« AnteriorContinuar »
And what was he who bore it?—I may err,
But deem him sailor or philosopher.*
Sublime Tobacco! which from east to west
Cheers the tar's labour or the Turkman's rest;
Which on the Moslem's ottoman divides
His hours, and rivals opium and his brides ;
Magnificent in Stamboul, but less grand,
Though not less loved, in Wapping or the Strand;
Divine in hookas, glorious in a pipe,
When tipp'd with amber, yellow, rich, and ripe;
Like other charmers, wooing the caress
More dazzlingly when daring in full dress;
Yet thy true lovers more admire by far
Thy naked beauties-Give me a cigar!
Through the approaching darkness of the wood
A human figure broke the solitude,
Fantastically, it may be, array'd,
A seaman in a savage masquerade;
Such as appears to rise from out the deep,
When o'er the line the merry vessels sweep,
And the rough Saturnalia of the tar
Flock o'er the deck, in Neptune's borrow'd car;†
And, pleased, the god of ocean sees his name
Revive once more, though but in mimic game
Of his true sons, who riot in a breeze
Undreamt of in his native Cyclades.
Still the old god delights, from out the main,
To snatch some glimpses of his ancient reign.
Our sailor's jacket, though in ragged trim,
His constant pipe, which never yet burn'd dim,
His foremast air, and somewhat rolling gait,
Like his dear vessel, spoke his former state;
But then a sort of kerchief round his head,
Not over tightly bound, or nicely spread;
And, stead of trowsers (ah! too early torn!
For even the mildest woods will have their thorn),
A curious sort of somewhat scanty mat
Now served for inexpressibles and hat;
His naked feet and neck, and sunburnt face,
Perchance might suit alike with either race.
His arms were all his own, our Europe's growth,
Which two worlds bless for civilizing both;
*Hobbes, the father of Locke's and other philosophy, was an inveterate smoker, -even to pipes beyond computation.
This rough but jovial ceremony, used in crossing the Line, has been so often and so well described, that it need not be more than alluded to.
The musket swung behind his shoulders, broad
And somewhat stoop'd by his marine abode,
But brawny as the boar's; and, hung beneath,,
His cutlass droop'd, unconscious of a sheath,
Or lost or worn away; his pistols were
Link'd to his belt, a matrimonial pair—
(Let not this metaphor appear a scoff,
Though one miss'd fire, the other would go off);
These, with a bayonet, not so free from rust
As when the arm-chest held its brighter trust,
Completed his accoutrements, as night
Survey'd him in his garb heteroclite.
"What cheer, Ben Bunting?" cried (when in full view Our new acquaintance) Torquil; "aught of new?"
Ey, ey," quoth Ben, "not new, but news enow;
A strange sail in the offing."-"Sail! and how?
What! could you make her out? It cannot be ;
I've seen no rag of canvas on the sea."
"Belike," said Ben, "you might not from the bay,
But from the bluff-head, where I watch'd to-day,
I saw her in the doldrums; for the wind
Was light and baffling."—" When the sun declined
Where lay she? had she anchor'd ?"—" No, but still
She bore down on us, till the wind grew still."
I had no glass; but, fore and aft,
Egad, she seem'd a wicked-looking craft."
- I expect so ;-sent on the look-out ;-
'T is time, belike, to put our helm about.”
About?-Whate'er may have us now in chase,
We'll make no running fight, for that were base;
We will die at our quarters, like true men."
"Ey, ey; for that, 't is all the same to Ben."
"Does Christian know this?". "Ay; he 's piped all hands To quarters. They are furbishing the stands
Of arms; and we have got some guns to bear,
And scaled them. You are wanted.' "That's but fair;
And if it were not, mine is not the soul
To leave my comrades helpless on the shoal.
My Neuha! ah! and must my fate pursue
Not me alone, but one so sweet and true!
But whatsoe'er betide, ah! Neuha, now
Unman me not; the hour will not allow
A tear; I'm thine, whatever intervenes !"
Right," quoth Ben," that will do for the marines."
*"That will do for the marines, but the sailors won't believe it," is an old saying, and one of the few fragments of former jealousies which still survive (in jest only) between these gallant services.
THE fight was o'er; the flashing through the gloom,
Which robes the cannon as he wings a tomb,
Had ceased; and sulphury vapours upward driven
Had left the earth, and but polluted heaven :
The rattling roar which rung in every volley
Had left the valleys to their melancholy;
No more they shriek'd their horror, boom for boom;
The strife was done, the vanquish'd had their doom;
The mutineers were crush'd, dispersed, or ta'en,
Or lived to deem the happiest were the slain.
Few, few escaped, and these were hunted o'er
The isle they loved beyond their native shore.
