The Undying One – Canto Iv By Caroline Elizabeth Sarah

The Undying One – Canto Iv

‘TIS done–the night has pass’d away;
And, basking in the sunny day,
The laughing fountain’s waters bear
No record of each burning tear;–
The silent echoes give no sound
Of shriek or moan; and nothing round
Can tell what breaking hearts have been
So lately in that quiet scene.
But ere the evening falls again,
Many a step o’er mount and glen
Shall hurry far and wide, to seek
Her of the pallid brow and cheek.
Proud is the eye of the bridegroom lord!
He hath girt him round with a trusty sword,

And the horse that hath borne him to battle for years,
Gladly his angry summons hears.
His red nostrils snuffing the morning air,
Nothing he heeds their heavy care,
But waits till his high curving neck shall be freed,
To bound o’er the hills with an arrow’s speed.
He is gone–full swiftly he dashes by–
And many a bright and beautiful eye
Follows the rider’s form;–and dreams
Of pleasant walks by the dancing streams,
Of moonlight whisperings in the grove,
Of looks of ardour, and vows of love,
Fill those young hearts: and they wonder why
Visions so happy should make them sigh:
And more they wonder, that any one
Of the numberless forms their eyes have known,
Should have stolen a heart which Carlos woo’d
By the fount, and the lone wood’s solitude.

Oh! love–real love! intoxicating dream
Of beauty and of happiness! how vain
Are our aspirings after thee, which seem
To bring thee near us!–doubt and causeless pain,
And jealousies, and most unconstant sighs
For something fairer than this world supplies;
And fondness which doth end in faint disgust;
And airy hopes that crumble down to dust ;–
These are not love,–though these too oft impart
A false excitement to the swelling heart.

To look upon the fairy one, who stands
Before you, with her young hair’s shining bands,
And rosy lips half parted;–and to muse,
Not on the features which you now peruse,
Not on the blushing bride,–but look beyond
Unto the aged wife, nor feel less fond:
To feel, that while thy arm can strike them dead,
No breathing soul shall harm that gentle head:
To know, that none with fierce and sudden strife
Shall tear thee from her, save with loss of life:
To keep thee but to one, and let that one
Be to thy home what warmth is to the sun;
To gaze, and find no change, when time hath made
Youth’s dazzling beauty darken into shade,
But fondly–firmly–cling to her, nor fear
The fading touch of each declining year:–
This is true love, when it hath found a rest
In the deep home of manhood’s faithful breast.

To worship silently at some heart’s shrine,
And feel, but paint not, all its fire in thine:
To pray for that heart’s hopes, when thine are gone,
Nor let its after coldness chill thine own:
To hold that one, with every fault, more dear
Than all who whisper fondness in thine ear:
To joy thee in his joy, and silently
Meet the upbraiding of his angry eye:
To bear unshrinking all the blows of fate,
Save that which leaves thy sorrow desolate:
Nor deem that woe, which thou canst feel is still
Borne with him, and for him; through every ill
To smile on him,–nor weep, save when apart,
God, and God only; looks into thy heart:
To keep unchanged thy calm, pure, quiet love,
If he, inconstant, doth a new one prove;
To love all round him as a part of him,
Ev’n her he worships:–though thine eye be dim
With weeping for thyself–to pray that not
One cloud may darken o’er their earthly lot:
With the affection of true hearts, to see
His happiness, which doth not hang on thee :–
Oh! this is woman’s love–its joy–its pain;
And this–it hath been felt–and felt in vain.

They are dancing again, by the misty veil
Of the star-lit sky and the moonlight pale.
Laughing and murmuring voices rise
With their gladsome tones, to the peaceful skies:
And no one voice hath a sadder tone
For the sake of her whose form is gone,
Though her step was light in the dance, and her brow
Fairer than any which gleam there now.
Yet after the dance is done, and faint
Each languid limb on the turf is thrown,
Their gathering voices strive to paint
The stranger-heart that Linda won.
And still, as his wasted form, pale brow,
And mournful looks to their thoughts appear;
With his deep, sad voice, they wonder how
He hath pleaded his tale in Linda’s ear.
And some dream wildly of wizard bower
Which hath tempted those fair young feet to stray:
And some of the sweet and charmed power
Which lies in the moonlight’s holy ray:
And some who love–oh! they fondly feel,
In the hopeful heart of the promised bride,
That her soul may be bound in the woe or weal
Of the stranger by the fountain’s side:
And none be able to know, or tell,
How such a love in her young heart grew–
Till the charm have bound their souls as well,
And the flame burn bright in their bosoms too.

