Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

gling with the sense of the exceeding ridiculousness of the whole scheme-which broke up in a laugh: and the Ancient Mariner was written instead.

Years afterward, however, the draft of the plan and proposed incidents, and the portion executed, obtained favour in the eyes of more than one person, whose judgment on a poetic work could not but have weighed with me, even though no parental partiality had been thrown into the same scale, as a makeweight: and I determined on commencing anew, and composing the whole in stanzas, and made some progress in realizing this intention, when adverse gales drove my bark off the “ Fortunate Isles” of the Muses: and then other and more momentous interests prompted a different voyage, to firmer anchorage and a securer port. I have in vain tried to recover the lines from the palimpsest tablet of my memory: and I can only offer the introductory stanza, which had been committed to writing for the purpose of procuring a friend's judgment on the metre, as a specimen.

Encinctured with a twine of leaves,
That leafy twine his only dress !
A lovely Boy was plucking fruits,
By moonlight, in a wilderness.
The moon was bright, the air was free,
And fruits and flowers together grew
On many a shrub and many a tree:
And all put on a gentle hue,
Hanging in the shadowy air
Like a picture rich and rare.
It was a climate where, they say,
The night more belov’d than day.
But who that beauteous Boy beguild,
That beauteous Boy to linger here?
Alone, by night, a little child,
In place so silent and so wild-
Has he no friend, no loving mother near?

[blocks in formation]

CANTO II.

“A LITTLE further, O my father, yet a little further, and we shall come into the open moonlight.” Their road was through a forest of firtrees; at its entrance the trees stood at distances from each other, and the path was broad, and the moonlight and the moonlight shadows reposed upon it, and appeared quietly to inhabit that solitude. But soon the path winded and became narrow; the sun at high noon sometimes speckled, but never illumined it, and now it was dark as a

cavern.

“ It is dark, O my father!” said Enos, “but the path under our feet is smooth and soft, and we shall soon come out into the open moonlight."

“ Lead on, my child !” said Cain : “guide me, little child !” And the innocent little child clasped a finger of the hand which had murdered the righteous Abel, and he guided his father. “ The fir branches drip upon thee, my son.”

“Yea, pleasantly, father, for I ran fast and eagerly to bring thee the pitcher and the cake, and my body is not yet cool. How happy the squirrels are that feed on these fir-trees ! they leap from bough to bough, and the old squirrels play round their young ones in the nest. I clomb a tree yesterday at noon, O my father, that I might play with them, but they leaped away from the branches, even to the slender twigs did they leap, and in a moment I beheld them on another tree. Why, O my father, would they not play with me? I would be good to them as thou art good to me: and I groaned to them even as thou groanest when thou givest me to eat, and when thou coverest me at evening, and as often as I stand at thy knee and thine eyes look at me?” Then Cain stopped, and stifling his groans he sank to the earth, and the child Enos stood in the darkness beside him.

And Cain lifted up his voice and cried bitterly, and said, “ The Mighty One that persecuteth me is on this side and on that ; he pursueth my

soul like the wind, like the sand-blast he passeth through me; he is around me even as the air ! O that I might be utterly no more! I desire to die-yea, the things that never had life, neither move they upon the earth—behold ! they seem precious to mine eyes. Othat a man might live without the breath of his nostrils. So I might abide in darkness, and blackness, and an empty vand to space! Yea, I would lie down, I would not rise, die neither would I stir my limbs till I became as the rock in the den of the lion, on which the young lion resteth his head whilst he sleepeth. For the torrent that roareth far off hath a voice: and the clouds in heaven look terribly on me; the

Mighty One who is against me speaketh in the wind of the cedar grove; and in silence am I dried up.” Then Enos spake to his father, “ Arise, my father, arise, we are but a little way from the place where I found the cake and the pitcher.” And Cain said, “How knowest thou ?” and the child answered—“Behold the bare rocks are a few of thy strides distant from the forest; and while even now thou wert lifting up thy voice, I heard the echo.” Then the child took hold of his father, as if he would raise him: and Cain being faint and feeble rose slowly on his knees and pressed himself against the trunk of a fir, and stood upright and followed the child.

The path was dark till within three strides' length of its termination, when it turned suddenly; the thick black trees formed a low arch, and the 3..oonlight appeared for a moment like a dazzling portal. Enos ran before and stood in the open air; and when Cain, his father, emerged from the darkness, the child was affrighted. For the mighty limbs of Cain were wasted as by fire;-his hair was as the matted curls on the bison's forehead and so glared his fierce and sullen eye beneath and the black abundant locks on either side, a rank and tangled mass, were stained and scorched as aim though the grasp of burning iron hand had striven to rend them and his countenance told in a strange and terride language of agonies that had been, and were, and were still to continue to be.

The scene around was desolate; as far as the eye could reach it was desolate : the bare rocks faced each other, and left a long and wide interval of thin white sand. You might wander on and look round and round, and peep into the crevices of the rocks and discover nothing that acknowledged the influence of the seasons.

There was no spring, no summer, no autumn: and the winter's snow, that would have been lovely, fell not. on these hot rocks and scorching sands. Never morning lark had poised himself over this desert; but the huge serpent often hissed there beneath the talons of the vulture, and the vulture screamed, his wings imprisoned within the coils of the serpent. The pointed and shattered summits of the ridges of the rocks made a rude mimicry of human concerns, and seemed to prophesy mutely of things that then were not; steeples, and battlements, and ships with naked masts. As far from the wood as a boy might sling a pebble of the brook, there was one rock by itself at a small distance from the main ridge. It had been precipitated there perhaps by the groan which the Earth uttered when our first father fell. Before you approached, it appeared to lie flat on the ground, but its base slanted from its point, and between its point and the sands a tall man might stand upright. It was here that Enos had found the pitcher and cake, and to this place he led his father. But ere they had reached the rock they beheld a hu

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsæt »