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The Missionary - Canto Fifth

'Tis dawn:--the distant Andes' rocky spires,
One after one, have caught the orient fires.
Where the dun condor shoots his upward flight,
His wings are touched with momentary light.
Meantime, beneath the mountains' glittering heads,
A boundless ocean of gray vapour spreads,
That o'er the champaign, stretching far below,
Moves now, in clustered masses, rising slow,
Till all the living landscape is displayed
In various pomp of colour, light, and shade,
Hills, forests, rivers, lakes, and level plain,
Lessening in sunshine to the southern main.
The Llama's fleece fumes with ascending dew;
The gem-like humming-birds their toils renew;
And there, by the wild river's devious side,
The tall flamingo, in its crimson pride,
Stalks on, in richest plumage bright arrayed,
With snowy neck superb, and legs of lengthening shade.
Sad maid, for others may the valleys ring,
For other ears the birds of morning sing;
For other eyes the palms in beauty wave,
Dark is thy prison in the ocean-cave!
Amid that winding cavern's inmost shade,
A dripping rill its ceaseless murmur made:
Masses of dim-discovered crags aloof,
Hung, threatening, from the vast and vaulted roof:
And through a fissure, in its glimmering height,
Seen like a star, appeared the distant light;
Beneath the opening, where the sunbeams shine,
Far down, the rock-weed hung its slender twine.
Here, pale and bound, the Spanish captive lay,
Till morn on morn, in silence, passed away;
When once, as o'er her sleeping child she hung,
And sad her evening supplication sung;
Like a small gem, amidst the gloom of night,
A glow-worm shot its green and trembling light,--
And, 'mid the moss and craggy fragments, shed
Faint lustre o'er her sleeping infant's head;
And hark! a voice--a woman's voice, its sound
Dies in faint echoes, 'mid the vault profound:
Let us pity the poor white maid!
She has no mother near!
No friend to dry her tear!
Upon the cold earth she is laid:
Let us pity the poor white maid!
It seemed the burden of a song of woe;
And see, across the gloom an Indian girl move slow!
Her nearer look is sorrowful, yet mild,
Her hanging locks are wreathed with rock-weed wild;
Gently she spoke, Poor Christian, dry thy tear:
Art thou afraid? all are not cruel here.
Oh! still more wretched may my portion be,
Stranger, if I could injure thine and thee!
And, lo! I bring, from banks and thickets wild,
Wood-strawberries, and honey for thy child.
Whence, who art thou, who, in this fearful place,
Does comfort speak to one of Spanish race?

INDIAN.

It is an Indian maid, who chanced to hear
Thy tale of sorrow, as she wandered near:
I loved a white man once; but he is flown,
And now I wander heartless and alone.
I traced the dark and winding way beneath:
But well I know to lead thee hence were death.
Oh, say! what fortunes cast thee o'er the wave,
On these sad shores perhaps to find a grave?

SPANISH WOMAN.

Three years have passed since a fond husband left
Me and this infant, of his love bereft;
Him I have followed; need I tell thee more,
Cast helpless, friendless, hopeless, on this shore.

INDIAN.

Oh! did he love thee, then? Let death betide,
Yes, from this cavern I will be thy guide.
Nay, do not shrink! from Caracalla's bay,
Ev'n now, the Spaniards wind their march this way.
As late in yester eve I paced the shore
I heard their signal-guns at distance roar.
Wilt thou not follow? He will shield thy child,--
The Christian's God,--through passes dark and wild
He will direct thy way! Come, follow me;
Oh, yet be loved, be happy, and be free!
But I, an outcast on my native plain,
The poor Olola ne'er shall smile again!
So guiding from the cave, when all was still,
And pointing to the furthest glimmering hill,
The Indian led, till, on Itata's side,
The Spanish camp and night-fires they descried:
Then on the stranger's neck that wild maid fell,
And said, Thy own gods prosper thee, farewell!
The owl is hooting overhead; below,
On dusky wing, the vampire-bat sails slow.
Ongolmo stood before the cave of night,
Where the great wizard sat:--a lurid light
Was on his face; twelve giant shadows frowned,
His mute and dreadful ministers, around.
Each eye-ball, as in life, was seen to roll,
Each lip to move; but not a living soul
Was there, save bold Ongolmo and the seer.
The warrior half advanced his lifted spear,
Then spoke: Dread master of the mighty lore!
Say, shall the Spaniards welter in their gore?
Let these dark ministers the answer tell,
Replied the master of the mighty spell.
Then every giant-shadow, as it stood,
Lifted on high a skull that dropped with blood.
Yet more, the impatient warrior cried; yet more!
Say, shall I live, and drink the tyrant's gore?
'Twas silence. Speak! he cried: none made reply.
At once strange thunder shook the distant sky,
And all was o'er; the grisly shapes are flown,
And the grim warrior stands in the wild woods alone.
St Pedro's church had rung its midnight chimes,
And the gray friars were chanting at their primes,
When winds, as of a rushing hurricane,
Shook the tall windows of the towered fane;--
Sounds more than earthly with the storm arose,
And a dire troop are passed to Andes' snows,
Where mighty spirits in mysterious ring
Their dread prophetic incantations sing,
Round Chillan's crater-smoke, whose lurid light
Streams high against the hollow cope of night.
Thy genius, Andes, towering o'er the rest,
Rose vast, and thus a phantom-shape addressed:
Who comes so swift amid the storm?
Ha! I know thy bloodless form,
I know thee, angel, who thou art,
By the hissing of thy dart!
'Tis Death, the king! the rocks around,
Hark! echo back the fearful sound;--
'Tis Death, the king! away, away!
The famished vulture scents its prey.
Spectre, hence! we cannot die--
Thy withering weapons we defy;
Dire and potent as thou art!
Then spoke the phantom of the uplifted dart:
Spirits who in darkness dwell,
I heard far off your secret spell!
Enough, on yonder fatal shore,
My fiends have drank your children's gore;
Lo! I come, and doom to fate
The murderers, and the foe you hate!
Of all who shook their hostile spears,
And marked their way through blood and tears,
(Now sleeping still on yonder plain)
But one--one only shall remain,
Ere thrice the morn shall shine again.
Then sang the mighty spirits. Thee, they sing,
Hail to thee, Death, all hail to Death, the king!
The penguin flaps her wings in gore,
Devoted Spain, along the shore.
Whence that shriek? with ghastly eyes,
Thy victor-chief abandoned lies!
Victor of the southern world,
Whose crimson banners were unfurled
O'er the silence of the waves,--
O'er a land of bleeding slaves!
Victor, where is now thy boast;
Thine iron steeds, thy mailed host?
Hark! hark! even now I hear his cries!--
Spirits, hence!--he dies! he dies!



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