25

CANTO II.

I.


Within a darksome wood, when evening fell,
Without a hope or track he might pursue,
Poor Florio tried in vain his way to tell,
And check'd his rein, uncertain what to do.
He had rid hard, to the direction true
Where his lost bride had disappear'd from sight,
But long agone she'd vanish'd from his view,
Baffling the speed of mortal horse and wight,
And both were now exhausted, and 'twas dark midnight.

II.


And he dismounted, girths and bit to loose,
And on the ground his weary length threw down,
And tears, that seem'd wrung from his heart's life-juice,
Following long deep-drawn sobs, his visage drown.
He had good reason, that you all must own,
The cup of joy dash'd from his lip so near;
And he was young, in anguish, and alone,
With no observer of his misery near
To call him love-sick boy, and scorn the natural tear.

26

III.


"Oh earth," he cried, "ope wide some central cave!—
"Oh heaven, send down thy lightnings through the air!
"Strike me blind, senseless, sorrowless to the grave!
"Aught, aught but this, 'tis more than I can bear.—
"Oh my Irene, gentle, kind, and fair,—
"My own, my lost, for ever, ever fled!
"If yet thou livest, call upon Despair
"To guide thee to the path I soon must tread,
"And join me once again among the quiet dead!"

IV.


Then, as another gushing flood of grief
More plenteously upon the damp moss fell,
His bursting heart began to feel relief,
For none can break outright that weep so well.
First grief is bitterest, that we all can tell;
The unblunted nerves in pain more wildly throb:
Yet in first youth resides a latent spell
That of its mortal sting the snake can rob,
And gently calm to peace the heart-convulsing sob.

V.


In short, he rav'd and cried himself to sleep,
At first oft waking with a fearful start;
Till gradually unbroken slumbers deep
Spread soothing poppies o'er his aching heart.
And yet, though sorrow may with sense depart,
Leaving the youthful bosom free from pain,
'Tis paid for at the waking hour, when dart
A host of shapeless terrors through the brain,
That one by one resume their form and place again.

27

VI.


But let us now among the sailing clouds
Trace lost Irene to her lover's hall,
Where with a powerful spell his prey he shrouds,
By sylphs with thousand wings preserv'd from fall.
Not like the hours4 that dancing one and all
Follow Apollo's car the roof along,
Whom though good flesh and blood, and plump, and tall,
Convention, Guido's art, and usage long,
Place on the morning mist, and think it footing strong.

VII.


And, when you see them look so highly pleas'd,
Frisking with various attitude and grace
Around the car, where with a hue diseas'd,
Apollo shows his meagre yellow face,
You wonder why they chose so bad a place,
Or why he did not in his shop prepare
A gentle cordial draught to mend his case,
And keep at home, till with good meat and care
He safely might have brav'd the cooling morning air.

VIII.


He was but little worth, that same Apollo,
Mean, fine, and selfish as the veriest beau:
And though the Olympian set his lyre would follow,
A different judgment seem'd in vogue below.
Sure of success, superior skill to show,
To gain a prize from mortals he would strive,
And when he lost it, lost his temper so,
Jealous lest any art save his should thrive,
He whips me out his knife, and flays the man alive.

28

IX.


His sister Dian, when she felt afraid
Her worship might depart to grace another,
Gave perfect sample of a cross old maid,
And hated Niobe, the prosp'rous mother
Of a fair race; and then her cruel brother
She call'd to aid, still eager to do ill,
Nor could the wicked pair their vengeance smother,
Dart after dart in fury launching still,
Till fourteen lovely boys and blooming girls they kill.

X.


I never see the groupe around me lying,
And think of their destruction, one by one,
In every attitude of beauty dying,
And the poor mother turning fast to stone;
Without rejoicing that Diana's own
Concerns went cross, and 'spite of all her care,
That young Endymion ne'er was found alone
And waking, when along the midnight air
She bow'd her proud heart down, her passion to declare.

XI.


