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Peaceful as some immeasurable plain
By the first beams of dawning light impress'd,
In the calm sun-shine slept the glittering main,
The very ocean has its hour of rest.
I too was calm, though heavily distress'd !
Oh me, how quiet sky and ocean were !
My heart was healed within me, I was bless'd,
And 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 :
The unburied dead that lay in 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 !
At midnight once the storming Army came,
Yet do I see the miserable sight,
The Bayonet, the Soldier, and the Flame
That followed us and faced us in our flight :
When Rape and Murder by the ghastly light
Seized their joint prey, the Mother and the Child !
But I must leave these thoughts.
From night to night,
From day to day, the 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 unfurlid,
And whistling, called the wind that hardly curled
The silent sea. From the sweet thoughts of home,
And from all hope I was for ever hurled.
For me--farthest from earthly port to roam
Was best, could I but shun the spot where man might
And oft I thought (my fancy was so strong)
That I at last a resting-place had found ;
Here will I dwell, said I, my whole life-long,
Roaming the illimitable waters round :
Here will I live :-of every friend disown'd,
Here will I roam about the ocean flood,
To break my dream the vessel reached its bound :
And homeless near a thousand homes I stood,
And near a thousand tables pin'd, 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 ;
Dismally 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.
So pass'd another day, and so the third ;
Then did I try in vain the crowd's resort.
-In deep despair by frightful wishes stirr'd,
Near the sea-side I reached a ruined Fort :
There, pains which nature could no more support,
With blindness link'd, did on my vitals fall,
And I had many interruptions short
Of hideous sense ; I sank, nor step could crawl,
And thence was carried to a neighbouring Hospital,
Recovery came with food : but still, my brain
Was weak, nor of the past had memory.
I heard my neighbours, in their beds, complain
Of many things which never troubled me;
Of feet still bustling round with busy glee ;
Of looks where common kindness had no part;
Of service done with careless cruelty,
Fretting the fever round the languid heart;
And groans, which, as they said, would make a dead
These things just served to stir the torpid sense,
Nor pain nor pity in my bosom raised.
My memory, and my strength returned ; and thence
Dismissed, again on open day I gazed,
At houses, men, and common light, amazed.
The lanes I sought, and as the sun retired,
Came, where beneath the trees a faggot blazed
; The Travellers saw me weep, my fate enquired, And gave me food, and rest, more welcome, more desired.
My heart is touched to think that men like these,
Wild houseless Wanderers, were my first relief :
How kindly did they paint their vagrant ease !
And their long holiday that feared not grief !
For all belonged to all, and each was chief.
No plough their sinews strained; on grating road
No wain they drove ; and yet the yellow sheaf
In every vale for their delight was stow'd;
. In every field, with milk their dairy overflow'd.