came, Rushed into the main ocean. Then began A slower journey upward. Wearily We breasted the strong current, climbing through The rapids, tossing high their foam. The night Came down, and in the clear depth of a pool, Edged with o'erhanging rock, we took our rest Till morning; and I slept, and dreamed of home And thee. A pleasant sight the morning showed; The green fields of this upper world, the herds That grazed the bank, the light on the red clouds, The trees, with all their host of trembling leaves, Lifting and lowering to the restless wind Their branches. As I woke, I saw them all From the clear stream; yet strangely was my heart Parted between the watery world and this, And as we journeyed upward, oft I thought Of marvels I had seen, and stopped and turned, And lingered, till I thought of thee again; And then again I turned and clambered up The rivulet's murmuring path, until we came Beside the cottage-door. There tenderly My fair conductor kissed me, and I saw Her face no more. I took the slippers off. Oh! with what deep delight my lungs drew in The air of heaven again, and with what joy I felt my blood bound with its former glow; And now I never leave thy side again!" So spoke the maiden Sella, with large tears Standing in her mild eyes, and in the porch Replaced the slippers. Autumn came and went; The winter passed; another summer warmed The quiet pools; another autumn tinged The grape with red, yet while it hung unplucked, The mother ere her time was carried forth To sleep among the solitary hills. A long, still sadness settled on that home Among the mountains. The stern father there Wept with his children, and grew soft of heart, And Sella, and the brothers twain, and one Younger than they, a sister fair and shy, Strewed the new grave with flowers, and round it set Shrubs that all winter held their lively green. Time passed; the grief with which their hearts were wrung Waned to a gentle sorrow. Sella, now, Was often absent from the patriarch's board; The slippers hung no longer in the porch; And sometimes after summer nights her couch Was found unpressed at dawn, and well they knew That she was wandering with the race who make Their dwelling in the waters. Oft her looks Fixed on blank space, and oft the ill-suited word Told that her thoughts were far away. In vain Her brothers reasoned with her tenderly: "Oh leave not thus thy kindred!" so they prayed; "Dear Sella, now that she who gave us birth Is in her grave, oh go not hence, to seek Companions in that strange cold realm below, For which God made not us nor thee, but stay To be the grace and glory of our home." She looked at them with those mild eyes and wept, But said no word in answer, nor refrained From those mysterious wanderings that filled Their loving hearts with a perpetual pain. And now the younger sister, fair and shy, Had grown to early womanhood, and one Who loved her well had wooed her for his bride, And she had named the wedding-day. The herd Had given its fatlings for the marriage-feast; The roadside garden and the secret glen Were rifled of their sweetest flowers to twine The door-posts, and to lie among the locks Of maids, the wedding-guests, and from the boughs Of mountain-orchards had the fairest fruit Been plucked to glisten in the canisters. Then, trooping over hill and valley, came Matron and maid, grave men and smiling youths, Like swallows gathering for their autumn flight, In costumes of that simpler age they came, That gave the limbs large play, and wrapped the form In easy folds, yet bright with glowing hues As suited holidays. All hastened on To that glad bridal. There already stood The priest prepared to say the spousal rite, And there the harpers in due order sat, And there the singers. Sella, midst them all, Moved strangely and serenely beautiful, With clear blue eyes, fair locks, and brow and cheek Colorless as the lily of the lakes, Yet moulded to such shape as artists give To beings of immortal youth. Her hands Had decked her sister for the bridal hour With chosen flowers, and lawn whose delicate threads Vied with the spider's spinning. There she stood With such a gentle pleasure in her looks As might beseem a river-nymph's soft eyes Gracing a bridal of the race whose flocks Were pastured on the borders of her stream. She smiled, but from that calm sweet face the smile Was soon to pass away. That very morn The elder of the brothers, as he stood Upon the hillside, had beheld the maid, Emerging from the channel of the brook, With three fresh water-lilies in her hand, Wring dry her dripping locks, and in a cleft Of hanging rock, beside a screen of boughs, Bestow the spangled slippers. None before Had known where Sella hid them. Then she laid The light-brown tresses smooth, and in them twined The lily-buds, and hastily drew forth And threw across her shoulders a light robe Wrought for the bridal, and with bounding steps Ran toward the lodge. The youth beheld and marked The spot and slowly followed from afar. Now had the marriage-rite been said; the bride Stood in the blush that from her burning cheek Glowed down the alabaster neck, as morn Crimsons the pearly heaven half-way to the west. At once the harpers struck their chords; a gush Of music broke upon the air; the youths All started to the dance. Among them moved The queenly Sella with a grace that seemed Caught from the swaying of the summer sea. The young drew forth the elders to the dance, Who joined it half abashed, but when they felt The joyous music tingling in their veins, They called for quaint old measures, which they trod As gayly as in youth, and far abroad Came through the open windows cheerful shouts And bursts of laughter. They who heard the sound Upon the mountain footpaths paused and said, "A merry wedding." Lovers stole away That sunny afternoon to bowers that edged The garden-walks, and what was whispered there The lovers of these later times can guess. Meanwhile the brothers, when the merry din Was loudest, stole to where the slippers lay, And took them thence, and followed down the brook To where a little rapid rushed between Its borders of smooth rock, and dropped them in. The rivulet, as they touched its face, flung up Its small bright waves like hands, and seemed to take The prize with eagerness and draw it down. They, gleaming through the waters as they went, And striking with light sound the shining stones, Slid down the stream. The brothers looked and watched, And listened with full beating hearts, till now The sight and sound had passed, and silently And half repentant hastened to the lodge. The sun was near his set; the