My sylph who carried on his suits far better,
Had never met with a repulse till then.
Knowing that woman's will by force to fetter
Ne'er sped the wooing or of sylphs or men,
He thought of how he best might please her when
Some day propitious to his love might rise,
And meantime kept him distant from her ken;
But made her a pavilion in the skies,
Gayer than e'er was seen on earth by mortal eyes.

29

XII.


Ten thousand sylphs their wings together bind,
Forming a plain to float upon the air,
Green, azure, purple, gold were intertwin'd,
And every tint that decks the bow was there.
Right o'er the midst a group of lories bear
With birds of Paradise a flowery wreath:
The weight around their shining necks they share,
Seeming to live on the perfume they breathe,
From which long garlands hang, and form a tent beneath.

XIII.


Not such the garlands of the opera stage,
The wither'd product of a hoarded store,
As lank as groundsel fading on a cage,
Or box-wreaths drooping o'er a chapel door
When the saint's feast is past a month or more;
But fresh, and full of real sap and bloom:
Thick twin'd together, crossing o'er and o'er,
A wilderness of every sweet perfume,
Without, all warmth and light, within, all shade and gloom.

XIV.


There sat Irene on the floor of wings,
Stunn'd and confounded, but no whit subdued:
Firmly resolv'd that nought Time's changing brings
Shall damp her love or bend her fortitude.
Her hair, dishevell'd in her voyage rude,
She firmly binds and braids above her brows,
The chain of pearls, with fear and hatred view'd,
She breaks and casts away, and round her throws
Her bridal veil, and from her seat majestic rose.

30

XV.


"Hear me," she cried, "thou fiend, who though unseen,
"Rejoicing in my wrongs must hover near;
"By all the hopes which crush'd this morn have been,
"By all my love, by all my hate I swear,
"Unless this instant thou thy steed prepare
"To bear me back, my prison's bolts I'll draw;
"My life, despoil'd of all that made it dear,
"And which I value less than rush or straw,
"Refusing food and drink, must cease, by nature's law."

XVI.


And down she laid her, covering face and head,
Calm, silent, and resign'd, as if to die:
Her fix'd resolve was ta'en, her oath was said,
Dead or alive, she knew her freedom nigh.
Invisible the sylph stood watching by,
To see what yet might chance to change her will,
But not a tear, nor ev'n a stifled sigh,
Betray'd or fear or change—so perfect still
She lay, that not more fix'd a corpse its grave could fill.

XVII.


Perhaps you wish to judge aright the feat,
And know how long the maid her hunger bore:
Reckon how long yourself can fast from meat;
'Twas just that period, adding twelve hours more.
And if her state of mind you pass not o'er,
It was great proof of strength to fast so well;
For grief devours5 a more abundant store
Than health,—but grief so agoniz'd and fell
That few have suffer'd it and liv'd the tale to tell.

31

XVIII.


At last he spoke. "Irene, let me hear
"But one short word:—thou hast not silence sworn;—
"Ask what thou wilt,—thou know'st I am not here
"To pay thy hatred back with hate or scorn.
"I will not now remember thou hast torn
"My rose, and call'd me fiend, and treacherous fay;
"Or, when within thy bower that fatal morn
"I only begg'd a little kind delay,
"That e'en to such small boon thy stubborn heart said nay.

XIX.


"Dost thou not answer?—Dost thou not believe
"That if I cross thee, 'tis for love alone?
"At any cost thy sufferings I'd relieve,
"And joy to save thy woe and bear my own.
"One word—vouchsafe one word—I ask but one,
"To say that once there might have been a time,
"When, if that wretched boy thou ne'er hadst known,
"Thou wouldst not thus have hated as a crime
"The love that would have thron'd thee in the clouds sublime."

XX.


He rais'd the veil that cover'd o'er her brow,
And still she mov'd not, but each open lid
Such rays of hate and scorn upon him throw,
That the poor sylph had best have left them hid.
Feign'd love deceives; feign'd hatred never did;
Nor could he for a moment doubt her eye:
"May every power the atrocity forbid,"
He said, "that here for hunger thou shouldst die!
" 'Tis love thy hate must meet, till love again reply."

32

XXI.


