Page images



Of Bacchus let me tell a sparkling story. 'Twas by the sea-side, on a promontory, As like a blooming youth he sat one day, His dark locks ripening in the sunny ray, And wrapt in a loose cloak of crimson bright, Which half gave out his shoulders, broad and white, That making up, a ship appear'd at sea, Brushing the wine-black billows merrily, A Tuscan trim, and pirates were the crew; A fatal impulse drove them as they flew; For looking hard, and nodding to each other, Concluding him, at least, some prince's brother, They issued forth along the breezy bay, Seiz'd him with jovial hearts, and bore away.

No sooner were they off, than gath'ring round him They mark'd his lovely strength, and would have bound When lo, instead of this, the ponderous bands [him; Snapp'd of themselves from off his legs and hands, He, all the while; discovering no surprise, But keeping, as before, his calm black eyes.

[ocr errors]

At this, the Master, struck beyond the rest,
Drew them aside, and earnestly addressed ;

O wretched as ye are, have ye your brains,
And see this being ye would hold with chains ?
Trust me, the ship will not sustain him long;
For either Jove he is, terribly strong,
Or Neptune, or the silver-shafted King,
But nothing, sure, resembling mortal thing.
Land then and set him free, lest by and by
He call the winds about him, and we die.

He said; and thus, in bitterness of heart
The Captain answer'd, Wretched that thou art !
Truly we've much to fear,-a favouring gale,
And all things firm behind the running sail !

Stick to thy post, and leave these things to men.
I trust, my friends, before we sail again,
To touch at Ægypt, Cyprus, or the north,
And having learnt meantime our prisoner's worth,
What friends he has, and wealth to what amount,
To turn this god-send to a right account.'

He said ; and hauling up the sail and mast, Drew the tight vessel stiff before the blast; The sailors, under arms, observe their prize, When lo, strange doings interrupt their eyes; For first, a fountain of sweet-smelling wine 1 Came gushing o'er the deck with sprightly shine; And odours, not of earth, their senses took ; The pallid wonder spread from look to look; And then a vine-tree over-ran the sail, It's green arms tossing to the pranksome gale; And then an ivy, with a flowering shoot, Ran up the mast in rings, and kiss'd the fruit, Which here and there the dipping vine let down; On every oar there was a garland crown.


But now the crew call'd out. To shore! To shore !
When leaping backward with an angry roar,
The dreadful stranger to a lion turn'd;
His glaring eyes beneath the hatches burn'd:
Then rushing forward, he became a bear,
With fearful change bewildering their despair;
And then again a lion, ramping high
From seat to seat, and looking horribly.
Heap'd at the stern, and scrambling all along,
The trembling wretches round the Master throng,
Who calmly stood, for he had done no wrong.
Oh, at that minute, to be safe on land !
But now, in his own shape, the God's at hand,
And spurning first the Captain from the side,
The rest leap'd after in the plunging tide;
For one and all, as they had done the same,
The same deserv’d; and dolphins they became.

The God then turning to the Master, broke In happy-making smiles, and stoutly spoke :

Be of good courage, blest companion mine; Bacchus am I, the roaring God of Wine; And well shall this day be, for thee and thine.

And so, all reverence and all joy to thee, Son of the sparkle-smiling Semele ! Must never bard forget thee in his song, Who mak’st it flow so sweetly and so strong.

« PreviousContinue »