Pagina-afbeeldingen
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With snowy shells and sparkling stones; The shore-surge comes in ripples light,

In murmurings faint and distant moans; And ever afar in the silence deep Is heard the splash of the sturgeon's leap, And the bend of his graceful bow is seen, A glittering arch of silver sheen, Spanning the wave of burnished blue, And dripping with gems of the river-dew.

The elfin cast a glance around,

As he lighted down from his courser toad, Then round his breast his wings he wound,

And close to the river's brink he strode; He sprang on a rock, he breathed a prayer, Above his head his arms he threw, Then tossed a tiny curve in air,

And headlong plunged in the waters blue.

Up sprung the spirits of the waves
From the sea-silk beds in their coral caves;
With snail-plate armor, snatched in haste,
They speed their way through the liquid waste;
Some are rapidly borne along

On the mailed shrimp or the prickly prong;
Some on the blood-red leeches glide,
Some on the stony star-fish ride,

Some on the back of the lancing squab,
Some on the sideling soldier-crab;
And some on the jellied quarl, that flings
At once a thousand streamy stings;
They cut the wave with the living oar,
And hurry on to the moonlight shore,
To guard their realms and chase away
The footsteps of the invading fay.

Fearlessly he skims along,

His hope is high, and his limbs are strong; He spreads his arms like the swallow's wing, And throws his feet with a frog-like fling; His locks of gold on the waters shine,

At his breast the tiny foam-bees rise,
His back gleams bright above the brine,

And the wake-line foam behind him lies.
But the water-sprites are gathering near
To check his course along the tide ;
Their warriors come in swift career

And hem him round on every side;
On his thigh the leech has fixed his hold,
The quarl's long arms are round him rolled,
The prickly prong has pierced his skin,
And the squab has thrown his javelin;
The gritty star has rubbed him raw,
And the crab has struck ith his giant claw;
He howls with rage, and he shrieks with pain;
He strikes around, but his blows are vain ;
Hopeless is the unequal fight,
Fairy naught is left but flight.

He turned him round, and fled amain, With hurry and dash, to the beach again; He twisted over from side to side, And laid his cheek to the cleaving tide; The strokes of his plunging arms are fleet, And with all his might he flings his feet, But the water-sprites are round him still, To cross his path and work him ill. They bade the wave before him rise; They flung the sea-fire in his eyes; And they stunned his ears with the scallop-stroke, With the porpoise heave and the drum-fish croak. O, but a weary wight was he When he reached the foot of the dogwood-tree. Gashed and wounded, and stiff and sore, He laid him down on the sandy shore; He blessed the force of the charméd line,

And he banned the water-goblins' spite, For he saw around in the sweet moonshine Their little wee faces above the brine,

Giggling and laughing with all their might At the piteous hap of the fairy wight.

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The imps of the river yell and rave.
They had no power above the wave;
But they heaved the billow before the prow,

And they dashed the surge against her side,
And they struck her keel with jerk and blow,

Till the gunwale bent to the rocking tide.
She whimpled about to the pale moonbeam,
Like a feather that floats on a wind-tossed stream;
And momently athwart her track
The quarl upreared his island back,

And the fluttering scallop behind would float,
And patter the water about the boat;
But he bailed her out with his colen-bell,

And he kept her trimmed with a wary tread,
While on every side, like lightning, fell
The heavy strokes of his bootle-blade.

A moment stayed the fairy there;
He kissed the beach and breathed a prayer;
Then spread his wings of gilded blue,
And on to the elfin court he flew.
As ever ye saw a bubble rise,

Onward still he held his way,

Till he came where the column of moonshine lay, And shine with a thousand changing dyes,
And saw beneath the surface dim

Till, lessening far, through ether driven,
It mingles with the hues of heaven;
As, at the glimpse of morning pale,
The lance-fly spreads his silken sail,
And gleams with blendings soft and bright
Till lost in the shades of fading night,
So rose from earth the lovely fay;
So vanished, far in heaven away!

The brown-backed sturgeon slowly swim;
Around him were the goblin train, —
But he sculled with all his might and main,
And followed wherever the sturgeon led,
Till he saw him upward point his head;
Then he dropped his paddle-blade,
And held his colen-goblet up

To catch the drop in its crimson cup.

