Page images

And, nestling on her snowy breast,
Forgot the lily-king's behest.
For this the shadowy tribes of air

To the elfin court must haste away :And now they stand expectant there,

To hear the doom of the Culprit Fay.


VIII “Thou shalt seek the beach of sand Where the water bounds the elfin land, Thou shalt watch the oozy brine Till the sturgeon leaps in the bright

moonshine, Then dart the glistening arch below, And catch a drop from his silver bow. The water-sprites will wield their arms

And dash around, with roar and rave, And vain are the woodland spirits' charms,

130 They are the imps that rule the wave. Yet trust thee in thy single might, If thy heart be pure and thy spirit right, Thou shalt win the warlock fight.

The throne was reared upon the grass

80 Of spice-wood and of sassafras; On pillars of mottled tortoise-shell

Hung the burnished canopyAnd o'er it gorgeous curtains fell

Of the tulip's crimson drapery. The monarch sat on his judgment-seat,

On his brow_the crown imperial shone, The prisoner Fay was at his feet, And his peers were ranged around the

throne. He waved his sceptre in the air,

He looked around and calmly spoke; His brow was grave and his eye severe, But his voice in a softened accent






"If the spray-bead gem be won,

The stain of thy wing is washed away, But another errand must be done

Ere thy crime be lost for aye; Thy flame-wood lamp is quenched and

dark, Thou must re-illumine its spark. Mount thy steed and spur him high To the heaven's blue canopy; And when thou seest a shooting star, Follow it fast, and follow it farThe last faint spark of its burning train Shall light the elfin lamp again. Thou hast heard our sentence, Fay; Hence! to the water-side, away!"




"Fairy! Fairy! list and mark,

Thou hast broke thine elfin chain, Thy flame-wood lamp is quenched and

dark, And thy wings are dyed with a deadly

stain Thou hast sullied thine elfin purity

In the glance of a mortal maiden's eye Thou has scorned our dread decree, And thou shouldst pay the forfeit high, But well I know her sinless mind Is pure as the angel forms above, Gentle and meek, and chaste and kind, Such as a spirit well might love; Fairy! had she spot or taint, Bitter had been thy punishment. Tied to the hornet's shardy wings; Tossed on the pricks of nettles' stings; Or seven long ages doomed to dwell With the lazy worm in the walnut-shell; Or every night to writhe and bleed Beneath the tread of the centipede; Or bound in a cobweb dungeon dim, Your jailer a spider huge and grim, Amid the carrion bodies to lie, Of the worm, and the bug, and the mur

dered fly: These it had been your lot to bear, Had a stain been found on the earthly

fair. Now list, and mark our mild decree- 120 Fairy, this your doom must be:

[ocr errors]

The goblin marked his monarch well;

He spake not, but he bowed him low, Then plucked a crimson colen-bell,

And turned him round in act to go. The way is long, he cannot fly,

His soiled wing has lost its power, And he winds adown the mountain high,

For many a sore and weary hour. Through dreary beds of tangled fern, Through groves of nightshade dark and

dern, Over the grass and through the brake, Where toils the ant and sleeps the snake;

Now o'er the violet's azure flush He skips along in lightsome mood;

And now he thrids the bramble bush, Till its points are dyed in fairy blood. He has leapt the bog, he has pierced the

briar, He has swum the brook, and waded the



Some on the back of the lancing squab,
Some on the sideling soldier-crab;
And some on the jellied quarl, that Alings
At once a thousand streamy stings- 210
They cut the wave with the living oar
And hurry on to the moonlight shore,
To guard their realms and chase away
The footsteps of the invading Fay.


Till his spirits sank, and his limbs grew

weak, And the red waxed fainter in his cheek. He had fallen to the ground outright, For rugged and dim was his onward

track, But there came a spotted toad in sight, And he laughed as he jumped upon her

back; He bridled her mouth with a silk-weed

twist; He lashed her sides with an osier

thong; And now through evening's dewy mist,

With leap and spring they bound along, Till the mountain's magic verge is past, And the beach of sand is reached at last.



[blocks in formation]

Fearlessly he skims along,
His hope is high, and his limbs are strong,
He spreads his arms like the swallow's

wing, And throws his feet with a froglike Aling; His locks of gold on the waters shine,

At his breast the tiny foam-beads rise, His back gleams bright above the brine,

And the wake-line foam behind him lies. But the water-sprites are gathering near

To check his course along the tide; Their warriors come in swift career

And hem him round on every side; On his thigh the leech has fixed his hold, The quarl's long arms are round him

roll’d, The prickly prong has pierced his skin, And the squab has thrown his javelin, 230 The gritty star has rubbed him raw, And the crab has struck with his giant

claw; He howls with rage, and he shrieks with

pain, He strikes around, but his blows are vain; Hopeless is the unequal fight, Fairy! nought is left but fight.





