Konstantin Nikolaevich Batiushkov

(1787 - 1855 / Russia)

The Friend's Shadow


Sunt aliquid manes; letum non omnia finit;
Luridaque evictos effugit umbra rogos.
PROPERTIUS.
_ __


To Albion's misty isle across the waves I sped me:
It look'd as if interr'd beneath a leaden sea,
And gathering round our bark the halcyon's music led me,
While all the crew rejoiced in their sweet melody.
The dancing surge, the evening breezes falling,
And through the sails and shrouds those breezes whistling thrill,
And to the watch the active helmsman calling,
The watch, who, midst the roar, sleeps tranquilly and still.
All seem'd to rock itself to gentle thought;
Like an enchanted one, I, from the mast, look'd forth,
And through the night and through the mist I sought,
I sought the star beloved of my domestic north.
Then into memory melted every feeling—
My soul had sanctified my home of joy and peace,
And the sea raging, and the zephyrs gently stealing,
Cover'd my eyelids o'er with self-forgetfulness.
Then dreams with other dreams were blended,
And lo! there stood— was it a dream?— the form
Of that dear friend who his career had ended
Nobly, amidst the thundering battle storm.
He stood upon the mist, and smiled— his face,
Fresh as the morn and bloodless, shining
Like the young spring in gaiety and grace,
Even as an angel from high heaven declining:—
'Comrade of better time! and is it thou?
And is it thou?' I cried, 'thou hero bright!
Did I not in the fury of the fight
Attend thee— and when thou hadst fallen below
Make thy new grave— and on a neighbouring tree
Write with my sword thy feats of bravery,
And follow'd thy cold ashes to their bed,
And hallow'd it with prayers, and with tears watered?
Speak, unforgotten one! speak! was it a deceit?
Is all that's past a dream— a cheating dream?
A dream that corpse— a dream that grave— that sheet
Wrapt round thee— were they not— did they but seem?
O but one word! let that tongue's melody
Yet sweetly fall on my transported ear:
O unforgotten one! stretch out to me
Thy old right hand of friendship— stretch it here.'
I sprung towards him— Oh! the mists had dimm'd my eye—
He vanish'd like a shade— a lock of airy smoke—
Dispersed in the wide azure of the sky,
And I, arousing from my dream, awoke.
Beneath the wing of stillness all was sleeping;
The very winds— the very waves, at rest;
And scarce a breath upon the sea was creeping;
The pale moon swam along upon the white cloud's breast.
But I was troubled— peace had left my soul—
I stretch'd my hands tow'rds him, whom I no more could see—
I called on him— whom I could not control—
On thee— belov'd one! best of friends! on thee!

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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