music rang Within the dwelling still, but the mirth waned; For groups of guests were sauntering toward their homes Across the fields, and far, on hillside paths, Gleamed the white robes of maidens. Sella grew Weary of the long merriment; she thought Of her still haunts beneath the soundless sea, And all unseen withdrew and sought the cleft Where she had laid the slippers. They were gone! She searched the brookside near, yet found them not. Then her heart sank within her, and she ran Wildly from place to place, and once again She searched the secret cleft, and next she stooped And with spread palms felt carefully beneath The tufted herbs and bushes, and again, And yet again, she searched the rocky cleft. "Who could have taken them?" That question cleared The mystery. She remembered suddenly That when the dance was in its gayest whirl, Her brothers were not seen, and when, at length, They reappeared, the elder joined the sports With shouts of boisterous mirth, and from her eye The younger shrank in silence. "Now, I know The guilty ones," she said, and left the spot, And stood before the youths with such a look Of anguish and reproach that well they knew Her thought, and almost wished the deed undone. Frankly they owned the charge: "And pardon us; We did it all in love; we could not bear That the cold world of waters and the strange Beings that dwell within it should beguile Our sister from us." Then they told her all; How they had seen her stealthily bestow The slippers in the cleft, and how by stealth They took them thence and bore them down the brook, And dropped them in, and how the eager waves Gathered and drew them down; but at that word The maiden shrieked—a broken-hearted shriek— And all who heard it shuddered and turned pale At the despairing cry, and "They are gone," She said, "gone—gone forever! Cruel ones! 'Tis you who shut me out eternally From that serener world which I had learned To love so well. Why took ye not my life? Ye cannot know what ye have done!" She spake And hurried to her chamber, and the guests Who yet had lingered silently withdrew. The brothers followed to the maiden's bower, But with a calm demeanor, as they came, She met them at the door. "The wrong is great," She said, "that ye have done me, but no power Have ye to make it less, nor yet to soothe My sorrow; I shall bear it as I may, The better for the hours that I have passed In the calm region of the middle sea. Go, then. I need you not." They, overawed, Withdrew from that grave presence. Then her tears Broke forth a flood, as when the August cloud, Darkening beside the mountain, suddenly Melts into streams of rain. That weary night She paced her chamber, murmuring as she walked, "O peaceful region of the middle sea! O azure bowers and grots, in which I loved To roam and rest! Am I to long for you, And think how strangely beautiful ye are, Yet never see you more? And dearer yet, Ye gentle ones in whose sweet company I trod the shelly pavements of the deep, And swam its currents, creatures with calm eyes Looking the tenderest love, and voices soft As ripple of light waves along the shore, Uttering the tenderest words! Oh! ne'er again Shall I, in your mild aspects, read the peace That dwells within, and vainly shall I pine To hear your sweet low voices. Haply now Ye miss me in your deep-sea home, and think Of me with pity, as of one condemned To haunt this upper world, with its harsh sounds And glaring lights, its withering heats, its frosts, Cruel and killing, its delirious strifes, And all its feverish passions, till I die." So mourned she the long night, and when the morn Brightened the mountains, from her lattice looked The maiden on a world that was to her A desolate and dreary waste. That day She passed in wandering by the brook that oft Had been her pathway to the sea, and still Seemed, with its cheerful murmur, to invite Her footsteps thither. "Well mayst thou rejoice, Fortunate stream!" she said, "and dance along Thy bed, and make thy course one ceaseless strain Of music, for thou journeyest toward the deep, To which I shall return no more." The night Brought her to her lone chamber, and she knelt And prayed, with many tears, to Him whose hand Touches the wounded heart and it is healed. With prayer there came new thoughts and new desires. She asked for patience and a deeper love For those with whom her lot was henceforth cast, And that in acts of mercy she might lose The sense of her own sorrow. When she rose A weight was lifted from her heart. She sought Her couch, and slept a long and peaceful sleep. At morn she woke to a new life. Her days Henceforth were given to quiet tasks of good In the great world. Men hearkened to her words, And wondered at their wisdom and obeyed, And saw how beautiful the law of love Can make the cares and toils of daily life. Still did she love to haunt the springs and brooks As in her cheerful childhood, and she taught The skill to pierce the soil and meet the veins Of clear cold water winding underneath, And call them forth to daylight. From afar She bade men bring the rivers on long rows Of pillared arches to the sultry town, And on the hot air of the summer fling The spray of dashing fountains. To relieve Their weary hands, she showed them how to tame The rushing stream, and make him drive the wheel That whirls the humming millstone and that wields The ponderous sledge. The waters of the cloud, That drench the hillside in the time of rains, Were gathered, at her bidding, into pools, And in the months of drought led forth again, In glimmering rivulets, to refresh the vales, Till the sky darkened with returning showers. So passed her life, a long and blameless life, And far and near her name was named with love And reverence. Still she kept, as age came on, Her stately presence; still her eyes looked forth From under their calm brows as brightly clear As the transparent wells by which she sat So oft in childhood. Still she kept her fair Unwrinkled features, though her locks were white. A hundred times had summer, since her birth, Opened the water-lily on the lakes, So old traditions tell, before she died. A hundred cities mourned her, and her death Saddened the pastoral valleys. By the brook, That bickering ran beside the cottage-door Where she was born, they reared her monument. Ere long the current parted and flowed round The marble base, forming a little isle, And there the flowers that love the running stream, Iris and orchis, and the cardinal-flower, Crowded and hung caressingly around The stone engraved with Sella's honored name.
THE FIFTH BOOK OF HOMER'S ODYSSEY.