The elfin cast a glance around,
As he lighted down from his courser

toad, Then round his breast his wings he

wound, And close to the river's brink he

strode; He sprang on a rock, he breathed a

prayer, Above his head his arms he threw, Then tossed a tiny curve in air,

And headlong plunged in the waters blue.


He turned him round and fled amain
With hurry and dash to the beach again;
He twisted over from side to side,
And laid his cheek to the cleaving tide. 240
The strokes of his plunging arms are

And with all his might he Alings his feet,
But the water-sprites are round him still,
To cross his path and work him ill.
They bade the wave before him rise;
They flung the sea-fire in his eyes,
And they stunned his ears with the scal-

lop stroke, With the porpoise heave and the drum

fish croak. Oh! but a weary wight was he When he reached the foot of the dog

wood tree; Gashed and wounded, and stiff and sore, He laid him down on the sandy shore;

[blocks in formation]


He blessed the force of the charmed line,

•And he banned the water-goblins' spite, For he saw around in the sweet moon

shine, Their little wee faces above the brine, Giggling and laughing with all ther

might At the piteous hap of the Fairy wight.



And they dashed the surge against her

side, And they struck her keel with jerk and

blow, Till the gunwale bent to the rocking

tide. She wimpled about in the pale moon

beam, Like a feather that floats on a wind

tossed stream; And momently athwart her track The quarl upreared his island back, And the fluttering scallop behind would

float, And patter the water about the boat; But he bailed her out with his colen-bell. And he kept her trimmed with a wary

tread, While on every side like lightning fell

The heavy strokes of his bootle-blade.

[blocks in formation]



Wrapped in musing stands the sprite: 'Tis the middle wane of night,

His task is hard, his way is far, But he must do his errand right

Ere dawning mounts her beamy car, And rolls her chariot wheels of light; And vain are the spells of fairy-land, He must work with a human hand.

XX Onward still he held his way, Till he came where the column of moon

shine lay, And saw beneath the surface dim The brown-backed sturgeon slowly swim : Around him were the goblin trainBut he sculled with all his might and

main, And followed wherever the sturgeon led, Till he saw him upward point his head; Then he dropped his paddle blade, And held his colen goblet up To catch the drop in its crimson cup.




He cast a saddened look around,

But he felt new joy his bosom swell, When, glittering on the shadowed ground,

He saw a purple muscle shell; Thither he ran, and he bent him low, He heaved at the stern and he heaved at

the bow, And he pushed her over the yielding sand, Till he came to the verge of the haunted

land. She was as lovely a pleasure boat

As ever fairy had paddled in, For she glowed with purple paint without,

And shone with silvery pearl within ; A sculler's notch in the stern he made, An oar he shaped of the bootle blade; Then sprung to his seat with a lightsome

leap, And launched afar on the calm blue deep.

With sweeping tail and quivering fin.

Through the wave the sturgeon flew, And, like the heaven-shot javelin,

He sprung above the waters blue. Instant as the star-fall light,

He plunged him in the deep again, But left an arch of silver bright

The rainbow of the moony main.
It was a strange and lovely sight

To see the puny goblin there;
He seemed an angel form of light,

With azure wing and sunny hair,
Throned on a cloud of purple fair,
Circled with blue and edged with white,
And sitting at the fall of even
Beneath the bow of summer heaven.



XIX The imps of the river yell and rave; They had no power above the wave, But they heaved the billow before the


A moment and its lustre fell,
But ere it met the

blue, He caught within his crimson bell,

A droplet of its sparkling dew


Joy to thee, Fay! thy task is done,
Thy wings are pure, for the gem is won-
Cheerily ply thy dripping oar,
And haste away to the elfin shore.


His shield was the shell of a lady-bug

queen, Studs of gold on a ground of green; And the quivering lance which he bran

dished bright, Was the sting of a wasp he had slain in

fight. Swift he bestrode his fire-fly steed; He bared his blade of the bent grass blue; He drove his spurs of the cockle seed, And away like a glance of thought he

flew, To skim the heavens and follow far The fiery trail of the rocket-star.

XXIII He turns, and lo! on either side The ripples on his path divide; And the track o'er which his boat must

pass Is smooth as a sheet of polished glass. 349 Around, their limbs the sea-nymphs lave,

With snowy arms half swelling out, While on the glossed and gleamy wave

Their sea-green ringlets loosely float; They swim around with smile and song;

They press the bark with pearly hand, And gently urge her course along,

Toward the beach of veckled sand;

And, as he lightly leapt to land, They bade adieu with nod and bow, Then gayly kissed each little hand, 360 And dropped in the crystal deep below.




