Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

Children dear, was it yesterday
(Call yet once) that she went away?
Once she sate with you

and

me,
On a red gold throne in the heart of the sea,

And the youngest sate on her knee.
She combed its bright hair, and she tended it well,
When down swung the sound of the far-off bell.
She sighed, she looked up through the clear green sea ;
She said : ‘I must go, for my kinsfolk pray
In the little grey church on the shore to-day.
'Twill be Easter-time in the world—ah me!
And I lose my poor soul, Merman ! here with thee.'
I said : 'Go up, dear heart, through the waves !
Say thy prayer, and come back to the kind sea-caves !'
She smiled, she went up through the surf in the bay.

Children dear, was it yesterday?

Children dear, were we long alone ? "The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan. Long prayers,' I said, 'in the world they say. Come!' I said ; and we rose through the surf in the bay. We went up the beach by the sandy down Where the sea-stocks bloom, to the white-walled town. Through the narrow paved streets, where all was still, To the little grey church on the windy hill. From the church came a murmur of folk at their

prayers,
But we stood without in the cold blowing airs.
We climbed on the graves, on the stones worn with rains,
And we gazed up the aisle through the small-leaded panes.

She sate by the pillar ; we saw her clear ;
Margaret, hist! come quick, we are here.
Dear heart,' I said, ' we are long alone.

The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan.'
But ah, she gave me never a look,
For her eyes were sealed to the holy book !

Loud prays the priest ; shut stands the door.
Come away, children, call no more !
Come away, come down, call no more !

Down, down, down !

Down to the depths of the sea !
She sits at her wheel in the humming town,

Singing most joyfully.
Hark what she sings : 'O joy, O joy,
For the humming street, and the child with its toy,
For the priest, and the bell, and the holy well-

For the wheel where I spun,
And the blessèd light of the sun.'
And so she sings her fill,

Singing most joyfully,
Till the shuttle falls from her hand,
And the whizzing wheel stands still.
She steals to the window, and looks at the sand,

And over the sand at the sea ;
And her eyes are set in a stare ;
And anon there breaks a sigh,
And anon there drops a tear,
From a sorrow-clouded eye,
And a heart sorrow-laden,

A long, long sigh ;
For the cold strange eyes of a little Mermaiden,

And the gleam of her golden hair.

Come away, away, children,
Come, children, come down !
The hoarse wind blows colder ;
Lights shine in the town.
She will start from her slumber
When gusts shake the door ;
She will hear the winds howling,
Will hear the waves roar,

We shall see, while above us
The waves roar and whirl,
A ceiling of amber,
A pavement of pearl,
Singing, 'Here came a mortal,
But faithless was she,
And alone dwell for ever
The kings of the sea.'

But, children, at midnight,
When soft the winds blow,
When clear falls the moonlight,
When spring-tides are low :
When sweet airs come seaward
From heaths starred with broom,
And high rocks throw mildly
On the blanched sands a gloom ;
Up the still, glistening beaches,
Up the creeks we will hie,
Over banks of bright seaweed
The ebb-tide leaves dry.
We will gaze from the sand-hills,
At the white, sleeping town;
At the church on the hill-side-
And then come back down.
Singing : ‘There dwells a loved one
But cruel is she !
She left lonely for ever
The kings of the sea.'

MATTHEW ARNOLD.

SPITZBERGEN. By dint of sailing north whenever the ice would permit us, and sailing west whenever we could not sail north, we found ourselves on the 2d of August in the latitude of the southern extremity of Spitzbergen, though divided from the land by about fifty miles of ice. All this while the weather had been pretty good, foggy, and cold enough, but with a fine stiff breeze that rattled us along at a good rate whenever we did get a chance of making any northing. But lately it had come on to blow very hard, the cold became quite piercing, and what was worse, in every direction round the whole circuit of the horizon, except along its southern segment, a blaze of iceblink illuminated the sky. A more discouraging spectacle could not have met our eyes. The iceblink is a luminous appearance, reflected on the heavens from the fields of ice that still lie sunk beneath the horizon; it was, therefore, on this occasion an unmistakeable indication of the encumbered state of the sea in front of us.

I had turned in for a few hours of rest, and was already lost in a dream of deep, bewildering bays of ice, and gulfs where shifting shores offered to the eye every possible combination of uncomfortable scenery, without possible issue, when 'a voice in my dreaming ear' shouted 'Land l' and I woke to its reality. I need not tell you in what double quick time I tumbled up the companion, or with what greediness I feasted my eyes on that longed-for view,—the only sight, as I then thought, we were ever destined to enjoy of the mountains of Spitzbergen!

The whole heaven was overcast with a dark mantle of tempestuous clouds, that stretched down in umbrella-like points towards the horizon, leaving a clear space between their edge and the sea, illuminated by the sinister brilliancy of the iceblink. In an easterly direction the belt of unclouded atmosphere was etherealized to an indescribable transparency, and up into it there gradually grew-above this dingy line of starboard ice—a forest of thin lilac peaks, so faint, so pale, that, had it not been for the gem-like distinctness of their outline, one could have deemed them as unsubstantial as the spires of Fairyland. The beautiful vision proved only too transient; in one short half-hour mist and cloud had blotted

it all out, while a fresh barrier of ice compelled us to turn our backs on the very land we were striving to reach.

Although we were certainly upwards of sixty miles distant from the land when the Spitzbergen hills were first observed, the intervening space seemed infinitely less ; but in those high latitudes the eye is constantly liable to be deceived in the estimate it forms of distances. Often from some change suddenly taking place in the state of the atmosphere, the land you approach will appear even to recede; and on one occasion an honest skipper, one of the most valiant and enterprising mariners of his day, actually turned back because, after sailing for several hours with a fair wind towards the land, and finding himself no nearer to it than at first, he concluded that some loadstone rock beneath the sea must have attracted the keel of his ship, and kept her stationary.

The next five days were spent in a continual struggle with the ice. On the sixth, matters began to look a little brighter. The preceding four-and-twenty hours we had remained enveloped in a cold and dismal fog. But on coming on deck I found the sky had already begun to clear; and although there was ice as far as the eye could see on either side of us, in front a narrow passage showed itself across a patch of loose ice, into what seemed a free sea beyond. The only consideration was, whether we could be certain of finding our way out again, should it turn out that the open water we saw was only a basin without any exit in any other direction. The chance was too tempting to throw away ; so the little schooner gallantly pushed her way through the intervening neck of ice, where the floes seemed to be least huddled up together, and in half an hour afterwards found herself running up along the edge of the starboard ice, almost in a due northerly direction.

Soon after the sun came out, the mist entirely disappeared, and again on the starboard hand shone a vision of land ; this time not in the sharp peaks and spires we had first seen, but in a chain of pale-blue, egg-shaped islands, floating in the air

« AnteriorContinuar »