Aurora, rising from her couch beside The famed Tithonus, brought the light of day To men and to immortals. Then the gods Came to their seats in council. With them came High-thundering Jupiter, among them all The mightiest. Pallas, mindful of the past, Spoke of Ulysses and his many woes, Grieved that he still was with the island-nymph. "Oh, father Jove, and all ye blessed ones Who live forever! let not sceptred king, Henceforth, be gracious, mild, and merciful, And righteous; rather be he deaf to prayer, And prone to deeds of wrong, since no one now Remembers the divine Ulysses more Among the people over whom he ruled, Benignly, like a father. Still he lies, Weighed down by many sorrows, in the isle And dwelling of Calypso, who so long Constrains his stay. To his dear native land Depart he cannot; ship, arrayed with oars, And seamen has he none, to bear him o'er The breast of the broad ocean. Nay, even now, Against his well-beloved son a plot Is laid, to slay him as he journeys home From Pylos the divine, and from the walls Of famous Sparta, whither he had gone To gather tidings of his father's fate." Then answered her the ruler of the storms: "My child, what words are these that pass thy lips? Was not thy long-determined counsel this, That, in good time, Ulysses should return, To be avenged? Guide, then, Telemachus, Wisely, for thou canst, that, all unharmed, He reach his native land, and, in their barks, Homeward the suitor-train retrace their way." He spake, and turned to Hermes, his dear son: "Hermes, for thou, in this, my messenger Art, as in all things, to the bright-haired nymph Make known my steadfast purpose, the return Of suffering Ulysses. Neither gods Nor men shall guide his voyage. On a raft, Made firm with bands, he shall depart and reach, After long hardships, on the twentieth day, The fertile shore of Scheria, on whose isle Dwell the Pheacians, kinsmen of the gods. They like a god shall honor him, and thence Send him to his loved country in a ship, With ample gifts of brass and gold, and store Of raiment—wealth like which he ne'er had brought From conquered Ilion, had he reached his home Safely, with all his portion of the spoil. So is it preordained, that he behold His friends again, and stand once more within His high-roofed palace, on his native soil." He spake; the herald Argicide obeyed, And hastily beneath his feet he bound The fair, ambrosial, golden sandals, worn To bear him over ocean like the wind, And o'er the boundless land. His wand he took, Wherewith he softly seals the eyes of men, And opens them at will from sleep. With this In hand, the mighty Argos-queller flew, And lighting on Pieria, from the sky Plunged downward to the deep, and skimmed its face Like hovering sea-mew, that on the broad gulfs Of the unfruitful ocean seeks her prey, And often dips her pinions in the brine. So Hermes flew along the waste of waves. But when he reached that island, far away, Forth from the dark-blue ocean-swell he stepped Upon the sea-beach, walking till he came To the vast cave in which the bright-haired nymph Made her abode. He found the nymph within. A fire blazed brightly on the hearth, and far Was wafted o'er the isle the fragrant smoke Of cloven cedar, burning in the flame, And cypress-wood. Meanwhile, in her recess, She sweetly sang, as busily she threw The golden shuttle through the web she wove. And all about the grotto alders grew, And poplars, and sweet-smelling cypresses, In a green forest, high among whose boughs Birds of broad wing, wood-owls and falcons, built Their nests, and crows, with voices sounding far, All haunting for their food the ocean-side. A vine, with downy leaves and clustering grapes, Crept over all the cavern-rock. Four springs Poured forth their glittering waters in a row, And here and there went wandering side by side. Around were meadows of soft green, o'ergrown With violets and parsley. 'Twas a spot Where even an Immortal might, awhile, Linger, and gaze with wonder and delight. The herald Argos-queller stood, and saw, And marvelled: but as soon as he had viewed The wonders of the place, he turned his steps, Entering the broad-roofed cave. Calypso there, The glorious goddess, saw him as he came, And knew him, for the ever-living gods Are to each other known, though one may dwell Far from the rest. Ulysses, large of heart, Was not within. Apart, upon the shore, He sat and sorrowed, where he oft, in tears And sighs and vain repinings, passed the hours, Gazing with wet eyes on the barren deep. Now, placing Hermes on a shining seat Of state, Calypso, glorious goddess, said: "Thou of the golden wand, revered and loved, What, Hermes, brings thee hither? Passing few Have been thy visits. Make thy pleasure known, My heart enjoins me to obey, if aught That thou commandest be within my power. But first accept the offerings due a guest." The goddess, speaking thus, before him placed A table where the heaped ambrosia lay, And mingled the red nectar. Ate and drank The herald Argos-queller, and, refreshed, Answered the nymph, and made his message known: "Art thou a goddess, and dost ask of me, A god, why came I hither? Yet, since thou Requirest, I will truly tell the cause. I came unwillingly at Jove's command, For who, of choice, would traverse the wide waste Of the salt ocean, with no city near, Where men adore the gods with solemn rites And chosen hecatombs? No god has power To elude or to resist the purposes Of aegis-bearing Jove. With thee abides, He bids me say, the most unhappy man Of all who round the city of Priam waged The battle through nine years, and, in the tenth, Laying it waste, departed for their homes. But in their voyage, they provoked the wrath Of Pallas, who called up the furious winds And angry waves against them. By his side Sank all his gallant comrades in the deep. Him did the winds and waves drive hither. Him Jove bids thee send away with speed, for here He must not perish, far from all he loves. So is it preordained that he behold His friends again, and stand once more within His high-roofed palace, on his native soil." He spoke; Calypso, glorious goddess, heard, And shuddered, and with winged words replied: "Ye are unjust, ye gods, and, envious far Beyond all other beings, cannot bear That ever goddess openly should make A mortal man her consort. Thus it was When once Aurora, rosy-fingered, took Orion for her husband; ye were stung, Amid your blissful lives, with envious hate, Till chaste Diana, of the golden throne, Smote him with silent arrows from her bow, And slew him in Ortygia. Thus, again, When bright-haired Ceres, swayed by her own heart, In fields which bore three yearly harvests, met Iasion as a lover, this was known Ere long to Jupiter, who flung from high A flaming thunderbolt, and laid him dead. And now ye envy me, that with me dwells A mortal man. I saved him, as he clung, Alone, upon his floating keel, for Jove Had cloven, with a bolt of fire from heaven, His galley in the midst of the black sea, And all his gallant comrades perished there. Him kindly I received; I cherished him, And promised him a life that ne'er should know Decay or death. But, since no god has power To elude or to withstand the purposes Of aegis-bearing Jove, let him depart, If so the sovereign moves him and commands, Over the barren deep. I send him not; For neither ship arrayed with oars have I, Nor seamen, o'er the boundless waste of waves To bear him hence. My counsel I will give, And nothing will I hide that he should know, To place him safely on his native shore." The herald Argos-queller answered her: "Dismiss him thus, and bear in mind the wrath Of Jove, lest it be kindled against thee." Thus having said, the mighty Argicide Departed, and the nymph, who now had heard The doom of Jove, sought the great-hearted man, Ulysses. Him she found beside the deep, Seated alone, with eyes from which the tears Were never dried, for now no more the nymph Delighted him; he wasted his sweet life In yearning for his home. Night after night He slept constrained within the hollow cave, The unwilling by the fond, and, day by day, He sat upon the rocks that edged the shore, And in continual weeping and in sighs And vain repinings, wore the hours away, Gazing through tears upon the barren deep. The glorious goddess stood by him and spoke: "Unhappy! sit no longer sorrowing here, Nor waste life thus. Lo! I most willingly Dismiss thee hence. Rise, hew down trees, and bind Their trunks, with brazen clamps, into a raft, And fasten planks above, a lofty floor, That it may bear thee o'er the dark-blue deep. Bread will I put on board, water, and wine, Red wine, that cheers the heart, and wrap thee well In garments, and send after thee the wind, That safely thou attain thy native shore; If so the gods permit thee, who abide In the broad heaven above, and better know By far than I, and far more wisely judge." Ulysses, the great sufferer, as she spoke, Shuddered, and thus with winged words replied: "Some other purpose than to send me home Is in thy heart, oh goddess, bidding me To cross this frightful sea upon a raft, This perilous sea, where never even ships Pass with their rapid keels, though Jove bestow The wind that glads the seamen. Nay, I climb No raft, against thy wish, unless thou swear The great oath of the gods, that thou, in this, Dost meditate no other harm to me." He spake; Calypso, glorious goddess, smiled, And smoothed his forehead with her hand, and said: "Perverse! and slow to see where guile is not! How could thy heart permit thee thus to speak? Now bear me witness, Earth, and ye broad Heavens Above us, and ye waters of the Styx That flow beneath us, mightiest oath of all, And most revered by all the blessed gods, That I design no other harm to thee; But that I plan for thee and counsel thee What I would do were I in need like thine. I bear a juster mind; my bosom holds A pitying heart, and not a heart of steel." Thus having said, the glorious goddess moved Away with hasty steps, and where she trod He followed, till they reached the vaulted cave, The goddess and the hero. There he took The seat whence Hermes had just risen. The nymph Brought forth whatever mortals eat and drink To set before him. She, right opposite To that of Ulysses, took her seat, Ambrosia there her maidens laid, and there Poured nectar. Both put forth their hands, and took The ready viands, till at length the calls Of hunger and of thirst were satisfied; Calypso, glorious goddess, then began: "Son of Laertes, man of many wiles, High-born Ulysses! Thus wilt thou depart Home to thy native country? Then farewell; But, couldst thou know the sufferings Fate ordains For thee ere yet thou landest on its shore, Thou wouldst remain to keep this home with me, And be immortal, strong as is thy wish To see thy wife—a wish that, day by day, Possesses thee. I cannot deem myself In form or face less beautiful than she; For never with immortals can the race Of mortal dames in form or face compare." Ulysses, the sagacious, answered her: "Bear with me, gracious goddess; well I know All thou couldst say. The sage Penelope In feature and in stature comes not nigh To thee; for she is mortal, deathless thou And ever young; yet, day by day, I long To be at home once more, and pine to see The hour of my return. Even though some god Smite me on the black ocean, I shall bear The stroke, for in my bosom dwells a mind Patient of suffering; much have I endured, And much survived, in tempests on the deep, And in the battle; let this happen too." He spoke; the sun went down; the night came on, And now the twain withdrew to a recess Deep in the vaulted cave, where, side by side, They took their rest. But when the child of dawn, Aurora, rosy-fingered, looked abroad, Ulysses put his vest and mantle on; The nymph too, in a robe of silver white, Ample, and delicate, and beautiful, Arrayed herself, and round about her loins Wound a fair golden girdle, drew a veil Over her head, and planned to send away Magnanimous Ulysses. She bestowed A heavy axe, of steel, and double-edged, Well fitted to the hand, the handle wrought Of olive-wood, firm set and beautiful. A polished adze she gave him next, and led The way to a far corner of the isle, Where lofty trees, alders and poplars, stood, And firs that reach the clouds, sapless and dry Long since, and fitter thus to ride the waves. Then, having shown where grew the tallest trees, Calypso, glorious goddess, sought her home. Trees then he felled, and soon the task was done. Twenty in all he brought to earth, and squared Their trunks with the sharp steel, and carefully He smoothed their sides, and wrought them by a line. Calypso, gracious goddess, having brought Wimbles, he bored the beams, and, fitting them Together, made them fast with nails and clamps. As when some builder, skillful in his art, Frames, for a ship of burden, the broad keel, Such ample breadth Ulysses gave the raft. Upon the massy beams he reared a deck, And floored it with long planks from end to end. On this a mast he raised, and to the mast Fitted a yard; he shaped a rudder next, To guide the raft along her course, and round With woven work of willow-boughs he fenced Her sides against the dashings of the sea. Calypso, gracious goddess, brought him store Of canvas, which he fitly shaped to sails, And, rigging her with cords, and ropes, and stays, Heaved her with levers into the great deep. 'Twas the fourth day; his labors now were done, And, on the fifth, the goddess from her isle Dismissed him, newly from the bath, arrayed In garments given by her, that shed perfumes. A skin of dark-red wine she put on board, A larger one of water, and for food A basket, stored with viands such as please The appetite. A friendly wind and soft She sent before. The great Ulysses spread His canvas joyfully, to catch the breeze, And sat and guided with nice care the helm, Gazing with fixed eye on the Pleiades, Booetes setting late, and the Great Bear, By others called the Wain, which, wheeling round, Looks ever toward Orion, and alone Dips not into the waters of the deep. For so Calypso, glorious goddess, bade That, on his ocean journey, he should keep That constellation ever on his left. Now seventeen days were in the voyage past, And on the eighteenth shadowy heights appeared, The nearest point of the Pheacian land, Lying on the dark ocean like a shield. But mighty Neptune, coming from among The Ethiopians, saw him. Far away He saw, from mountain-heights of Solyma, The voyager, and burned with fiercer wrath, And shook his head, and said within