He left her as the sun went down the west,
And brought the steed caparison'd for flight:
The orb soon darken'd in his hall of rest,
The evening star began to show his light.
The gorgeous sun-set faded fast to night,
The pale rose tints were lingering westward still:
"Turn here," he said," unveil thy sullen sight
"And see my haste thy wishes to fulfil;
"Following to yon dull globe a stubborn beauty's will."

XXII.


She rais'd her veil, and with a fearless eye
Mounted the winged steed, and seiz'd the rein:
He spread his pinions on the pale bright sky[6],
Himself more white than snow on Lapland's plain.
And as they left the tent, the sylphid train
(Unbound the spell that held them all confined)
Burst forth rejoic'd their liberty to gain,
And wildly sporting in the soft night wind,
Like many-coloured fires, their mazy dance entwin'd.

XXIII.


The snowy steed, the maiden's bridal white,
More pure than lilies gather'd in the dew,
Sailing along the darkening fields of night,
Left far behind the wayward wandering crew;
And dark and darker as the heavens grew
So fast and faster onward still they fly,
Till, giddy grown the deep abyss to view
Above, around, beneath, of endless sky,
She downward bent her head, and clos'd each reeling eye.

33

XXIV.


And ever and anon hot vapours gush'd
Upon their path, sulphureous, dense, and dun;
And, scarce escap'd from them, cold currents rush'd
Fresh from the northern ice their course to run.
In distance far, alternate lost and won,
At last the ocean waves were heard to roar—
But ere the maid had well to hope begun
That not far distant lay the friendly shore,
The sound fell far behind, and then was heard no more.

XXV.


The attentive Sylph observ'd and sooth'd her woe;
"Not yet," he said, "our goal we reach or see:
"The wingless sons of earth can never know
"How many worlds, how many deeps there be.
"The murmur we have heard rose from a sea
" That breaks its billows on no earthly strand;
"And the sweet gale, which never before thee
"Hath mortal breath'd, blows from that unknown land
"Where ev'n my power is vain a dwelling to command.

XXVI.


"Oft on the wing I pause and hover near,
"The air of that mysterious place to breathe,
"And the sweet melody entranc'd to hear
"That rises high the spreading trees beneath.
"The harmony would win the dart from Death,
"Could Death approach the citadel of joy:
"But all unfading is the amaranth wreath,
"Blooming where cold and frost can ne'er annoy,
"Nor locust tribes consume, nor palmer-worm destroy.

34

XXVII.


"Along the tranquil shores the deep green woods
"Cast their bright blossoms on the rippling wave,
"And gem the bosom of the glassy floods
"With sweets your southern summer never gave.
"And gushing gently from each coral cave,
"The waters murmur slow and soft along
"To heavenly music while the beach they lave,
"As though that planet's joy were all too strong
"To rest within the heart, and sprang to light in song.

XXVIII.


"I know not how they win such blest abode;
" 'Tis nought to me nor do I care to know:
"But though with liquid fire were pav'd the road,
"It were small hindrance to such rest to go.
"And oft when I have seen them wandering slow
"Along the margin of that deep calm sea,
"The sight would almost cause a tear to flow,
"(Could spirits weep,) that such a bliss can be,
"And clos'd, I know not why, 'gainst elfins wild like me.

XXIX.


"For whether they are gliding through the sweets
"That in their paradise luxuriant spread,
"Or when th' united band at evening meets
"On the smooth beach, or on the mountain's head,
"Still hand in hand their various path they tread.
"And, loving all, each seems more bound to one;
"Their mutual wish by strong affection led
"Not ev'n in crowds can find a joy alone—
''The will, the life of two, to one existence grown.

35

XXX.


"The race, for this their lot, I almost hate,
"So blest beyond my own for aye to be—
''For constant love is not within my fate,
"Nor were it well bestow'd on one like me.
"We of the air may love a century,
"Or days, or hours, or years, some less, some more:
"But then the lightness of our ancestry
"Will show its nature, spread its wings and soar,
"And all our ties dissolve, like birds' when spring is o'er.

XXXI.