They travel fast–the bridegroom lord,
With his prancing steed and his trusty sword;
And the brother-tyrant by his side,
With marble brow and heart of pride.
But vainly they follow o’er vale and hill,
Through the tufted heath, or the cool clear rill;
That mournful pair are far before,
Where the bleak sands lie, and the billows roar.
Far from the smiling land of her birth,
Her early home on the boundless earth,
Hath Linda, with tears, resolved to go,
For her mother’s son is her deadly foe.
Stern as he was when she watch’d each look,
And obey’d ere he spoke–oh! how shall he brook
That her heart hath swerved, and her vows are naught
For the sake of the love which a stranger brought?
Oh! far may her white foot seek, and reach,
A home on Erin’s shingled beach!
Where Miriam dwelt–in their bless’d land
Of the free warm heart, and the open hand;
Where no hypocrite sneer their wrath disguises,
But the sword springs out as the heart’s blood rises;

There hath she chosen her home to be:
And their bark bounds over the foaming sea.
Silently watching by Isbal’s side,
Sadly she looks on the curling tide;
And, gloomily as it roams o’er all,
His eye is a guide where hers shall fall.
Sudden a light shot o’er that eye,
And a quivering through him came;
And Linda, though she knows not why,
Clings trembling to his frame.
Hurriedly he spoke,
As the deep flush broke
O’er his face:
‘There is a vessel–would it were a wreck!–
I know it by the flag; and on that deck
Are forms my soul can trace.
Though yet I see them not, I know
That, could we meet, a bitter woe
Were thine, their power beneath:
Though yet I hear them not, I feel
Each voice would tear the polish’d steel
From out its idle sheath.
Curse on the sails, whose lagging speed
Doth leave us in our hour of need!
Is there no wind in heaven?
They come–oh! Linda, cling to me:
Come closer yet: more strength will be
To love and vengeance given!’

Vain wrath! Young Linda gazes on the sight
Which thus hath conjured up a desperate fight;
And, in the distance she doth spy a sail,
With its flag fluttering gently on the gale,
White, calm, and peaceful:–strange in truth it seems,
That such a sight hath power to wake such dreams.
Yet doth she shudder, as with vehement force
He clasps her round, and views the vessel’s course.
It nears–it nears–and through the signal glass,
The distant forms of crew and captain pass.–
‘Tis they! ’tis they! Her brother’s haughty form,
Proudly erect, defies the coming storm:
And, seated near him, in his mantle clad,
With brow almost as haughty, but more sad,
Is he who woo’d her heart, when love was yet
A dream–which those who wake, strive vainly to forget!

She sees them, but all unconscious they,
Who tracks them thus on their distant way.
They hail the vessel, then turn to gaze
Upon the sunset’s parting rays;
And veering in their course, they sever,
Careless if they should part for ever!
But Isbal hath fix’d his straining sight
On the gleamy look of her canvas white,
And with impatient glance on high
Chides the full sails that hide the sky;
And yearns, till that distant land be won,
For spirits’ wings to bear him on.
Bounds the light ship on her foamy track,
With her crimson pennant floating back:
Onward impell’d by the steady gales,
That are firmly pressing the swelling sails.

On she goes, and the waves are dashing
Under her stern, and under her prow;
Oh! pleasant the sound of the waters splashing
To those who the heat of the desert know.

On she goes–and the light is breaking
In a narrow streak o’er the distant sea;
And the shouts confused of the crew are waking
The silent air with an echo free.

On she goes–and the moon hath risen–
The holy moon that her veil doth shroud;
And like a mournful face from prison,
She looketh out of her watery cloud.

