Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
The Battle of the Isle
By Henry T. Farmer (1782–1828)
 
A Comico-Tragical Tale.
Part I.—The Isle.

  ON 1 the verge of the deep, where the dark sea-bird hovers,
Where the wave, in loud fury, bursts wild on the shore;
Near the light-house, whose flame to the wanderer discovers
A beam, like the glance of those long-sever’d lovers,
Who meet in blest rapture, to sever no more;        5
An isle of white sand, like a desert is seen,
Where no wild flower blushes in meadow of green;
But, where long tangled sea-weed is cast on the strand,
Like the gray locks of age, pluck’d by merciless hand;
For the storm tore it up from its deep oozy bed,        10
As the ruffian tears locks from the wanderer’s head:
Oh! ye who would view “this famed desert” aright,
Go visit the strand by the “pale starry light;”
When the bleak wind is high, and the breakers are gleaming,
And the owl is abroad, and the sea-gull is screaming;        15
Then, sit near yon circummured castle awhile,
And behold the fell grandeur of Sullivan’s isle.
The moonbeam just gleams on yon ruin so bare,
One moment the moonbeam has fled;
Like the quick frantic smile on the face of despair,        20
When she bends o’er the couch of the dead.
Oft to visit this spot a blest seraph is seen,
With an eye ever bright, and a robe ever green,
And a cheek, where the red rose for ever must bloom:
And she covers with daisies the path to the tomb;        25
The youth that she smiles on is certainly blest,
He has strength for the chase, and fair visions for rest;
I have wiped the big drops from a brow cold as stone,
But I have seldom seen health on her diamond throne.
 
  Far famed was the castle, now lost in decay,        30
  That frown’d o’er the high surging sea;
  Though pale is the blood-stain, and long past the day,
  Still, who has not heard of that noble affray,
  And its banner, the green island tree?
 
Part II.—The Night.
In bugle bed-gown frown’d the night,
        35
Like angry witch with baneful spite;
She scarce allow’d the stars to light
  The sandy hills around.
The moon, ’t is thought, was fast asleep,
In distant cavern dark and deep,        40
Where silence doth her vigils keep,
  In mystery profound.
The stricken drum announced the hour,
The sentry paced round fosse and tower,
And fearing much a drenching shower,        45
  Around his watch-coat drew:
A sudden sorrow fill’d his mind,
His memory, with hint unkind,
Spoke of past times, and he repined
  His coat was now not new.        50
Ah! little did that watchman dream
Of battle field e’er morning beam,
Of noisy shout and piercing scream,
  From virgin beauty fair;
Or he had bow’d his lofty crest,        55
And wiped his eyes, and smote his breast,
And ’gainst his brow steel gauntlet press’d,
  In token of despair.
Now arm in arm, or hand in hand,
Two knights pass’d slowly o’er the strand,        60
Unarm’d with battle-axe or brand,
  Or faulchion broad, or spear:
Anon they stopp’d before the tower,
Where fair Floressa 2 slept in bower,
Far from enchanter’s baneful power,        65
  Or haggard wizard drear.
“I know this beauteous virgin rare,
And by yon vaulted arch I swear,
A foot more light, a face more fair,
  And ’sooth an eye more bright,        70
On earth before has never been,
And she yclept the fairy queen
By wilder’d knight or damsel seen,
  Would wither in her sight.
Let poet Spenser deftly tell,        75
Of Britomart and Florimel,
And loudly wild his numbers swell;
  In either damsel’s praise:
Or e’en let Ariosto rear
A trophy to Marphisa’s spear,        80
Or Tasso crown his virgin dear
  With never-fading bays:
For these must bow before her shrine,
And e’en the Amazon divine,
Who tasted Alexander’s wine,        85
  And Joan of Arc beside.”
Thus spoke the foremost knight, and strode
In silence o’er the sandy road,
That led toward her blest abode;
  The gate flew open wide.        90
 
Part III.—The Visit.
  Slow o’er the platform paced a knight, 3
In glittering vest and armor dight;
High on his helm, like passing cloud,
With awful nod, a horsetail bow’d.
’T was said by Douglas, in his pride,        95
“Right fairly” doth Lord Marmion ride;
To give this mailed chief his due,
He rode as well and fairly too.
The steed Bucephalus of yore,
Triumphant through the battle bore        100
Great Philip’s son, in warlike pride;
’T is said, when that famed stallion died,
The monarch many a tear-drop shed,
And built a city o’er his head:
Our chief, for love of faithful steed,        105
Had done almost as good a deed;
To build a city, though not able,
He built, ’t was all he could—a stable.
The knights 4 who to the gateway came,
Call’d on Floressa’s honor’d name,        110
Saying, within that lady’s bower,
They came to spend a short half hour.
The mailed chieftain, turning, said,
“That lady bright has gone to bed:”
The knight his manly port admired,        115
And bowing—would have soon retired;
When quick they heard a mighty jar,
A tumult wild, a din of war:
High on the castle’s slanting stair,
Appear’d the form of female fair;        120
Wild was her look with haggard fright,
Her hair was loose, her dress was white:
Down—down she swept, like fell Simoom,
Left all her armor in her room,
Toss’d from her eyes the flowing hair,        125
Brandish’d her stalwart arm in air;
And thus ’midst thunders, fire, and smoke,
That tender, lovely virgin spoke.
 
Part IV.—The Battle.
  “Hold! thieves and murderers, on your lives,
Bring pistols, scissors, carving knives,        130
  And shed their impious gore:”
She caught the foremost by his coat,
Grasp’d with her sinewy hand his throat,
  To dash him on the floor;
“A knife, a knife, fly quickly, fly,        135
Attack the villains or I die.
What, pistols, ho! is no one nigh?
  Quick, minion, on thy life;
My castle for a gleaming steel,
To make those damned robbers feel        140
The deadly blow this arm can deal;
  My kingdom for a knife!!—
Fire quick”—a flash beam’d ruddy bright,
A bullet took its erring flight
  From smoking petronel.        145
Death now appear’d to call his court,
For soon, as if in playful sport,
  A seeming victim fell.
“Off, from my hall, you scoundrels base,
Let no one longer show his face,        150
This is my own domain and place,
  Let no damn’d slave deride it;
Who dares among you all to frown?
I paid in yonder distant town,
Each farthing of the money down,        155
  The very hour I buy’d it.
Down with the huge portcullis straight,
Go, quick as lightning shut the gate,
  The lowly villains bind;”
With that, she gave a hearty damn        160
To either knight, the gate goes slam,
  And one remains behind:
Gleam’d in her hand the pointed knife,
’T is aim’d at that lone captive’s life,
  With many a deadly thrust;        165
The servants shudder with affright,
For never was a mortal wight
  So handled, and so cursed.
Against such gentleness, such charms,
What knight could wield his missile arms?        170
  Sure all must be subdued!
And he who tarried in her hold,
And saw her meek demeanor bold,
  In cool amazement stood!!—
The chieftain with the waving crest        175
Felt some compunction in his breast,
  And oped the gate again;
From whence the captive soon withdrew,
And oaths like hailstones after flew
  In Eleusinian strain.        180
Thus ended, without blood or spoil,
The battle’s rage and loud turmoil,
  And imprecations vile;
From hence ye warriors all beware,
Still ponder on that lady fair,        185
And ever in your memories bear,
  The battle of the isle.
 
Note 1. Framer, a native of Charleston S. C., where he now resides as a physician, is the author of a volume of poems published in 1819. [back]
Note 2. A rich widow. [back]
Note 3. The hero of the piece, who kept livery stables. [back]
Note 4. Two officers belonging to the United States army. [back]
 
 
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