"And nought within our radiant star is new,
"The immortal beauty lists the immortal swain,
"Without that perfect soul, accorded true,
"Whose element is joy, as man's is pain.
"Thus our wild natures cut from both remain,
"Restless and reckless, hopeless, helpless still,
"With nought to love, and nought to lose or gain,
"Possess'd of power to compass all we will,
"Save joys we cannot taste, and Death which cannot kill."

XXXII.


"I pity," said the maid, "nor hate thee now—
''Thy doom is cheerless, differing far from ours;
"For ev'n eternal summer's brilliant glow
"Would long for autumn's winds and winter's showers.
"And that same Death which all our kind devours,
"Brings no appalling image to my breast,
"For though my path was strew'd with sweetest flowers
"Till lately, still I never felt distress'd
"Save from the fear to live when others went to rest.

36

XXXIII.


"And surely when thy speech so true can tell
"How wretchedly the lonely heart must beat,
"Thou wilt not act so ill and feel so well,
"And doom us ne'er again on earth to meet."
"Fair lady," said the Sylph, "keep fast your seat;
"Your swerving here is dangerous; for though nigh
"To the dull earth,—and death's a sure retreat,—
"I trow you would not wish down from the sky
"To fall, a mangled mass, on some sharp rock to lie."

XXXIV.


The many voic'd and hoarsely murmuring sea
Once more in distance broke upon the ear,
Until the waters seem'd so near to be
That when she look'd she could no longer fear.
With slanting wing descending, down they steer
O'er a rough sea, an iron coast that laves:
High barren rocks of human vestige clear
In creeks and inlets frown above the waves,
Where never boatman lands and never anchor saves.

XXXV.


High up the rocks a cavern's mouth is hid
By oleander shrubs that fringe the door:
The steed ascended to the place unbid,
And lighting softly on the sandy floor
Clos'd his white wings, his airy journey o'er.
The Sylph along a gallery led the way
Cut in the living rock, where, long before,
The inhabitants of earth had ceased to stray—
Admitting from afar the dubious light of day.

37

XXXVI.


Emerging to the light they reach a spot
Prepar'd in haste the Princess to receive,
Where not a means of pleasure was forgot,
Could but the sad and lonely cease to grieve.
'Twas ruinous and vast, and to retrieve
Its pristine state, had ta'en too long a time;
So the light son of air, who, I believe,
Could work no miracles in stone and lime,
Had deck'd it from the birds of every realm and clime.

XXXVII.


It was an area circular and wide,6

[Referent changed in manuscript hand to read 7 in original printed edition.]

With smooth green turf all o'er the centre spread,
Surrounded with high rocks on every side
Where the wild birds long undisturb'd had bred,
Till man first seiz'd it, when these natives fled
Before the circling audience, which made flow
Blood both of man and beast on purpose fed:
But the wild birds had repossess'd it now
By the sole imprescriptive right earth's tribes can show.

XXXVIII.


And what was once the marble corridor
Long stripp'd, was made a feather-tap'stried way;
And where the consuls sat, th' arena o'er,
Was now a tent with thousand colours gay.
And the wild vine with many a trembling spray
Hung from each rent, and the bright yellow bloom
Of coronilla, that ne'er fails to lay
Its golden garlands o'er a people's tomb,
Disguising with its flowers the desolate city's doom.

38

XXXIX.


"Now thou'rt on earth, and must thy promise keep,"
So said the Sylph, "to take some needful food:
"And then within that dark alcove to sleep
"Will bring thy feelings to more tranquil mood."
"Alas," she cried, "that one who seems so good
"Should yet so cruel, so relentless be!
"While I would purchase with my dearest blood
"That, since my mother I no more may see,
"She might be told I live, and live unharm'd by thee."

XL.


He turn'd and pull'd a rose-leaf from the bush,
And drew a feather from his drooping wing.
"Write here," he said, "with this red drop, and blush
"That taunt unjust against me still to bring.
"Rather call cruel that cold wayward thing
"Thy heart, which answers not affection true:
"And obstinate its love persists to fling
"Away, on one to whom no love is due,
"Because accursed chance first gave him to thy view."

