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The Prisoner to the Swallow.
(TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH.)
Sweet swallow that so kindly flyest
To my dark dungeon's bar,"
Where gloom and sadness are:
Gay, little one, is thy attire,
When rough the wild winds blow,-
Thy boddice white as snow;
Whence com'st thou, and who sent thee, bird,
To the condemned to bring
Upon thy blithesome wing?
Say, com’st thou from the prisoner's land,
Distant yet cherished still ?
Some news my heart may thrill :
Say is there still a hallowed place,
Where, first-born of the day, .
That on the green firs lay
Say if the moss is still as soft,
As when so oft I pressed
Or laid me there to rest?
Tell if some shade of woman now,
Sad as the thoughtful soul, In to the little chapei hies,
When evening's prayer bells toll, And whether the white hawthorn still Blooms on the bosom of the hill.
Say if man still hopes brighter days,
In this sad vale of tears :
For me these long long years.
Ah me, it rains—the rising wind
Roars in the dungeon's shade :
Are o'er the heaven displayed :
Thou fliest away,—I did but dream
Of what I bade thee tell,
No more my heart may swell :
FOUNDED UPON A SCENE OF REAL LIFE.
Pause! we are on the threshold.
A pale, worn man is on his bed of death. A child, with intelligent face, and mild, blue sparkling eye, is clasping his cold hand, watching anxiously the attenuated visage, for the faintest glimmer of hope that may be discernable there. A whole history is here. The abode is one of poverty, that cruelly reveals itself in every hole and corner. Their clothes are old and tattered: but something remains to tell, in the quiet, the somewhat dignified air of the boy, that they had seen better days. Ah! poor Arthur Horseman had indeed seen better days, but what mattered it now? All was fast fading into oblivion.
He beckoned us to approach, and stretching one hand, whilst with the other, he toyed amongst the golden locks of the boy beside him, he said in tremulous accents, “ Listen!"
All was still and motionless. A strange charm hovered around this wretched dormitory, that quelled one into silence. He drew himself slowly upwards, and with an effort, commenced his singular story.
“ Years ago, in a country-village, in the West of England, I was a happy, cheerful boy. I wanted nothing, I had all I wished, and roamed the hills around my native place, in all the freedom of a darling child. Time passed on, and I was destined to receive my training at the Grammar School of , where I remained until it became time to choose a profession. I chose the sea, and many a tear was shed, when I first waved my hat, in a long and last adieu to the shores of my beloved country. I left its hospitable hearth, the vessel flew onward on her course, and every wave that rippled beneath her keel, separated me still farther from the home of my childhood. I had a sister, indeed, to console my parents for my loss, but while on the wide ocean, the thought would often rise in my bosom, to upbraid me for deserting them.
“However, onward went we, and the sails flapped gaily in the breeze, as we scudded along. Our dream of happiness was to be of short duration. On the second day, the wind blew great guns, and we were shrouded in all the horrors of a storm. The proud vessel quivered, and plunged beneath the mighty waters, the deck was strewed with goods and provisions, the crew in full and anxious motion, and the passengers in earnest prayer, or lamentation. Can I forget the terrors of that night, or the events which crowded upon my after life from them? Never.
“ Borne upon the wings of a fearful tempest, that bellowed and lashed the sides of our fated vessel ; we could not behold each other for the thick, confusing darkness. With one fearful crash, we foundered on a rock, and the merciless waters washed us overboard, to combat in our weakness with the raging elements.
“I remember no more.
“A bright warm sun was shining above me, as I seemed to awake from a chilly slumber. I was lying on the sea-sands, the sea itself was drifting out to ebb, and I was bewildered. No soul, no sound, broke the monotony of the place. In the distance, were the blue hills, with cloud-capped sunimits, and before me lay the quiet sea, as placid as a lake at evening. Some indistinct recollection of the storm passed over me, and I arose, whilst a silent aspiration thanked Him, who saith to the deep, . Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther,' for His miraculous providence. I looked again to sea, in the hope of catching a distant view of some remnants of the wreck, but in vain; something floated near me—it was a corpse. Oh! who can imagine my feelings at that moment ! Perhaps this was the fate of all within that devoted ship!
I strayed on, scarcely knowing whither to turn my steps, when a white robe, lying upon the beach, at some little distance attracted my attention. Though trembling and exhausted, I hurried forward, and what was my surprise to behold the fairest form that ever graced creation. The silken eyelash, (and here he gazed fixedly upon the child beside him), the fair and interesting countenance, the undulating form, and these, alas ! seemed clothed in the cold unmeaning smile of death. I endeavoured to raise her, but could not. I was weak, but in that moment of nervous excitement, I concluded it to be the unnatural weight of death. The cold perspiration seemed to ooze hesitatingly on my forehead, and I gazed on that form for some time in stupified admiration. I felt the strange, unearthly thrill, as the thought passed over me, I loved ---and the object of that love was a corpse.
“I fell heavily, yet in a kind of waking dream, I imagined I heard a slight respiration. I tried to raise myself, but could not. I dimly saw the white figure slowly rise, and pass cautiously before me. She lived then,-she was not dead. I slept away in a heavy swoon.
“ How long I remained so, I cannot tell, but when I recovered, the same fair creature was sitting beside me, and endeavouring by the means of a little flask which had been left, fortunately, entangled in her dress, to revive me. I knew not what to say in such a moment of astonishment, somewhat tinged with rapture. (Forgive me for telling the truth!) Nor could I trust my lips to speak my thankfulness, but in a murmured . God bless you.' I revealed all I felt, and in the look which she returned, in which benevolence was beautifully mingled with joy, she showed her gratitude for my poor blessing.
“She had been a passenger in the same ship, in which I had acted as midshipman, and had been wrecked at the same time as I have related. The captain, a somewhat unprincipled man, had decoyed her from her friends, and persuaded her to embark. She had been most strictly secluded from the sight of passengers and crew, and was subjected to the insults of an abominable tyrant. Could I do otherwise than feel an interests in the sufferings of this poor girl, and many were the words of consolation (though nearly as much in need of them myself) that I poured into her ear. We wandered on, really hopeless, spiritless; seemingly happy. The passing flame of affection that was kindling between us alone kept up our drooping bearts, and we endeavoured to persuade ourselves that we were not sad. And as she hurried over to me,-in that confidence which springs so naturally between companions in distress,—the details of many a secret suffering, I treasured the narrative as sacred in my bosom, and often have I recapitulated it since. Thus we passed that never-to-be-forgotten night..
« The morning's dawn brought with it a distant sail, we hailed it with signals of distress, and a boat having been dispatched to our assistance, we stepped once more upon a deck. Amidst the throng of passengers assembled on board to meet us, and congratulate us on our preservation, one sprang forth— the subject of our mutual detestation--the captain. He had been picked up, and now he came to claim, as he fearlesly called her, his wife. The name of wife paralysed me, and I yielded her without a word; she left me, and cast behind a long lingering look, and methought (perhaps it was but fancy !) that a tear mounted in her deep blue-eye-as she whispered, “ Farewell !"