― 81 ―


WITH its foot in the blue sea—
Heaving, splashing, drowsily
O'er the camp-like colony
Of limpets clustered thickly there;
Playing with the tangle fair,
Emerald-green, and ruby-red,
Pink, and brown, and lavender,
And golden-yellow (by the stir
Of the clear, deep waters spread
Now as the cliff's tapestry,
Now afloat all tremblingly
In their pœcil bravery),
Like a lover with the hair
Of his mistress—softly shed
O'er her shoulders carelessly—
Towers a veined and hoary rock,
Honeycombed by many a shock
Of wild billows hounded on
By the fierce Euroclydon;
But upon its furrowed brow
Summer twilight sleepeth now.

On the rock a Watcher stands,
Gazing on the dimpled sea,
Creeping up the silvery sands—
Spread on each hand dazzlingly—
In a line of foamy cream,
Fringing the bright purple's gleam.
Wrapt in purple robe as bright,
With his long, dark, silken tresses
Raying back the summer light,
As the breeze their curls caresses,—
Stands the Watcher. Who is he,
Gazing thus upon the sea?

White against yon headland's green
Sweeping down in velvet sheen,—

  ― 82 ―
White and haughty as a swan,
A sunlit sail comes swiftly on.

They have seen the Watcher, then,—
Those stern, bearded, sunburnt men,
Straining at the bending oar,
Hurrying to the shingled shore?
On the shingle grates the keel,
And the proud ship, with a reel,
Rests her side upon the sand,
As THE PIRATES spring to land:
Fierce as hornets, forth they throng;
Fierce as wolves, they troop along!

Motionless the Watcher stands,
As they troop along the sands;
Still he gazeth on the sea,
Proud and silent. Who is he?

They have seized him, and away
Fast they hurry with their prey.
Silent still the Prisoner stands
When, with twining withy bands,
They would bind his feet and hands.
They essay it, but, like tow
Touched by flame, the bands are broken;
And his dark eyes flash and glow
With a smile of scorn unspoken.

When the pilot saw the token,
Thus he spake: “Fools that ye be,
Stand aside—no man is he!
'Tis a god,
Who, by his nod,
Straight will sink us in the sea!
Tremble, then, ye impious band,
Leave him here upon the strand!”
“God or man,” the captain cries,
“I'll not yield so fair a prize.
God, forsooth—the richer ransom!
Shove off, men!” Each beam and transom
Groans as once again to ocean.
The Corsair, with wild rushing motion,
Over the blackening water flies!

Motionless the Prisoner stands,
With flashing eyes and folded hands,
Gazing on the blackening sea,
Proud and silent. Who is he?

  ― 83 ―
Is it fact, or is it dream?
Bubbling from each opening seam,
Flowing in unending stream,
Gushes forth the sparkling wine;

Veiling the broad, white sail
Bellying in the rising gale,
With foliage fresh and clusters bright
Of golden and of purple light,
There droops a vine;
Around the cordage garlands twine,
Ambrosial fragrance fills the air,
And where
But now the mast stood straight and tall,—
Smooth and bare,—
Her graceful pall
The ivy weaves
Of yellow berries and dark-green leaves!

The pirates shudder at the sign,—
The gushing wine,
The trailing vine,
The garlands and the ivy-twine.

With ashy lips, and faces pale
As moon when sun is in the sky,
They all at once the pilot hail—
Some with voices choked by fear,
As knowing not what doom is near;
Some in accents wildly clear,
As though revealed to mortal eye,
The Shadow-King stood grimly by:—
“Man, we have sinned—to shore, to shore,
“Or we shall see the land no more!”

His purple robe is gone,
And, in its room,
The Prisoner puts on
A robe of gloom.
Swathed in a shroud
Of thunder-cloud,
He stands unseen.

Flashes the lightning's sheen,
And there comes forth a Form
More terrible than wildest storm!
Like withered leaf,

  ― 84 ―
The impious chief
Is swept away,
To lands where never dawneth day,
And gods are deaf when mortals pray.

It turns its awful eyes
Upon the crew
Who would have bound their prize.
Scorched by the blasting blaze,
Seeking through death a milder hell,
One wild despairing cry they raise,
Then plunge beneath the billows blue.

And ere the foam-drops fell again
Upon the bosom of the main,
Long ere the last bright bead-like bell
Of bubbling breath came up to mark
The wave wherein they fell,—
Chased by the shark
To caverns dark,
They found that they were changed,
And now as dolphins finned and scaled
Through the dim waters ranged.

And what availed
The pilot's piety?
Like fruit from husk
Light from the dusk
Burst forth all goldenly.
That awful Form
Had vanished like a long-spent storm,
And now beside the pilot stood
A deity in gracious mood.
The man he blest
And promised rest,
And peace and wealth for ever,
Honouring, despite its fruitlessness,
His servant's pure endeavour.
“I bless, and will for ever bless,
Whene'er I hear thy call,”
The god exclaimed, “and now to thee
My title I declare;
Loud-sounding Bacchus claims thy prayer
Before we prostrate fall—
Son of Cadmean Semele,
And Zens who governs all!”