XLI.


And she did blush; half anger and half shame
Redden'd her cheek, to think that would she tell
Her mother how to earth again she came,
'Twas with his blood the legend she must spell.
"Not for myself," she thought, "a pang so fell
"Would I endure as blisters o'er my brow—
"For all the various chances that befell
"Seem small to this, my indignant heart to bow,
"Thanking for boons 'tis his to keep or to bestow."

39

XLII.


She took the pen, and with that sanguine dew
A fairy billet wrote the leaf along:
"Mother, Irene lives, and lives for you—
"Weep not, but hope, my f—ather."—" 'Tis not long,"

[Initial "f" in father changed to "F" in manuscript hand in original printed edition.]

The Sylph observ'd, "yet full of meaning strong;—
"But mean it what it will, thy billet goes,
"Ev'n should I not that blush interpret wrong."
"Read," said the maid: the leaf to him she throws—
He smil'd, and up in air the quiv'ring rose-leaf blows.

XLIII.


It flew a month, then fell. We'll follow it,
And see what in the court the muse discovers:
My guess for one it miss'd would twenty hit:
The men were hunting place, the women lovers.
The King by slow degrees his strength recovers:
The Queen still weeps whene'er the thought recurs
Of poor Irene's wedding-day, and covers
With handkerchief her eyes while memory stirs
The image of the lost, alas, no longer hers!—

XLIV.


And Florio, after his long tedious ride,
Had turn'd his bridle round, and e'en gone home:
For, till some trace his hopeless march might guide,
It was lost labour farther on to roam.
Still in sad musings by the ocean foam
Where through the caverns chafe the waves, he strays;
And still, as though he hop'd good news would come
Over the sea, till latest eve he stays,
And on the lonely shore his ling'ring step delays.

40

XLV.


One night when o'er the air deep darkness came,
In the south-west he saw a waving light,
Of many colours was its varied flame,
Drawing along a train of sparkles bright.
And, why he could not guess, he watch'd it quite
Extinct, in hopes again 't would re-appear;
And late and later ev'ry following night
Upon the beach remain'd till morn was near,
Nor would forsake the watch, that seem'd his grief to cheer.

XLVI.


He show'd the Queen the place and then confided
He meant to journey to the farthest west,
And though no certain hope his wand'rings guided
Until 'twas done he could not sleep or rest.
"Then go," she said, "and be thy voyage blest
"Beyond our hopes, my son, thy instinct good!"—
Scarce had she spoke the words, when from its nest
A nightingale from out the neighbouring wood
Flew with the written leaf and dropp'd it where they stood.

XLVII.


And Florio caught the downward fluttering leaf,
And as he read the words, the sudden beam
Of instant thrilling joy succeeding grief,
Turn'd for a moment life's arrested stream.
He gave it to the Queen, who with a scream
Of glad astonishment beheld the words;
And Florio starting as from fitful dream,
Scarce to the court's farewell an hour accords,
Or to prepare the ship the needful time affords.

41

XLVIII.


And soon the gallant vessel loos'd her sails
And skimm'd majestic o'er the azure deep;
Propitious fortune gave her favouring gales,
And south south-west their destin'd course they keep.
A wild-goose chase; but sometimes with a leap
Such folly hits where wisdom's baffled most.
And thus towards the place direct they sweep,
Where on the desert and forsaken coast
The sad Irene pin'd, to mortal knowledge lost.

XLIX.


The tall rocks frowning o'er the subject wave[8]

[Referent numeral 8 lacking in original printed text; added in manuscript hand to this copy.]

Repuls'd approach, and warn'd the ship away;
But some true instinct unto Florio gave
A wish to land and seek the nearest bay:
And to the east some few short miles there lay
Havens that twenty fleets might harbour well;
And there he landed, minded, come what may,
To reach the rocks where first his fortunes fell,
And search their every nook, despite of charm or spell.

L.


Round was the quiet bay where now they steer:[9]

[Original referent numeral 7 changed in manuscript hand to read 9 in this copy of original printed text.]

