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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 5.djvu/669

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CANTO IV.]
629
THE ISLAND.

Did they with Ocean's hidden sovereigns dwell,
And sound with Mermen the fantastic shell?100
Did Neuha with the mermaids comb her hair
Flowing o'er ocean as it streamed in air?
Or had they perished, and in silence slept
Beneath the gulf wherein they boldly leapt?


VI.

Young Neuha plunged into the deep, and he
Followed: her track beneath her native sea
Was as a native's of the element,
So smoothly—bravely—brilliantly she went,
Leaving a streak of light behind her heel,
Which struck and flashed like an amphibious steel.110
Closely, and scarcely less expert to trace
The depths where divers hold the pearl in chase,
Torquil, the nursling of the northern seas,
Pursued her liquid steps with heart and ease.
Deep—deeper for an instant Neuha led
The way—then upward soared—and as she spread
Her arms, and flung the foam from off her locks,
Laughed, and the sound was answered by the rocks.
They had gained a central realm of earth again,
But looked for tree, and field, and sky, in vain.120
Around she pointed to a spacious cave,

Whose only portal was the keyless wave,[1]
  1. Of this cave (which is no fiction) the original will be found in the ninth chapter of "Mariner's Account of the Tonga Islands" [1817. i. 267-279]. I have taken the poetical liberty to transplant it to Toobonai, the last island where any distinct account is left of Christian and his comrades.

    [The following is the account given by Mariner: "On this island [Hoonga] there is a peculiar cavern, which was first discovered by a young chief, whilst diving after a turtle. The nature of this cavern will be better understood if we imagine a hollow rock rising sixty feet or more above the surface of the water, into the cavity of which there is no known entrance but one, and that is on the side of the rock, as low down as six feet under the water, into which it flows; and, consequently, the base of the cavern may be said to be the sea itself." Mariner seeing some young chiefs diving into the water one after another, and not rise again, he inquired of the last, ... what they were about? "'Follow me,'" said he, "'and I will take you where you have never been before....'" Mariner prepared to follow his companion, and, guided by the light reflected from his heels, entered the