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Around, their limbs the sea-nymphs lave,
With snowy arms half swelling out,
While on the glossed and gleamy wave

Their sea-green ringlets loosely float.
They swim around with smile and song;

They press the bark with pearly hand,
And gently urge her course along

Toward the beach of speckled sand,
And, as he lightly leaped to land,
They bade adieu with nod and bow ;

Then gayly kissed each little hand,
And dropped in the crystal deep below.

He turns, and, lo! on either side
The ripples on his path divide;
And the track o'er which his boat must pass
Is smooth as a sheet of polished glass.

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Up, fairy! quit thy chickweed bower,
The cricket has called the second hour;
Twice again, and the lark will rise
To kiss the streaking of the skies, –
Up! thy charméd armor don,
Thou 'It need it ere the night be gone.

He put his acorn helmet on ;

It was plumed of the silk of the thistle-down;
The corselet plate that guarded his breast

Was once the wild bee's golden vest;
His cloak, of a thousand mingled dyes,
Was formed of the wings of butterflies;
His shield was the shell of a lady-bug queen,
Studs of gold on a ground of green ;

And the quivering lance which he brandished
bright

Was the sting of a wasp he had slain in fight.
Swift he bestrode his firefly steed;

He bared his blade of the bent-grass blue;
He drove his spurs of the cockle-seed,

And away like a glance of thought he flew To skim the heavens, and follow far

The fiery trail of the rocket-star.

1

The moth-fly, as he shot in air,
Crept under the leaf, and hid her there;
The katydid forgot its lay,

The prowling gnat fled fast away,
The fell mosquito checked his drone

And folded his wings till the fay was gone,

And the wily beetle dropped his head,
And fell on the ground as if he were dead;
They crouched them close in the darksome shade,
They quaked all o'er with awe and fear,
For they had felt the blue-bent blade,

Then glad they left their covert lair,
And freaked about in the midnight air.

And writhed at the prick of the elfin spear.
Many a time, on a summer's night,
When the sky was clear, and the moon was bright,
They had been roused from the haunted ground
By the yelp and bay of the fairy hound;

They had heard the tiny bugle-horn,
They had heard the twang of the maize-silk string,
When the vine-twig bows were tightly drawn,

And the needle-shaft through air was borne,
Feathered with down of the hum-bird's wing.
And now they deemed the courier ouphe

Some hunter-sprite of the elfin ground,

And they watched till they saw him mount the roof Around the fay they weave the dance,

That canopies the world around ;

They skip before him on the plain,
And one has taken his wasp-sting lance,
And one upholds his bridle-rein;
With warblings wild they lead him on

Up to the vaulted firmament

His path the firefly courser bent,
And at every gallop on the wind
He flung a glittering spark behind;
He flies like a feather in the blast
Till the first light cloud in heaven is past.
But the shapes of air have begun their work,
And a drizzly mist is round him cast;

He cannot see through the mantle murk; He shivers with cold, but he urges fast;

Through storm and darkness, sleet and shade,
He lashes his steed, and spurs amain,
For shadowy hands have twitched the rein,

And flame-shot tongues around him played,
And near him many a fiendish eye
Glared with a fell malignity,
And yells of rage, and shrieks of fear,
Came screaming on his startled ear.

His wings are wet around his breast,
The plume hangs dripping from his crest,
His eyes are blurred with the lightning's glare,
And his ears are stunned with the thunder's blare.
But he gave a shout, and his blade he drew,

He thrust before and he struck behind,
Till he pierced their cloudy bodies through,

And gashed their shadowy limbs of wind: Howling the misty spectres flew,

They rend the air with frightful cries; For he has gained the welkin blue,

And the land of clouds beneath him lies.

Up to the cope careering swift,

In breathless motion fast,

Fleet as the swallow cuts the drift,
Or the sea-roc rides the blast,

The sapphire sheet of eve is shot,
The sphered moon is past,
The earth but seems a tiny blot
On a sheet of azure cast.

O, it was sweet, in the clear moonlight,
To tread the starry plain of even!
To meet the thousand eyes of night,

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And feel the cooling breath of heaven!
But the elfin made no stop or stay
Till he came to the bunk of the Milky Way;
Then he checked his courser's foot,
And watched for the glimpse of the planet-shoot.