Bright too as that bright jewel of sea-green
Which on fair lady's bosom sparkles clear,
By mortal jewellers call'd aiguemarine.
One giant mountain forward seemed to lean
To guard its basin when the west winds blow,
And on the other side a varied scene
So richly spreads, that scarce the eye can know
Where most to rest admiring, nigh, or high, or low.

42

LI.


For hills on hills of every form and shape
Rise o'er each other, till among the skies
In rocky peaks their tops from sight escape,
Gathering around them every cloud that flies.
To some the purple thyme their tint supplies,
Some glow in yellow broom, and some blush deep
With oleander, while with threefold dyes,
Convolvuli o'er flow'ring myrtles creep,
And rosy, white, or azure, through the branches peep.

LII.


A wilderness of Eden such as once
Bloom'd round fair Enna, till reforming Ceres
Came with hedge shears and clipp'd them for the nonce,
To substitute a waste the gazer wearies.
And now by her improving touches, dreary is
The view around, all corn, and corn, and corn;
Save where green peas and beans in sober series
Grow rank and lush along the plain forlorn,
Which neither flow'ret decks, nor forest trees adorn.

LIII.


And there she farm'd, proud of the desolation
Which among Nature's beauteous wilds she made:
And temples rais'd to her by all the nation
From Enna's steep the waving crop survey'd.
But while from field to field the dame display'd
Her wheaten sceptre o'er each thick-sol'd hind,
The lovely Proserpine from home had stray'd,
And as no mortal e'er the maid could find,
The blame was laid on Pluto, and the search resign'd.

43

LIV.


Perhaps some wicked sylph had done the deed,
Like him whom now Sir Florio seeks to trace,
As landing in the bay with anxious speed
Straight to the western rocks he urged his pace.
And there, in very sooth, was hid the place
Where his fair bride in secret prison lay,
And sylphs, to raise one smile upon her face,
Three nights before had tried those gambols gay,
Which serv'd along the skies their hiding to betray.

LV.


On for the rocks he walk'd, where many a mound
Of short green sward behind the range extends,
And to a labyrinth transforms the ground,
With devious path that round in circles bends.
In vain the maze the charmed spot defends;
He takes the sun for mark, and holds right on,
Till the old ruin'd wall an entrance lends
Towards her whom heaven and earth had made his own,
To whom his love was guide when other guide was none.

LVI.


Within the arena's round he cautious stepp'd,
And saw the tapestry of feathers spread,
And slowly on from shrub to shrub he crept
Lest hidden foes might lurk, or hear his tread.
And step by step he mov'd in hope and dread,
To where the tent display'd its drapery gay;
And there Irene from the sun had fled
That still in evening burn'd with slanting ray,
And slumbering on her couch of flowers unconscious lay.

44

LVII.


Unconscious of the happiness so near—
Unconscious that though near 'twas distant still:
Spar'd all the agonies of hope and fear,
And vain contention 'gainst her tyrant's will.
For from the clouds that high o'erhung the hill
The Sylph with eyes intent was watching keen;
And just as Florio, dreaming nought of ill
Was near, and, shaded by the tangled screen,
Crept near the tent, he rose, as he a bird had been.

LVIII.


And up and upward, struggling, still he rose,
Striving to stick to earth, but all in vain:
High o'er the mountain-peaks in air he goes,
And sight and breath are lost in dizzy pain.
Yet still he flies above the azure main
As if the setting sun he would pursue,
Till lowering on the sudden he can gain
Sight of a spot of rock where sat some few
Black divers with long bills, and many a grey curlew.

LIX.


Down he alighted on his feet, amaz'd,
While screaming, all the sea-birds rose and flew;
Around in speechless wonderment he gaz'd,
And no occasion of his flight could view.
Till slowly on his sight a vision grew
Which took the form he hated most to see,
Though all so airy, that transparent through
Shone the bright azure of the sparkling sea—
And back he drew as far as on the rock might be.

45

LX.


