« PreviousContinue »
“ It was the fall," he mutter'd, “ I can show
Why ask my father?—that old man will swear
Then, as they watch'd him, calmer he became, And grew so weak he couldn't move his frame, But murmuring spake,—while they could see and hear The start of terror and the groan of fear; See the large dew-beads on his forehead rise, And the cold death-drop glaze his sunken eyes ; Nor yet he died, but with unwonted force Seem'd with some fancied being to discourse : He knew not us, or with accustom'd art He hid the knowledge, yet exposed his heart; 'Twas part confession and the rest defence, A madman's tale, with gleams of waking sense.
“I'll tell you all,” he said, “ the very day “ When the old man first placed them in my way: “ My father's spirit—he who always tried “ To give me trouble, when he lived and died“ When he was gone, he could not be content “ To see my days in painful labour spent,
66 I saw my
“ But would appoint his meetings, and he made “ Me watch at these, and so neglect my trade.
“ 'Twas one hot noon, all silent, still, serene, “ No living being had I lately seen ; “ I paddled up and down and dipp'd my net, “ But (such his pleasure) I could nothing get,“ A father's pleasure, when his toil was done, “ To plague and torture thus an only son! 66 And so I sat and look'd
upon “ How it ran on, and felt as in a dream: 66 But dream it was not; no !-I fix'd my eyes « On the mid stream and saw the spirits rise;
father on the water stand, “ And hold a thin pale boy in either hand; 66 And there they glided ghastly on the top “ Of the salt flood, and never touch'd a drop: “ I would have struck them, but they knew th’intent, “ And smiled upon the oar, and down they went.
“ Now, from that day, whenever I began “ To dip my net, there stood the hard old man“ He and those boys: I humbled me and pray'd
They would be gone ;—they heeded not, but stay’d: “ Nor could I turn, nor would the boat go by, “ But gazing on the spirits, there was I: They bade me leap to death, but I was loth to die:
“ And every day, as sure as day arose, “ Would these three spirits meet me ere the close; “ To hear and mark them daily was my doom, “ And • Come,' they said, with weak, sad voices, come.' “ To row away with all my strength I try'd, “ But there were they, hard by me in the tide, • The three unbodied forms—and · Come,' still come,'
- they cried. “ Fathers should pity—but this old man shook “ His hoary locks, and froze me by a look : “ Thrice, when I struck them, through the water came “ A hollow groan, that weaken'd all my frame: “ " Father!' said I, have mercy :-He replied, “ I know not what—the angry spirit lied, 66. Didst thou not draw thy knife ?' said he:- 'Twas
true, “ But I had pity and my arm withdrew: “ He cried for mercy which I kindly gave, “ But he has no compassion in his grave.
6. There were three places, where they ever rose,« The whole long river has not such as those, – “ Places accursed, where, if a man remain, “ He'll see the things which strike him to the brain; “ And there they made me on my paddle lean, " And look at them for hours ;-accursed scene!
“ When they would glide to that smooth eddy-space, “ Then bid me leap and join them in the place; “ And at my groans each little villain sprite Enjoy'd my pains and vanish'd in delight.
“ In one fierce summer-day, when my poor brain “ Was burning hot and cruel was my pain, “ Then came this father-foe, and there he stood “ With his two boys again upon the flood; “ There was more mischief in their eyes, more glee “ In their pale faces when they glared at me: “ Still did they force me on the oar to rest,
And when they saw me fainting and oppressid, “ He, with his hand, the old man, scoop'd the flood, " And there came flame about him mix'd with blood; “ He bade me stoop and look upon the place, “ Then flung the hot-red liquor in my face; “ Burning it blazed, and then I roard for pain, “ I thought the demons would have turn'd my brain.
“ Still there they stood, and forced me to behold “ A place of horrors—they cannot be told“ Where the flood open'd, there I heard the shriek “Of tortured guilt—no earthly tongue can speak: 66 All days alike! for ever!' did they say, 666 And unremitted torments every day—
Yes, so they said:"_But here he ceased and gazed On all around, affrighten'd and amazed;