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The Shipwreck: Canto Iii - Poem by William Falconer
The Scene is extended from that part of the archipelago which lies ten miles to the Northward of Falconera, to Cape Colonna in Attica
The Time: about seven hours; from one until eight in the morning.
I The beneficial influence of poetry in the civilisation of mankind.
Diffidence of the author.
II Wreck of the mizen-mast cleared away.
Ship put before the wind—labours much.
Different stations of the officers.
Appearance of the island of Falconera.
III Excursion to the adjacent nations of Greece renowned in antiquity.
Socrates, Plato, Aristides, Solon.
Invasion by Xerxes.
Present state of the Spartans.
Former happiness, and fertility.
Its present distress the effect of slavery.
Ulysses and Penelope.
Argos and Mycæne.
Apollo and Diana.
Leander and Hero.
Temple of Apollo.
IV Subject resumed.
Address to the spirits of the storm.
A tempest, accompanied with rain, hail, and meteors.
Darkness of the night, lightning and thunder.
Daybreak. St George's cliffs open upon them.
The ship, in great danger, passes the island of St George.
V Land of Athens appears.
Helmsman struck blind by lightning.
Ship laid broadside to the shore.
Bowsprit, foremast, and main top-mast carried away.
Albert, Rodmond, Arion, and Palemon strive to save themselves on the wreck of the foremast.
The ship parts asunder.
Death of Albert and Rodmond.
Arion reaches the shore.
Finds Palemon expiring on the beach.
His dying address to Arion, who is led away by the humane natives.
I. When, in a barbarous age, with blood defiled,
The human savage roam'd the gloomy wild;
When sullen ignorance her flag display'd,
And rapine and revenge her voice obey'd;
Sent from the shores of light, the Muses came
The dark and solitary race to tame,
The war of lawless passions to control,
To melt in tender sympathy the soul;
The heart's remote recesses to explore,
And touch its springs, when prose avail'd no more:
The kindling spirit caught the empyreal ray,
And glow'd congenial with the swelling lay;
Roused from the chaos of primeval night,
At once fair truth and reason sprung to light.
When great Mæonides, in rapid song,
The thundering tide of battle rolls along,
Each ravish'd bosom feels the high alarms,
And all the burning pulses beat to arms;
Hence, war's terrific glory to display,
Became the theme of every epic lay:
But when his strings with mournful magic tell
What dire distress Laertes' son befell,
The strains, meandering through the maze of woe
Bid sacred sympathy the heart o'erflow:
Far through the boundless realms of thought he springs,
From earth upborne on Pegasean wings,
While distant poets, trembling as they view
His sunward flight, the dazzling track pursue;
His magic voice, that rouses and delights,
Allures and guides to climb Olympian heights.
But I, alas! through scenes bewilder'd stray,
Far from the light of his unerring ray;
While, all unused the wayward path to tread,
Darkling I wander with prophetic dread.
To me in vain the bold Mæonian lyre
Awakes the numbers fraught with living fire;
Full oft indeed that mournful harp of yore
Wept the sad wanderer lost upon the shore;
'Tis true he lightly sketch'd the bold design,
But toils more joyless, more severe are mine;
Since o'er that scene his genius swiftly ran,
Subservient only to a nobler plan:
But I, perplex'd in labyrinths of art,
Anatomize and blazon every part;
Attempt with plaintive numbers to display,
And chain the events in regular array;
Though hard the task to sing in varied strains,
When still unchanged the same sad theme remains:
O could it draw compassion's melting tear
For kindred miseries, oft beheld too near!
For kindred wretches, oft in ruin cast
On Albion's strand beneath the wintry blast;
For all the pangs, the complicated woe,
Her bravest sons, her guardian sailors know;
Then every breast should sigh at our distress—
This were the summit of my hoped success!
For this, my theme through mazes I pursue,
Which nor Mæonides, nor Maro knew.
II. Awhile the mast, in ruins dragg'd behind,
Balanced the impression of the helm and wind;
The wounded serpent, agonized with pain,
Thus trails his mangled volume on the plain:
But now, the wreck, dissever'd from the rear,
The long reluctant prow began to veer;
While round before the enlarging wind it falls,
'Square fore and aft the yards,' the master calls,
'You, timoneers, her motion still attend,
For on your steerage all our lives depend:
So, steady1! meet her! watch the curving prow,
And from the gale directly let her go.'
'Starboard again!' the watchful pilot cries,
'Starboard!' the obedient timoneer replies:
Then back to port, revolving at command,
The wheel2 rolls swiftly through each glowing hand.
The ship no longer, foundering by the lee,
Bears on her side the invasions of the sea;
All lonely o'er the desert waste she flies,
Scourged on by surges, storms, and bursting skies.
As when enclosing harpooneers assail
In Hyperborean seas the slumbering whale,
Soon as their javelins pierce his scaly side,
He groans, he darts impetuous down the tide;
And rack'd all o'er with lacerating pain,
He flies remote beneath the flood in vain—
So with resistless haste the wounded ship
Scuds from pursuing waves along the deep;
While, dash'd apart by her dividing prow,
Like burning adamant the waters glow;
Her joints forget their firm elastic tone,
Her long keel trembles, and her timbers groan:
Upheaved behind her in tremendous height
The billows frown, with fearful radiance bright;
Now quivering o'er the topmost waves she rides,
While deep beneath the enormous gulf divides;
Now launching headlong down the horrid vale,
Becalm'd she hears no more the howling gale;
Till up the dreadful height again she flies,
Trembling beneath the current of the skies.