A moment staied the fairy there;
He kissed the beach, and breathed a

Then he spread his wings of gilded blue,
And on to the elfin court he flew;
As ever ye saw a bubble rise,
And shine with a thousand changing dyes,
Till lessening far through ether driven,
It mingles with the hues of heaven:
As, at the glimpse of morning pale, 370
The lance-Ay spreads his silken sail,
And gleams with blendings soft and

bright, Till lost in the shades of fading night; So rose from earth the lovely FaySo vanished, far in heaven away!

The moth-fly, as he shot in air,
Crept under the leaf, and hid her there;
The Katy-did forgot its lay,
The prowling gnat fled fast away,
The fell mosqueto checked his drone
And folded his wings till the Fay was

gone, And the wily beetle dropped his head, And fell on the ground as if he were

dead; They crouched them close in the dark

some shade, They quaked all o'er with awe and fear, For they had felt the blue-bent blade, And writhed at the prick of the elfin

spear; Many a time on a summer's night, 410 When the sky was clear and the moon

was bright, They had been roused from the haunted

ground, By the yelp and bay of the fairy hound; They had heard the tiny bugle horn, They had heard the twang of the maize

"silk string, When the vine-twig bows were tightly

drawn, And the nettle shaft through air was

borne, Feathered with down of the hum-bird's

wing. And now they deemed the courier ouphe,

Some hunter sprite of the elfin ground; And they watched till they saw him mount

the roof That canopies the world around; Then glad they left their covert lair, And freaked about in the midnight air.

[blocks in formation]


He put his acorn helmet on;
It was plumed of the silk of the thistle

The corslet plate that guarded his breast
Was once the wild bee's golden vest;
His cloak, of a thousand mingled dyes,
Was formed of the wings of butterflies;


Up to the vaulted firmament
His path the fire-fly courser bent,



And at every gallop on the wind,
He flung a glittering spark behind;
He flies like a feather in the blast
Till the first light cloud in heaven is past,
But the shapes of air have begun their

And a drizzly mist is round him cast,

He cannot see through the mantle murk, He shivers with cold, but he urges fast, Through storm and darkness, sleet and

shade, He lashes his steed and spurs amain, For shadowy hands have twitched the rein, And flame-shot tongues around him

played, And near him many a fiendish eye Glared with a fell malignity, And yells of rage, and shrieks of fear, Came screaming on his startled ear.

XXX Sudden along the snowy tide That swelled to meet their footsteps'

fall, The sylphs of heaven were seen to glide,

Attired in sunset's crimson pall; Around the Fay they weave the dance,

They skip before him on the plain, And one has taken his wasp-sting lance,

And one upholds his bridle-rein; With warbling wild they lead him on

To where through clouds of amber seen, Studded with stars, resplendent shone

The palace of the sylphid queen, Its spiral columns gleaming bright Were streamers of the northern light; Its curtain's light and lovely flush Was of the morning's rosy blush, And the ceiling fair that rose aboon The white and feathery fleece of noon.





XXVIII His wings are wet around his breast, The plume hangs dripping from his crest, His eyes are blur'd with the lightning's

glare, And his ears are stunned with the thun

der's blare, But he gave a shout, and his blade he

drew, He thrust before and he struck behind, Till he pierced their cloudy bodies

through, And gashed their shadowy limbs of

wind; Howling the misty spectres few,

They rend the air with frightful cries, For he has gained the welkin blue, And the land of clouds beneath him


But oh! how fair the shape that lay

Beneath a rainbow bending bright, She seemed to the entranced Fay

The loveliest of the forms of light; Her mantle was the purple rolled

At twilight in the west afar; 'Twas tied with threads of dawning gold,

And buttoned with a sparkling star. Her face was like the lily roon

That veils the vested planet's hue; Her eyes, two beamlets from the moon,

Set floating in the welkin blue. Her hair is like the sunny beam, And the diamond gems which round it

gleam Are the pure drops of dewy even That ne'er have left their native heaven.





She raised her eyes to the wondering

sprite, And they leapt with smiles, for well I


Never before in the bowers of light

Had the form of an earthly Fay been


Up to the cope careering swift

In breathless motion fast,
Fleet as the swallow cuts the drift,

Or the sea-roc rides the blast,
The sapphire sheet of eve is shot,

The sphered moon is past, The earth but seems a tiny blot

460 On a sheet of azure cast. O! it was sweet in the clear moonlight,

To tread the starry plain of even, To meet the thousand eyes of night,

And feel the cooling breath of heaven! But the Elfin made no stop or stay Till he came to the bank of the milky

way, Then he checked his courser's foot, And watched for the glimpse of the


[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »