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There foul neglect for months and months we bore, Nor yet the crowded fleet its anchor stirred. Green fields before us and our native shore, By fever, from polluted air incurred, Ravage was made, for which no knell was heard. Fondly we wished, and wished away, nor knew, 'Mid that long sickness, and those hopes deferr'd, That happier days we never more must view : . The parting signal streamed, at last the land withdrew,
But from delay the summer calms were past.
On as we drove, the equinoctial deep
Ran mountains-high before the howling blast.
We gazed with terror on the gloomy sleep
Of them that perished in the whirlwind's sweep,
Untaught that soon such anguish must ensue,
Our hopes such harvest of affliction reap,
That we the mercy of the waves should rue.
We reached the western world, a poor, devoted crew.
Oh! dreadful price of being to resign
All that is dear in being! better far
In Want's most lonely cave till death to pine,
Unseen, unheard, unwatched by any star ;
Or in the streets and walks where proud men are,
Better our dying bodies to obtrude,
Than dog-like, wading at the heels of war,
Protract a curst existence, with the brood
That lap (their very nourishment !) their brother's blood.
The pains and plagues that on our heads came down,
Disease and famine, agony and fear,
In wood or wilderness, in camp or town,
It would thy brain unsettle even to hear.
All perished—all, in one remorseless year,
Husband and children! one by one, by sword
And ravenous plague, all perished: every tear
Dried up, despairing, desolate, on board
A British ship I waked, as from a trance restored.
Peaceful as some immeasurable plain
By the first beams of dawning light impress'd,
In the calm sunshine slept the glittering main.
The very ocean has its hour of rest,
That comes not to the human mourner's breast.
Remote from man, and storms of mortal care,
A heavenly silence did the waves invest;
I looked and looked along the silent air,
Until it seemed to bring a joy to my despair.
Ah! how unlike those late terrific sleeps!
And groans, that rage of racking famine spoke,
Where looks inhuman dwelt on festering heaps !
The breathing pestilence that rose like smoke!
The shriek that from the distant battle broke!
The mine's dire earthquake, and the pallid host
Driven by the bomb's incessant thunder-stroke
To loathsome vaults, where heart-sick anguish toss'd,
Hope died, and fear itself in agony was lost!
Yet does that burst of woe congeal my frame,
When the dark streets appeared to heave and gape,
While like a sea the storming army came,
And Fire from Hell reared his gigantic shape,
And Murder, by the ghastly gleam, and Rape
Seized their joint prey, the mother and the child !
But from these crazing thoughts my brain, escape !
For weeks the balmy air breathed soft and mild, And on the gliding vessel Heaven and Ocean smiled.
Some mighty gulph of separation past, :
I seemed transported to another world :-
A thought resigned with pain, when from the mast
The impatient mariner the sail unfurl'd,
And whistling, called the wind that hardly curled
The silent sea.
From the sweet thoughts of home,
And from all hope I was forever hurled.
For me--farthest from earthly port to roam
Was best, could I but shun the spot where man might
And oft, robb'd of my perfect mind, I thought
At last my feet a resting-place had found :
Here will I weep in peace, (so fancy wrought,)
Roaming the illimitable waters round;
Here watch, of every human friend disowned,
All day, my ready tomb the ocean-flood
my dream the vessel reached its bound :
And homeless near a thousand homes I stood,
And near a thousand tables pined, and wanted food.
By grief enfeebled was I turned adrift,
Helpless as sailor cast on desart rock;
Nor morsel to my mouth that day did lift,
Nor dared my hand at any door to knock.
I lay, where with his drowsy mates, the cock
From the cross timber of an out-house hung;
How dismal tolled, that night, the city clock!
At morn my sick heart hunger scarcely stung,
Nor to the beggar's language could I frame my tongue.