Page images
PDF
EPUB

And merely like a spur became :
Each motion which I made to free
My swoln limbs from their agony

Increased his fury and affright :
I tried my voice,—twas faint and low,
But yet he swerved as from a blow;
And, starting to each accent, sprang
As from a sudden trumpet's clang :
Meantime my cords were wet with gore,
Which, oozing through my limbs, ran o'er ;
And in my tongue the thirst became
A something fierier far than flame.

a

We near’d the wild wood—'twas so wide,
I saw no bounds on either side;
'Twas studded with old sturdy trees,
That bent not to the roughest breeze
Which howls down from Siberia's waste,
And strips the forest in its haste, -
But these were few, and far between
Set thick with shrubs more young and green,
Luxuriant with their annual leaves,
Ere strown by those autumnal eves
That nipt the forest's foliage dead,
Discolour'd with a lifeless red,
Which stands thereon like stiffen'd gore
Upon the slain when battle's o'er,
And some long winter's night hath shed
Its frost o'er every tombless head,
So cold and stark the raven's beak
May peck unpierced each frozen cheek :
'Twas a wild waste of underwood,
And here and there a chestnut stood,
The strong oak, and the hardy pine ;

But far apart—and well it were,

a

Or else a different lot were mine

The boughs gave way, and did not tear My limbs ; and I found strength to bear My wounds, already scarr'd with coldMy bonds forbade to loose my hold. We rustled through the leaves like wind, Left shrubs, and trees, and wolves behind ; By night I heard them on the track, Their troop came hard upon our back, With their long gallop, which can tire The hound's deep hate, and hunter's fire : Where'er we flew they follow'd on, Nor left us with the morning sun; Behind I saw them, scarce a rood, At day-break winding through the wood, And through the night had heard their feet Their stealing, rustling step repeat. Oh ! how I wish'd for spear or sword, At least to die amidst the horde, And perish—if it must be soAt bay, destroying many a foe. When first my courser's race begun, I wish'd the goal already won ; But now I doubted strength and speed. Vain doubt! his swift and savage breed Had nerved him like the mountain-roe; Nor faster falls the blinding snow Which whelms the peasant near the door Whose threshold he shall cross no more, Bewilder'd with the dazzling blast, Than through the forest-paths he pastUntired, untamed, and worse than wild ; All furious as a favour'd child Balk'd of its wish ; or fiercer stillA woman piqued—who has her will.

The wood was past ; 'twas more than noon, But chill the air, although in June ; Or it might be my veins ran coldProlong'd endurance tames the bold; And I was then not what I seem, But headlong as a wintry stream, And wore my feelings out before I well could count their causes o'er : And what with fury, fear, and wrath, The tortures which beset my path, Cold, hunger, sorrow, shame, distress, Thus bound in nature's nakedness ; Sprung from a race whose rising blood When stirr'd beyond its calmer mood, And trodden hard upon, is like The rattle-snake's in act to strike, What marvel if this worn-out trunk Beneath its woes a moment sunk? The earth gave way, the skies roll'd round, I seem'd to sink upon the ground; But err'd, for I was fastly bound. My heart turn'd sick, my brain grew sore, And throbb'd awhile, then beat no more ; The skies spun like a mighty wheel ; I saw the trees like drunkards reel, And a slight flash sprang o'er my eyes, Which saw no farther : he who dies Can die no more than then I died. O’ertortured by that ghastly ride, I felt the blackness come and go, And strove to wake; but could not make My senses climb up from below : I felt as on a plank at sea, When all the waves that dash o'er thee, At the same time upheave and whelm,

And hurl thee towards a desert realm.
My undulating life was as
The fancied lights that flitting pass
Our shut eyes in deep midnight, when
Fever begins upon the brain ;
But soon it pass’d, with little pain,

But a confusion worse than such :

I own that I should deem it much,
Dying, to feel the same again ;
And yet I do suppose we must
Feel far more ere we turn to dust :
No matter ; I have bared my brow
Full in Death's face-before—and now.

My blood reflow'd, though thick and chill ;

My heart began once more to thrill;
Methought the dash of waves was nigh ;
There was a gleam too of the sky,
Studded with stars ;—it is no dream ;
The wild horse swims the wilder stream!
The bright broad river's gushing tide
Sweeps, winding onward, far and wide,
And we are half-way, struggling o'er
To yon unknown and silent shore.
The waters broke my hollow trance,
And with a temporary strength

My stiffen'd limbs were rebaptized.
My courser's broad breast proudly braves,
And dashes off the ascending waves,
And onward we advance !
We reach the slippery shore at length,

A haven I but little prized,
For all behind was dark and drear,
And all before was night and fear.
How many hours of night or day

In those suspended pangs I lay,
I could not tell ; I scarcely knew
If this were human breath I drew.

1

With glossy skin, and dripping mane,

And reeling limbs; and reeking flank,
The wild steed's sinewy nerves still strain

Up the repelling bank.
We gain the top: a boundless plain
Spreads through the shadow of the night,

And onward, onward, onward, seems,

Like precipices in our dreams,
To stretch beyond the sight;
And here and there a speck of white,

Or scatter'd spot of dusky green,
In masses broke into the light,
As rose the moon upon my right.

But nought distinctly seen
In the dim waste would indicate
The omen of a cottage gate;
No twinkling taper from afar
Stood like a hospitable star ;
Not even an ignis-fatuus rose
To make him merry with my woes :

That very cheat had cheer'd me then !
Although detected, welcome still,
Reminding me, through every ill,

Of the abodes of men,

Onward we went—but slack and slow;

His savage force at length o'erspent,
The drooping courser, faint and low,

All feebly foaming went.
A sickly infant had had power
To guide him forward in that hour ;

« PreviousContinue »