Poems » william byrd » don juan canto the second


The ship, call'd the most holy "Trinidada,"
     Was steering duly for the port Leghorn;
For there the Spanish family Moncada
     Were settled long ere Juan's sire was born:
They were relations, and for them he had a
     Letter of introduction, which the morn
Of his departure had been sent him by
His Spanish friends for those in Italy.

His suite consisted of three servants and
     A tutor, the licentiate Pedrillo,
Who several languages did understand,
     But now lay sick and speechless on his pillow,
And, rocking in his hammock, long'd for land,
     His headache being increas'd by every billow;
And the waves oozing through the port-hole made
His berth a little damp, and him afraid.

'Twas not without some reason, for the wind
     Increas'd at night, until it blew a gale;
And though 'twas not much to a naval mind,
     Some landsmen would have look'd a little pale,
For sailors are, in fact, a different kind:
     At sunset they began to take in sail,
For the sky show'd it would come on to blow,
And carry away, perhaps, a mast or so.

At one o'clock the wind with sudden shift
     Threw the ship right into the trough of the sea,
Which struck her aft, and made an awkward rift,
     Started the stern-post, also shatter'd the
Whole of her stern-frame, and, ere she could lift
     Herself from out her present jeopardy,
The rudder tore away: 'twas time to sound
The pumps, and there were four feet water found.

One gang of people instantly was put
     Upon the pumps, and the remainder set
To get up part of the cargo, and what not,
     But they could not come at the leak as yet;
At last they did get at it really, but
     Still their salvation was an even bet:
The water rush'd through in a way quite puzzling,
While they thrust sheets, shirts, jackets, bales of muslin,

Into the opening; but all such ingredients
     Would have been vain, and they must have gone down,
Despite of all their efforts and expedients,
     But for the pumps: I'm glad to make them known
To all the brother tars who may have need hence,
     For fifty tons of water were upthrown
By them per hour, and they had all been undone,
But for the maker, Mr. Mann, of London.

As day advanc'd the weather seem'd to abate,
     And then the leak they reckon'd to reduce,
And keep the ship afloat, though three feet yet
     Kept two hand- and one chain-pump still in use.
The wind blew fresh again: as it grew late
     A squall came on, and while some guns broke loose,
A gust--which all descriptive power transcends--
Laid with one blast the ship on her beam ends.

There she lay, motionless, and seem'd upset;
     The water left the hold, and wash'd the decks,
And made a scene men do not soon forget;
     For they remember battles, fires and wrecks,
Or any other thing that brings regret,
     Or breaks their hopes, or hearts, or heads, or necks:
Thus drownings are much talked of by the divers
And swimmers who may chance to be survivors.

Immediately the masts were cut away,
     Both main and mizen; first the mizen went,
The mainmast follow'd: but the ship still lay
     Like a mere log, and baffled our intent.
Foremast and bowsprit were cut down, and they
     Eas'd her at last (although we never meant
To part with all till every hope was blighted),
And then with violence the old ship righted.

It may be easily suppos'd, while this
     Was going on, some people were unquiet,
That passengers would find it much amiss
     To lose their lives, as well as spoil their diet;
That even the able seaman, deeming his
     Days nearly o'er, might be dispos'd to riot,
As upon such occasions tars will ask
For grog, and sometimes drink rum from the cask.

There's nought, no doubt, so much the spirit calms
     As rum and true religion: thus it was,
Some plunder'd, some drank spirits, some sung psalms,
     The high wind made the treble, and as bass
The hoarse harsh waves kept time; fright cur'd the qualms
     Of all the luckless landsmen's sea-sick maws:
Strange sounds of wailing, blasphemy, devotion,
Clamour'd in chorus to the roaring ocean.

Perhaps more mischief had been done, but for
     Our Juan, who, with sense beyond his years,
Got to the spirit-room, and stood before
     It with a pair of pistols; and their fears,
As if Death were more dreadful by his door
     Of fire than water, spite of oaths and tears,
Kept still aloof the crew, who, ere they sunk,
Thought it would be becoming to die drunk.