As that rebellious angel, who, from heaven,
To regions of eternal pain was driven,
When dreadless he forsook the Stygian shore
The distant realms of Eden to explore;
Here, on sulphureous clouds sublime upheaved,
With daring wing the infernal air he cleaved;
There, in some hideous gulf descending prone,
Far in the void abrupt of night was thrown—
Even so she climbs the briny mountain's height,
Then down the black abyss precipitates her flight:
The mast, about whose tops the whirlwinds sing,
With long vibration round her axle swing.
To guide her wayward course amid the gloom,
The watchful pilots different posts assume:
Albert and Rodmond on the poop appear,
There to direct each guiding timoneer;
While at the bow the watch Arion keeps,
To shun what cruisers wander o'er the deeps:
Where'er he moves Palemon still attends,
As if on him his only hope depends;
While Rodmond, fearful of some neighbouring shore,
Cries, ever and anon, Look out afore!
Thus o'er the flood four hours she scudding flew,
When Falconera's rugged cliffs they view
Faintly along the larboard bow descried,
As o'er its mountain tops the lightnings glide;
High o'er its summit, through the gloom of night,
The glimmering watch-tower casts a mournful light:
In dire amazement riveted they stand,
And hear the breakers lash the rugged strand;
But scarce perceived, when past the beam it flies,
Swift as the rapid eagle cleaves the skies:
That danger past reflects a feeble joy,
But soon returning fears their hope destroy.
As in the Atlantic ocean, when we find
Some Alp of ice driven southward by the wind,
The sultry air all sickening pants around,
In deluges of torrid ether drown'd;
Till when the floating isle approaches nigh,
In cooling tides the aërial billows fly:
Awhile deliver'd from the scorching heat,
In gentler tides our feverish pulses beat:
Such transient pleasure, as they pass'd this strand,
A moment bade their throbbing hearts expand;
The illusive meteors of a lifeless fire,
Too soon they kindle, and too soon expire.
III. Say, Memory! thou, from whose unerring tongue
Instructive flows the animated song,
What regions now the scudding ship surround?
Regions of old through all the world renown'd;
That, once the poet's theme, the Muses' boast,
Now lie in ruins, in oblivion lost!
Did they whose sad distress these lays deplore,
Unskill'd in Grecian or in Roman lore,
Unconscious pass along each famous shore?
They did: for in this desert, joyless soil,
No flowers of genial science deign to smile;
Sad Ocean's genius, in untimely hour,
Withers the bloom of every springing flower;
For native tempests here, with blasting breath,
Despoil, and doom the vernal buds to death;
Here fancy droops, while sullen clouds and storm,
The generous temper of the soul deform:
Then if, among the wandering naval train,
One stripling, exiled from the Aonian plain,
Had e'er, entranced in fancy's soothing dream,
Approach'd to taste the sweet Castalian stream
(Since those salubrious streams, with power divine,
To purer sense the soften'd soul refine);
Sure he, amid unsocial mates immured,
To learning lost, severer grief endured;
In vain might Phoebus' ray his mind inspire,
Since fate with torrents quench'd the kindling fire:
If one this pain of living death possess'd,
It dwelt supreme, Arion! in thy breast;
When, with Palemon, watching in the night
Beneath pale Cynthia's melancholy light,
You oft recounted those surrounding states,
Whose glory Fame with brazen tongue relates.
Immortal Athens first, in ruin spread,
Contiguous lies at Port Liono's head;
Great source of science! whose immortal name
Stands foremost in the glorious roll of fame.
Here godlike Socrates and Plato shone,
And, firm to truth, eternal honour won:
The first in virtue's cause his life resign'd,
By Heaven pronounced the wisest of mankind:
The last proclaim'd the spark of vital fire,
The soul's fine essence, never could expire:
Here Solon dwelt, the philosophic sage
That fled Pisistratus' vindictive rage:
Just Aristides here maintain'd the cause,
Whose sacred precepts shine through Solon's laws.
Of all her towering structures, now alone
Some columns stand, with mantling weeds o'ergrown;
The wandering stranger near the port descries
A milk-white lion of stupendous size,
Of antique marble; hence the haven's name.
Unknown to modern natives whence it came.
Next, in the gulf of Engia, Corinth lies,
Whose gorgeous fabrics seem'd to strike the skies;
Whom, though by tyrant victors oft subdued,
Greece, Egypt, Rome, with admiration view'd:
Her name, for architecture long renown'd,
Spread like the foliage which her pillars crown'd;
But now, in fatal desolation laid,
Oblivion o'er it draws a dismal shade.
Then further westward, on Morea's land,
Fair Misitra! thy modern turrets stand:
Ah! who, unmoved with secret woe, can tell
That here great Lacedæmon's glory fell?
Here once she flourish'd, at whose trumpet's sound
War burst his chains, and nations shook around;
Here brave Leonidas from shore to shore
Through all Achaia bade her thunders roar:
He, when imperial Xerxes from afar
Advanced with Persia's sumless hosts to war,
Till Macedonia shrunk beneath his spear,
And Greece all shudder'd as the chief drew near;
He, at Thermopylæ's decisive plain,
Their force opposed with Sparta's glorious train;
Tall Oeta saw the tyrant's conquer'd bands
In gasping millions bleed on hostile lands:
Thus vanquish'd, haughty Asia heard thy name,
And Thebes and Athens sicken'd at thy fame:
Thy state, supported by Lycurgus' laws,
Gain'd, like thine arms, superlative applause;
Even great Epaminondas strove in vain
To curb thy spirit with a Theban chain.