Sudden along the snowy tide

That swelled to meet their footsteps' fall, The sylphs of heaven were seen to glide, Attired in sunset's crimson pall;

To where, through clouds of amber seen,
Studded with stars, resplendent shone
The palace of the sylphid queen.
Its spiral columns, gleaming bright,
Were streamers of the northern light;
Its curtain's light and lovely flush
Was of the morning's rosy blush;
And the ceiling fair that rose aboon,
The white and feathery fleece of noon.

But, O, how fair the shape that lay

Beneath a rainbow bending bright!
She seemed to the entranced fay

The loveliest of the forms of light;
Her mantle was the purple rolled

At twilight in the west afar :

'T was tied with threads of dawning gold,
And buttoned with a sparkling star.
Her face was like the lily roon

That veils the vestal planet's hue ;
Her eyes, two beamlets from the moon,

Set floating in the welkin blue.
Her hair is like the sunny beam,

And the diamond gems which round it gleam
Are the pure drops of dewy even
That ne'er have left their native heaven.

She was lovely and fair to see,
And the elfin's heart beat fitfully;
But lovelier far, and still more fair,
The earthly form imprinted there;
Naught he saw in the heavens above
Was half so dear as his mortal love,

For he thought upon her looks so meek,

| And he thought of the light flush on her cheek.

Never again might he bask and lie

On that sweet cheek and moonlight eye;
But in his dreams her form to see,
To clasp her in his revery,

To think upon his virgin bride,

Was worth all heaven, and earth beside.

"Lady," he cried, "I have sworn to-night,
On the word of a fairy knight,
To do my sentence, task aright;
My honor scarce is free from stain,
I may not soil its snows again;
Betide me weal, betide me woe,

Its mandate must be answered now."
Her bosom heaved with many a sigh,
The tear was in her drooping eye;
But she led him to the palace gate,

And called the sylphs who hovered there,
And bade them fly and bring him straight,
Of clouds condensed, a sable car.
With charm and spell she blessed it there,
From all the fiends of upper air;
Then round him cast the shadowy shroud,
And tied his steed behind the cloud;
And pressed his hand as she bade him fly
Far to the verge of the northern sky,
For by its wane and wavering light
There was a star would fall to-night.

Borne afar on the wings of the blast,
Northward away, he speeds him fast,
And his courser follows the cloudy wain
Till the hoof-strokes fall like pattering rain.
The clouds roll backward as he flies,
Each flickering star behind him lies,
And he has reached the northern plain,
And backed his firefly steed again,
Ready to follow in its flight
The streaming of the rocket-light.

The star is yet in the vault of heaven,
But it rocks in the summer gale;

And now 't is fitful and uneven,
And now 't is deadly pale;
And now 't is wrapped in sulphur-smoke,
And quenched is its rayless beam;
And now with a rattling thunder-stroke
It bursts in flash and flame.

As swift as the glance of the arrowy lance
That the storm-spirit flings from high,
The star-shot flew o'er the welkin blue,
As it fell from the sheeted sky.

As swift as the wind in its train behind
The elfin gallops along :

The fiends of the clouds are bellowing loud,
But the sylphid charm is strong;
He gallops unhurt in the shower of fire,

While the cloud-fiends fly from the blaze; He watches each flake till its sparks expire,

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"SEE, mother dear," she said, "what I have found

Upon our rivulet's bank; two slippers, white
As the midwinter snow, and spangled o'er
With twinkling points, like stars, and on the edge
My name is wrought in silver; read, I pray,
Sella, the name thy mother, now in heaven,
Gave at my birth; and, sure, they fit my feet!"
"A dainty pair," the prudent matron said,
"But thine they are not. We must lay them by
For those whose careless hands have left them

here;

Or haply they were placed beside the brook
To be a snare. I cannot see thy name
Upon the border, only characters

Of mystic look and dim are there, like signs
Of some strange art; nay, daughter, wear them
not."

