Page images

VERSES BY ALEXANDER SELKIRK. 197 But the sound of the church-going bell

These valleys and rocks never heard, Never sigh’d at the sound of a knell,

Or smiled when a sabbath appear'd. Ye winds that have made me your sport,

Convey to this desolate shore
Some cordial, endearing report

Of a land I shall visit no more.
My friends, do they now and then send

A wish or a thought after me? 0, tell me I yet have a friend,

Though a friend I am never to see. How fleet is a glance of the mind !

Compared with the speed of its flight, The tempest itself lags behind,

And the swift-winged arrows of light. When I think of my own native land,

In a moment I seem to be there; But, alas! recollection at hand

Soon hurries me back to despair. But the seafowl is gone to her nest,

The beast is laid down in his lair ; Even here is a season of rest,

And I to my cabin repair. There's mercy in every place,

And mercy, encouraging thought ! Gives even affliction a grace,

And reconciles man to his lot.

VOL. 11.




OBSCUREST night involved the sky,

The Atlantic billows roar'd,
When such a destined wretch as I,

Wash'd headlong from on board,
Of friends, of hope, of all bereft, .
His floating home for ever left.
No braver chief could Albion boast

Than he with whom he went,
Nor ever ship left Albion's coast

With warmer wishes sent. He loved them both, but both in vain, Nor him beheld, nor her again. Not long beneath the whelming brine,

Expert to swim, he lay; Nor soon he felt his strength decline,

Or courage die away; But waged with death a lasting strife, Supported by despair of life. He shouted; nor his friends had failid

To check the vessel's course, But so the furious blast prevail'd,

That, pitiless perforce, They left their outcast mate behind, And scudded still before the wind. Some succour yet they could afford;

And, such as storms allow, The cask, the coop, the floated cord,

Delay'd not to bestow.

But he (they knew) nor ship nor shore, Whate'er they gave, should visit more. Nor, cruel as it seem’d, could he

Their haste himself condemn,
Aware that flight, in such a sea,

Alone could rescue them;
Yet bitter felt it still to die
Deserted, and his friends so nigh.
He long survives who lives an hour

In ocean, self-upheld:
And so long he, with unspent power,

His destiny repell’d :
And ever as the minutes flew,
Entreated help, or cried— Adieu !
At length his transient respite past,

His comrades, who before
Had heard his voice in every blast,

Could catch the sound no more:
For then, by toil subdued, he drank
The stifling wave, and then he sank.
No poet wept him: but the page

Of narrative sincere,
That tells his name, his worth, his age,

Is wet with Anson's tear :
And tears by bards or heroes shed
Alike immortalize the dead.
I therefore purpose not, or dream,

Descanting on his fate,
To give the melancholy theme

A. more enduring date:
But misery still delights to trace
Its semblance in another's case.

No voice divine the storm allay'd,

No light propitious shone;
When snatch'd from all effectual aid,

We perish'd each alone:
But I beneath a rougher sea,
And whelm'd in deeper gulfs than he.


Forced from home and all its pleasures,

Afric's coast I left forlorn;
To increase a stranger's treasures,

O’er the raging billows borne.
Men from England bought and sold me,

Paid my price in paltry gold; But, though slave they have enrolld me,

Minds are never to be sold.

Still in thought as free as ever,

What are England's rights, I ask,
Me from my delights to sever,

Me to torture, me to task?
Fleecy locks and black complexion
• Cannot forfeit Nature's claim;
Skins may differ, but affection

Dwells in white and black the same.

Why did all creating Nature

Make the plant for which we toil? Sighs-must fan it, tears must water,

Sweat of ours must dress the soil,

Think, ye masters, iron hearted,

Lolling at your jovial boards: Think how many backs have smarted

For the sweets your cane affords. Is there, as ye sometimes tell us,

Is there One who reigns on high? Has he bid you buy and sell us,

Speaking from his throne, the sky? Ask him, if your knotted scourges,

Matches, blood-extorting screws,
Are the means that duty urges,

Agents of his will to use?
Hark! he answers--Wild tornadoes

Strewing yonder sea with wrecks; Wasting towns, plantations, meadows,

Are the voice with which he speaks. He, foreseeing what vexations

Afric's sons should undergo, Fix'd their tyrants' habitations

Where his whirlwinds answer-No. By our blood in Afric wasted,

Ere our necks received the chain;' By the miseries that we tasted,

Crossing in your barks the main : By our sufferings, since ye brought us

To the man-degrading mart:
All sustain'd, by patience, taught us

Only by a broken heart!
Deem our nation brutes no longer,

Till some reason ye shall find
Worthier of regard and stronger
Than the colour of our kind.

« PreviousContinue »