But ah! how low that free-born spirit now!
Thy abject sons to haughty tyrants bow;
A false, degenerate, superstitious race
Invest thy region, and its name disgrace.
Not distant far, Arcadia's blest domains
Peloponnesus' circling shore contains:
Thrice happy soil! where, still serenely gay,
Indulgent Flora breathed perpetual May;
Where buxom Ceres bade each fertile field
Spontaneous gifts in rich profusion yield:
Then, with some rural nymph supremely blest,
While transport glow'd in each enamour'd breast,
Each faithful shepherd told his tender pain,
And sung of sylvan sports in artless strain;
Soft as the happy swain's enchanting lay
That pipes among the shades of Endermay.
Now, sad reverse! oppression's iron hand
Enslaves her natives, and despoils her land;
In lawless rapine bred, a sanguine train,
With midnight ravage, scour the uncultured plain.
Westward of these, beyond the Isthmus, lies
The long-sought isle of Ithacus the wise;
Where fair Penelope, of him deprived,
To guard her honour endless schemes contrived:
She, only shielded by a stripling son,
Her lord Ulysses long to Ilion gone,
Each bold attempt of suitor-kings repell'd,
And undefiled her nuptial contract held;
True to her vows, and resolutely chaste,
Met arts with art, and triumph'd at the last.
Argos, in Greece forgotten and unknown,
Still seems her cruel fortune to bemoan;
Argos, whose monarch led the Grecian hosts
Across the Ægean main to Dardan coasts:
Unhappy prince! who, on a hostile shore,
Fatigue and danger ten long winters bore;
And when to native realms restored at last,
To reap the harvest of thy labours past,
There found a perjured friend, and faithless wife,
Who sacrificed to impious lust thy life;
Fast by Arcadia stretch these desert plains,
And o'er the land a gloomy tyrant reigns.
Next, Macronisi is adjacent seen,
Where adverse winds detain'd the Spartan queen;
For whom, in arms combined, the Grecian host,
With vengeance fired, invaded Phrygia's coast;
For whom so long they labour'd to destroy
The lofty turrets of imperial Troy;
Here, driven by Juno's rage, the hapless dame,
Forlorn of heart, from ruin'd Ilion came:
The port an image bears of Parian stone,
Of ancient fabric, but of date unknown.
Due east from this appears the immortal shore,
That sacred Phoebus and Diana bore—
Delos! through all the Ægean seas renown'd,
Whose coast the rocky Cyclades surround;
By Phoebus honour'd, and by Greece revered,
Her hallow'd groves even distant Persia fear'd:
But now a desert unfrequented land,
No human footstep marks the trackless sand.
Thence to the north, by Asia's western bound,
Fair Lemnos stands, with rising marble crown'd;
Where, in her rage, avenging Juno hurl'd
Ill-fated Vulcan from the ethereal world.
There his eternal anvils first he rear'd;
Then, forged by Cyclopean art, appear'd
Thunders that shook the skies with dire alarms,
And form'd, by skill divine, immortal arms;
There, with this crippled wretch, the foul disgrace
And living scandal of the empyreal race,
In wedlock lived the beauteous queen of love;
Can such sensations heavenly bosoms move?
Eastward of this appears the Dardan shore,
That once the imperial towers of Ilium bore—
Illustrious Troy! renown'd in every clime
Through the long records of succeeding time;
Who saw protecting gods from heaven descend
Full oft, thy royal bulwarks to defend:
Though chiefs unnumber'd in her cause were slain,
With fate the gods and heroes fought in vain!
That refuge of perfidious Helen's shame
At midnight was involved in Grecian flame;
And now, by time's deep ploughshare harrow'd o'er,
The seat of sacred Troy is found no more:
No trace of her proud fabrics now remains,
But corn and vines enrich her cultured plains;
Silver Scamander laves the verdant shore,
Scamander, oft o'erflow'd with hostile gore.
Not far removed from Ilion's famous land,
In counter-view appears the Thracian strand,
Where beauteous Hero, from the turret's height,
Display'd her cresset each revolving night;
Whose gleam directed loved Leander o'er
The rolling Hellespont from Asia's shore;
Till, in a fated hour, on Thracia's coast,
She saw her lover's lifeless body toss'd:
Then felt her bosom agony severe,
Her eyes, sad gazing, pour'd the incessant tear;
O'erwhelm'd with anguish, frantic with despair,
She beat her swelling breast, and tore her hair;
On dear Leander's name in vain she cried,
Then headlong plunged into the parting tide:
The exulting tide received the lovely maid,
And proudly from the strand its freight convey'd.
Far west of Thrace, beyond the Ægean main,
Remote from ocean lies the Delphic plain:
The sacred oracle of Phoebus there
High o'er the mount arose, divinely fair!
Achaian marble form'd the gorgeous pile,
August the fabric! elegant in style!
On brazen hinges turn'd the silver doors,
And chequer'd marble paved the polish'd floors;
The roof, where storied tablature appear'd,
On columns of Corinthian mould was rear'd;
Of shining porphyry the shafts were framed,
And round the hollow dome bright jewels flamed:
Apollo's priests before the holy shrine
Suppliant pour'd forth their orisons divine;
To front the sun's declining ray 'twas placed,
With golden harps and branching laurels graced:
Around the fane, engraved by Vulcan's hand,
The sciences and arts were seen to stand;
Here Æsculapius' snake display'd his crest,
And burning glories sparkled on his breast;
While from his eye's insufferable light,
Disease and death recoil'd in headlong flight:
Of this great temple, through all time renown'd,
Sunk in oblivion, no remains are found.
