Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Romance
By William B. Walter (c. 1796–1822)
 
  ’T IS 1 the last hour! far o’er the beetling steep,
The glorious sun descends into the deep,
And flings around a fiery flood of light,
In farewell beams magnificently bright!—
The shadowing clouds in mingled clusters driven,        5
In lingering splendor float along the heaven:
On roseate wings all softly now are stealing,
Veil his bright beams then suddenly revealing;
Tinging the towering cliffs and glowing skies,
With radiant streaks of blue and purple dyes;        10
While the long gleam that sweeps the crimson west,
Traces the mighty limits of his rest.
So sink the powerful, and the good of earth,
From this fair world, that gloried in their birth!
Their fame beams bright o’er death’s dispersing gloom,        15
And crowns with living light their hallow’d tomb!
  ’T is the last hour! and all around is still!—
No murmur breaks on Calvary’s lone hill!—
Gihon’s green banks and waves of heavenly blue,
And vales and woods touch’d with a soften’d hue,        20
Shine gladly forth, and greet the raptured view!—
Hush’d is the fall of waters! evening’s purple dew
Is all around—the sweet flowers blossoming
Droop their bright heads over the sacred spring!
The high blue depths of air are silent now!—        25
And spirits crowd along that mountain’s brow!—
Their rushing plumes are waving in the light,
Spangled with stars, their waving tresses bright,
Circled with diadems enwreath’d with flowers!
They come in glory from immortal bowers;        30
Hark!—’t is the music of a golden string,
Swept by the sweet winds softly quivering!
That trembles on the air with thrilling wing,
And soothes the soul with its wild wandering!
Like the loved hymn of early joys departed,        35
That leaves the pilgrim almost broken-hearted;
Too richly dear, its deep enchanting swell
That has no name—but only breathes farewell!—
’T is gone!—and silent now the broad blue skies,
Rolling in splendor as they gently rise!        40
Soaring on radiant wings, far, far away!
How solemnly beautiful departing day!
And oh! how changed from that when Jesus died
On that lone mountain’s solitary side!—
Thick clouds of darkness veil’d its hallow’d crest,        45
And hovering lower’d upon its awful breast;
Heavy and still the gathering volumes form;
Hark! ’t is the hollow muttering of the storm!—
It comes at last, in gloom and wildering terror;
The skies hang heavy like a mighty mirror,        50
Despoil’d of all its splendor and its light!
Dim crowding shapes are thronging down the night!—
Redoubling peal on peal the thunder rolls,
And rends the reddening vapor’s bloody folds!
*      *      *      *      *      *      *
  Sudden and quick the lurid flashes driven        55
In angry quiverings shot along the heaven,
Shivering the foldings of that darksome shroud!
Rent are the mountain rocks! earth shrieks aloud!
The tempest winds are struggling fierce—and far
Down the deep vale rolls on the fearful war!        60
The volumed mass, all trembling, now receding,
In wandering fires, high o’er the proud crest spreading
In billowy flames! high on their flashing wings,
Wrecks of old clouds and awful thunderings!
And meteors stricken from the firmament        65
Shower round their sulphurous rains!—in wild lament,
Phantoms of light burst from the yawning earth
On burning wings, the earthquake’s wondrous birth!—
The sun goes down in blood, and day is gone!
Nature convulsive shakes, groans deep, ’t is done!        70
The whirlwinds rage, the graves give up their dead!
Thousands of thunders roll! Where is that spirit fled?
  The godhead’s power was there! and all was night!
The godhead’s power was there! and all was light!—
*      *      *      *      *      *
  Lo! rising from the shade of years,        75
Visions of light are beaming!
They pass away!—a host appears!
How bright the visionary shapes are gleaming!—
Hark!—’t is the trumpet clang!—the warrior band
Sweep the dark waters for the holy land;—        80
Knights, chieftains, paladins and kings!
Amid ten thousand banner’d things!
Bright gleam the far off spears—and golden armor ringing,
Proud plumage waving, and red crosses flinging,
Are all around, where upward they are winging,        85
  In pomp and pride of chivalry,
Their streaming terrors to the sky!—
And see, where burns the crescent high,
Melting in clouds of purple dye!
And gay pavilions proudly shine,—        90
Gilded throne and gorgeous shrine
Are stretched on Syria’s strand!
And there the Moslem banner throws,
Its threatening folds to coming foes!—
See the Saracen lines are unveiled, and display,        95
The burning crests of their long array,
And glance in fearful light,—the sun’s last trembling ray!
  Hear ye no cry on Gaza’s shore?—
  No victor shout, no battle roar?—
  The ringing trump come piercingly—        100
  On the startled ear, and the hoarse war cry!
  The peal of drum rolling deeply on!
  The war horn’s din, and gonfalon;
Saw ye no flash of the scimetar’s wave,
As it fell on the crests of the warrior brave?—        105
The crimson plume mingling with crescent of light;
The struggles of death in the heat of the fight!
Where the wild war horse trampled over the dead,
And crush’d out the souls of the living,—and fled?
