« PreviousContinue »
CHRISTIAN AND HIS COMRADES.
The foundation of the following Story will be found partly in the account of the Mutiny of the Bounty in the South Seas (in 1789), and partly in « Mariner's Account of the Tonga Islands. »
THE morning watch was come; the vessel lay
Her course, and gently made her liquid way;
The cloven billow flash'd from off her prow
In furrows form'd by that majestic plough;
The waters with their world were all before;
Behind, the South Sea's many an islet shore.
The quiet night, now dappling, 'gan to wane,
Dividing darkness from the dawning main;
The dolphins, not unconscious of the day,
Swam high, as eager of the coming ray;
The stars from broader beams began to creep,
And lift their shining eyelids from the deep;
The sail resumed its lately-shadow'd white,
And the wind flutter'd with a freshening flight;
The purpling ocean owns the coming sun-
But, ere he break, a deed is to be done.
The gallant Chief within his cabin slept,
Secure in those by whom the watch was kept:
His dreams were of Old England's welcome shore, Of toils rewarded, and of dangers o'er;
His name was added to the glorious roll
Of those who search the storm- surrounded Pole.
The worst was over, and the rest seem'd sure,
And why should not his slumber be secure?
Alas! his deck was trod by unwilling feet,
And wilder hands would hold the vessel's sheet;
Young hearts, which languish'd for some sunny isle,
Where summer years and summer women smile;
Men without country, who, too long estranged,
Had found no native home, or found it changed, 30
And, half-uncivilized, preferr❜d the cave
Of some soft savage to the uncertain wave;
The gushing fruits that Nature gave untill'd;
The wood without a path but where they will'd;
The field o'er which promiscuous Plenty pour'd
Her horn; the equal land without a lord;
The wish-which ages have not yet subdued
In man-to have no master save his mood;
The Earth, whose mine was on its face, unsold
The glowing sun and produce all its gold;
The freedom which can call each grot a home;
The general garden, where all steps may roam
Where Nature owns a nation as her child,
Exulting in the enjoyment of the wild;
Their shells, their fruits, the only wealth they know;
Their unexploring navy, the canoe;
Their sport, the dashing breakers and the chase;
Their strangest sight, an European face:-
Such was the conntry which these strangers yearn'd
To see again a sight they dearly earn'd.
Awake, bold Bligh! the foe is at the gate!
Awake! awake!--Alas! it is too late!
Fiercely beside thy cot the mutineer
Stands, and proclaims the reign of rage and fear.
Thy limbs are bound, the bayonet at thy breast,
The hands, which trembled at thy voice, arrest;
Dragg'd o'er the deck, no more at thy command
The obedient helm shall veer, the sail expand;
That savage spirit, which would lull by wrath
Its desperate escape from duty's path,
Glares round thee, in the scarce-believing eyes
Of those who fear the Chief they sacrifice;
For ne'er can man his conscience all assuage,
Unless he drain the wine of passion—rage.
In vain, not silenced by the eye of death,
Thou call'st the loyal with thy menaced breath :—
They come not; they are few, and, overawed,
Must acquiesce while sterner hearts applaud.
In vain thou dost demand the cause, a curse
Is all the answer, with the threat of worse.
Full in thine eyes is waved the glittering blade,
Close to thy throat the pointed bayonet laid,
The levell'd muskets circle round thy breast
In hands as steel'd to do the deadly rest.
Thou darest them to their worst, exclaiming, «Fire!»
But they who pitied not could yet admire;
Some lurking remnant of their former awe
Restrain'd them longer than their broken law;
They would not dip their souls at once in blood,
But left thee to the mercies of the flood.
« Hoist out the boat!» was now the leader's cry;
And who dare answer «No» to Mutiny,
In the first dawning of the drunken hour,
The Saturnalia of unhoped-for power?