The Mermaid

Anne Bannerman
Scots
1765 – 1829

 

Blow on, ye death-fraught whirlwinds! blow,
Around the rocks, and rifted caves;
Ye demons of the gulf below!
I hear you, in the troubled waves.
High on this cliff, which darkness shrouds
In night’s impenetrable clouds,
My solitary watch I keep,
And listen, while the turbid deep
Groans to the raging tempests, as they roll
Their desolating force, to thunder at the pole.

Eternal world of waters, hail!
Within thy caves my Lover lies;
And day and night alike shall fail,
Ere slumber lock my streaming eyes.
Along this wild untrodden coast,
Heap’d by the gelid hand of frost;
Thro’ this unbdounded waste of seas,
Where never sigh’d the vernal breeze;
Mine was the choice, in this terrific form,
To brave the icy surge, to shiver in the storm.

Yes! I am chang’d.—My heart, my soul,
Retain no more their former glow.
Hence, ere the black’ning tempests roll,
I watch the bark, in murmurs low,
(While darker low’rs the thick’ning gloom)
To lure the sailor to his doom;
Soft from some pile of frozen snow
I pour the syren-song of woe;
Like the sad mariner’s expiring cry,
As, faint and worn with toil, he lays him down to die.

Then, while the dark and angry deep
Hangs his huge billows high in air;
And the wild wind with awful sweep,
Howls in each fitful swell—beware!
Firm on the rent and crashing mast,
I lend new fury to the blast;
I mark each hardy cheek grow pale,
And the proud sons of courage fail;
Till the torn vessel drinks the surging waves,
Yawns the disparted main, and opes its shelving graves.

When Vengeance bears along the wave
The spell, which heav’n and earth appals;
Alone, by night, in darksome cave,
On me the gifted wizard calls.
Above the ocean’s boiling flood
Thro’ vapour glares the moon in blood:
Low sounds along the waters die,
And shrieks of anguish fill the sky;
Convulsive powers the solid rocks divide,
While, o’er the heaving surge, the embodied spirits glide.

Thrice welcome to my weary sight,
Avenging ministers of wrath!
Ye heard, amid the realms of night,
The spell that wakes the sleep of death.
Where Hecla’s flames the snows dissolve,
Or storms, the polar skies involve;
Where, o’er the tempest-beaten wreck,
The raging winds and billows break;
On the sad earth, and in the stormy sea,
All, all shall shudd’ring own your potent agency.

To aid your toils, to scatter death,
Swift, as the sheeted lightning’s force,
When the keen north-wind’s freezing breath
Spreads desolation in its course,
My soul within this icy sea,
Fulfils her fearful destiny.
Thro’ Time’s long ages I shall wait
To lead the victims to their fate;
With callous heart, to hidden rocks decoy,
And lure, in seraph-strains, unpitying, to destroy.

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