His fetlocks all gory, and ghastly his eye!—        110
And the groan and the curse, and the horrible yell
Of the victor and vanquish’d, like spirits of hell
From their chains unbound and warring high,
Shrieking out the long curse of their agony!—
  Banners are spread on the mountain rock!        115
Dark shadows are melting! and lo! there ’s a shock,
And the battle is ending!—a loud stirring cry
Swells on the cloud wind exultingly!—
The dark volumed smoke rolls awfully there!
Livid flashes of light through its canopy glare!        120
Like meteor flame in the stormy air—
Million of shafts giving dreadful token!
Spears kindling along! all bloody and broken!—
Like the angry clouds of the lowering morn!
Wildly they rush through the smoke and flame,        125
Fighting to win a glorious name,
  Or lonely there to die!
Whence is that form that comes terribly on?
With a helmet of light—in the dark battle won.
  In the splendor of youth! it is vanish’d and gone!        130
O, gone for aye in the whirlwind breath
Of the spirit that rides on the clouds of death!
His white courser plunging with terrible wrath
And leaping along the encumber’d path!—
His rider he drags o’er the carnage ground;        135
Still muttering out an encouraging sound,
And waving in vain—his broken sabre round;
His bosom gore stained with a sabre wound!
In vain! the scimetars are nearer clashing!—
And arms of blood—like death stars flashing!        140
Rolling of drums, and shrieks for life!
The earthquake motion of the strife!—
And hark! a fearful pause in that din profound!
The dark fight deepens, and gathers round!
The red cross banners are up on the gale!        145
And their floating is like the shattered sail
Of the proud ship wreck’d by the ocean storm!
Some frigate of air, of the bravest form,
Flashing in blood, by the thunder torn!—
How they hurry along; by their flight upborne!        150
The crescents are down! there are suns in the sky!
And hark! the glad shout of victory!—
Dark as the wave when spectres lower
And shroud the deep at midnight hour!—
Thick as the leaves when autumn tide,        155
Has reft the forest of its pride!
Swift as the clouds by whirlwinds driven
Far—far along the troubled heaven!
  The glorious vision pass’d!
Red ruin grasped his scythe, and strode along the waste!—
*      *      *      *      *      *      *
        160
The moon rides high in heaven; the stars are bright
Along the azure depths, shedding a timid light!
Who has not felt the mysteries of night?
Yea! there is something hallow’d in this hour,
When the mind wanders in its newborn power,        165
Far from the things of earth to things above,
And worships in the world of holiness and love!—
In regions pure, where veil’d archangels dwell,
Circling the eternal front of life ineffable!—
  Sometimes we wander to the fairy land,        170
Where the soul dances and her wings expand!
Fair land!—all brighten’d o’er with turf and flowers,
And dewy shrubbery, and moonlight bowers,
Retreat of fancy’s glittering vagrant powers.
Fair heaven!—where many color’d clouds enfold,        175
Bright islets floating in the sea of gold!
Proud domes and palaces are shining there,
With ivory columns, gemm’d with fire-stain’d spar!
There wanton zephyrs dance on budding flowers,
And waft the fragrant leaves in snowy showers;—        180
By sunny banks the silver waters whirl
A wildering music o’er their sands of pearl!—
And birds are singing from their star-lit bowers,
To lull the sleeping of the blue eyed hours!
Light things are flitting in this world of air!        185
Gay creatures born of thought, are dwelling there!—
The elfin race, who bathe in dews of morn!
And climb the rainbow of the summer storm!—
Floating about, in thinnest robes of light,
From meteors caught, that shoot along the night.        190
Crowns, studded o’er with gems, their brows adorn,
Stole from the eyelids of the waking morn!—
They wave bright sceptres, wrought of moonlight beams,
And spears of crystal, tinged with lightning gleams!—
Young naked Loves are sporting on the main,        195
Or glide on clouds along the ethereal plain!
Their snowy breasts floating the waves among,
Are kiss’d by shapes of light, and swim along
In liquid sapphire—with their humid locks
Dropping thick diamonds o’er their mossy rocks!—        200
The sea-green realm is all with emeralds shining,
With rainbow arches o’er the depths reclining!—
And other skies are deeply rolling under,
With clouds of trembling flame and slumbering thunder!
And minstrels blow their horns of tulip flowers!        205
In echoes softly from their air-borne towers,
Floats back the music, with a dreamy sound!
A dove-wing’d presence, hovering round and round!—
Visions of joy! in sun-robe garments sporting,
Dear Loves! with gay looks in green pathways courting!        210
Who speak with eyes, and move with steps of sadness,
And now, we list a cheerful song of gladness!
 
Note 1. Walter as born in Boston, and educated at Bowdoin College, in Maine. He afterwards studied divinity at Cambridge, but never entered the pulpit. He died at Charleston, S. C, in 1822, aged about twenty-six or seven. He wrote “Sukey,” and a volume of poems, published in 1821. [back]
 
 
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