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Night - Columbus on the Atlantic
the Variation of the Compass, &c.
Say who, when age on age had rolled away,
And still, as sunk the golden orb of day,
The seaman watched him, while he lingered here,
With many a wish to follow, many a fear,
And gazed and gazed and wondered where he went,
So bright his path, so glorious his descent,
Who first adventured? - In his birth obscure,
Yet born to build a Fame that should endure,
Who the great secret of the Deep possessed,
And, issuing through the portals of the west,
Fearless, resolved, with every sail unfurled,
Planted his standard on the unknown world?
Him, by the Paynim bard described of yore,
And ere his coming sung on either shore,
Him could not I exalt - by Heaven designed
To lift the veil that covered half mankind !
Yet, ere I die, I would fulfil my vow;
Praise cannot wound his generous spirit now.
’T was night. The Moon, o'er the wide wave, disclosed Her awful face; and Nature's self reposed; When, slowly rising in the azure sky, Three white sails shone -- but to no mortal eye, Entering a boundless sea.
In slumber cast, The very ship-boy, on the dizzy mast, Half breathed his orisons ! Alone unchanged, Calmly, beneath, the great Commander ranged, Thoughtful, not sad ; and, as the planet grew, His noble form, wrapt in his mantle blue, Athwart the deck a deepening shadow threw. “Thee hath it pleased — Thy will be done !” he said, Then sought his cabin ; and, their garments spread, Around him lay the sleeping as the dead, When, by his lamp to that mysterious guide, On whose still counsels all his hopes relied, That oracle to man in mercy given, Whose voice is truth, whose wisdom is from heaven, Who over sands and seas directs the stray, And, as with God's own finger, points the way, He turned; but what strange thoughts perplexed his soul, When, lo! no more attracted to the pole, The Compass, faithless as the circling vane, Fluttered and fixed, fluttered and fixed again! At length, as by, some unseen hand imprest, It sought with trembling energy- the West !5 “Ah no!” he cried, and calmed his anxious brow. "Ill, nor the signs of ill, 't is thine to show; Thine but to lead me where I wished to !
COLUMBUS erred not. In that awful hour, Sent forth to save, and girt with god-like power,
And glorious as the regent of the sun,
An angel came! He spoke, and it was done!
He spoke, and, at his call, a mighty wind,
Not like the fitful blast, with fury blind,
But deep, majestic, in its destined course,
Sprung with unerring, unrelenting force,
From the bright East. Tides duly ebbed and flowed;
Stars rose and set; and new horizons glowed;
Yet still it blew! As with primeval sway
Still did its ample spirit, night and day,
Move on the waters !--- All, resigned to Fate,
Folded their arms and sate;o and seemed to wait
Some sudden change; and sought, in chill suspense,
New spheres of being, and new modes of sense;
As men departing, though not doomed to die,
And midway on their passage to eternity.
WIIAT vast foundations in the abyss are there, As of a former world ? Is it not where ATLANTIC kings their barbarous pomp displayed ;? Sunk into darkness with the realms they swayed, When towers and temples, through the closing wave, A glimmering ray of ancient splendor gave – And we shall rest with them? Or are we thrown" (Each gazed on each, and all exclaimed as one)
Where things familiar cease and strange begin, All
progress barred to those without, within ?
Soon is the doubt resolved. Arise, behold
We stop to stir no more ...nor will the tale be told.”
The pilot smote his breast; the watchman cried
“Land !” and his voice in faltering accents died.
At once the fury of the prow was quelled ;
And (whence or why from many an age withheld)
Shrieks, not of men, were mingling in the blast;
And arméd shapes of god-like stature passed !
Slowly along the evening-sky they went,
As on the edge of some vast battlement;
Helmet and shield, and spear and gonfalon,
Streaming a baleful light that was not of the sun!
Long from the stern the great adventurer gazed
With awe, not fear; then high his hands he raised.
"Thou All-supreme .. in goodness as in power,
Who, from his birth to this eventful hour,
Hast led thy servant over land and sea,
Confessing Thee in all, and all in Thee,
O still” — He spoke, and, lo! the charm accurst
Fled whence it came, and the broad barrier burst !
A vain illusion ! (such us mocks the eyes
Of fearful men, when mountains round them rise
From less than nothing) nothing now beheld,
But scattered sedge - repelling, and repelled !
And once again that valiant company Right onward came, ploughing the unknown sea. Already borne beyond the range of thought, With light divine, with truth immortal fraught, From world to world their steady course they keep, Swift as the winds along the waters sweep, Mid the mute nations of the purple deep.
- And now the sound of harpy-wings they hear;
Now less and less, as vanishing in fear!
And see, the heavens bow down, the waters rise,
And, rising, shoot in columns to the skies,
That stand - and still, when they proceed, retire,
As in the desert burned the sacred fire;
Moving in silent majesty, till Night
Descends, and shuts the vision from their sight.
An Assembly of Evil Spirits.
Though changed my cloth of gold for amice gray? –
In my spring-time, when every month was May,
With hawk and hound I coursed away the hour,
Or sung my roundelay in lady's bower.
And though my world be now a narrow cell
(Renounced forever all I loved so well),
Though now my head be bald, my feet be bare,
And scarce my knees sustain my book of
0, I was there, one of that gallant crew,
And saw -- and wondered whence his power he drew,
Yet little thought, though by his side I stood,
Of his great foes in earth and air and flood,
Then uninstructed. — But my sand is run,
And the night coming ... and my task not done!..
’T was in the deep, immeasurable cave
Of ANDES, echoing to the Southern wave,
Mid pillars of basalt, the work of fire,
That, giant-like, to upper day aspire,