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WILLIAM FALCONER was born in Edinburgh | ires. in 1730. Every member of the family except himself was deaf and dumb. He went to sea when a' boy, and at eighteen was second mate of a merchant-ship which was wrecked off Cape Colonna, the "Sunium's marbled steep" of Byron. All but Falconer and two of the crew perished. "The Shipwreck " was published in 1762, and next year the author obtained an appointment in the navy. He compiled a "Nau tical Dictionary," and wrote a few political sat
Alas; neglected by the sacred Nine,
Their suppliant feels no genial ray divine!
Ah! will they leave Pieria's happy shore,
To plough the tide where wintry tempests roar?
Or shall a youth approach their hallow'd fane,
The scene is near the city of Candia; and the time Stranger to Phoebus, and the tuneful train?-
about four days and a half.
Far from the Muses' academic grove,
'Twas his the vast and trackless deep to rove.
Alternate change of climates has he known,
And felt the fierce extremes of either zone;
Where polar skies congeal th' eternal snow,
Or equinoctial suns for ever glow.
Smote by the freezing or the scorching blast,
"A ship-boy on the high and giddy mast,”
From regions where Peruvian billows roar,
To the bleak coast of savage Labrador.
From where Damascus, pride of Asian plains!
Stoops her proud neck beneath tyrannic chains,
To where the isthmus, laved by adverse tides,
Atlantic and Pacific seas divides.
But, while he measured o'er the painful race,
In Fortune's wild illimitable chase,
Adversity, companion of his way,
Still o'er the victim hung with iron sway;
Bade new distresses every instant grow,
Marking each change of place with change of wo.
In regions where th' Almighty's chastening hand
With livid pestilence afflicts the land;
Or where pale famine blasts the hopeful year,
Parent of want and misery severe;
WHILE jarring interests wake the world to arms,
And fright the peaceful vale with dire alarms;
While Ocean hears vindictive thunders roll,
Along his trembling wave, from pole to pole;
Sick of the scene where war, with ruthless hand,
Spreads desolation o'er the bleeding land;
Sick of the tumult where the trumpet's breath
Bids ruin smile, and drowns the groan of death;
'Tis mine, retired beneath this cavern hoar,
That stands all lonely on the sea-beat shore,
Far other themes of deep distress to sing
Than ever trembled from the vocal string.
No pomp of battle swells th' exalted strain,
Nor gleaming arms ring dreadful on the plain :
But, o'er the scene while pale Remembrance
About this time he married a very beautiful young lady named Hicks, daughter of a naval surgeon. In 1769 he refused an offer of Murray the bookseller to take him into partnership, and went to sea as purser of the Indiaman "Aurora." The vessel passed the Cape of Good Hope in December, and was never heard of more. She is supposed to have gone down in the Mozambique Channel. Falconer wrote a few other poems, but most of them have very
Fate with fell triumph rides upon the deeps,
Here hostile elements tumultuous rise,
And lawless floods rebel against the skies;
Till hope expires, and peril and dismay
Wave their black ensigns on the watery way.
Immortal train, who guide the maze of song,
To whom all science, arts, and arms belong;
Who bid the trumpet of eternal fame
Exalt the warrior's and the poet's name!
If e'er with trembling hope I fondly strayed
In life's fair morn beneath your hallow'd shade,
To hear the sweetly-mournful lute complain,
And melt the heart with ecstasy of pain;
Or listen, while th' enchanting voice of love,
While all Elysium warbled through the grove;
O! by the hollow blast that moans around,
That sweeps the wild harp with a plaintive
By the long surge that foams through yonder cave,
Whose vaults remurmur to the roaring wave;
With living colors give my verse to glow,
The sad memorial of a tale of wo,
A scene from dumb oblivion to restore,
To fame unknown, and new to epic lore!
Or where, all dreadful in th' embattled line,
The hostile ships in flaming combat join :
Where the torn vessel wind and wave assail,
Till o'er her crew distress and death prevail-
Where'er he wander'd thus vindictive Fate
Pursued his weary steps with lasting hate!
Roused by her mandate, storms of black array
Winter'd the morn of life's advancing day,
Relax'd the sinews of the living lyre,
And quench'd the kindling spark of vital fire.
Thus while forgotten or unknown he woos,
What hope to win the coy, reluctant Muse?
Then let not Censure, with malignant joy,
The harvest of his humble hope destroy!
His verse no laurel wreath attempts to claim,
Nor sculptur'd brass to tell the poet's name.
If terms uncouth and jarring phrases wound
The softer sense with inharmonious sound,
Yet here let listening Sympathy prevail.
While conscious Truth unfolds her piteous tale!
And lo! the power that wakes th' eventful song
Hastes hither from Lethean banks along:
She sweeps the gloom, and rushing on the sight,
Spreads o'er the kindling scene propitious light;
In her right hand an ample roll appears,
Fraught with long annals of preceding years;
With every wise and noble art of man,
Since first the circling hours their course began.
Her left a silver wand on high display'd,
Whose magic touch dispels Oblivion's shade.
Pensive her look; on radiant wings, that glow
Like Juno's birds, or Iris' flaming bow,
She sails; and swifter than the course of light,
Directs her rapid intellectual flight.
The fugitive ideas she restores,
And calls the wandering thought from Lethe's
To things long past a second date she gives,
And hoary Time from her fresh youth receives.
Congenial sister of immortal Fame,
She shares her power, and Memory is her name.
O first-born daughter of primeval Time! By whom transmitted down in every clime, The deeds of ages long elapsed are known, And blazon'd glories spread from zone to zone; Whose breath dissolves the gloom of mental night, And o'er th' obscured idea pours the light! Whose wing unerring glides through time and place, And trackless scours th' immensity of space! Say! on what seas, for thou alone canst tell, What dire mishap a fated ship befell, Assail'd by tempests! girt with hostile shores! Arise approach! unlock thy treasured stores!
A ship from Egypt, o'er the deep impell'd By guiding winds, her course for Venice held ; Of famed Britannia were the gallant crew, And from that isle her name the vessel drew. The wayward steps of Fortune that delude Full oft to ruin, eager they pursued; And, dazzled by her visionary glare, Advanced incautious of each fatal snare; Though warn'd full oft the slippery track to shun, Yet Hope, with flattering voice, betray'd them on. Beguiled to danger thus, they left behind The scene of peace, and social joy resign'd. Long absent they, from friends and native home, The cheerless ocean were inured to roam : Yet Heaven, in pity to severe distress, Had crown'd each painful voyage with success: Still to atone for toils and hazards past, Restored them to maternal plains at last.
Thrice had the sun, to rule the varying year Across th' equator roll'd his flaming sphere, Since last the vessel spread her ample sail From Albion's coast, obsequious to the gale. She, o'er the spacious flood, from shore to shore, Unwearying, wafted her commercial store. The richest ports of Afric she had view'd, Thence to fair Italy her course pursued ; Had left behind Trinacria's burning isle, And visited the margin of the Nile. And now, that winter deepens round the pole, The circling voyage hastens to its goal, They, blind to Fate's inevitable law,
No dark event to blast their hope foresaw; But from gay Venice soon expect to steer For Britain's coast, and dread no perils near.
A thousand tender thoughts their souls employ,
That fondly dance to scenes of future joy.
Thus time elapsed, while o'er the pathless tide
Their ship through Grecian seas the pilots guide.
Occasion call'd to touch at Candia's shoe,
Which, bless'd with favouring winds, they soon
The haven enter, borne before the gale,
Despatch their commerce, and prepare to sail
Eternal Powers! what ruins from afar
Mark the fell track of desolating War!
Here Art and Commerce, with auspicions reign,
Once breathed sweet influence on the happy plain
While o'er the lawn, with dance and festive song
Young Pleasure led the jocund hours along.
In gay luxuriance Ceres too was seen
To crown the valleys with eternal green.
For wealth, for valour, courted and revered,
What Albion is, fair Candia then appear'd.
Ah! who the flight of ages can revoke?
The free-born spirit of her sons is broke;
They bow to Ottoman's imperious yoke!
No longer Fame the drooping heart inspires,
For rude Oppression quench'd its genial fires.
But still, her fields with golden harvests crown d
Supply the barren shores of Greece around,
What pale distress afflicts those wretched isles;
There hope ne'er dawns, and pleasure never smiles
The vassal wretch obsequious drags his chain,
And hears his famish'd babes lament in vain.
These eyes have seen the dull reluctant soil
A seventh year scorn the weary labourer's toil
No blooming Venus, on the desert shore.
Now views with triumph captive gods adore:
No lovely Helens now, with fatal charms,
Call forth th' avenging chiefs of Greece to arms :
No fair Penelopes enchant the eye,
For whom contending kings are proud to die
Here sullen Beauty sheds a twilight ray,
While Sorrow bids her vernal bloom decay.
Those charms so long renown'd in classic strains
Had dimly shone on Albion's happier plains.
Now, in the southern hemisphere, the sun
Through the bright Virgin and the Scales had run
And on th' ecliptic wheel'd his winding way
Till the fierce Scorpion felt his flaming ray,
The ship was moor'd beside the wave-worn strand
Four days her anchors bite the golden sand:
For sick'ning vapours lull the air to sleep,
And not a breeze awakes the silent deep.
This, when th' autumnal equinox is o'er,
And Phoebus in the north declines no more,
The watchful mariner, whom Heaven informs
Oft deems the prelude of approaching storms.
True to his trust, when sacred duty calls,
No brooding storm the master's soul appals,
Th' advancing season warns him to the main :-
A captive, fetter'd to the oar of gain!
His anxious heart impatient of delay,
Expects the winds to sail from Candia's bay,
Determined, from whatever point they rise,
To trust his fortune to the seas and skies.
Thou living Ray of intellectual fire, Whose voluntary gleams my verse inspire' Ere yet the deep'ning incidents prevail, Till roused attention feel our plaintive tale, Record whom, chief among the gallant crew Th' unblest pursuit of fortune hither drew
Can sons of Neptune, generous, brave, and bold, In pain and hazard toil for sordid gold?
They can! for gold, too oft, with magic art, Subdues each nobler impulse of the heart: This crowns the prosperous villain with applause, To whom, in vain, sad Merit pleads her cause: This strews with roses life's perplexing road, And leads the way to pleasure's blest abode; With slaughter'd victims fills the weeping plain, And smooths the furrows of the treacherous main.
O'er the gay vessel, and her daring band, Experienced Albert held the chief command; Though train'd in boisterous elements, his mind Was yet by soft humanity refined,
Each joy of wedded love at home he knew;
Abroad confest the father of his crew!
Brave, liberal, just-the calm domestic scene
Had o'er his temper breathed a gay serene:
Him Science taught by mystic lore to trace
The planets wheeling in eternal race;
To mark the ship in floating balance held,
By earth attracted and by seas repell'd;
Or point her devious track through climes un-
That leads to every shore and every zone.
He saw the moon through heaven's blue concave
And into motion charm th' expanding tide;
While earth impetuous round her axle rolls,
Exalts her watery zone, and sinks the poles,
Light and attraction, from their genial source,
He saw still wandering with diminish'd force:
While on the margin of declining day,
Night's shadowy cone reluctant melts away.-
Inured to peril, with unconquer'd soul,
The chief beheld tempestuous oceans roll;
His genius ever for th' event prepared,
Rose with the storm, and all its dangers shared.
The second powers and office Rodmond bore:
A hardy son of England's furthest shore!
Where bleak Northumbria pours her savage train
In sable squadrons o'er the northern main :
That with her pitchy entrails stored, resort,
A sooty tribe! to fair Augusta's port.
Where'er in ambush lurk'd the fatal sands,
They claim the danger; proud of skilful bands;
For while, with darkling course, their vessels sweep
The winding shore, or plough the faithless deep,
O'er bar and shelf the watery path they sound
With dextrous arm; sagacious of the ground!
Fearless they combat every hostile wind,
Wheeling in mazy tracks with course inclined.
Expert to moor, where terrors line the road,
Or win the anchor from its dark abode :
But drooping and relax'd in climes afar
Tumultuous and undisciplined in war.
Such Rodmond was; by learning unrefined,
That oft enlightens to corrupt the mind.
Boisterous of manners; train'd in early youth
To scenes that shame the conscious cheek of truth,
To scenes that Nature's struggling voice control,
And freeze compassion rising in the soul!
Where the grim hell-hounds prowling round the
With foul intent the stranded bark explore
Deaf to the voice of wo, her decks they board,
While tardy Justice slumbers o'er her sword-
Th' indignant Muse, severely taught to feel,
Shrinks from a theme she blushes to reveal!
Too oft example, arm'd with poisons fell,
Pollutes the shrine where Mercy loves to dwell
Thus Rodmond, train'd by this unhallow'd crew
The sacred social passions never knew:
Unskill'd to argue, in dispute yet loud;
Bold without caution; without honours proud:
In art unschool'd; each veteran rule he prized,
And all improvement haughtily despised.
Yet, though full oft to future perils blind,
With skill superior glow'd his daring mind,
Through snares of death the reeling bark to guide
When midnight shades involve the raging tide.
To Rodmond next, in order of command,
Succeeds the youngest of our naval band.
But what avails it to record a name
• A bar is known, in hydrography, to be a mass of earth
or land collected by the surge of the sea, at the entrance of a river or haven, so as to render the navigation difficult, and often dangerous.
That courts no rank among the sons of Fame?
While yet a stripling, oft with fond alarms
His bosom danced to Nature's boundless charms
On him fair Science dawn'd in happier hour,
Awakening into bloom young Fancy's flower;
But frowning Fortune, with untimely blast,
The blossom wither'd and the dawn o'ercast.
Forlorn of heart, and by severe decree,
Condemn'd reluctant to the faithless sea,
With long farewell he left the laurel grove,
Where science and the tuneful sisters rove.
Hither he wander'd, anxious to explore,
Antiquities of nations now no more;
To penetrate each distant realm unknown,
And range excursive o'er th' untravell'd zone
In vain-for rude Adversity's command,
Still on the margin of each famous land,
With unrelenting ire his steps opposed,
And every gate of Hope against him closed.
Permit my verse, ye blest Pierian train,
To call Arion this ill-fated swain!