"Give us more grog," they cried, "for it will be
     All one an hour hence." Juan answer'd, "No!
'Tis true that Death awaits both you and me,
     But let us die like men, not sink below
Like brutes"--and thus his dangerous post kept he,
     And none lik'd to anticipate the blow;
And even Pedrillo, his most reverend tutor,
Was for some rum a disappointed suitor.

The good old gentleman was quite aghast,
     And made a loud and pious lamentation;
Repented all his sins, and made a last
     Irrevocable vow of reformation;
Nothing should tempt him more (this peril past)
     To quit his academic occupation,
In cloisters of the classic Salamanca,
To follow Juan's wake, like Sancho Panca.

But now there came a flash of hope once more;
     Day broke, and the wind lull'd: the masts were gone,
The leak increas'd; shoals round her, but no shore,
     The vessel swam, yet still she held her own.
They tried the pumps again, and though, before,
     Their desperate efforts seem'd all useless grown,
A glimpse of sunshine set some hands to bale--
The stronger pump'd, the weaker thrumm'd a sail.

Under the vessel's keel the sail was pass'd,
     And for the moment it had some effect;
But with a leak, and not a stick of mast,
     Nor rag of canvas, what could they expect?
But still 'tis best to struggle to the last,
     'Tis never too late to be wholly wreck'd:
And though 'tis true that man can only die once,
'Tis not so pleasant in the Gulf of Lyons.

There winds and waves had hurl'd them, and from thence,
     Without their will, they carried them away;
For they were forc'd with steering to dispense,
     And never had as yet a quiet day
On which they might repose, or even commence
     A jurymast or rudder, or could say
The ship would swim an hour, which, by good luck,
Still swam--though not exactly like a duck.

The wind, in fact, perhaps was rather less,
     But the ship labour'd so, they scarce could hope
To weather out much longer; the distress
     Was also great with which they had to cope
For want of water, and their solid mess
     Was scant enough: in vain the telescope
Was us'd--nor sail nor shore appear'd in sight,
Nought but the heavy sea, and coming night.

Again the weather threaten'd, again blew
     A gale, and in the fore and after-hold
Water appear'd; yet, though the people knew
     All this, the most were patient, and some bold,
Until the chains and leathers were worn through
     Of all our pumps--a wreck complete she roll'd,
At mercy of the waves, whose mercies are
Like human beings during civil war.

Then came the carpenter, at last, with tears
     In his rough eyes, and told the captain he
Could do no more: he was a man in years,
     And long had voyag'd through many a stormy sea,
And if he wept at length they were not fears
     That made his eyelids as a woman's be,
But he, poor fellow, had a wife and children,
Two things for dying people quite bewildering.

The ship was evidently settling now
     Fast by the head; and, all distinction gone,
Some went to prayers again, and made a vow
     Of candles to their saints--but there were none
To pay them with; and some looked o'er the bow;
     Some hoisted out the boats; and there was one
That begg'd Pedrillo for an absolution,
Who told him to be damn'd--in his confusion.

Some lash'd them in their hammocks; some put on
     Their best clothes, as if going to a fair;
Some curs'd the day on which they saw the sun,
     And gnash'd their teeth, and, howling, tore their hair;
And others went on as they had begun,
     Getting the boats out, being well aware
That a tight boat will live in a rough sea,
Unless with breakers close beneath her lee.

The worst of all was, that in their condition,
     Having been several days in great distress,
'Twas difficult to get out such provision
     As now might render their long suffering less:
Men, even when dying, dislike inanition;
     Their stock was damag'd by the weather's stress:
Two casks of biscuit, and a keg of butter,
Were all that could be thrown into the cutter.

But in the long-boat they contriv'd to stow
     Some pounds of bread, though injur'd by the wet;
Water, a twenty-gallon cask or so;
     Six flasks of wine; and they contriv'd to get
A portion of their beef up from below,
     And with a piece of pork, moreover, met,
But scarce enough to serve them for a luncheon--
Then there was rum, eight gallons in a puncheon.

The other boats, the yawl and pinnace, had
     Been stove in the beginning of the gale;
And the long-boat's condition was but bad,
     As there were but two blankets for a sail,
And one oar for a mast, which a young lad
     Threw in by good luck over the ship's rail;
And two boats could not hold, far less be stor'd,
To save one half the people then on board.

'Twas twilight, and the sunless day went down
     Over the waste of waters; like a veil,
Which, if withdrawn, would but disclose the frown
     Of one whose hate is mask'd but to assail.
Thus to their hopeless eyes the night was shown,
     And grimly darkled o'er the faces pale,
And the dim desolate deep: twelve days had Fear
Been their familiar, and now Death was here.

Some trial had been making at a raft,
     With little hope in such a rolling sea,
A sort of thing at which one would have laugh'd,
     If any laughter at such times could be,
Unless with people who too much have quaff'd,
     And have a kind of wild and horrid glee,
Half epileptical, and half hysterical--
Their preservation would have been a miracle.

At half-past eight o'clock, booms, hencoops, spars,
     And all things, for a chance, had been cast loose,
That still could keep afloat the struggling tars,
     For yet they strove, although of no great use:
There was no light in heaven but a few stars,
     The boats put off o'ercrowded with their crews;
She gave a heel, and then a lurch to port,
And, going down head foremost--sunk, in short.

Then rose from sea to sky the wild farewell,
     Then shriek'd the timid, and stood still the brave,
Then some leap'd overboard with dreadful yell,
     As eager to anticipate their grave;
And the sea yawn'd around her like a hell,
     And down she suck'd with her the whirling wave,
Like one who grapples with his enemy,
And strives to strangle him before he die.

And first one universal shriek there rush'd,
     Louder than the loud ocean, like a crash
Of echoing thunder; and then all was hush'd,
     Save the wild wind and the remorseless dash
Of billows; but at intervals there gush'd,
     Accompanied by a convulsive splash,
A solitary shriek, the bubbling cry
Of some strong swimmer in his agony.

The boats, as stated, had got off before,
     And in them crowded several of the crew;
And yet their present hope was hardly more
     Than what it had been, for so strong it blew
There was slight chance of reaching any shore;
     And then they were too many, though so few--
Nine in the cutter, thirty in the boat,
Were counted in them when they got afloat.

All the rest perish'd; near two hundred souls
     Had left their bodies; and what's worse, alas!
When over Catholics the ocean rolls,
     They must wait several weeks before a mass
Takes off one peck of purgatorial coals,
     Because, till people know what's come to pass,
They won't lay out their money on the dead--
It costs three francs for every mass that's said.

Juan got into the long-boat, and there
     Contriv'd to help Pedrillo to a place;
If seem'd as if they had exchang'd their care,
     For Juan wore the magisterial face
Which courage gives, while poor Pedrillo's pair
     Of eyes were crying for their owner's case:
Battista, though (a name called shortly Tita),
Was lost by getting at some aqua-vita.

Pedro, his valet, too, he tried to save,
     But the same cause, conducive to his loss,
Left him so drunk, he jump'd into the wave,
     As o'er the cutter's edge he tried to cross,
And so he found a wine-and-watery grave;
     They could not rescue him although so close,
Because the sea ran higher every minute,
And for the boat--the crew kept crowding in it.

A small old spaniel--which had been Don José's,
     His father's, whom he lov'd, as ye may think,
For on such things the memory reposes
     With tenderness--stood howling on the brink,
Knowing (dogs have such intellectual noses!),
     No doubt, the vessel was about to sink;
And Juan caught him up, and ere he stepp'd
     Off threw him in, then after him he leap'd.

He also stuff'd his money where he could
     About his person, and Pedrillo's too,
Who let him do, in fact, whate'er he would,
     Not knowing what himself to say, or do,
As every rising wave his dread renew'd;
     But Juan, trusting they might still get through,
And deeming there were remedies for any ill,
Thus re-embark'd his tutor and his spaniel.

'Twas a rough night, and blew so stiffly yet,
     That the sail was becalm'd between the seas,
Though on the wave's high top too much to set,
     They dar'd not take it in for all the breeze:
Each sea curl'd o'er the stern, and kept them wet,
     And made them bale without a moment's ease,
So that themselves as well as hopes were damp'd,
And the poor little cutter quickly swamp'd.

Nine souls more went in her: the long-boat still
     Kept above water, with an oar for mast,
Two blankets stitch'd together, answering ill
     Instead of sail, were to the oar made fast;
Though every wave roll'd menacing to fill,
     And present peril all before surpass'd,
They griev'd for those who perish'd with the cutter,
And also for the biscuit-casks and butter.

The sun rose red and fiery, a sure sign
     Of the continuance of the gale: to run
Before the sea until it should grow fine
     Was all that for the present could be done:
A few tea-spoonfuls of their rum and wine
     Were serv'd out to the people, who begun
To faint, and damag'd bread wet through the bags,
And most of them had little clothes but rags.

They counted thirty, crowded in a space
     Which left scarce room for motion or exertion;
They did their best to modify their case,
     One half sate up, though numb'd with the immersion,
While t'other half were laid down in their place,
     At watch and watch; thus, shivering like the tertian
Ague in its cold fit, they fill'd their boat,
With nothing but the sky for a great coat.

'Tis very certain the desire of life
     Prolongs it: this is obvious to physicians,
When patients, neither plagu'd with friends nor wife,
     Survive through very desperate conditions,
Because they still can hope, nor shines the knife
     Nor shears of Atropos before their visions:
Despair of all recovery spoils longevity,
And makes men's misery of alarming brevity.

'Tis said that persons living on annuities
     Are longer liv'd than others--God knows why,
Unless to plague the grantors--yet so true it is
     That some, I really think, do never die:
Of any creditors the worst a Jew it is,
     And that 's their mode of furnishing supply:
In my young days they lent me cash that way,
Which I found very troublesome to pay.

'Tis thus with people in an open boat,
     They live upon the love of life, and bear
More than can be believ'd, or even thought,
     And stand like rocks the tempest's wear and tear;
And hardship still has been the sailor's lot,
     Since Noah's ark went cruising here and there;
She had a curious crew as well as cargo,
Like the first old Greek privateer, the Argo.

But man is a carnivorous production,
     And must have meals, at least one meal a day;
He cannot live, like woodcocks, upon suction,
     But, like the shark and tiger, must have prey;
Although his anatomical construction
     Bears vegetables in a grumbling way,
Your labouring people think, beyond all question,
Beef, veal and mutton better for digestion.

And thus it was with this our hapless crew;
     For on the third day there came on a calm,
And though at first their strength it might renew,
     And lying on their weariness like balm,
Lull'd them like turtles sleeping on the blue
     Of ocean, when they woke they felt a qualm,
And fell all ravenously on their provision,
Instead of hoarding it with due precision.

The consequence was easily foreseen--
     They ate up all they had, and drank their wine,
In spite of all remonstrances, and then
     On what, in fact, next day were they to dine?
They hop'd the wind would rise, these foolish men!
     And carry them to shore; these hopes were fine,
But as they had but one oar, and that brittle,
It would have been more wise to save their victual.

The fourth day came, but not a breath of air,
     And Ocean slumber'd like an unwean'd child:
The fifth day, and their boat lay floating there,
     The sea and sky were blue, and clear, and mild--
With their one oar (I wish they had had a pair)
     What could they do? and Hunger's rage grew wild:
So Juan's spaniel, spite of his entreating,
Was kill'd, and portion'd out for present eating.

On the sixth day they fed upon his hide,
     And Juan, who had still refus'd, because
The creature was his father's dog that died,
     Now feeling all the vulture in his jaws,
With some remorse receiv'd (though first denied)
     As a great favour one of the fore-paws,
Which he divided with Pedrillo, who
Devour'd it, longing for the other too.

The seventh day, and no wind--the burning sun
     Blister'd and scorch'd, and, stagnant on the sea,
They lay like carcasses; and hope was none,
     Save in the breeze that came not; savagely
They glar'd upon each other--all was done,
     Water, and wine, and food--and you might see
The longings of the cannibal arise
(Although they spoke not) in their wolfish eyes.

At length one whisper'd his companion, who
     Whisper'd another, and thus it went round,
And then into a hoarser murmur grew,
     An ominous, and wild, and desperate sound;
And when his comrade's thought each sufferer knew,
     'Twas but his own, suppress'd till now, he found;
And out they spoke of lots for flesh and blood,
And who should die to be his fellow's food.

But ere they came to this, they that day shar'd
     Some leathern caps, and what remain'd of shoes;
And then they look'd around them, and despair'd,
     And none to be the sacrifice would choose;
At length the lots were torn up, and prepar'd,
     But of materials that must shock the Muse--
Having no paper, for the want of better,
They took by force from Juan Julia's letter.

The lots were made, and mark'd, and mix'd, and handed,
     In silent horror, and their distribution
Lull'd even the savage hunger which demanded,
     Like the Promethean vulture, this pollution;
None in particular had sought or plann'd it,
     'Twas Nature gnaw'd them to this resolution,
By which none were permitted to be neuter--
And the lot fell on Juan's luckless tutor.

He but requested to be bled to death:
     The surgeon had his instruments, and bled
Pedrillo, and so gently ebb'd his breath,
     You hardly could perceive when he was dead.
He died as born, a Catholic in faith,
     Like most in the belief in which they're bred,
And first a little crucifix he kiss'd,
And then held out his jugular and wrist.

The surgeon, as there was no other fee,
     Had his first choice of morsels for his pains;
But being thirstiest at the moment, he
     Preferr'd a draught from the fast-flowing vems:
Part was divided, part thrown in the sea,
     And such things as the entrails and the brain;
Regal'd two sharks, who follow'd o'er the billow--
The sailors ate the rest of poor Pedrillo.

The sailors ate him, all save three or four,
     Who were not quite so fond of animal food
To these was added Juan, who, before
     Refusing his own spaniel, hardly could
Feel now his appetite increas'd much more;
     'Twas not to be expected that he should,
Even in extremity of their disaster,
Dine with them on his pastor and his master.

'Twas better that he did not; for, in fact,
     The consequence was awful in the extreme;
For they, who were most ravenous in the act,
     Went raging mad--Lord! how they did blaspheme!
And foam and roll, with strange convulsions rack'd,
     Drinking salt-water like a mountain-stream,
Tearing, and grinning, howling, screeching, swearing,
And, with hyæena-laughter, died despairing.

Their numbers were much thinn'd by this infliction,
     And all the rest were thin enough, Heaven knows;
And some of them had lost their recollection,
     Happier than they who still perceiv'd their woes;
But others ponder'd on a new dissection,
     As if not warn'd sufficiently by those
Who had already perish'd, suflfering madly,
For having us'd their appetites so sadly.


Now overhead a rainbow, bursting through
     The scattering clouds, shone, spanning the dark sea,
Resting its bright base on the quivering blue;
     And all within its arch appear'd to be
Clearer than that without, and its wide hue
     Wax'd broad and waving, like a banner free,
Then chang'd like to a bow that's bent, and then
Forsook the dim eyes of these shipwreck'd men.

It chang'd, of course; a heavenly chameleon,
     The airy child of vapour and the sun,
Brought forth in purple, cradled in vermilion,
     Baptiz'd in molten gold, and swath'd in dun,
Glittering like crescents o'er a Turk's pavilion,
     And blending every colour into one,
Just like a black eye in a recent scuffle
(For sometimes we must box without the muffle).

Our shipwreck'd seamen thought it a good omen--
     It is as well to think so, now and then;
'Twas an old custom of the Greek and Roman,
     And may become of great advantage when
Folks are discourag'd; and most surely no men
     Had greater need to nerve themselves again
Than these, and so this rainbow look'd like hope--
Quite a celestial kaleidoscope.

About this time a beautiful white bird,
     Webfooted, not unlike a dove in size
And plumage (probably it might have err'd
     Upon its course), pass'd oft before their eyes,
And tried to perch, although it saw and heard
     The men within the boat, and in this guise
It came and went, and flutter'd round them till
Night fell--this seem'd a better omen still.

But in this case I also must remark,
     'Twas well this bird of promise did not perch,
Because the tackle of our shatter'd bark
     Was not so safe for roosting as a church;
And had it been the dove from Noah's ark,
     Returning there from her successful search,
Which in their way that moment chanc'd to fall,
They would have eat her, olive-branch and all.

With twilight it again came on to blow,
     But not with violence; the stars shone out,
The boat made way; yet now they were so low,
     They knew not where or what they were about;
Some fancied they saw land, and some said "No!"
     The frequent fog-banks gave them cause to doubt--
Some swore that they heard breakers, others guns,
And all mistook about the latter once.

As morning broke, the light wind died away,
     When he who had the watch sung out and swore,
If 'twas not land that rose with the sun's ray,
     He wish'd that land he never might see more;
And the rest rubb'd their eyes and saw a bay,
     Or thought they saw, and shap'd their course for shore;
For shore it was, and gradually grew
Distinct, and high, and palpable to view.

And then of these some part burst into tears,
     And others, looking with a stupid stare,
Could not yet separate their hopes from fears,
     And seem'd as if they had no further care;
While a few pray'd (the first time for some years)
     And at the bottom of the boat three were
Asleep: they shook them by the hand and head,
And tried to awaken them, but found them dead.

The day before, fast sleeping on the water,
     They found a turtle of the hawk's-bill kind,
And by good fortune, gliding softly, caught her,
     Which yielded a day's life, and to their mind
Prov'd even still a more nutritious matter,
     Because it left encouragement behind:
They thought that in such perils, more than chance
Had sent them this for their deliverance.

The land appear'd a high and rocky coast,
     And higher grew the mountains as they drew,
Set by a current, toward it: they were lost
     In various conjectures, for none knew
To what part of the earth they had been toss'd,
     So changeable had been the winds that blew;
Some thought it was Mount Ætna, some the highlands
Of Candia, Cyprus, Rhodes, or other islands.

Meantime the current, with a rising gale,
     Still set them onwards to the welcome shore,
Like Charon's bark of spectres, dull and pale:
     Their living freight was now reduc'd to four,
And three dead, whom their strength could not avail
     To heave into the deep with those before,
Though the two sharks still follow'd them, and dash'd
The spray into their faces as they splash'd.

Famine, despair, cold, thirst and heat had done
     Their work on them by turns, and thinn'd them to
Such things a mother had not known her son
     Amidst the skeletons of that gaunt crew;
By night chill'd, by day scorch'd, thus one by one
     They perish'd, until wither'd to these few,
But chiefly by a species of self-slaughter,
In washing down Pedrillo with salt water.

As they drew nigh the land, which now was seen
     Unequal in its aspect here and there,
They felt the freshness of its growing green,
     That wav'd in forest-tops, and smooth'd the air,
And fell upon their glaz'd eyes like a screen
     From glistening waves, and skies so hot and bare--
Lovely seem'd any object that should sweep
Away the vast, salt, dread, eternal Deep.

The shore look'd wild, without a trace of man,
     And girt by formidable waves; but they
Were mad for land, and thus their course they ran,
     Though right ahead the roaring breakers lay:
A reef between them also now began
     To show its boiling surf and bounding spray,
But finding no place for their landing better,
They ran the boat for shore, and overset her.

But in his native stream, the Guadalquivir,
     Juan to lave his youthful limbs was wont;
And having learnt to swim in that sweet river,
     Had often turn'd the art to some account:
A better swimmer you could scarce see ever,
     He could, perhaps, have pass'd the Hellespont,
As once (a feat on which ourselves we prided)
Leander, Mr. Ekenhead, and I did.

So here, though faint, emaciated and stark,
     He buoy'd his boyish limbs, and strove to ply
With the quick wave, and gain, ere it was dark,
     The beach which lay before him, high and dry:
The greatest danger here was from a shark,
     That carried off his neighbour by the thigh;
As for the other two, they could not swim,
So nobody arriv'd on shore but him.