Contiguous here, with hallow'd woods o'erspread,
Renown'd Parnassus lifts its honour'd head;
There roses blossom in eternal spring,
And strains celestial feather'd warblers sing;
Apollo here bestows the unfading wreath;
Here Zephyrs aromatic odours breathe;
They o'er Castalian plains diffuse perfume,
Where round the scene perennial laurels bloom:
Fair daughters of the sun, the sacred Nine!
Here wake to ecstasy their harps divine,
Or bid the Paphian lute mellifluous play,
And tune to plaintive lore the liquid lay:
Their numbers every mental storm control,
And lull to harmony the afflicted soul;
With heavenly balm the tortured breast compose,
And soothe the agony of latent woes:
The verdant shades that Helicon surround,
On rosy gales seraphic tunes resound!
Perpetual summers crown the happy hours,
Sweet as the breath that fans Elysian flowers:
Hence pleasure dances in an endless round,
And love and joy, ineffable, abound.
IV. Stop, wandering thought! methinks I feel their strains
Diffuse delicious languor through my veins.
Adieu, ye flowery vales, and fragrant scenes,
Delightful bowers, and ever vernal greens!
Adieu, ye streams! that o'er enchanted ground
In lucid maze the Aonian hill surround;
Ye fairy scenes! where fancy loves to dwell,
And young delight, for ever, oh, farewell!
The soul with tender luxury you fill,
And o'er the sense Lethean dews distil—
Awake, O memory! from the inglorious dream,
With brazen lungs resume the kindling theme;
Collect thy powers, arouse thy vital fire,
Ye spirits of the storm my verse inspire!
Hoarse as the whirlwinds that enrage the main,
In torrents pour along the swelling strain.
Now, through the parting wave impetuous bore,
The scudding vessel stemm'd the Athenian shore;
The pilots, as the waves behind her swell,
Still with the wheeling stern their force repel;
For this assault should either quarter3 feel,
Again to flank the tempest she might reel!
The steersmen every bidden turn apply,
To right and left the spokes alternate fly—
Thus, when some conquer'd host retreats in fear,
The bravest leaders guard the broken rear;
Indignant they retire, and long oppose
Superior armies that around them close;
Still shield the flanks, the routed squadrons join,
And guide the flight in one continued line.
Thus they direct the flying bark before
The impelling floods, that lash her to the shore:
High o'er the poop the audacious seas aspire,
Uproll'd in hills of fluctuating fire;
With labouring throes she rolls on either side,
And dips her gunnels in the yawning tide;
Her joints, unhinged, in palsied languors play,
As ice-flakes part beneath the noontide ray.
The gale howls doleful through the blocks and shrouds,
And big rain pours a deluge from the clouds;
From wintry magazines that sweep the sky,
Descending globes of hail impetuous fly;
High on the masts, with pale and livid rays,
Amid the gloom portentous meteors blaze;
The ethereal dome in mournful pomp array'd
Now buried lies beneath impervious shade;
Now, flashing round intolerable light,
Redoubles all the horror of the night—
Such terror Sinai's trembling hill o'erspread,
When Heaven's loud trumpet sounded o'er its head:
It seem'd, the wrathful Angel of the wind
Had all the horrors of the skies combined,
And here, to one ill-fated ship opposed,
At once the dreadful magazine disclosed;
And, lo! tremendous o'er the deep he springs,
The inflaming sulphur flashing from his wings;
Hark! his strong voice the dismal silence breaks,
Mad chaos from the chains of death awakes:
Loud, and more loud, the rolling peals enlarge,
And blue on deck the fiery tides discharge;
There all aghast the shivering wretches stood,
While chill suspense and fear congeal'd their blood;
Wide bursts in dazzling sheets the living flame,
And dread concussion rends the ethereal frame;
Sick earth convulsive groans from shore to shore,
And nature, shuddering, feels the horrid roar.
Still the sad prospect rises on my sight,
Reveal'd in all its mournful shade and light;
Even now my ear with quick vibration feels
The explosion burst in strong rebounding peals;
Swift through my pulses glides the kindling fire,
As lightning glances on the electric wire:
Yet, ah! the languid colours vainly strive
To bid the scene in native hues revive.
But, lo! at last, from tenfold darkness born,
Forth issues o'er the wave the weeping morn:
Hail, sacred vision! who, on orient wings,
The cheering dawn of light propitious brings;
All nature, smiling, hail'd the vivid ray
That gave her beauties to returning day—
All but our ship! which, groaning on the tide,
No kind relief, no gleam of hope descried;
For now in front her trembling inmates see
The hills of Greece emerging on the lee.
So the lost lover views that fatal morn,
On which, for ever from his bosom torn,
The maid, adored, resigns her blooming charms,
To bless with love some happier rival's arms.
So to Eliza4 dawn'd that cruel day
That tore Æneas from her sight away,
That saw him parting, never to return,
Herself in funeral flames decreed to burn.
yet in clouds, thou genial source of light!
Conceal thy radiant glories from our sight;
Go, with thy smile adorn the happy plain,
And gild the scenes where health and pleasure reign:
But let not here, in scorn, thy wanton beam
Insult the dreadful grandeur of my theme.
While shoreward now the bounding vessel flies,
Full in her van St George's cliffs arise;
High o'er the rest a pointed crag is seen,
That hung projecting o'er a mossy green;
Huge breakers on the larboard bow appear,
And full a-head its eastern ledges bear:
To steer more eastward Albert still commands,
And shun, if possible, the fatal strands—
Nearer and nearer now the danger grows,
And all their skill relentless fates oppose;
For while more eastward they direct the prow,
Enormous waves the quivering deck o'erflow;
While, as she wheels, unable to subdue
Her sallies, still they dread her broaching-to5:
Alarming thought! for now no more a-lee
Her trembling side could bear the mountain'd sea,
And if pursuing waves she scuds before,
Headlong she runs upon the frightful shore;
A shore, where shelves and hidden rocks abound,
Where death in secret ambush lurks around.
Not half so dreadful to Æneas' eyes
The straits of Sicily were seen to rise,
When Palinurus from the helm descried
The rocks of Scylla on his eastern side;
While in the west, with hideous yawn disclosed,
His onward path Charybdis' gulf opposed:
The double danger he alternate view'd,
And cautiously his arduous track pursued.
Thus, while to right and left destruction lies,
Between the extremes the daring vessel flies;
With terrible irruption bursting o'er
The marble cliffs, tremendous surges roar;
Hoarse through each winding creek the tempest raves,
And hollow rocks repeat the groan of waves.
Should once the bottom strike this cruel shore,
The parting ship that instant is no more!
Nor she alone, but with her all the crew
Beyond relief are doom'd to perish too:
But haply she escapes the dreadful strand,
Though scarce her length in distance from the land:
Swift as the weapon quits the Scythian bow,
She cleaves the burning billows with her prow,
And forward hurrying with impetuous haste,
Borne on the tempest's wings the isle she past:
With longing eyes, and agony of mind,
The sailors view this refuge left behind;
Happy to bribe with India's richest ore
A safe accession to that barren shore.
When in the dark Peruvian mine confined,
Lost to the cheerful commerce of mankind,
The groaning captive wastes his life away,
For ever exiled from the realms of day,
Not half such pangs his bosom agonize
When up to distant light he rolls his eyes!
Where the broad sun, in his diurnal way
Imparts to all beside his vivid ray;
While, all forlorn, the victim pines in vain
For scenes he never shall possess again.
V. But now Athenian mountains they descry,
And o'er the surge Colonna frowns on high;
Where marble columns, long by time defaced,
Moss-cover'd on the lofty Cape are placed:
There rear'd by fair devotion to sustain,
In elder times, Tritonia's sacred fane;
The circling beach in murderous form appears,
Decisive goal of all their hopes and fears:
The seamen now in wild amazement see
The scene of ruin rise beneath their lee;
Swift from their minds elapsed all dangers past,
As dumb with terror, they behold the last.
And now, while wing'd with ruin from on high,
Through the rent cloud the ragged lightnings fly,
A flash, quick glancing on the nerves of light,
Struck the pale helmsman with eternal night:
Rodmond, who heard a piteous groan behind,
Touch'd with compassion, gazed upon the blind;
And, while around his sad companions crowd,
He guides the unhappy victim to the shroud:
'Hie thee aloft, my gallant friend!' he cries;
'Thy only succour on the mast relies.'
The helm, bereft of half its vital force,
Now scarce subdued the wild unbridled course;
Quick to the abandon'd wheel Arion came,
The ship's tempestuous sallies to reclaim:
The vessel, while the dread event draws nigh,
Seems more impatient o'er the waves to fly;
Fate spurs her on!—Thus, issuing from afar,
Advances to the sun some blazing star,
And, as it feels attraction's kindling force,
Springs onward with accelerated course.
The moment fraught with fate approaches fast!
While thronging sailors climb each quivering mast,
The ship no longer now must stem the land,
And, Hard a starboard! is the last command:
While every suppliant voice to Heaven applies,
The prow, swift wheeling, to the westward flies;
Twelve sailors, on the fore-mast who depend,
High on the platform of the top ascend—
Fatal retreat! for, while the plunging prow
Immerges headlong in the wave below,
Down prest by watery weight the bowsprit bends,
And from above the stem deep-crashing rends:
Beneath her bow the floating ruins lie;
The fore-mast totters, unsustain'd on high;
And now the ship, forelifted by the sea,
Hurls the tall fabric backward o'er her lee;
While, in the general wreck, the faithful stay
Drags the main top-mast by the cap away:
Flung from the mast, the seamen strive in vain,
Through hostile floods, their vessel to regain;
Weak hope, alas! they buffet long the wave,
And grasp at life though sinking in the grave;
Till all exhausted, and bereft of strength,
O'erpower'd they yield to cruel fate at length;
The burying waters close around their head—
They sink! for ever number'd with the dead.
Those who remain the weather shrouds embrace,
Nor longer mourn their lost companions' case:
Transfix'd with terror at the approaching doom,
Self-pity in their breasts alone has room.
Albert, and Rodmond, and Palemon, near,
With young Arion, on the mast appear:
Even they, amid the unspeakable distress,
In every look distracting thoughts confess;
In every vein the refluent blood congeals,
And every bosom mortal terror feels;
Begirt with all the horrors of the main,
They view'd the adjacent shore, but view'd in vain.
Such torments in the drear abodes of hell,
Where sad despair laments with rueful yell,—
Such torments agonize the damned breast.
That sees remote the mansions of the blest.
It comes! the dire catastrophe draws near,
Lash'd furious on by destiny severe:
The ship hangs hovering on the verge of death,
Hell yawns, rocks rise, and breakers roar beneath!
