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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 5.djvu/635

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CANTO I.]
595
THE ISLAND.

IX.

The arctic[1] Sun rose broad above the wave;
The breeze now sank, now whispered from his cave;170
As on the Æolian harp, his fitful wings
Now swelled, now fluttered o'er his Ocean strings.[2]
With slow, despairing oar, the abandoned skiff
Ploughs its drear progress to the scarce seen cliff,
Which lifts its peak a cloud above the main:
That boat and ship shall never meet again!


But 'tis not mine to tell their tale of grief,
Their constant peril, and their scant relief;
Their days of danger, and their nights of pain;
Their manly courage even when deemed in vain;180
The sapping famine, rendering scarce a son
Known to his mother in the skeleton;[3]
The ills that lessened still their little store,
And starved even Hunger till he wrung no more;
The varying frowns and favours of the deep,
That now almost ingulfs, then leaves to creep
With crazy oar and shattered strength along
The tide that yields reluctant to the strong;
The incessant fever of that arid thirst[4]
Which welcomes, as a well, the clouds that burst190
Above their naked bones, and feels delight
In the cold drenching of the stormy night,
And from the outspread canvass gladly wrings
A drop to moisten Life's all-gasping springs;
The savage foe escaped, to seek again
More hospitable shelter from the main;

The ghastly Spectres which were doomed at last
  1. [Byron must mean "antarctic." "Arctic" is used figuratively for "cold," but not as a synonym for "polar."]
  2. Now swelled now sighed along—.—[MS. D. erased.]
  3. ["At dawn of day some of my people seemed half dead; our appearances were horrible; and I could look no way, but I caught the eye of some one in distress."—A Narrative, etc., p. 37. Later on, p. 80, when the launch reached Timor, he speaks of the crew as "so many spectres, whose ghastly countenances, if the cause had been unknown, would have excited terror rather than pity."]
  4. [Bligh dwells on the misery caused to the luckless crew by drenching rains and by hunger, but says that no one suffered from thirst.]