No further home was theirs, it seem'd, on earth,
Once renegades to that which gave them birth;
Track'd like wild beasts, like them they sought the wild,
As to a mother's bosom flies the child;
But vainly wolves and lions seek their den,
And still more vainly men escape from men.
Beneath a rock whose jutting base protrudes
Far over ocean in his fiercest moods,
When, scaling his enormous crag, the wave
Is hurl'd down headlong like the foremost brave,
And falls back on the foaming crowd behind,
Which fight beneath the banners of the wind,
But now at rest, a little remnant drew
Together, bleeding, thirsty, faint, and few ;
But still their weapons in their hands, and still
With something of the pride of former will,
As men not all unused to meditate,
And strive much more than wonder at their fate.
Their present lot was what they had foreseen,
And dared as what was likely to have been;
Yet still the lingering hope, which deem'd their lot
Not pardon'd, but unsought-for or forgot,
Or trusted that, if sought, their distant caves
Might still be miss'd amidst that world of waves,
Had wean'd their thoughts in part from what they saw
And felt-the vengeance of their country's law.
Their sea-green isle, their guilt-won paradise,
No more could shield their virtue or their vice;
Their better feelings, if such were, were thrown
Back on themselves,—their sins remain'd alone.
Proscribed even in their second country, they
Were lost; in vain the world before them lay;
All outlets seem'd secured. Their new allies
Had fought and bled in mutual sacrifice;
But what avail'd the club and spear
Of Hercules, against the sulphury charm,
The magic of the thunder, which destroy'd
The warrior ere his strength could be employ'd?
Dug, like a spreading pestilence, the grave
No less of human bravery than the brave !*
Their own scant numbers acted all the few
many oft will dare and do ;
But though the choice seems native to die free,
Even Greece can boast but one Thermopylæ,
Till now, when she has forged her broken chain
Back to a sword, and dies and lives again!
Beside the jutting rock the few appear'd,
Like the last remnant of the red-deer's herd;
Their eyes were feverish, and their aspect worn,
But still the hunter's blood was on their horn.
A little stream came tumbling from the height,
And straggling into ocean as it might,
Its bounding crystal frolick'd in the ray,
And gush'd from cleft to crag with saltless
Close on the wild wide ocean, yet as pure
And fresh as innocence, and more secure,
Its silver torrent glitter'd o'er the deep,
As the shy chamois' eye o'erlooks the steep,
While far below the vast and sullen swell
Of ocean's Alpine azure rose and fell.
To this young spring they rush'd,—all feelings first
Absorb'd in passion's and in nature's thirst,—
Drank as they do who drink their last, and threw
Their arms aside to revel in its dew;
Cool'd their scorch'd throats, and wash'd the gory stains
From wounds whose only bandage might be chains;
* Archidamus, King of Sparta, and son of Agesilaus, when he saw a machine invented for the casting of stones and darts, exclaimed that it was the "grave of valour." The same story has been told of some knights on the first application of gunpowder; but the original anecdote is in Plutarch.
Then, when their drought was quench'd, look'd sadly round, As wondering how so many still were found
Alive and fetterless :-but silent 'all,
Each sought his fellow's eyes, as if to call
On him for language which his lips denied,
As though their voices with their cause had died.
Stern, and aloof a little from the rest,
Stood Christian, with his arms across his chest.
The ruddy, reckless, dauntless hue, once spread
Along his cheek, was livid now as lead;
His light-brown locks, so graceful in their flow,
Now rose like startled vipers o'er his brow.
Still as a statue, with his lips compress'd
To stifle even the breath within his breast,
Fast by the rock, all menacing but mute,
He stood; and, save a slight beat of his foot,
Which deepen'd now and then the sandy dint
Beneath his heel, his form seem'd turn'd to flint.
Some paces further Torquil lean'd his head
Against a bank, and spoke not, but he bled,—
Not mortally-his worst wound was within:
His brow was pale, his blue eyes sunken in,
And blood-drops, sprinkled o'er his yellow hair,
Show'd that his faintness came not from despair,
But nature's ebb. Beside him was another,
Rough as a bear, but willing as a brother,-
Ben Bunting, who essay'd to wash, and wipe,
And bind his wound-them calmly lit his pipe-
A trophy which survived an hundred fights,
A beacon which had cheer'd ten thousand nights.
The fourth and last of this deserted group
Walk'd up and down-at times would stand, then stoop
To pick a pebble up-then let it drop-
Then hurry as in haste-then quickly stop―
Then cast his eyes on his companions-then
Half whistle half a tune, and pause again—
And then his former movements would redouble,
With something between carelessness and trouble.
This is a long description, but applies
To scarce five minutes past before the eyes;
But yet what minutes! Moments like to these
Rend men's lives into immortalities.
At length Jack Skyscrape, a mercurial man,
Who flutter'd over all things like a fan,