Graceful as earth’s most gentle daughters,
That good ship sails through the gleaming spray–
Like a beautiful dream on the darken’d waters,
Till she anchors in Killala bay.

Erin!–be hush’d, my lyre! Oh! thou,
With ardent mind and eager brow;
With heart and harp together strung,
The hero’s soul, the poet’s tongue;
Who shall attempt the chorded shell
Which thou hast breathed upon so well?
Or who shall seek that land to praise,
Nor seem to echo back thy lays?
That land, ‘the land that bore thee;’ never
Shall aught thy name from Erin’s sever–
Nor dream of Erin’s beauty be,
That doth not also breathe of thee.
And if perchance, in after years,
Some other harp shall wake our tears;

Or, with a burst of glorious song,
Bear our rapt souls in dreams along:
The songs they sing, the lays they pour,
Shall bring us back thy genius–Moore!
Oh! yes–by all that others feel,
When from thy lip the low words steal:
By many an unregarded sigh
The winds have caught in passing by:
By wild far dreams of light divine,
That come not, save to souls like thine:
By the heart-swelling thou hast wrought:
By thy deep melody of thought:
By tear, and song, and ardour won–
The harp of Erin is thine own!

A storm is in the sky; a storm on earth;
And terror pale hath hush’d the voice of mirth.
And strong determination gleams forth now
From the deep lines of many a careless brow.
A storm is on the sea; a storm in heaven;
And wildly on the vessel’s course is driven.
Forth rushes lightning from the lurid skies,
And ere the pilot’s lips can pray,–he dies!
Aghast they stand;–the blacken’d corse lies there,
Sickening their helpless hearts with deep despair:

While Isbal waves his vainly lifted hand,
And shouts in deafen’d ears his proud command:
‘Each to his post! Myself will take the helm,
Though lightnings dart, and billows overwhelm.
Why dream ye thus? Is death so dreadful then
To shrinking things that boast the name of men?
Will ye be daunted that one soul hath gone
Ere he had time to say, ‘I go alone!’
Struggle for life! for soon the yawning tide,
Which howls and dashes o’er the good ship’s side,
Shall come to claim its prey:–each to his post,
And strain and labour, or the ship is lost!’
Alarm, and shame, and wonder fill their hearts;
And then his fiery speech some warmth imparts.
All hands aboard with silent strength obey,
And the strain’d vessel ploughs her labour’d way.

A bark–a bark comes tossing o’er the wave,
(On the dark face of heaven, more darkly seen)
Right on the vessel’s course,–while ev’n the brave
Shudder for breath;–what doth the helmsman mean?
Onward she comes–by raging wave and wind
Helplessly driven with a meteor’s speed:
Almost she touches:–is the helmsman blind,
That of such danger he doth take no heed?

Well doth he know that ship, whose eye hath watch’d
All the long day; and now doth glaring stand,
His only fear that heaven perchance hath snatch’d
His deep revenge from out his desperate hand.
She comes!–a shock–a hollow whiffing sound–
A wail that o’er the troubled waters went
Of many howling voices;–a harsh sound
Of the keel grating o’er that bark’s descent;
And all was over!–Oh! in those few words
How much of agony, and hope, and fear,
And yearnings after life, and treasured hoards
Of young hearts’ feelings, cease and disappear!
All–all was over! what, we may not know;
But, looking back, in our own breasts we feel
Much perish’d, with the separate all of those
Who sank beneath that vessel’s grating keel.
And with them perish’d Linda’s brother stern,
And the young bridegroom in his hour of youth:
And Linda feels her brain and bosom burn–
Oh! it had madden’d her to know the truth!
The murderous truth, that he she loved–for whom
And for whose love she broke her plighted troth,
With strong and ruthless hand prepared the doom,
Which sickens her to dream upon–for both.
But as it was, she gazed into his face,
And round upon the black and empty space,