Nor yet had he arriv'd but for the oar,
     Which, providentially for him, was wash'd
Just as his feeble arms could strike no more,
     And the hard wave o'erwhelm'd him as 'twas dash'd
Within his grasp; he clung to it, and sore
     The waters beat while he thereto was lash'd;
At last, with swimming, wading, scrambling, he
Roll'd on the beach, half-senseless, from the sea:

There, breathless, with his digging nails he clung
     Fast to the sand, lest the returning wave,
From whose reluctant roar his life he wrung,
     Should suck him back to her insatiate grave:
And there he lay, full length, where he was flung,
     Before the entrance of a cliff-worn cave,
With just enough of life to feel its pain,
And deem that it was sav'd, perhaps in vain.


And thus a moon roll'd on, and fair Haidée
     Paid daily visits to her boy, and took
Such plentiful precautions, that still he
     Remain'd unknown within his craggy nook;
At last her father's prows put out to sea,
     For certain merchantmen upon the look,
Not as of yore to carry off an Io,
But three Ragusan vessels, bound for Scio.

Then came her freedom, for she had no mother,
     So that, her father being at sea, she was
Free as a married woman, or such other
     Female, as where she likes may freely pass,
Without even the encumbrance of a brother,
     The freest she that ever gaz'd on glass:
I speak of Christian lands in this comparison,
Where wives, at least, are seldom kept in garrison.

Now she prolong'd her visits and her talk
     (For they must talk), and he had learnt to say
So much as to propose to take a walk--
     For little had he wander'd since the day
On which, like a young flower snapp'd from the stalk,
     Drooping and dewy on the beach he lay--
And thus they walk'd out in the afternoon,
And saw the sun set opposite the moon.

It was a wild and breaker-beaten coast,
     With cliffs above, and a broad sandy shore,
Guarded by shoals and rocks as by an host,
     With here and there a creek, whose aspect wore
A better welcome to the tempest-tost;
     And rarely ceas'd the haughty billow's roar,
Save on the dead long summer days, which make
The outstretch'd ocean glitter like a lake.

And the small ripple spilt upon the beach
     Scarcely o'erpass'd the cream of your champagne,
When o'er the brim the sparkling bumpers reach,
     That spring-dew of the spirit! the heart's rain!
Few things surpass old wine; and they may preach
     Who please--the more because they preach in vain,
Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter,
Sermons and soda-water the day after.

Man, being reasonable, must get drunk;
     The best of life is but intoxication:
Glory, the grape, love, gold, in these are sunk
     The hopes of all men, and of every nation;
Without their sap, how branchless were the trunk
     Of Life's strange tree, so fruitful on occasion:
But to return--get very drunk, and when
You wake with headache, you shall see what then.

Ring for your valet--bid him quickly bring
     Some hock and soda-water, then you'll know
A pleasure worthy Xerxes the great king;
     For not the blest sherbet, sublim'd with snow,
Nor the first sparkle of the desert-spring,
     Nor Burgundy in all its sunset glow,
After long travel, ennui, love, or slaughter,
Vie with that draught of hock and soda-water!

The coast--I think it was the coast that I
     Was just describing--Yes, it was the coast--
Lay at this period quiet as the sky,
     The sands untumbled, the blue waves untoss'd,
And all was stillness, save the sea-bird's cry,
     And dolphin's leap, and the little billow cross'd
By some low rock or shelve, that made it fret
Against the boundary it scarcely wet.

And forth they wander'd, her sire being gone,
     As I have said, upon an expedition;
And mother, brother, guardian, she had none,
     Save Zoe, who, although with due precision
She waited on her lady with the sun,
     Thought daily service was her only mission,
Bringing warm water, wreathing her long tresses,
And asking now and then for cast-off dresses.

It was the cooling hour, just when the rounded
     Red sun sinks down behind the azure hill,
Which then seems as if the whole earth it bounded,
     Circling all Nature, hush'd, and dim, and still,
With the far mountain-crescent half surrounded
     On one side, and the deep sea calm and chill
Upon the other, and the rosy sky
With one star sparkling through it like an eye.

