I know a cliff, whose steep and craggy brow
O'erlooks the troubled ocean, and spurns back
The advancing billow from its rugged base;
Yet many a goodly rood of land lies deep
Beneath the wild wave buried, which rolls on
Its course exulting o'er the prostrate towers
Of high cathedral--church--and abbey fair,--
Lifting its loud and everlasting voice
Over the ruins, which its depths enshroud,
As if it called on Time, to render back
The things that were, and give to life again
All that in dark oblivion sleeps below:--
Perched on the summit of that lofty cliff
A time-worn edifice o'erlooks the wave,
"Which greets the fisher's home-returning bark,"
And the young seaman checks his blithesome song
To hail the lonely ruin from the deep.
Majestic in decay, that roofless pile
Survives the wreck of ages, rising still
A mournful beacon o'er the sea of time,
The lonely record of departed years:--
Yes--those who view that ruin feel an awe
Sink in the heart, like those who look on death
For the first time, and hear within the soul
A voice of warning whisper,--"Thus, e'en thus,
All human glories perish--rent from time,
And swallowed up in that unmeasured void,
O'er which oblivion rolls his sable tide."--
Such thoughts as these that moss-grown pile calls forth
To those who gaze upon its shattered walls,
Or, musing, tread its grass-grown aisles, or pause
To contemplate the wide and barren heath,
Spreading in rude magnificence around,
With scarce a tree or shrub to intersect
Its gloomy aspect, save the noble ash
That fronts the ruins, on whose hoary trunk
The hurricanes of years have vainly burst,
To mar its beauty;--there sublime it stands,
Waving its graceful branches o'er the soil
That wraps the mouldering children of the land.
The shadowy splendour of an autumn sky
Was radiant with the hues of parting day;
The glorious sun seemed loth to leave the west,
That glowed like molten gold--a saffron sea
Fretted with crimson billows, whose rich tints
Gave to the rugged cliff and barren heath
A ruddy diadem of living light!
Hark!--'tis the lonely genius of the place
Sighs through the wind-stirred branches and bewails
Its desolation to the moaning blast,
That sweeps the ivy on the dark gray walls!--
No--'twas a sound of bitter agony
Wrung from the depths of some o'erburdened heart,
Which in life's early morning had received
A sad inheritance of sighs and tears.
Starting, I turned--and seated on the ground
Beside the broken altar I beheld
A female figure, whose fantastic dress
And hair enwreathed with sprigs of ash and yew
Bespoke a mind in ruins. On her brow
Despair had stamped his iron seal; her cheek
Was pale as moonlight on the misty wave;
Her hollow eyes were fixed on vacancy,
Or wildly sent their hurried glances round
With quick impatient gesture, as in quest
Of some loved object, present to her mind,
But shut for ever from her longing view.
The sun went down. She slowly left her seat
And cast one long sad look upon the wave;
Then poured the anguish of her breaking heart
In a low plaintive strain of melody,
That rose and died away upon the breeze,
The mournful requiem of her perished hopes:--
Hark! the restless spirits of ocean sigh;
I can hear them speak as the wind sweeps by.
See, the ivy has heard their mystic call,
And shivering clings to the broken wall,
The dark green leaves take a sadder shade,
And the flowers turn pale and begin to fade;
The landscape grows dim in the deepening gloom,
And the dead awake in the silent tomb.
I have watched the return of my true-love's bark,
From the sun's uprising till midnight dark;
I have watched and wept through the weary day,
But his ship on the deep is far away;
I have gazed for hours on the whitening track
Of the pathless waters, and called him back,
But my voice returned on the moaning blast,
And the vessel I sought still glided past.
We parted on just such a lovely night:
The billows were tossing in cloudless light,
And the full bright moon on the waters slept;
And the stars above us their vigils kept,
And the surges whispered a lullaby,
As low and as sweet as a lover's sigh--
And he promised, as gently he pressed my hand,
He would soon return to his native land.
But long months have fled, and this burning brain
Is seared with weeping and watching in vain.
A dark dark shade on my bosom lies,
And nights of sorrow have dimmed these eyes;
The roses have fled from my pallid cheek,
And the grief that I feel no words can speak;
I have made my home with the graves of the dead,
And the cold earth pillows my aching head!
He will come!--he will come!--I know it now;
The waves are dancing before his prow;
He comes to speak peace to my aching heart,
To tell me we never again shall part;
I can hear his voice in the freshening breeze,
As his bark glides o'er the rippling seas,
And my heart will break forth into laughter and song,
When I lead him back through the gazing throng.
Ah, no--where yon shade on the water lies
The slow-rising moon deceives my eyes,
And the tide of sorrow within my breast
Rolls on like the billows that never rest;
I will look no more on the heaving deep,
But return to my lowly bed and weep:
He will come to my dreams in the darksome night,
And his bark will be here with the dawn of light!
When the song ceased, she turned her heavy eyes
With such a piteous glance upon my face;
It pierced my heart, and fast the gathering tears
Blinded my sight. Alas! poor maniac;
For thee no hope shall dawn--no tender thought
Wake in thy blighted heart a thrill of joy.
The immortal mind is levelled with the dust,
Ere the tenacious cords of life give way.
Hers was a common tale--she early owned
The ardent love that youthful spirits feel,
And gave her soul in blind idolatry
To one dear object; and his ship was lost
In sight of port--lost on the very morn
That should have smiled upon their bridal rite.
She saw the dreadful accident like one
Who saw it not; and from that fatal hour
All memory of it faded from her mind,
And still she watches for the distant sail
Of him, who never, never can return!
Poor stricken maid! thy best affections,
Thy hopes, thy wishes centred all in earth--
Earth has repaid thee with a broken heart!
Love to thy God had known no rash excess,
For in his service there is joy and peace;
A light, which on thy troubled mind had shed
Its holy influence, and those tearful eyes
Had then been raised in gratitude to heaven,
Nor chased delusive phantoms o'er the deep!