And then with shudderings cold she bow’d her head,
And gazed upon the waters.–
Have the dead
Power to rise? She sees a single form
All impotently struggling with the storm,
And tossing high his arm, as if to crave
A rescue from his comrades’ watery grave.
Oh! save him!–save him! Swift a rope is thrown,
And on the deck, with an exhausted groan,
The half-drown’d wretch is laid. With greedy glare
Doth Isbal watch him for a moment there;
And then with faded glance draws calmly back,
And seems to watch the vessel’s furrow’d track.
Meanwhile full many a rough but hearty grasp
Greets the lone stranger; but his hand the clasp
Returns not–and their words of welcome seem
Spoken to one who hears not, but doth dream.
Wistfully gazing up into their eyes,
As though he understood them not–awhile
All motionless he stands; then to the skies,
Then on the sea, with a most bitter smile.
And thus he spoke, but whom he loved, or why,
Is in His book who suffer’d them to die:–

‘It was a pleasant dream–possessing thee,
Albeit thy stay was very short on earth:
And still my hopes and heart are blessing thee,
Thou of the glad bright eyes and voice of mirth.
It was a pleasant dream–but thou art gone,
By many a billow cover’d from my sight:
Thou’lt come no more to cheer me when alone–
Thy lips are mute–thine eyes no more are bright.
Oh! thou in whom my life was all bound up,
What is that life without thee? Long ere now
I deem’d that I had drain’d pale sorrow’s cup–
Alas! I had not seen death on thy brow.

‘Oft, when with boding fears I’ve sat to watch
For thy dear coming, with dim weary gaze,
Or wander’d out thine eye’s first glance to catch,
Fancy hath painted them with fading rays.
I’ve dream’d of danger and of death; and when
Thine answering look hath met my anxious eye;
When I have clasp’d thee to my heart again–
That heart’s full joy hath strain’d to agony.
But it hath come at last–the long dark day,
The cheerless absence which hath no return;
And what is left to me? where lies thy clay–
There–there, beloved, doth my beacon burn!’

Wildly he gazed upon the green deep wave,
As if he sought a spot to be his grave;
Then turning him where Isbal stood aside,
‘My curse upon thee, helmsman!’ loud he cried.
He leapt–the waters closed, and murmur’d o’er:
The heart that beat to suffer–felt no more.
And Isbal started, and young Linda wept;
And the heavens brighten’d, and the loud winds slept.
The cold pale moon began once more to shine,
And the tall vessel sped athwart the brine.

‘Tis deep blue midnight–many a star
Is twinkling in the heavens afar.
The autumn winds are blowing keen
The straight and steady masts between;
And motionless the vessel lies,
As she were traced upon the skies.
Within that anchor’d ship are some
Fond simple hearts who dream of home;
And murmuring in their sleep, they hear
Far distant voices whispering near.
Within that anchor’d ship are many
Whose careless dreams (if they have any)
Bring back some lightly-utter’d jest,
To brighten o’er their lonely rest.

Within that anchor’d ship are none
Who sleep not, save the watch–and one
Who may not rest–who dares not dream;
And he–whence glows that sudden beam
That shot along his pallid brow?
Again–again–’tis brighter now–
Awake! awake! ’tis danger–death!–
The flames are round, above, beneath;
Fire! on the lonely waste of sea–
Fire! where no human help can be!
Wild, breathless, and aghast, the crew
Crowd the scorch’d deck. A busy few,
With the rude instinct that doth make
Man struggle for existence’ sake,
Lower the boats:–one after one
Those frail light barks are landward gone,
Ere Isbal from his vision’d trance
Is roused.–What meets his hurried glance?
Half burnt, half drown’d, around him dying,
Are wretches on the waters lying.
He gazes on all with shivering start–
”Tis the curse–’tis the curse of that broken heart!’
He hails the last boat–‘Oh! not for my life
Do I ask you to brave the element’s strife;
But for her who is dearer than life’–in vain!
A hoarse voice answers him again:

‘When thou wert helmsman, the ship went down,
And the heavens look’d out with an angry frown.
How know we who or what thou art,
A man in form, but a fiend in heart!
Thou didst not shudder, nor quail, nor shrink,
When we heard the waves their death-sob drink;
Though brave men held their breath, to see
Their fellows die so suddenly!
The wrath of Heaven is on thy head,
And a cry is come up from the early dead–
It hath wrought on us this awful sign;
And we will not perish for thee or thine!’

