Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

65

70

75

The harvest in, and give the nations bread.
And there they hew the quarry into shafts,
And pile up glorious temples from the rock,
And chisel the rude stones to shapes of men.
All this I pine to see, and would have seen,
But that I am a woman, long ago.”

Thus in her wanderings did the maiden dream,
Until, at length, one morn in early spring,
When all the glistening fields lay white with frost,
She came half breathless where her mother sat :
“ See, mother dear,” said she, “what I have found
Upon our rivulet's bank ; two slippers, white
As the midwinter snow, and spangled o'er
With twinkling points, like stars, and on the edge
My name is wrought in silver; read, I pray,
Sella, the name thy mother, now in heaven,
Gave at my birth ; and sure, they fit my feet !
“A dainty pair,” the prudent matron said,
“But thine they are not. We must lay them by
For those whose careless hands have left them here; 80
Or haply they were placed beside the brook
To be a snare. I cannot see thy name
Upon the border — only characters
Of mystic look and dim are there, like signs
Of some strange art; nay, daughter, wear them not."

Then Sella hung the slippers in the porch
Of that broad rustic lodge, and all who passed
Admired their fair contexture, but none knew
Who left them by the brook. And now, at length,
May, with her flowers and singing birds, had gone,
And on bright streams and into deep wells shone
The high, midsummer sun. One day, at noon,
Sella was missed from the accustomed meal.

85

90

95

They sought her in her favorite haunts, they looked
By the great rock, and far along the stream,
And shouted in the sounding woods her name.
Night came, and forth the sorrowing household went
With torches over the wide pasture-grounds
To pool and thicket, marsh and briery dell,
And solitary valley far away.
The morning came, and Sella was not found.
The sun climbed high; they sought her still; the noon,

100

[graphic]

105

The hot and silent noon, heard Sella's name,
Uttered with a despairing cry, to wastes
O’er which the eagle hovered. As the sun
Stooped toward the amber west to bring the close
Of that sad second day, and, with red eyes,
The mother sat within her home alone,
Sella was at her side. A shriek of joy
Broke the sad silence; glad, warm tears were shed, 110
And words of gladness uttered. “Oh, forgive,”
The maiden said, "that I could e'er forget
Thy wishes for a moment. I just tried

115

120

125

The slippers on, amazed to see them shaped
So fairly to my feet, when, all at once,
I felt my steps upborne and hurried on
Almost as if with wings. A strange delight,
Blent with a thrill of fear, o'ermastered me,
And, ere I knew, my plashing steps were set
Within the rivulet's pebbly bed, and I
Was rushing down the current. By my side
Tripped one as beautiful as ever looked
From white clouds in a dream ; and, as we ran,
She talked with musical voice and sweetly laughed.
Gayly we leaped the crag and swam the pool,
And swept with dimpling eddies round the rock,
And glided between shady meadow banks.
The streamlet broadening as we went, became
A swelling river, and we shot along
By stately towns, and under leaning masts
Of gallant barks, nor lingered by the shore
Of blooming gardens ; onward, onward still,
The same strong impulse bore me till, at last,
We entered the great deep, and passed below
His billows, into boundless spaces, lit
With a green sunshine. Here were mighty groves,
Far down the ocean valleys, and between
Lay what might seem fair meadows, softly tinged
With orange and with crimson. Here arose
Tall stems, that, rooted in the depths below,
Swung idly with the motions of the sea;
And here were shrubberies in whose mazy screen
The creatures of the deep made haunt. My friend
Named the strange growths, the pretty coralline,
The dulse with crimson leaves, and streaming far,
Sea thong and sea lace.

Here the tangle spread

130

135

140

145 150

155

160

Its broad, thick fronds, with pleasant bowers beneath;
And oft we trod a waste of pearly sands,
Spotted with rosy shells, and thence looked in
At caverns of the sea whose rock-roofed halls
Lay in blue twilight. As we moved along, ,
The dwellers of the deep, in mighty herds,
Passed by us, reverently they passed us by,
Long trains of dolphins rolling through the brine,
Huge whales, that drew the waters after them,
A torrent stream, and hideous hammer-sharks,
Chasing their prey. I shuddered as they came;
Gently they turned aside and gave us room.

Hereat broke in the mother, “Sella, dear,
This is a dream, the idlest, vainest dream."

Nay, mother, nay; behold this sea-green scarf,
Woven of such threads as never human band
Twined from the distaff. She who led my way
Through the great waters bade me wear it home,
A token that my tale is true. • And keep,
She said, "the slippers thou hast found, for thou,
When shod with them, shalt be like one of us,
With power to walk at will the ocean-floor,
Among its monstrous creatures unafraid,
And feel no longing for the air of heaven
To fill thy lungs, and send the warm, red blood
Along thy veins. But thou shalt pass the hours
In dances with the sea nymphs, or go forth,
To look into the mysteries of the abyss
Where never plummet reached. And thou shalt

sleep
Thy weariness away on downy banks
Of sea moss, where the pulses of the tide
Shall gently lift thy hair, or thou shalt float

[ocr errors]

165

170

175 180

a

185

190

On the soft currents that go forth and wind
From isle to isle, and wander through the sea.'

“ So spoke my fellow-voyager, her words
Sounding like wavelets on a summer shore,
And then we stopped beside a hanging rock
With a smooth beach of white sand at its foot,
Where three fair creatures like herself were set
At their sea banquet, crisp and juicy stalks,
Culled from the ocean's meadow, and the sweet
Midrib of pleasant leaves, and golden fruits,
Dropped from the trees that edge the southern isles,
And gathered on the waves. Kindly they prayed
That I would share their meal, and I partook
With eager appetite, for long had been
My journey, and I left the spot refreshed.

66 And then we wandered off amid the groves
Of coral loftier than the growths of earth ;
The mightiest cedar lifts no trunk like theirs,
So huge, so high, toward heaven, nor overhangs
Alleys and bowers so dim. We moved between
Pinnacles of black rock, which, from beneath,
Molten by inner fires, so said my guide,
Gushed long ago into the hissing brine,
That quenched and hardened them, and now they

stand
Motionless in the currents of the sea
That part and flow around them. As we went,
We looked into the hollows of the abyss,
To which the never resting waters sweep
The skeletons of sharks, the long white spines
Of narwhal, and of dolphin, bones of men
Shipwrecked, and mighty ribs of foundered barks.
Down the blue pits we looked, and hastened on.

195

200

205

210

« AnteriorContinuar »