Frances Anne Kemble

(27 November 1809 - 15 January 1893 / London, England)

The Siren’s Cave At Tivoli - Poem by Frances Anne Kemble

As o'er the chasm I breathless hung,
Thus from the depths the siren sung:
'Down, down into the womb
Of earth, the daylight's tomb,
Where the sun's eyes
Never may shine,
Nor fair moon rise
With smile divine;
Where caverns yawn
Black as despair,
Fatally drawn
I plunge down there;
And with the bound
The rocks resound,
And round and round
My waves are wound
Into the gaping rifts of the mid earth:
Oh for the sunny springs where I took birth!
The gentle rills,
The tiny brimming fountain,
That, scooped in the warm bosom of the mountain
Each May shower over-fills!
Whence I and my fair sister came; and she
Rolls her smooth silver flood along the way,
That princes made for her, so royally,
Piercing the rock to give her ample sway.
Down the bright sunny steep
Her waters leap,
Myrtle, and bay, and laurel, and wild vine,
A garland for her flowing tresses twine!
The green moss stars the rocks whereon she leaps,
Over her breast the fragrant locust weeps;
The air resounds with her wild shouts of laughter,
The echoes of the hills in chorus after
Repeat the sound, and in her silvery spray
Rainbows are woven by the light of day!
Down in the valley she springs
And sings,
And the sky bends over
Her, like a lover;
And glittering and sparkling her waters run,
A bright sea of snow in the summer sun!

Darkness broods over me the while;
Grim rocks that sweat
With my cold clammy spray,
As down the hopeless way
In one wild jet
My tortured billows lash, and leap, and boil;
So deep my bed of darkness lies,
That scarce the voice of my great agony
Reaches the skies,
And all ye see
With fearful eyes
Who question me,
Is the gray whirling mist that covers all
As with a pall.
Light! light upon the rocks! sudden and fierce
The sharp flames pierce;
Glaring upon my water
Like the blood-hue of slaughter
A red torch flashes;
As down my wild flood dashes
Wide flaring brightness streams upon my foam,
And flaming fire-wreaths come
Hissing into my waves to find their doom
In the same blackness that devours me.
The huge rocks grin, as with a sudden glee,
At this strange visitation of the light,
And they are made not beautiful, but bright,
As all their horrid piles and masses show,
Hanging above, and heaped below,
Searched by the ruddy glow.
Oh, let me still in darkness dwell!
Not in this hell
Of lurid light,
That scares the night,
Hence with the leaping glare,
Whose fiery stare
Reveals the secrets of my dismal bed;
Hence with the voices that profane the dread
Of my dark chambers!'—thus the Siren cried,
As o'er the rocky chasm's black hideous side
I hung entranced with terror and dismay,—
And at that piteous cry I fled away.


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Poem Submitted: Monday, September 6, 2010



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