O yet confirm my heart, ye powers above!
This last tremendous shock of fate to prove;
The tottering frame of reason yet sustain,
Nor let this total havoc whirl my brain;
Since I, all trembling in extreme distress,
Must still the horrible result express.
In vain, alas! the sacred shades of yore
Would arm the mind with philosophic lore;
In vain they'd teach us, at the latest breath
To smile serene amid the pangs of death:
Immortal Zeno's self would trembling see
Inexorable fate beneath the lee;
And Epictetus, at the sight, in vain
Attempt his Stoic firmness to retain:
Had Socrates, for godlike virtue famed,
And wisest of the sons of men proclaim'd,
Spectator of such various horrors been,
Even he had stagger'd at this dreadful scene.
In vain the cords and axes were prepared,
For every wave now smites the quivering yard;
High o'er the ship they throw a dreadful shade,
Then on her burst in terrible cascade;
Across the founder'd deck o'erwhelming roar,
And foaming, swelling, bound upon the shore.
Swift up the mounting billow now she flies,
Her shatter'd top half-buried in the skies;
Borne o'er a latent reef the hull impends,
Then thundering on the marble crags descends:
Her ponderous bulk the dire concussion feels,
And o'er upheaving surges wounded reels.
Again she plunges! hark! a second shock
Bilges the splitting vessel on the rock:
Down on the vale of death, with dismal cries,
The fated victims shuddering cast their eyes
In wild despair; while yet another stroke
With strong convulsion rends the solid oak:
Ah, Heaven!—behold her crashing ribs divide!
She loosens, parts, and spreads in ruin o'er the tide.
Oh, were it mine with sacred Maro's art,
To wake to sympathy the feeling heart;
Like him, the smooth and mournful verse to dress
In all the pomp of exquisite distress;
Then, too severely taught by cruel fate,
To share in all the perils I relate,
Then might I, with unrivall'd strains, deplore
The impervious horrors of a leeward shore.
As o'er the surf the bending mainmast hung,
Still on the rigging thirty seamen clung:
Some on a broken crag were struggling cast,
And there by oozy tangles grappled fast;
Awhile they bore the o'erwhelming billows' rage,
Unequal combat with their fate to wage
Till all benumb'd and feeble they forego
Their slippery hold, and sink to shades below:
Some, from the main yard-arm impetuous thrown
On marble ridges, die without a groan:
Three, with Palemon, on their skill depend,
And from the wreck on oars and rafts descend;
Now on the mountain-wave on high they ride,
Then downward plunge beneath the involving tide;
Till one, who seems in agony to strive,
The whirling breakers heave on shore alive:
The rest a speedier end of anguish knew,
And press'd the stony beach—a lifeless crew!
Next, O unhappy chief! the eternal doom
Of Heaven decreed thee to the briny tomb:
What scenes of misery torment thy view!
What painful struggles of thy dying crew!
Thy perish'd hopes all buried in the flood
O'erspread with corses, red with human blood!—
So, pierced with anguish, hoary Priam gazed,
When Troy's imperial domes in ruin blazed;
While he, severest sorrow doom'd to feel,
Expired beneath the victor's murdering steel—
Thus with his helpless partners to the last,
Sad refuge! Albert grasps the floating mast:
His soul could yet sustain this mortal blow,
But droops, alas! beneath superior woe;
For now strong nature's sympathetic chain
Tugs at his yearning heart with powerful strain:
His faithful wife, for ever doom'd to mourn
For him, alas! who never shall return,
To black adversity's approach exposed,
With want and hardships unforeseen enclosed;
His lovely daughter, left without a friend
Her innocence to succour and defend,
By youth and indigence set forth a prey
To lawless guilt, that flatters to betray—
While these reflections rack his feeling mind,
Rodmond, who hung beside, his grasp resign'd;
And, as the tumbling waters o'er him roll'd,
His outstretch'd arms the master's legs enfold.
Sad Albert feels their dissolution near,
And strives in vain his fetter'd limbs to clear,
For death bids every clenching joint adhere.
All faint, to Heaven he throws his dying eyes,
And, O protect my wife and child! he cries—
The gushing streams roll back the unfinish'd sound,
He gasps! and sinks amid the vast profound.
Five only left of all the shipwreck'd throng
Yet ride the mast which shoreward drives along;
With these Arion still his hold secures,
And all assaults of hostile waves endures;
O'er the dire prospect as for life he strives,
He looks if poor Palemon yet survives—
'Ah! wherefore, trusting to unequal art,
Didst thou, incautious! from the wreck depart?
Alas! these rocks all human skill defy;
Who strikes them once, beyond relief must die:
And now sore wounded, thou perhaps art tost
On these, or in some oozy cavern lost!'
Thus thought Arion; anxious gazing round
In vain, his eyes no more Palemon found.
The demons of destruction hover nigh,
And thick their mortal shafts commission'd fly;
When now a breaking surge, with forceful sway,
Two, next Arion, furious tears away:
Hurl'd on the crags, behold they gasp, they bleed!
And, groaning, cling upon the elusive weed;
Another billow bursts in boundless roar!
Arion sinks! and Memory views no more.
Ha! total night and horror here preside,
My stunn'd ear tingles to the whizzing tide;
It is their funeral knell! and, gliding near,
Methinks the phantoms of the dead appear:
But, lo! emerging from the watery grave,
Again they float incumbent on the wave;
Again the dismal prospect opens round,—
The wreck, the shore, the dying and the drown'd!