Then Sella hung the slippers in the porch Of that broad rustic lodge, and all who passed Admired their fair contexture, but none knew Who left them by the brook. And now, at length, May, with her flowers and singing birds, had gone, And on bright streams and into deep wells shone The high midsummer sun. One day, at noon, Sella was missed from the accustomed meal. They sought her in her favorite haunts, they looked By the great rock, and far along the stream, And shouted in the sounding woods her name. Night came, and forth the sorrowing household

went

With torches over the wide pasture-grounds
To pool and thicket, marsh and briery dell,
And solitary valley far away.

The morning came, and Sella was not found. The sun climbed high, they sought her still; the noon,

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The hot and silent noon, heard Sella's name
Uttered with a despairing cry to wastes
O'er which the eagle hovered. As the sun
Stooped toward the amber west to bring the close
Of that sad second day, and, with red eyes,
The mother sat within her home alone,
Sella was at her side. A shriek of joy

Broke the sad silence; glad, warm tears were shed,
And words of gladness uttered. “O, forgive,”
The maiden said, "that I could e'er forget
Thy wishes for a moment. I just tried
The slippers on, amazed to see them shaped
So fairly to my feet, when, all at once,
1 felt my steps upborne and hurried on
Almost as if with wings. A strange delight,
Blent with a thrill of fear, o'ermastered me,
And, ere I knew, my plashing steps were set
Within the rivulet's pebbly bed, and I
Was rushing down the current. By my side
Tripped one as beautiful as ever looked
From white clouds in a dream; and, as we ran,
She talked with musical voice and sweetly laughed.
Gayly we leaped the crag and swam the pool,
And swept with dimpling eddies round the rock,
And glided between shady meadow-banks.
The streamlet, broadening as we went, became
A swelling river, and we shot along
By stately towns, and under leaning masts
Of gallant barks, nor lingered by the shore
Of blooming gardens; onward, onward still,
The same strong impulse bore me til, at last,
We entered the great deep, and passed below
His billows, into boundless spaces, lit

With a green sunshine. Here were mighty groves
Far down the ocean-valleys, and between
Lay what might seem fair meadows, softly tinged
With orange and with crimson. Here arose
Tall stems, that, rooted in the depths below,
Swung idly with the motions of the sea;
And here were shrubberies in whose mazy screen
The creatures of the deep made haunt. My friend
Named the strange growths, the pretty coralline,
The dulse with crimson leaves, and, streaming far,
Sea-thong and sea-lace. Here the tangle spread
Its broad thick fronds, with pleasant bowers be-
neath;

And oft we trod a waste of pearly sands,
Spotted with rosy shells, and thence looked in
At caverns of the sea whose rock-roofed halls
Lay in blue twilight. As we moved along,
The dwellers of the deep, in mighty herds,
Passed by us, reverently they passed us by,
Long trains of dolphins rolling through the brine,
Huge whales, that drew the waters after them,
A torrent-stream, and hideous hammer-sharks,
Chasing their prey; I shuddered as they came;
Gently they turned aside and gave us room.'

19

Hereat broke in the mother, "Sella, dear, This is a dream, the idlest, vainest dream."

"

|

"Nay, mother, nay; behold this sea-green scarf, Woven of such threads as never human hand Twined from the distaff. She who led my way Through the great waters bade me wear it home, A token that my tale is true. 'And keep,' She said, the slippers thou hast found, for thou, When shod with them, shalt be like one of us, With power to walk at will the ocean-floor, Among its monstrous creatures, unafraid, And feel no longing for the air of heaven To fill thy lungs, and send the warm, red blood ! Along thy veins. But thou shalt pass the hours In dances with the sea-nymphs, or go forth, To look into the mysteries of the abyss Where never plummet reached. And thou shalt sleep

Thy weariness away on downy banks
Of sea-moss, where the pulses of the tide
Shall gently lift thy hair, or thou shalt float
On the soft currents that go forth and wind
From isle to isle, and wander through the sea.'

"So spake my fellow-voyager, her words
Sounding like wavelets on a summer shore,
And then we stopped beside a hanging rock
With a smooth beach of white sands at its foot,
Where three fair creatures like herself were set
At their sea-banquet, crisp and juicy stalks,
Culled from the ocean's meadows, and the sweet
Midrib of pleasant leaves, and golden fruits
Dropped from the trees that edge the southern isles,
And gathered on the waves. Kindly they prayed
That I would share their meal, and I partook

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