“Lines: Far from this dull prosaic land…” from the Knickerbocker
by Ann Neilson
From the Knickerbocker, Volume 46, July, 1855, pp. 36-38.
——’ANIMAM ne crede puellis,
Namque est faminea tutior, unda fide.’—PETRON.
FAR from this dull prosaic land,
Many a weary league away,
Stretches a beach of whitest sand,
Spread out by Ocean’s mighty hand,
And glittering with his pearly spray.
Scattered thereon in richest store
Are tinted shells of color rare,
And, following on the breakers’ roar,
The sea-breeze drifts the foam it bore
In snowy masses through the air.
Along the beach, some near, some far,
Dropped by the wave’s returning flow,
Lies many a shattered mast and spar,
Relics of elemental war,
Blackened, as battle’s trophies are,
Memorials of distress and woe.
And far to sea, tho frothy crest
Of many a rolling breaker glancing,
Shoulders its way above the rest,
As seeking in its earnest quest
To view the shore upon whose breast,
Like charging squadron, ‘t is advancing.
Nestled beneath a mighty rock,
(St. ANNE’S Cape the name it bore,)
The ‘Faery Isle’ escapes the shock
Of billows, and their rage may mock;
Looking a jewel from the shore,
Heaved from the sea—a shred of land
Scarce larger than a fisher’s boat,
A glittering ring of silver sand,
Close plumed with shrubs whose flowers expand,
A many-colored glorious band,
And on the ocean seem to float.
Within the isle a little well
Of purest, freshest crystal sprung,
Whose bubbling column, legends tell,
Opened, before the proper spell,
The glittering road to Faerydom.
A charméd spot: for faery aid,
So mortals said, was often given
To those who by the well had prayed;
And many a loving youth and maid
Their frequent vows together paid
Beside that shrine, as if to HEAVEN.
Oft to the font young EDWARD came,
With murmured prayer for faery favor.
His whispered suit was still the same;
For EMMA’S love—no other name
E’er crossed his lip—no other flame
E’er shone beside the love he gave her.
He won the maid; by faery power
Or lover’s art I know not, tell not;
Or whether it chanced at vesper hour
On the white sea-beach, or in secret bower,
Or by the faery fountain’s shower:
From EDWARD’S lip the secret fell not.
The lovers plighted their faith; and who,
If he seeks through earth to its utmost bound,
E’er met a maid but her faith was true,
Or a woman false to her promise found?
. . . . . . .
One summer eve, as the sun declined,
Hung in the red and glowing West,
‘Like a burning thought in a poet’s mind,’
Or a passionate lover closely twined
On the blushing curve of his maiden’s breast—
Young EDWARD sought the faery well,
And lo! beside its margin stood
A figure like EVE’S before she fell,
Or the women of old, whom poets tell
The angels stooped from heaven and wooed.
‘The blue of her eye was the hue of the sky,’
Her hair like the streakings of morning light,
As it shoots from the cloud, an airy shroud,
Which veils from the earth the sun-day bright.
Her face was young and wondrous fair,
(A girl she was, or little older,)
But in its rest there was an air
Of power, and something scornful there
There lurked, which daunted the beholder.
And on her brow a shimmering star
Seemed ever and anon to quiver,
As ye see the lights in heaven that are
Stoop from their aërial home afar,
And shine reflected in a river.
Her robe was the finest of silken sheen,
Its tint was a glancing silvery green,
And it clung to her figure’s swell
Till her bosom’s faintest curve was seen,
And the curious eye could trace, I ween,
Her dainty waist as well.
Oh! it was startling to see her so
Standing beside the spring,
And from her presence there seemed to flow
Something which made the pulses go
With a chilling feel and a beat more slow,
And fear on the heart to bring.
She spoke, and her silver voice was clear,
And low, and sad, though sweet;
And its murmuring cadence met the ear
Like the whispered grieving we sometimes hear,
Made by the wailing sorrowing air,
E’er the storm begins to beat.
Her words in their rhythm seemed to swell
Or die, as the fountain rose and fell.
‘On woman’s love oh! ne’er believe:
More stable the wave in its flow;
She will smile and promise, and yet deceive—
Naught falser on earth below!
One whose nature is higher than clay,
(And her bosom began to swell,)
I who seek thee here to-day,
If you’ll follow me through this crystal way,
I’ll love thee long and well.’
And as she ceased, the opening Spring
Received her in its breast,
And the faery minstrels seemed to ring
Their harps, and many a welcome sing,
Such as might greet the blessed.
He followed not: his steadfast love
The faëry’s charm defied.
Her beauty failed his heart to move,
Or only served his faith to prove
To her, his promised bride.
. . . . . . .
The faëry font is choked and dry,
Its mistress never seen,
And EDWARD the island ne’er comes nigh,
Though he glances oft with a troubled eye
Toward its foliage green.
And EMMA: did woman ever fail
In constancy to man?
Or is it but a slanderous tale
Which says that her passion soon grows pale,
That her love and faith like mists exhale?
Let him answer the quest who can.