The Missionary - Canto Sixth

William Lisle Bowles 1762 (King's Sutton) – 1850

The second moon had now begun to wane,
Since bold Valdivia left the southern plain;
Goal of his labours, Penco's port and bay,
Far gleaming to the summer sunset lay.
The wayworn veteran, who had slowly passed
Through trackless woods, or o'er savannahs vast,
With hope impatient sees the city spires
Gild the horizon, like ascending fires.
Now well-known sounds salute him, as more near
The citadel and battlements appear;
The approaching trumpets ring at intervals;
The trumpet answers from the rampart walls,
Where many a maiden casts an anxious eye,
Some long-lost object of her love to espy,
Or watches, as the evening light illumes
The points of lances, or the passing plumes.
The grating drawbridge and the portal-arch,
Now echo to the long battalion's march;
Whilst every eye some friend remembered greets,
Amid the gazing crowd that throngs the streets.
As bending o'er his mule, amid the throng,
Pensive and pale, Anselmo rode along,
How sacred, 'mid the noise of arms, appeared
His venerable mien and snowy beard!
Whilst every heart a silent prayer bestowed,
Slow to the convent's massy gate he rode:
Around, the brothers, gratulating, stand,
And ask for tidings of the southern land.
As from the turret tolls the vesper bell,
He seeks, a weary man, his evening cell,
No sounds of social cheer, no beds of state,
Nor gorgeous canopies his coming wait;
But o'er a little bread, with folded hands,
Thanking the God that gave, a while he stands;
Then, while all thoughts of earthly sorrow cease,
Upon his pallet lays him down in peace.
The scene how different, where the castle-hall
Rings to the loud triumphant festival:
A hundred torches blaze, and flame aloof,
Long quivering shadows streak the vaulted roof,--
Whilst, seen far off, the illumined windows throw
A splendour on the shore and seas below.
Amid his captains, in imperial state,
Beneath a crimson canopy, elate,
Valdivia sits--and, striking loud the strings,
The wandering ministrel of Valentia sings.
For Chili conquered, fill the bowl again!
For Chili conquered, raise the heroic strain!
Lautaro left the hall of jubilee
Unmarked, and wandered by the moonlit sea:
He heard far off, in dissonant acclaim,
The song, the shout, and his loved country's name.
As swelled at times the trump's insulting sound,
He raised his eyes impatient from the ground;
Then smote his breast indignantly, and cried,
Chili! my country; would that I had died
On the sad night of that eventful day
When on the ground my murdered father lay!
I should not then, dejected and alone,
Have thought I heard his injured spirit groan.
Ha! was it not his form--his face--his hair?
Hold, soldier! stern, inhuman soldier, spare!
Ha! is it not his blood? Avenge, he cries,
Avenge, my son, these wounds! He faints--he dies!
Leave me, dread shadow! Can I then forget
My father's look--his voice? He beckons yet!
Now on that glimmering rock I see him stand:
Avenge! he cries, and waves his dim-seen hand!
Thus mused the youth, distempered and forlorn,
When, hark! the sound as of a distant horn
Swells o'er the surge! he turned his look around,
And still, with many a pause, he heard the sound:
It came from yonder rocks; and, list! what strain
Breaks on the silence of the sleeping main?
I heard the song of gladness;
It seemed but yesterday,
But it turned my thoughts to madness,
So soon it died away:
I sound my sea-shell; but in vain I try
To bring back that enchanting harmony!
Hark! heard ye not the surges say,
Oh! heartless maid, what canst thou do?
O'er the moon-gleaming ocean, I'll wander away,
And paddle to Spain in my light canoe!
The youth drew near, by the strange accents led,
Where in a cave, wild sea-weeds round her head,
And holding a large sea-conch in her hand,
He saw, with wildering air, an Indian maiden stand.
A tattered poncho o'er her shoulders hung;
On either side her long black locks were flung;
And now by the moon's glimmer, he espies
Her high cheek-bones, and bright but hollow eyes.
Lautaro spoke: Oh! say what cruel wrong
Weighs on thy heart, maiden, what bodes thy song?
She answered not, but blew her shell again;
Then thus renewed the desultory strain:
Yes, yes, we must forget! the world is wide;
My music now shall be the dashing tide:
In the calm of the deep I will frolic and swim--
With the breath of the South o'er the sea-blossom skim.
If ever, stranger, on thy way,
Sounds, more than earthly sweet, thy soul should move,
It is the youth! Oh! do not say--
That poor Olola died for love.
La
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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William Lisle Bowles

William Lisle Bowles was an English poet and critic In 1783 he won the chancellors prize for Latin verse In 1789 he published in a small quarto volume Fourteen Sonnets which were received with extraordinary favour not only by the general public but by such men as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Wordsworth The Sonnets even in form were a revival a return to an older and purer poetic style and by their grace of expression melodious versification tender tone of feeling and vivid appreciation of the life and beauty of nature stood out in strong contrast to the elaborated commonplaces which at that time formed the bulk of English poetry more…

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