Translations. - The Diver (From Schiller.)

A poem by George MacDonald

"Which of you, knight or squire, will dare
Plunge into yonder gulf?
A golden beaker I fling in it--there!
The black mouth swallows it like a wolf!
Who brings me the cup again, whoever,
It is his own--he may keep it for ever!"

Tis the king who speaks; and he flings from the brow
Of the cliff, that, rugged and steep,
Hangs out o'er the endless sea below,
The cup in the whirlpool's howling heap:--
"Again I ask, what hero will follow?
What brave heart plunge into yon dark hollow?"

The knights and the squires, the king about,
Hear him, and dumbly stare
Into the wild sea's tumbling rout;
But to win the beaker, they hardly care!
The king, for the third time, round him glaring--
"Not a soul of you has the daring?"

Speechless all, as before, they stand:
When a vassal bold, gentle, and gay,
Steps out from his comrades' shrinking band,
Flinging his girdle and cloak away;
And all the women and men that surrounded
Gazed on the grand-looking youth, astounded.

And when he stepped to the rock's rough brow
Looking down on the gulf so black,
The waters which it had swallowed, now
Charybdis bellowing rendered back;
And, with a roar as of distant thunder,
Foaming they burst from the dark lap under.

It wallows, seethes, hisses, in raging rout,
As when water wrestles with fire,
Till to heaven the yeasty tongues they spout;
And flood upon flood keeps mounting higher:
It will never its endless coil unravel,
As the sea with another sea were in travail!

But, at last, slow sinks the writhing spasm,
And, black through the foaming white,
Downward gapes a yawning chasm--
Bottomless, cloven to hell's wide night;
And, sucked up, see the billows roaring
Down through the whirling funnel pouring!

Then in haste, ere the out-rage return again,
The youth to his God doth pray,
And--ascends a cry of horror and pain--
Already the vortex hath swept him away!
And o'er the bold swimmer, in darkness eternal,
Close the great jaws of the gulf infernal!

Then the water above grows smooth as glass,
While, below, dull roarings ply;
And, trembling, they hear the murmur pass--
"High-hearted youth, farewell! good-bye!"
And, hollower still, comes the howl affraying,
Till their hearts are sick with the frightful delaying.

If the crown itself thou in should fling,
And say, "Who back with it hies
Himself shall wear it, and shall be king,"
I should not covet the precious prize!
What Ocean hides in that howling hell of it,
Live soul will never come back to tell of it!

Ships many, caught in that whirling surge,
Shot sheer to their dismal doom:
Keel and mast only did ever emerge,
Shattered, from out the all-gulping tomb!--
Like the bluster of tempest, clearer and clearer,
Comes its roaring nearer and ever nearer!

It wallows, seethes, hisses, in raging rout,
As when water wrestles with fire,
Till to heaven the yeasty tongues they spout,
Wave upon wave's back mounting higher;
And as with the rumble of distant thunder
Bellowing it bursts from the dark lap under.

And see, from its bosom, flowing dark,
Something heave up, swan-white!
An arm and a shining neck they mark,
And it rows with unrelaxing might!
It is he! and aloft in his left hand holden,
He swings, recovered, the beaker golden!

With long deep breaths his path he ploughed,
Glad greeting the heavenly day;
Jubilant shouted the gazing crowd,
"He lives! he is free! he has burst his way!
Out of the grave, the whirlpool uproarious,
The hero hath rescued his life victorious!"

He comes; they surround him with shouts of glee;
At the king's feet he sinks on the sod,
And hands him the beaker upon his knee.
To his lovely daughter the king gives a nod:
She fills it brim-full of wine sparkling and raying;
And then to the monarch the youth turned, saying:

"Long live the king!--Ah, well doth he fare
Who breathes in this rosy light!
For frightful, yea, horrible is it down there;
And man ought not to tempt the heavenly Might,
Or long to see, with prying unwholesome,
What He graciously covers with darkness dolesome!

"It tore me down as on lightning's wing--
When a shaft in a rock outpours,
Wild-rushing against me, a torrent spring:
Its conflict seized me with raging force
And like a top, with giddy twisting,
Spun me about: there was no resisting!

"Then God did show me, sore beseeching
In deepest, frightfullest need,
Up from the bottom a rock-ledge reaching--
At it I caught, and from death was freed!
And behold, on spiked corals the beaker suspended
Which had else to the very abyss descended!

"For below me it lay yet mountain-deep
The purply darksome maw!
And, though to the ear it was dead asleep,
The ghasted eye, down staring, saw
How, with dragons, lizards, salamanders, crawling,
The hell-jaws horrible were sprawling!

"Black-swarming, in medley miscreate,
In masses lumped hideously,
Wallowed the conger, the thorny skate,
The lobster's grisly deformity;
And, baring its teeth with cruel sheen, a
Terrible shark, the sea's hyena.

"So there I hung, and shuddering knew
That human help was none;
One thinking soul mid the horrid crew,
In the ghastly desert I was alone--
Deeper than human speech e'er sounded,
By the sad waste's dismal monsters surrounded!

"Thus thought I, and shivered. Then a something crept near
Upon legs with a hundred joints!
It snaps at me suddenly: frantic with fear
I lost my grasp of the coral points:
Away the whirl in its raging tore me--
But it was my salvation, and upward bore me!"

The king at the tale is filled with amaze:--
"The beaker, well won, is thine;
And this ring I will give thee too," he says,
"Precious with gems that are more than fine,
If thou dare it yet once, and bring me the story
Of what's in the sea's lowest repertory."

His daughter she hears him with tender dismay,
And with sweet words suasive doth plead:
"Father, enough of this cruel play!
For you he has done an unheard-of deed!
If you may not master your heart's desire,
'Tis the knights' turn now to shame the squire!"

The king sudden snatches and hurls the cup
Into the swirling pool:--
"If thou bring me once more that beaker up,
Thou art best of my knights, the most worshipful!
And this very day to thy home thou shalt lead her
Who stands there--for thee such a pitiful pleader."

A passion divine his being invades;
His eyes dart a lightning ray;
He sees of her blushes the changeful shades,
He sees her grow pallid and sink away!
Determination thorough him flashes,
And downward for life or for death he dashes!

They hear the dull roar: 'tis returning again,
Announced by the thunderous brawl!
Downward they bend with loving strain:
They come! they are coming, the waters all!--
They rush up!--they rush down! they rush ever and ever:
The youth to the daylight rises never!

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'Translations. - The Diver (From Schiller.)' by George MacDonald

comments powered by Disqus

Home | Search | About this website | Contact | Privacy Policy