And thus they wander'd forth, and hand in hand,
     Over the shining pebbles and the shells,
Glided along the smooth and harden'd sand,
     And in the worn and wild receptacles
Work'd by the storms, yet work'd as it were plann'd
     In hollow halls, with sparry roofs and cells,
They turn'd to rest; and, each clasp'd by an arm,
Yielded to the deep twilight's purple charm.

They look'd up to the sky, whose floating glow
     Spread like a rosy ocean, vast and bright;
They gaz'd upon the glittering sea below,
     Whence the broad moon rose circling into sight;
They heard the wave's splash, and the wind so low,
     And saw each other's dark eyes darting light
Into each other--and, beholding this,
Their lips drew near, and clung into a kiss;

A long, long kiss, a kiss of youth, and love,
     And beauty, all concentrating like rays
Into one focus, kindled from above;
     Such kisses as belong to early days,
Where heart, and soul, and sense, in concert move,
     And the blood's lava, and the pulse a blaze,
Each kiss a heart-quake--for a kiss's strength,
I think, it must be reckon'd by its length.

By length I mean duration; theirs endur'd
     Heaven knows how long--no doubt they never reckon'd;
And if they had, they could not have secur'd
     The sum of their sensations to a second:
They had not spoken, but they felt allur'd,
     As if their souls and lips each other beckon'd,
Which, being join'd, like swarming bees they clung--
Their hearts the flowers from whence the honey sprung.

They were alone, but not alone as they
     Who shut in chambers think it loneliness;
The silent ocean, and the starlight bay,
     The twilight glow, which momently grew less,
The voiceless sands, and dropping caves, that lay
     Around them, made them to each other press,
As if there were no life beneath the sky
Save theirs, and that their life could never die.

They fear'd no eyes nor ears on that lone beach;
     They felt no terrors from the night; they were
All in all to each other: though their speech
     Was broken words, they thought a language there,
And all the burning tongues the passions teach
     Found in one sigh the best interpreter
Of Nature's oracle--first love--that all
Which Eve has left her daughters since her fall.

Haidée spoke not of scruples, ask'd no vows,
     Nor offer'd any; she had never heard
Of plight and promises to be a spouse,
     Or perils by a loving maid incurr'd;
She was all which pure ignorance allows,
     And flew to her young mate like a young bird;
And, never having dreamt of falsehood, she
Had not one word to say of constancy.

She lov'd, and was belovéd--she ador'd,
     And she was worshipp'd; after Nature's fashion,
Their intense souls, into each other pour'd,
     If souls could die, had perish'd in that passion,
But by degrees their senses were restor'd,
     Again to be o'ercome, again to dash on;
And, beating 'gainst his bosom, Haidée's heart
Felt as if never more to beat apart.

Alas! they were so young, so beautiful,
     So lonely, loving, helpless, and the hour
Was that in which the heart is always full,
     And, having o'er itself no further power,
Prompts deeds Eternity can not annul,
     But pays off moments in an endless shower
Of hell-fire--all prepar'd for people giving
Pleasure or pain to one another living.

Alas! for Juan and Haidée! they were
     So loving and so lovely--till then never,
Excepting our first parents, such a pair
     Had run the risk of being damn'd for ever;
And Haidée, being devout as well as fair,
     Had, doubtless, heard about the Stygian river,
And Hell and Purgatory--but forgot
Just in the very crisis she should not.

They look upon each other, and their eyes
     Gleam in the moonlight; and her white arm clasps
Round Juan's head, and his around her lies
     Half buried in the tresses which it grasps;
She sits upon his knee, and drinks his sighs,
     He hers, until they end in broken gasps;
And thus they form a group that's quite antique,
Half naked, loving, natural, and Greek.

And when those deep and burning moments pass'd,
     And Juan sunk to sleep within her arms,
She slept not, but all tenderly, though fast,
     Sustain'd his head upon her bosom's charms;
And now and then her eye to Heaven is cast,
     And then on the pale cheek her breast now warms,
Pillow'd on her o'erflowing heart, which pants
With all it granted, and with all it grants.