No. IV: The Sunken Rock


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By Mrs. Fletcher, (late Miss Jewsbury).

A gentle ship was sailing
    Upon the Indian seas,
O lovely looked she sailing,
    So fair were wave and breeze:
Yet sunken rocks were near her,
    And but one seaman grey
Of all who had to steer her,
    Knew the dangers of the way:
But they hearkened not the fearer,
    For a syren-song that day.

In air, the waves were flinging
    Their silver crowns of spray,
And these their words of singing,—
    "Away, bold ship, away;
To-day, all fair together
    We bear thee o’er the sea,
And who talks of stormy weather,
    A moody wight is he.

"So white the furrow streameth,
    As strewn with pearls are we,
And who of danger dreameth,
    A moody wight is he.
Light hearts are in thee dancing,
    Light steps are on thy deck,
The sun is cloudless glancing,—
    Sail on—who dreams of wreck?

"We are thine, bold ship, and bear thee
    Home, home,—trust us, not him;
Ay, home, bold ship, we bear thee,
    Trust us, trust us, not him:
The pilot’s trade is caution,
    And with talk of rocks and sands,
He tells foul tales of ocean,
    And us, his wandering bands.

"Brave bark, bound on, and heed not,
    Let rocks be sunk or seen,
The chart and line they need not,
    Where once we’ve pilots been.
On, on, and end thy roaming,
    There are many look for thee,
Who will laugh to greet thy coming.
    Ay, kiss thy sides for glee.

"Thou hast never heard such laughter
    As that will greet thee soon;
Thou wilt never hear such after,
    Beneath the sun or moon.
We will love and leave thee never;
    We will tell our secrets thee;  
And thou shalt be for ever,
    Our nursling of the sea!"

"Ha! ha! we have won! and the silly ship
    That braved us so long, is ours;
She sinks in our arms as if drunk or asleep;—
    Down with her, fathoms, fathoms deep,—
And laugh we, and leap, with conquering roar;
    Her wreck hath displaced some waves a score,
And to all upon earth she’s a name and no more!"

The waves were hushed, the song they spoke
    In cruel triumph o’er the waters;
And other, milder music broke,
    From other, milder ocean’s daughters.

"Well, too well, the depths are cloven,
Soon, too soon, the work is done;
Many a weedy shroud is woven—
Many a mortal course is run!
Fathom deep their bodies lie,
Stiffened limb and stoney eye;
Wrapped about with slimy things,
Who were Beauty’s queens and kings;
Wealth, with all his gold outspread,
Sleeps upon a rocky bed;
And the salt and hungry spray
Eateth Valour’s sword away,
Once, as flashing as the day:
Wisdom charmeth now no longer,
Weaker brain is as the stronger,
And the man of giant size
With the little infant lies:
Whilst afar the taper burneth,
And the watcher’s bosom yearneth,
Each, for one who ne’er returneth;
Buried by our father sea,
Where none know their graves but we!
We are daughters of the deep,
Yet, because his daughters, weep
That the sound of human woe
Through our caverned halls should flow,
And that he, so calm to us
And the fragile nautilus,
Stern and full of death should be
To a mightier race than we!
We would save, but we are weak;
And when mighty tempests break,
And a ship with all her crew
Sink, as if a drop of dew
Fell upon an ocean weed,
We may pity their great need,
And, when hushed is foam and surge,
Sing, as now, their funeral dirge;
Hide awhile the limbs of youth
From some monster’s ravening tooth,
Bind sea blooms round beauty’s locks
Sadly floating on our rocks;
Or remove a hoary head
From its lacerating bed
Unto soft sea-weeds instead—
But 'tis all that we can do,
Mortals, yet our love is true!"
    Thus, upon the self-same seas,
    Sang the Oceanides!

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