And see! enfeebled by repeated shocks,
Those two, who scramble on the adjacent rocks,
Their faithless hold no longer can retain,
They sink o'erwhelm'd! and never rise again.
Two with Arion yet the mast upbore,
That now above the ridges reach'd the shore:
Still trembling to descend, they downward gaze
With horror pale, and torpid with amaze.
The floods recoil! the ground appears below!
And life's faint embers now rekindling glow;
Awhile they wait the exhausted waves' retreat,
Then climb slow up the beach with hands and feet.
O Heaven! deliver'd by whose sovereign hand
Still on destruction's brink they shuddering stand,
Receive the languid incense they bestow,
That, damp with death, appears not yet to glow:
To thee each soul the warm oblation pays
With trembling ardour of unequal praise;
In every heart dismay with wonder strives,
And hope the sicken'd spark of life revives;
Her magic powers their exiled health restore,
Till horror and despair are felt no more.
Roused by the blustering tempest of the night,
A troop of Grecians mount Colonna's height;
When, gazing down with horror on the flood,
Full to their view the scene of ruin stood—
The surf with mangled bodies strew'd around,
And those yet breathing on the sea-wash'd ground:
Though lost to science and the nobler arts,
Yet nature's lore inform'd their feeling hearts;
Straight down the vale with hastening steps they hied,
The unhappy sufferers to assist and guide.
Meanwhile those three escaped beneath explore
The first adventurous youth who reached the shore.
Panting, with eyes averted from the day,
Prone, helpless, on the tangly beach he lay.
It is Palemon! oh, what tumults roll
With hope and terror in Arion's soul!—
'If yet unhurt he lives again to view
His friend, and this sole remnant of our crew,
With us to travel through this foreign zone,
And share the future good or ill unknown?'
Arion thus; but ah, sad doom of fate!
That bleeding memory sorrows to relate;
While yet afloat, on some resisting rock
His ribs were dash'd, and fractured with the shock:
Heart-piercing sight! those cheeks so late array'd
In beauty's bloom, are pale with mortal shade;
Distilling blood his lovely breast o'erspread,
And clogg'd the golden tresses of his head;
Nor yet the lungs by this pernicious stroke
Were wounded, or the vocal organs broke.
Down from his neck, with blazing gems array'd,
Thy image, lovely Anna! hung portray'd;
The unconscious figure, smiling all serene,
Suspended in a golden chain was seen.
Hadst thou, soft maiden! in this hour of woe
Beheld him writhing from the deadly blow,
What force of art, what language could express
Thine agony, thine exquisite distress?
But thou, alas! art doom'd to weep in vain
For him thine eyes shall never see again.
With dumb amazement pale, Arion gazed,
And cautiously the wounded youth upraised:
Palemon then, with equal pangs oppress'd,
In faltering accents thus his friend address'd:
'O rescued from destruction late so nigh,
Beneath whose fatal influence doom'd I lie;
Are we, then, exiled to this last retreat
Of life, unhappy! thus decreed to meet?
Ah! how unlike what yester-morn enjoy'd,
Enchanting hopes! for ever now destroy'd;
For wounded, far beyond all healing power,
Palemon dies, and this his final hour:
By those fell breakers, where in vain I strove,
At once cut off from fortune, life, and love!
Far other scenes must soon present my sight,
That lie deep-buried yet in tenfold night—
Ah! wretched father of a wretched son,
Whom thy paternal prudence has undone;
How will remembrance of this blinded care
Bend down thy head with anguish and despair!
Such dire effects from avarice arise,
That, deaf to nature's voice, and vainly wise,
With force severe endeavours to control
The noblest passions that inspire the soul.
But, O thou sacred power! whose law connects
The eternal chain of causes and effects,
Let not thy chastening ministers of rage
Afflict with sharp remorse his feeble age!
And you, Arion! who with these the last
Of all our crew survive the shipwreck past—
Ah! cease to mourn, those friendly tears restrain,
Nor give my dying moments keener pain!
Since Heaven may soon thy wandering steps restore,
When parted hence, to England's distant shore.
Shouldst thou, the unwilling messenger of fate,
To him the tragic story first relate;
Oh! friendship's generous ardour then suppress,
Nor hint the fatal cause of my distress;
Nor let each horrid incident sustain
The lengthen'd tale to aggravate his pain:
Ah! then remember well my last request
For her who reigns for ever in my breast;
Yet let him prove a father and a friend,
The helpless maid to succour and defend—
Say, I this suit implored with parting breath,
So Heaven befriend him at his hour of death!
But, oh! to lovely Anna shouldst thou tell
What dire untimely end thy friend befell;
Draw o'er the dismal scene soft pity's veil,
And lightly touch the lamentable tale:
Say that my love, inviolably true,
No change, no diminution ever knew:
Lo! her bright image, pendent on my neck,
Is all Palemon rescued from the wreck:
Take it! and say, when panting in the wave
I struggled life and this alone to save.
'My soul, that fluttering hastens to be free,
Would yet a train of thoughts impart to thee,
But strives in vain; the chilling ice of death
Congeals my blood, and chokes the stream of breath:
Resign'd, she quits her comfortless abode
To course that long, unknown, eternal road—
O sacred source of ever-living light!
Conduct the weary wanderer in her flight;
Direct her onward to that peaceful shore,
Where peril, pain, and death prevail no more.
'When thou some tale of hapless love shalt hear,
That steals from pity's eye the melting tear;
Of two chaste hearts, by mutual passion join'd,
To absence, sorrow, and despair consign'd;
Oh! then, to swell the tides of social woe
That heal the afflicted bosom they o'erflow,
While memory dictates, this sad shipwreck tell,
And what distress thy wretched friend befell:
Then, while in streams of soft compassion drown'd,
The swains lament, and maidens weeps around;
While lisping children, touch'd with infant fear,
With wonder gaze, and drop the unconscious tear;
Oh! then this moral bid their souls retain,
All thoughts of happiness on earth are vain!6'
The last faint accents trembled on his tongue,
That now inactive to the palate clung;
His bosom heaves a mortal groan—he dies!
And shades eternal sink upon his eyes.
As thus defaced in death Palemon lay,
Arion gazed upon the lifeless clay;
Transfix'd he stood, with awful terror fill'd,
While down his cheek the silent drops distill'd:
'O ill-starr'd votary of unspotted truth!
Untimely perish'd in the bloom of youth;
Should e'er thy friend arrive on Albion's land,
He will obey, though painful, thy command;
His tongue the dreadful story shall display,
And all the horrors of this dismal day:
Disastrous day! what ruin hast thou bred,
What anguish to the living and the dead!
How hast thou left the widow all forlorn;
And ever doom'd the orphan child to mourn,
Through life's sad journey hopeless to complain!
Can sacred justice these events ordain?
But, O my soul! avoid that wondrous maze,
Where reason, lost in endless error, strays;
As through this thorny vale of life we run,
Great Cause of all effects, thy will be done!'
Now had the Grecians on the beach arrived,
To aid the helpless few who yet survived:
While passing, they behold the waves o'erspread
With shatter'd rafts and corses of the dead;
Three still alive, benumb'd and faint they find,
In mournful silence on a rock reclined:
The generous natives, moved with social pain,
The feeble strangers in their arms sustain;
With pitying sighs their hapless lot deplore,
And lead them trembling from the fatal shore.
Comments about The Shipwreck: Canto Iii by William Falconer
Poems About Fate
- 1. The Shipwreck: Canto Iii , William Falconer
- 2. ...? (True Fate) , Joe Holley
- 3. Convoy Of Doubt , Shalyn Stachmus
- 4. I Wait , Srikumar Pany
- 5. Until Fate Led Me To You , Jon M. Nelson
- 6. Inevitable , Abram Joseph Ryan
- 7. A Dying Fate , Ozzy Gerner
- 8.  Death And Life , Mahendra Bhatnagar
- 9. Our Friendship Ain'T Fateful , David Munene wa Kimberly
- 10. Path Of Mirrors , Bethany Maxwell
- 11. Fate , Rich Reitz
- 12. ♥♡when Love Gets Hard♥♡ , Abby Keen Harris
- 13. The Fall Of Nineveh. Book The Twenty-Si.. , Edwin Atherstone
- 14. From Out Of The Night , Emily Pfeiffer
- 15. Essays On Literature , alexander opicho
- 16. U And I Are Never Alike , The lonely wanderer
- 17. Fate , Ellen Mendez
- 18. No Nay; Nevermore , daegonius bonapartae
- 19. The Blare Of Kingston , Feial Britton
- 20. My Fate , Evil Devil
- 21. Sad Wings Of Destiny , Eric Paeplow
- 22. No Nay Nevermore , Daegonius Bonapartea
- 23. Hope. , scorpio rose
- 24. Fate , Ephraim Kenyanito
- 25. Villanelle: Oscar Victorius , T (no first name) Wignesan
- 26. Valentino And Cleanthe , Henry Baker
- 27. Fate Or Destiny For Me , sharon kubeck
- 28. Flowering Fate , craig moon
- 29. What Is Fate? , david robicheaux
- 30. A Simple Thread , Crystal Korzinsky Chambers
- 31. Always On My Mind (Song Lyrics) , countrygrl 1009
- 32. Hall Of Doors , Bethany Maxwell
- 33. Ways To Leave, Reasons To Leave , Rosetta Dove
- 34. Only A Memory , Lleyson Hernandez
- 35. My Fate Is Sealed , Judy Arline Puckett
- 36. Outside Your Window , Danny The Dreamer Boyd
- 37. My Fate , jason medina
- 38. A Heart Too Big , Robert Johnston
- 39. My Sorry Mistakes , Katie Gillmore
- 40. Dear Soul , Natalia Bakina
- 41. Fate , janine Blair
- 42. The Beggar's Scapegoat , Graham Stone
- 43. Desire Is Fancy, Fate Is Fact. , Prof Niamat Ali Murtazai
- 44. Destiny , Ronald Chapman
- 45. Medulla Poetarum Romanorum - Vol. I. (F.. , Henry Baker
- 46. The Historie Of Henrie The Seventh , Charles Aleyn
- 47. Destiny , Moffat Mbuzi
- 48. Fate Unwanted , ryan valler
- 49. The Destruction Of Troy , John Denham
- 50. Travel Through Fate , zvi finer
New Fate Poems
- The Clear Signal., Gangadharan nair Pulingat..
- Villanelle: No Curse Worse Than The Plac.., T (no first name) Wignesan
- Fate, janine Blair
- Destiny, Ronald Chapman
- That Is How Fate Operates., Rm.Shanmugam Chettiar.
- MY FATE قدري, MOHAMMAD SKATI
- On The Death And Murder Of Receiver-Gene.., Anonymous British
- Fate, Caleb Wiggins
- Journey Of Stones, Vivek Tiwari
- Dear Soul, Natalia Bakina
- carpe diem