himself: "Strange! now I see the gods have new designs For this Ulysses, formed while I was yet In Ethiopia. He draws near the land Of the Pheacians, where it is decreed He shall o'erpass the boundary of his woes; But first, I think, he will have much to bear." He spoke, and round about him called the clouds And roused the ocean, wielding in his hand The trident, summoned all the hurricanes Of all the winds, and covered earth and sky At once with mists, while from above, the night Fell suddenly. The east wind and the south Rushed forth at once, with the strong-blowing west, And the clear north rolled up his mighty waves. Ulysses trembled in his knees and heart, And thus to his great soul, lamenting, said: "What will become of me? unhappy man! I fear that all the goddess said was true, Foretelling what disasters should o'ertake My voyage, ere I reach my native land. Now are her words fulfilled. Now Jupiter Wraps the great heaven in clouds and stirs the deep To tumult! Wilder grow the hurricanes Of all the winds, and now my fate is sure. Thrice happy, four times happy they, who fell On Troy's wide field, warring for Atreus' sons: O, had I met my fate and perished there, That very day on which the Trojan host, Around the dead Achilles, hurled at me Their brazen javelins! I had then received Due burial and great glory with the Greeks; Now must I die a miserable death." As thus he spoke, upon him, from on high, A huge and frightful billow broke; it whirled The raft around, and far from it he fell. His hands let go the rudder; a fierce rush Of all the winds together snapped in twain The mast; far off the yard and canvas flew Into the deep; the billow held him long Beneath the waters, and he strove in vain Quickly to rise to air from that huge swell Of ocean, for the garments weighed him down Which fair Calypso gave him. But, at length, Emerging, he rejected from his throat The bitter brine that down his forehead streamed. Even then, though hopeless with dismay, his thought Was on the raft, and, struggling through the waves, He seized it, sprang on board, and seated there Escaped the threatened death. Still to and fro The rolling billows drove it. As the wind In autumn sweeps the thistles o'er the field, Clinging together, so the blasts of heaven Hither and thither drove it o'er the sea. And now the south wind flung it to the north To buffet; now the east wind to the west. Ino Leucothea saw him clinging there, The delicate-footed child of Cadmus, once A mortal, speaking with a mortal voice; Though now within the ocean-gulfs, she shares The honors of the gods. With pity she Beheld Ulysses struggling thus distressed, And, rising from the abyss below, in form A cormorant, the sea-nymph took her perch On the well-banded raft, and thus she said: "Ah, luckless man, how hast thou angered thus Earth-shaking Neptune, that he visits thee With these disasters? Yet he cannot take, Although he seek it earnestly, thy life. Now do my bidding, for thou seemest wise. Laying aside thy garments, let the raft Drift with the winds, while thou, by strength of arm, Makest thy way in swimming to the land Of the Pheacians, where thy safety lies. Receive this veil and bind its heavenly woof Beneath thy breast, and have no further fear Of hardship or of danger. But, as soon As thou shalt touch the island, take it off, And turn away thy face, and fling it far From where thou standest, into the black deep." The goddess gave the veil as thus she spoke, And to the tossing deep went down, in form A cormorant; the black wave covered her. But still Ulysses, mighty sufferer, Pondered, and thus to his great soul he said: "Ah me! perhaps some god is planning here Some other fraud against me, bidding me Forsake my raft. I will not yet obey, For still far off I see the land in which 'Tis said my refuge lies. This will I do, For this seems wisest. While the fastenings last That hold these timbers, I will keep my place And bide the tempest here. But when the waves Shall dash my raft in pieces, I will swim, For nothing better will remain to do." As he revolved this purpose in his mind, Earth-shaking Neptune sent a mighty wave, Horrid, and huge, and high, and where he sat It smote him. As a violent wind uplifts The dry chaff heaped upon a threshing-floor, And sends it scattered through the air abroad, So did that wave fling loose the ponderous beams. To one of these, Ulysses, clinging fast, Bestrode it, like a horseman on his steed; And now he took the garments off, bestowed By fair Calypso, binding round his breast The veil, and forward plunged into the deep, With palms outspread, prepared to swim. Meanwhile, Neptune beheld him, Neptune, mighty king, And shook his head, and said within himself: "Go thus, and, laden with mischances, roam The waters, till thou come among the race Cherished by Jupiter; but well I deem Thou wilt not find thy share of suffering light." Thus having spoke, he urged his coursers on, With their fair-flowing manes, until he came To AEgae, where his glorious palace stands. But Pallas, child of Jove, had other thoughts. She stayed the course of every wind beside, And bade them rest, and lulled them into sleep, But summoned the swift north to break the waves, That so Ulysses, the high-born, escaped From death and from the fates, might be the guest Of the Pheacians, men who love the sea. Two days and nights, among the mighty waves He floated, oft his heart foreboding death, But when the bright-haired Eos had fulfilled The third day's course, and all the winds were laid, And calm was on the watery waste, he saw The land was near, as, lifted on the crest Of a huge swell, he looked with sharpened sight; And as a father's life preserved makes glad His children's hearts, when long time he has lain Sick, wrung with pain, and wasting by the power Of some malignant genius, till, at length, The gracious gods bestow a welcome cure; So welcome to Ulysses was the sight Of woods and fields. By swimming on he thought To climb and tread the shore, but when he drew So near that one who shouted could be heard From land, the sound of ocean on the rocks Came to his ear, for there huge breakers roared And spouted fearfully, and all around Was covered with the sea-foam. Haven here Was none for ships, nor sheltering creek, but shores Beetling from high, and crags and walls of rock. Ulysses trembled both in knees and heart, And thus, to his great soul, lamenting, said: "Now woe is me! as soon as Jove has shown What I had little hoped to see, the land, And I through all these waves have ploughed my way, I find no issue from the hoary deep. For sharp rocks border it, and all around Roar the wild surges; slippery cliffs arise Close to deep gulfs, and footing there is none, Where I might plant my steps and thus escape. All effort now were fruitless to resist The mighty billow hurrying me away To dash me on the pointed rocks. If yet I strive, by swimming further, to descry Some sloping shore or harbor of the isle, I fear the tempest, lest it hurl me back, Heavily groaning, to the fishy deep, Or huge sea-monster, from the multitude Which sovereign Amphitrite feeds, be sent Against me by some god, for well I know The power who shakes the shores is wroth with me." While he revolved these doubts within his mind, A huge wave hurled him toward the rugged coast. Then had his limbs been flayed, and all his bones Broken at once, had not the blue-eyed maid, Minerva, prompted him. Borne toward the rock, He clutched it instantly, with both his hands, And panting clung till that huge wave rolled by, And so escaped its fury. But it came, And smote him once again, and flung him far Seaward. As to the claws of polypus, Plucked from its bed, the pebbles thickly cling, So flakes of skin, from off his powerful hands, Were left upon the rock. The mighty surge O'erwhelmed him; he had perished ere his time, Hapless Ulysses, but the blue-eyed maid, Pallas, informed his mind with forecast. Straight Emerging from the wave that shoreward rolled, He swam along the coast and eyed it well, In hope of sloping beach or sheltered creek. But when, in swimming, he had reached the mouth Of a soft-flowing river, here appeared The spot he wished for, smooth, without a rock, And here was shelter from the wind. He felt The current's flow, and thus devoutly prayed: "Hear me, oh sovereign power, whoe'er thou art! To thee, the long-desired, I come. I seek Escape from Neptune's threatenings on the sea. The deathless gods respect the prayer of him Who looks to them for help, a fugitive, As I am now, when to thy stream I come, And to thy knees, from many a hardship past, Oh thou that here art ruler, I declare Myself thy suppliant; be thou merciful." He spoke; the river stayed his current, checked The billows, smoothed them, to a calm, and gave The swimmer a safe landing at his mouth. Then dropped his knees and sinewy arms, at once Unstrung, for faint with struggling was his heart. His body was all swoln; the brine gushed forth From mouth and nostrils; all unnerved he lay, Breathless and speechless; utter weariness O'ermastered him. But when he breathed again, And his flown senses had returned, he loosed The veil that Ino gave him from his breast, And to the salt flood cast it. A great wave Bore it far down the stream; the goddess there In her own hands received it. He, meanwhile, Withdrawing from the brink, lay down among The reeds, and kissed the harvest-bearing earth, And thus to his great soul, lamenting, said: "Ah me! what must I suffer more! what yet Will happen to me? If, by the river's side, I pass the unfriendly watches of the night, The cruel cold and dews that steep the bank May, in this weakness, end me utterly, For chilly blows the river-air at dawn. But should I climb this hill, to sleep within The shadowy wood, among their shrubs, if cold And weariness allow me, then I fear, That, while the pleasant slumbers o'er me steal, I may become the prey of savage beasts." Yet, as he longer pondered, this seemed best. He rose and sought the wood, and found it near The water, on a height, o'erlooking far The region round. Between two shrubs, that sprung Both from one spot, he entered—olive-trees, One wild, one fruitful. The damp-blowing wind Ne'er pierced their covert; never blazing sun Darted his beams within, nor pelting shower Beat through, so closely intertwined they grew. Here entering, Ulysses heaped a bed Of leaves with his own hands; he made it broad And high, for thick the leaves had fallen around. Two men and three, in that abundant store, Might bide the winter-storm, though keen the cold. Ulysses, the great sufferer, on his couch Looked and rejoiced, and placed himself within, And heaped the leaves high o'er him and around. As one who, dwelling in the distant fields, Without a neighbor near him, hides a brand In the dark ashes, keeping carefully The seeds of fire alive, lest he, perforce, To light his hearth must bring them from afar; So did Ulysses, in that pile of leaves, Bury himself, while Pallas o'er his eyes Poured sleep and closed his lids, that he might take, After his painful toils, the fitting rest.
THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.
Alice.—One of your old-world stories, Uncle John, Such as you tell us by the winter fire, Till we all wonder it is grown so late. Uncle John.—The story of the witch that ground to death Two children in her mill, or will you have The tale of Goody Cutpurse? Alice.—Nay now, nay; Those stories are too childish, Uncle John, Too childish even for little Willy here, And I am older, two good years, than he; No, let us have a tale of elves that ride, By night, with jingling reins, or gnomes of the mine, Or water-fairies, such as you know how To spin, till Willy's eyes forget to wink, And good Aunt Mary, busy as she is, Lays down her knitting. Uncle John.—Listen to me, then. 'Twas in the olden time, long, long ago, And long before the great oak at our door Was yet an acorn, on a mountain's side Lived, with his wife, a cottager. They dwelt Beside a glen and near a clashing brook, A pleasant spot in spring, where first the wren Was heard to chatter, and, among the grass, Flowers opened earliest; but when winter came, That little brook was fringed with other flowers,— White flowers, with crystal leaf and stem, that grew In clear November nights. And, later still, That mountain-glen was filled with drifted snows From side to side, that one might walk across; While, many a fathom deep, below, the brook Sang to itself, and leaped and trotted on Unfrozen, o'er its pebbles, toward the vale. Alice.—A mountain-side, you said; the Alps, perhaps, Or our own Alleghanies. Uncle John.—Not so fast, My young geographer, for then the Alps, With their broad pastures, haply were untrod Of herdsman's foot, and never human voice Had sounded in the woods that overhang Our Alleghany's streams. I think it was Upon the slopes of the great Caucasus, Or where the rivulets of Ararat Seek the Armenian vales. That mountain rose So high, that, on its top, the winter-snow Was never melted, and the cottagers Among the summer-blossoms, far below, Saw its white peaks in August from their door. One little maiden, in that cottage-home, Dwelt with her parents, light of heart and limb, Bright, restless, thoughtless, flitting here and there, Like sunshine on the uneasy ocean-waves, And sometimes she forgot what she was bid, As Alice does. Alice.—Or Willy, quite as oft. Uncle John.—But you are older, Alice, two good years, And should be wiser. Eva was the name Of this young maiden, now twelve summers old. Now you must know that, in those early times, When autumn days grew pale, there came a troop Of childlike forms from that cold mountain-top; With trailing garments through the air they came, Or walked the ground with girded loins, and threw Spangles of silvery frost upon the grass, And edged the brooks with glistening parapets, And built it crystal bridges, touched the pool, And turned its face to glass, or, rising thence, They shook from their full laps the soft, light snow, And buried the great earth, as autumn winds Bury the forest-floor in heaps of leaves. A beautiful race were they, with baby brows, And fair, bright locks, and voices like the sound Of steps on the crisp snow, in which they talked With man, as friend with friend. A merry sight It was, when, crowding round the traveller, They smote him with their heaviest snow-flakes, flung Needles of frost in handfuls at his cheeks, And, of the light wreaths of his smoking breath, Wove a white fringe for his brown beard, and laughed Their slender laugh to see him wink and grin And make grim faces as he floundered on. But, when the spring came on, what terror reigned Among these Little People of the Snow! To them the sun's warm beams were shafts of fire, And the soft south-wind was the wind of death. Away they flew, all with a pretty scowl Upon their childish faces, to the north, Or scampered upward to the mountain's top, And there defied their enemy, the Spring; Skipping and dancing on the frozen peaks, And moulding little snow-balls in their palms, And rolling them, to crush her flowers below, Down the steep snow-fields. Alice.—That, too, must have been A merry sight to look at. Uncle John.—You are right, But I must speak of graver matters now. Midwinter was the time, and Eva stood, Within the cottage, all prepared to dare The outer cold, with ample furry robe Close-belted round her waist, and boots of fur, And a broad kerchief, which her mother's hand Had closely drawn about her ruddy cheek. "Now, stay not long abroad," said the good dame, "For sharp is the outer air, and, mark me well, Go not upon the snow beyond the spot Where the great linden bounds the neighboring field." The little maiden promised, and went forth, And climbed the rounded snow-swells firm with frost Beneath her feet, and slid, with balancing arms, Into the hollows. Once, as up a drift She slowly rose, before her, in the way, She saw a little creature, lily-cheeked, With flowing flaxen locks, and faint blue eyes, That gleamed like ice, and robe that only seemed Of a more shadowy whiteness than her cheek. On a smooth bank she sat. Alice.—She must have been One of your Little People of the Snow. Uncle John.—She was so, and, as Eva now drew near, The tiny creature bounded from her seat; "And come," she said, "my pretty friend; to-day We will be playmates. I have watched thee long, And seen how well thou lov'st to walk these drifts, And scoop their fair sides into little cells, And carve them with quaint figures, huge-limbed men, Lions, and griffins. We will have, to-day, A merry ramble over these bright fields, And thou shalt see what thou hast never seen." On went the pair, until they reached the bound Where the great linden stood, set deep in snow, Up to the lower branches. "Here we stop," Said Eva, "for my mother has my word That I will go no farther than this tree." Then the snow-maiden laughed: "And what is this? This fear of the pure snow, the innocent snow, That never harmed aught living? Thou mayst roam For leagues beyond this garden, and return In safety; here the grim wolf never prowls, And here the eagle of our mountain-crags Preys not in winter. I will show the way, And bring thee safely home. Thy mother, sure, Counselled thee thus because thou hadst no guide." By such smooth words was Eva won to break Her promise, and went on with her new friend, Over the glistening snow and down a bank Where a white shelf, wrought by the eddying wind, Like to a billow's crest in the great sea, Curtained an opening. "Look, we enter here." And straight, beneath the fair o'erhanging fold, Entered the little pair that hill of snow, Walking along a passage with white walls, And a white vault above where snow-stars shed A wintry twilight. Eva moved in awe, And held her peace, but the snow-maiden smiled, And talked and tripped along, as down the way, Deeper they went into that mountainous drift. And now the white walls widened, and the vault Swelled upward, like some vast cathedral-dome, Such as the Florentine, who bore the name Of heaven's most potent angel, reared, long since, Or the unknown builder of that wondrous fane, The glory of Burgos. Here a garden lay, In which the Little People of the Snow Were wont to take their pastime when their tasks Upon the mountain's side and in the clouds Were ended. Here they taught the silent frost To mock, in stem and spray, and leaf and flower, The growths of summer. Here the palm upreared Its white columnar trunk and spotless sheaf Of plume-like leaves; here cedars, huge as those Of Lebanon, stretched far their level boughs, Yet pale and shadowless; the sturdy oak Stood, with its huge gnarled roots of seeming strength, Fast anchored in the glistening bank; light sprays Of myrtle, roses in their bud and bloom, Drooped by the winding walks; yet all seemed wrought Of stainless alabaster; up the trees Ran the lithe jessamine, with stalk and leaf Colorless as her flowers. "Go softly on," Said the snow-maiden; "touch not, with thy hand, The frail creation round thee, and beware To sweep it with thy skirts. Now look above. How sumptuously these bowers are lighted up With shifting gleams that softly come and go! These are the northern lights, such as thou seest In the midwinter nights, cold, wandering flames, That float with our processions, through the air; And here, within our winter palaces, Mimic the glorious daybreak." Then she told How, when the wind, in the long winter nights, Swept the light snows into the hollow dell, She and her comrades guided to its place Each wandering flake, and piled them quaintly up, In shapely colonnade and glistening arch, With shadowy aisles between, or bade them grow, Beneath their little hands, to bowery walks In gardens such as these, and, o'er them all, Built the broad roof. "But thou hast yet to see A fairer sight," she said, and led the way To where a window of pellucid ice Stood in the wall of snow, beside their path. "Look, but thou mayst not enter." Eva looked, And lo! a glorious hall, from whose high vault Stripes of soft light, ruddy and delicate green, And tender blue, flowed downward to the floor And far around, as if the aerial hosts, That march on high by night, with beamy spears, And streaming banners, to that place had brought Their radiant flags to grace a festival. And in that hall a joyous multitude Of these by whom its glistening walls were reared, Whirled in a merry dance to silvery sounds, That rang from cymbals of transparent ice, And ice-cups, quivering to the skilful touch Of little fingers. Round and round they flew, As when, in spring, about a chimney-top, A cloud of twittering swallows, just returned, Wheel round and round, and turn and wheel again, Unwinding their swift track. So rapidly Flowed the meandering stream of that fair dance, Beneath that dome of light. Bright eyes that looked From under lily-brows, and gauzy scarfs Sparkling like snow-wreaths in the early sun, Shot by the window in their mazy whirl. And there stood Eva, wondering at the sight Of those bright revellers and that graceful sweep Of motion as they passed her;—long she gazed, And listened long to the sweet sounds that thrilled The frosty air, till now the encroaching cold Recalled her to herself. "Too long, too long I linger here," she said, and then she sprang Into the path, and with a hurried step Followed it upward. Ever by her side Her little guide kept pace. As on they went, Eva bemoaned her fault: "What must they think— The dear ones in the cottage, while so long, Hour after hour, I stay without? I know That they will seek me far and near, and weep To find me not. How could I, wickedly, Neglect the charge they gave me?" As she spoke, The hot tears started to her eyes; she knelt In the mid-path. "Father! forgive this sin; Forgive myself I cannot"—thus she prayed, And rose and hastened onward. When, at last, They reached the outer air, the clear north breathed A bitter cold, from which she shrank with dread, But the snow-maiden bounded as she felt The cutting blast, and uttered shouts of joy, And skipped, with boundless glee, from drift to drift, And danced round Eva, as she labored up The mounds of snow. "Ah me! I feel my eyes Grow heavy," Eva said; "they swim with sleep; I cannot walk for utter weariness, And I must rest a moment on this bank, But let it not be long." As thus she spoke, In half formed words, she sank on the smooth snow, With closing lids. Her guide composed the robe About her limbs, and said: "A pleasant spot Is this to slumber in; on such a couch Oft have I slept away the winter night, And had the sweetest dreams." So Eva slept, But slept in death; for when the power of frost Locks up the motions of the living frame, The victim passes to the realm of Death Through the dim porch of Sleep. The little guide, Watching beside her, saw the hues of life Fade from the fair smooth brow and rounded cheek, As fades the crimson from a morning cloud, Till they were white as marble, and the breath Had ceased to come and go, yet knew she not At first that this was death. But when she marked How deep the paleness was, how motionless That once lithe form, a fear came over her. She strove to wake the sleeper, plucked her robe, And shouted in her ear, but all in vain; The life had passed away from those young limbs. Then the snow-maiden raised a wailing cry, Such as the dweller in some lonely wild, Sleepless through all the long December night, Hears when the mournful East begins to blow. But suddenly was heard the sound of steps, Grating on the crisp snow; the cottagers Were seeking Eva; from afar they saw The twain, and hurried toward them. As they came With gentle chidings ready on their lips, And marked that deathlike sleep, and heard the tale Of the snow-maiden, mortal anguish fell Upon their hearts, and bitter words of grief And blame were uttered: "Cruel, cruel one, To tempt our daughter thus, and cruel we, Who suffered her to wander forth alone In this fierce cold!" They lifted the dear child, And bore her home and chafed her tender limbs, And strove, by all the simple arts they knew, To make the chilled blood move, and win the breath Back to her bosom; fruitlessly they strove; The little maid was dead. In blank despair They stood, and gazed at her who never more Should look on them. "Why die we not with her?" They said; "without her, life is bitterness." Now came the funeral-day; the simple folk Of all that pastoral region gathered round To share the sorrow of the cottagers. They carved a way into the mound of snow To the glen's side, and dug a little grave In the smooth slope, and, following the bier, In long procession from the silent door, Chanted a sad and solemn melody: "Lay her away to rest within the ground. Yea, lay her down whose pure and innocent life Was spotless as these snows; for she was reared In love, and passed in love life's pleasant spring, And all that now our tenderest love can do Is to give burial to her lifeless limbs." They paused. A thousand slender voices round, Like echoes softly flung from rock and hill, Took up the strain, and all the hollow air Seemed mourning for the dead; for, on that day, The Little People of the Snow had come, From mountain-peak, and cloud, and icy hall, To Eva's burial. As the murmur died, The funeral-train renewed the solemn chant: "Thou, Lord, hast taken her to be with Eve, Whose gentle name was given her. Even so, For so Thy wisdom saw that it was best For her and us. We bring our bleeding hearts, And ask the touch of healing from Thy hand, As, with submissive tears, we render back The lovely and beloved to Him who gave." They ceased. Again the plaintive murmur rose. From shadowy skirts of low-hung cloud it came, And wide white fields, and fir-trees capped with snow, Shivering to the sad sounds. They sank away To silence in the dim-seen distant woods. The little grave was closed; the funeral-train Departed; winter wore away; the Spring Steeped, with her quickening rains, the violet-tufts, By fond hands planted where the maiden slept. But, after Eva's burial, never more The Little People of the Snow were seen By human eye, nor ever human ear Heard from their lips articulate speech again; For a decree went forth to cut them off, Forever, from communion with mankind. The winter-clouds, along the mountain-side, Rolled downward toward the vale, but no fair form Leaned from their folds, and, in the icy glens, And aged woods, under snow-loaded pines, Where once they made their haunt, was emptiness. But ever, when the wintry days drew near, Around that little grave, in the long night, Frost-wreaths were laid and tufts of silvery rime In shape like blades and blossoms of the field, As one would scatter flowers upon a bier.
Thou, who wouldst wear the name Of poet mid thy brethren of mankind, And clothe in words of flame Thoughts that shall live within the general mind! Deem not the framing of a deathless lay The pastime of a drowsy summer day.
But gather all thy powers, And wreak them on the verse that thou dost weave, And in thy lonely hours, At silent morning or at wakeful eve, While the warm current tingles through thy veins, Set forth the burning words in fluent strains.
No smooth array of phrase, Artfully sought and ordered though it be, Which the cold rhymer lays Upon his page with languid industry, Can wake the listless pulse to livelier speed, Or fill with sudden tears the eyes that read.
The secret wouldst thou know To touch the heart or fire the blood at will? Let thine own eyes o'erflow; Let thy lips quiver with the passionate thrill; Seize the great thought, ere yet its power be past, And bind, in words, the fleet emotion fast.
Then, should thy verse appear Halting and harsh, and all unaptly wrought, Touch the crude line with fear, Save in the moment of impassioned thought; Then summon back the original glow, and mend The strain with rapture that with fire was penned.
Yet let no empty gust Of passion find an utterance in thy lay, A blast that whirls the dust Along the howling street and dies away; But feelings of calm power and mighty sweep, Like currents journeying through the windless deep.
Seek'st thou, in living lays, To limn the beauty of the earth and sky? Before thine inner gaze Let all that beauty in clear vision lie; Look on it with exceeding love, and write The words inspired by wonder and delight.
Of tempests wouldst thou sing, Or tell of battles—make thyself a part Of the great tumult; cling To the tossed wreck with terror in thy heart; Scale, with the assaulting host, the rampart's height, And strike and struggle in the thickest fight.
So shalt thou frame a lay That haply may endure from age to age, And they who read shall say: "What witchery hangs upon this poet's page! What art is his the written spells to find That sway from mood to mood the willing mind!"
The path we planned beneath October's sky, Along the hillside, through the woodland shade, Is finished; thanks to thee, whose kindly eye Has watched me, as I plied the busy spade; Else had I wearied, ere this path of ours Had pierced the woodland to its inner bowers.