It was over now!–and alone they stood
In that fiery ship, on the glowing flood;
With a woman’s love, and a woman’s fear,
She clung to that bosom, now doubly dear;
And she look’d up into his death-like face,
From the eager clasp of his firm embrace,
With a strange wild smile, which seem’d to say,
‘Let us die together.’ He turn’d away,
And he gazed far out on the lonely sea,
Where the billows are raging desperately;
He gazed far out to the utmost verge,
But the sickening sound of the booming surge,

And the dashing waves, with their ceaseless strife,
Coursing each other like things of life–
And a howl through the lighted firmament,
As the boat, and the boat’s crew downward went–
Sounds of sorrow, and sights of fear,
Were all which struck on his eye and ear.
He look’d around him:–the fiery blaze
Mocking the pale moon’s quiet rays;
The red flames licking the top-mast high,
As if climbing to reach the cool clear sky;
And the waters which came with a hissing,
On the side of the burning ship to dash;
The fire-tinged sails, and the lonely deck,
Which must soon be a black and helpless wreck;
The perishing fragments of all which lay
So proudly bright at the close of day;
And the memory of that grating sound,
When the keel pass’d over the wretches drown’d:
These, and the thoughts such scenes impart,
Were all that struck on his eye and heart.
All–was it all? Was there no pale form,
Shining amid the element’s storm,
With her lip compress’d, and her dark eye proud,
While the flames rose high, and the blast blew loud?
Feeling that now no earthly power
Could sever their hearts for one short hour,

And careless of death, because she knew
That where he sank, she must perish too!
He look’d on her, and his heart grew sick,
And his filmy glance was dull and thick,
As wildly earnest he gazed once more
From the rolling sea to the distant shore.
A wild light shot o’er his gloomy brow;
‘Oh! Heaven, dear Linda, is with us now!
Amid these scenes of fear and dread,
Thy Isbal, still secure, might tread:
The floating wave would bear him on
To live–but he would live alone.
Oh! by the love thou bear’st me still,
Though to me thou owest all earthly ill;
By the hours, and days, and years of bliss
Which made thy dreams, ere life sank to this;
By the hope that hath been, and that still may be,
Plunge into the waves, beloved, with me.’
Wildly she gazes, and shrouds her eyes
From the dark confusion of sea and skies.
Oh! woman’s heart! to die by his side
Less fearful seems than to stem that tide;
Those roaring, raging, horrible waves,
Which are rolling o’er her shipmates’ graves.

Onward–onward–and Isbal draws
His labour’d breath with a gasping pause;
The curse is light
On his soul that night;
For a heart is beating against his breast,
Where his lonely thoughts have found sweet rest,
And a calm delight.

Onward–onward–she faints not yet–
Though her cheek be cold, and her long hair wet;
And Isbal yearns,
As her fond eye turns
To search for hope in his eager face;
For land, and a mossy resting-place,
Where nothing burns.

Onward–onward–for weary miles
Through the lone chill waters, where nothing smiles,
And the light hath shrunk–
And the wave hath drunk
The last dull, cheerless, ruddy gleam,
And naught remains but an awful dream
Of the good ship sunk.

Onward–onward–in darkness now,
And the dew is standing on Isbal’s brow;
And his soul is wrung,
As the arms which clung
Confidingly, droop in their beauty there
On the nervous strength of his shoulder bare,
Where her long hair hung.

Onward–onward–he hears once more
Murmurs and sounds from the blessed shore.
He heedeth not
His long dark lot,
But strains that form in a long embrace,
And tenderly kisses her cold pale face,
And his toil is forgot.

‘Thou’rt saved, my Linda! See, the land is won–
The pleasant land where we may live alone:
The deep firm land, where we may stand and gaze
Upon the ocean in its stormiest days.
Linda, my beautiful! oh, blessed be
That day of well-remember’d agony
Which stamp’d the brand of darkness on my brow–
Since I have lived, beloved, to save thee now.’

He hath lifted her and laid her down,
And taken her soft hand in his own,
And wrung the brine from out her hair,
And raised its weight from her bosom fair,
Its cold damp weight, that her breath may come
Free from its pure and lovely home.
He hath press’d his cheek close, close to hers,
To feel when the first pulsation stirs,
And now he watches with patient love
Till that fainting form begin to move.
Long may he watch. Oh! never more
By the rolling sea, or the pleasant shore,
Shall her mournful voice with its gentle sigh
Whisper soft words of melody.
Never, oh! never more, her form
With faithful step, through sun and storm,
Shall follow him from land to land
Or like his guardian spirit stand.
Long may he watch for that head to rise,
For the gentle glance of those waking eyes:
Cold and pale as she lieth now–
With her weary limbs, and her faded brow,
So must she lie for evermore–
She hath pass’d her trials, and reach’d the shore!

Ah! who shall tell their agonized despair,
Who, after watchful nights of ceaseless prayer,
And days of toil, and hours of bitter tears,
And agony that does the work of years–
Stand by the bed of death with whirling brain,
And feel they toil’d, and loved, and pray’d, in vain.
Sadly and fearfully they shrink from those
Whose looks confirm the story of their woes,
And seek with visionary words to buoy
Their spirits up with prophecies of joy:
Ev’n while their blanch’d lips quiver in their dread,
The faint tongue murmurs, ‘No, they are not dead!’
And yet we feel they are. So Isbal stood
By the deep, rolling, and eternal flood;
And so he sought some comfort to impart
With a fond falsehood to his conscious heart;
And still repeated, ‘Lo, she breathes! she stirs!’
When his own breath had waved a tress of hers.
The oft repeated echo died away
Of those vain words; and as the ocean spray
With its light snow-shower drenches her again,
His lip gives forth uncertain sounds of pain.

In his wrung heart he seeks to guess
When perish’d so much of loveliness;

And in Fancy’s dream her arms again
Cling, as they clung around him then.
Which of the mountain waves that rose,
Bade her meek eyes for ever close?
Was it her corpse that he bore for miles,
When he gladly dreamt of her grateful smiles?
Or did her white feet touch the shore,
Ere her spirit departed for evermore?
With a straining force his deep thoughts dwell
On each murmur that rose ‘mid the ocean’s swell.
Was it, when feebly her young arms sank,
That the dashing waters her spirit drank,
And her breath pass’d out on the billows high
With a faint and an unremember’d sigh?
But no–for long after he spoke to cheer,
And her sweet voice answer’d in his ear.
Was it when darkness fell around,
And the red ship sank with a gurgling sound–
That her angel soul to its haven past
On the unseen wings of the midnight blast?
Did she yearn for the far land hopelessly,
As her stiff limbs shrank from the foaming sea:
Or did she yield her up to death,
With a weary moan, and a gasping breath?
Vainly he searches his tortured brain
For a farewell word, or a sigh of pain;

Silently as he bore her on,
Her soul from its gentle frame hath gone,
And never on earth shall his heart discover
The moment her love and her life were over;
Only this much shall the lost one know–
Where she hath departed, he may not go!

With sternly folded arms, and indrawn breath,
He stands and gazes on that form of death.
The deep–the sickening certainty is there,
The doom eternal of his long despair.
O’er the dim wave he flung his desperate arm,
Forgetful in his anguish of the charm
That bound his life. With effort wild and vain
He plunges headlong in the treacherous main;
While the lone sea, with melancholy sound,
Returns him groaning to the mossy ground.
Again he leaps the tide-wash’d bank, which late
He deem’d a shelter from the storms of fate:
The dashing waters yield, and then divide;
But still he sinks not in the whelming tide.
Proudly he stemm’d the billows, when his arms
Bore the faint burden of his Linda’s charms:
Proudly he gazed upon the waters high,
Whose strength contain’d no power to bid him die:

But now he curses, with a bitter voice,
The ocean, which doth triumph and rejoice,
As the green billows, heaving in the day,
Greedily roar around that lifeless clay.
Hark! the wild howl that echoes through the land,
As his foot spurns the smooth and glittering sand.
That wave its floating weight on shore hath thrown;
And ‘the Undying One’ is left alone.

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