The Sylph malicious eyed him as he stood,
And laugh'd and shook his wings to see his plight.
"You must excuse," he said, "this ill-timed mood,
"And pardon me the hurry of your flight.
"I grieve immensely for your cause of fright,
"But could you stand a moment in my place
"You would forgive me, if politeness, 'spite
"Of every effort, has not had the grace
"Gravely to look on that long, scar'd, disastrous face."

LXI.


"Plunge me at once into the rolling wave,"
Indignant Florio cried, "thou fiend of hell!
"Thou canst not pierce the darkness of the grave,
"Secure from sorcerer's charm and demon's spell.
" 'Twere far more merciful than here to tell
"The burning hours, till hunger's raging pain
"Like a rough jailer, opes the prison fell,
"And leaves my bones to bleach in wind and rain,
"While weeping friends shall wait my promis'd sails in vain."

LXII.


"Indeed," the Sylph replied, "you much misjudge,
"I am not half so wicked as I seem;
"Nor yet to soothe your angry grief shall grudge,
"Although of my intents so ill you deem.
"So come along!"—With that more swift than steam
Impels the rumbling flappers of the deep
Up in the air he goes, and till the beam
Of Phoebus sinks, and birds begin their sleep,
Still westward westward ho! their airy course they keep.

46

LXIII.


And high as soaring o'er the deep they pass
A noble continent they coast along;
The sea unruffled like a mirror glass
Clos'd round a speck, that rising black among
The lonely waters, seem'd a fortress strong,
Where pirate hordes had form'd an eyrie nest,
Whence they might sally forth on errands wrong,
And catch th' unwary in their hours of rest,
And robbing, kill or spare, whiche'er their whim thought best.

LXIV.


And down they lighted on the rocky spire
That seem'd with shiver'd peak to brave the skies:
"Here," said the Sylph, "thou mayst at ease admire
"The heavenly bodies as they set and rise.
"For one man's lodging 'tis of ample size;
"The empty tower will shelter thee from heat,
"And many a wholesome shell-fish round it lies
"Which will supply thee with a savoury meat,
"And rain will give thee drink, providing all complete."

LXV.


"Detested wretch," cried Florio, "would I knew
"Fit terms to curse thee, that might mildew bring
"To pierce thy scarce corporeal substance through,
"And blast and blister either tyrant wing!"—
"Scorn'st thou thy lodging then? If I should fling
"Thee in the sea, 'twere but thy just desert;
"Thus on my gentle patience trespassing,
"Deem'st thou not that I can myself assert,
"Though now thy childish spleen my frolic mood divert?"

47

LXVI.


Thus spoke the Sylph—while Florio silent stood,
Gazing, enrag'd though trembling, on the sea—
''Aye," he continued, "calm thy fiery blood,
"Nor with keen curses make thy tongue so free.
"I have but serv'd thee in the same degree
"That you, earth's princes, deal—then why complain?
"And could I kill a wretched worm like thee,
" 'Twere more convenient than from mount to main
"And main to mount, to bear thee o'er the deeps again.

LXVII.


"Here on this rock, a better man than e'er
"Thou wert or wilt be, pass'd the livelong day,
"Till days fulfill'd the month, and months the year,
"And years and years roll'd on their weary way.
"And for his crime, it was the same, they say,
"That hemlock drugg'd for him, the King of Mind,
"Who died because thy fellow brutes would slay
"The wisest and the best of all his kind:—
"His name were lost on thee, unletter'd, coarse, and blind!"

LXVIII.


With that he seiz'd him in his angry clutch,
And shook him till his senses reel'd and fled:
And then, lest he had shaken him too much,
He plump'd him in the sea, thrice overhead.
And next across the wave he northwards led,
Not as before, with wings that floating swung;
But like an arrow from the cross-bow sped,
He, whizzing swift as thought, through ether sprung,
And in a dark deep hole, his senseless burden flung.

48

LXIX.


Now this same hole, a very curious hole,
A story hath, on which if I should dwell,
The tuneful numbers to such length would roll
As far too much this canto's size would swell.
Here let us stop then: and 'tis quite as well,
For I am tir'd and doubtless so are you;
And 'twere great shame to do, and worse to tell,
That I upon a field so fresh and new,
With very weariness my gentle reader slew.