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William Lisle Bowles

(1762 - 1850 / England)

Abba Thule's Lament For His Son Prince Le Boo


I climb the highest cliff; I hear the sound
Of dashing waves; I gaze intent around;
I mark the gray cope, and the hollowness
Of heaven, and the great sun, that comes to bless
The isles again; but my long-straining eye,
No speck, no shadow can, far off, descry,
That I might weep tears of delight, and say,
It is the bark that bore my child away!
Sun, that returnest bright, beneath whose eye
The worlds unknown, and out-stretched waters lie,
Dost thou behold him now! On some rude shore,
Around whose crags the cheerless billows roar,
Watching the unwearied surges doth he stand,
And think upon his father's distant land!
Or has his heart forgot, so far away,
These native woods, these rocks, and torrents gray,
The tall bananas whispering to the breeze,
The shores, the sound of these encircling seas,
Heard from his infant days, and the piled heap
Of holy stones, where his forefathers sleep!
Ah, me! till sunk by sorrow, I shall dwell
With them forgetful in the narrow cell,
Never shall time from my fond heart efface
His image; oft his shadow I shall trace
Upon the glimmering waters, when on high
The white moon wanders through the cloudless sky.
Oft in my silent cave, when to its fire
From the night's rushing tempest we retire,
I shall behold his form, his aspect bland;
I shall retrace his footsteps on the sand;
And, when the hollow-sounding surges swell,
Still think I listen to his echoing shell.
Would I had perished ere that hapless day,
When the tall vessel, in its trim array,
First rushed upon the sounding surge, and bore
My age's comfort from this sheltering shore!
I saw it spread its white wings to the wind,
Too soon it left these hills and woods behind,
Gazing, its course I followed till mine eye
No longer could its distant track descry;
Till on the confines of the billows hoar
A while it hung, and then was seen no more,
And only the blue hollow cope I spied,
And the long waste of waters tossing wide.
More mournful then each falling surge I heard,
Then dropt the stagnant tear upon my beard.
Methought the wild waves said, amidst their roar
At midnight, Thou shalt see thy son no more!
Now thrice twelve moons through the mid heavens have rolled
And many a dawn, and slow night, have I told:
And still as every weary day goes by,
A knot recording on my line I tie;
But never more, emerging from the main,
I see the stranger's bark approach again.
Has the fell storm o'erwhelmed him! Has its sweep
Buried the bounding vessel in the deep!
Is he cast bleeding on some desert plain!
Upon his father did he call in vain!
Have pitiless and bloody tribes defiled
The cold limbs of my brave, my beauteous child!
Oh! I shall never, never hear his voice;
The spring-time shall return, the isles rejoice,
But faint and weary I shall meet the morn,
And 'mid the cheering sunshine droop forlorn!
The joyous conch sounds in the high wood loud,
O'er all the beach now stream the busy crowd;
Fresh breezes stir the waving plantain grove;
The fisher carols in the winding cove;
And light canoes along the lucid tide
With painted shells and sparkling paddles glide.
I linger on the desert rock alone,
Heartless, and cry for thee, my son, my son.

Submitted: Friday, April 16, 2010

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