Elegy on Captain Cook

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ELEGY ON CAPTAIN COOK, The Poetical Works of Anna Seward, Vol. 2 (1810)
L1Sorrowing, the Nine beneath yon blasted yew
L2Shed the soft drops of pity's holy dew;
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L3Mute are their tuneful tongues, extinct their fires;
L4Yet not in silence sleep their silver lyres;
L5To the bleak gale they vibrate sad and slow,
L6In deep accordance to a Nation's woe.


L7Ye, who ere-while for COOK's illustrious brow
L8Pluck'd the green laurel, and the oaken bough,
L9Hung the gay garlands on the trophied oars,
L10And pour'd his fame along a thousand shores,
L11Strike the slow death-bell!---weave the sacred verse,
L12And strew the cypress o'er hishonour'd hearse;
L13In sad procession wander round the shrine,
L14And weep him mortal, whom ye sung divine!


L15 Say first, what Power inspir'd his dauntless breast
L16 With scorn of danger and inglorious rest,
L17 To quit imperial London's gorgeous domes,
L18 Where, deck'd in thousand tints, young Pleasure roams;
L19 In cups of summer-ice her nectar pours,
L20Or twines, 'mid wint'ry snows, her roseate bowers;


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L21 Where the warm Orient loads Britannia
's gales
L22 With all the incense of Sabæan vales;

L23 Where soft Italia's silken sons prolong
L24 The lavish cadence of the artful song;

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L25 Where
Beauty moves with fascinating grace,
L26Calls the sweet blush to wanton o'er her face,
L27On each fond youth her soft artillery tries,
L28Aims the light smile, and rolls the frolic eyes:
L29 What Power inspir'd his dauntless breast to brave
L30 The scorch'd Equator, and th' Antarctic wave?
L31 Climes, where fierce Suns in cloudless ardors shine,
L32 And pour the dazzling deluge round the Line;
L33 The realms of frost, where icy mountains rise,
L34 'Mid the pale summer of the polar skies?---
L35 It was BENEVOLENCE! ---on coasts unknown,
L36 The shiv'ring natives of the frozen zone,
L37 And the swart Indian, as he faintly strays
L38 "Where Cancer reddens in the solar blaze,"
L39 She bade him seek;---on each inclement shore
L40 Plant the rich seeds of her exhaustless store;
L41 Unite the savage hearts, and hostile hands,
L42 In the firm compact of her gentle bands;
L43 Strew her soft comforts o'er the barren plain,
L44 Sing her sweet lays, and consecrate her fane.

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L45 While half the warring world, in senseless strife,
L46 Dire thirst of power, and lavish waste of life,
L47 Sent their hoarse thunders o'er the seas to roar,
L48 And dye the distant waves in human gore,
L49 O fair BENEVOLENCE
! thy guiding ray
L50 With light so pure illum'd the wat'ry way,
L51 Amaz'd and charm'd the sons of Ravage stood
L52 And by its lustre, streaming o'er the flood,
L53 Mark'd thy mild Hero's rising ships afar,
L54 And hush'd to peace the brazen throat of war;
L55 His sacred ensigns view'd with moisten'd eye,
L56 And struck the blood-stain'd flag, and sail'd admiring by!
L57 When high in rage the troubled deep they plough'd,
L58 Thus to thy charms war's haughty chieftans bow'd,
L59 Lovely BENEVOLENCE!
---O Nymph divine!
L60 I see thy light step print the burning Line!
L61 Thy lucid eye the dubious pilot guides,
L62 The faint oar struggling with the scalding tides.---
L63 On as thou lead'st the bold, the glorious prow,
L64 Mild, and more mild, the sloping sun-beams glow;
L65 Now weak and pale the lessn'd lustres play,
L66 As round th' horizon rolls the timid day;

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L67Barb'd with the sleeted snow, the driving hail,
L68Rush the fierce arrows of the polar gale;
L69And through the dim, unvaried, ling'ring hours,
L70Wide o'er the waves incumbent Horror low'rs.

L71From the rude summit of yon frozen steep,
L72Contrasting Glory gilds the dreary deep!
L73Lo!---deck'd with vermil youth and beamy grace,
L74Hope in her step, and gladness in her face,
L75Light on the icy rock, with outstretch'd hands,
L76The Goddess of the new Columbus stands.
L77Round her bright head the plumy peterels soar,
L78Blue as her robe, that sweeps the frozen shore;
L79Glows her soft cheek, as vernal mornings fair,
L80And warm as summer-suns her golden hair;
L81O'er the hoar waste her radiant glances stream,
L82And courage kindles in their magic beam.
L83She points the ship its mazy path, to thread
L84The floating fragments of the frozen bed.


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L85While o'er the deep, in many a dreadful form,
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L86The giant Danger howls along the storm,
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L87Furling the iron sailswith numbed hands,
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L88Firm on the deck the great Adventurer stands;
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L89Round glitt'ring mountains hears the billows rave,
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L90And the vast ruinthunder on the wave.---
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L91Appal'd he hears!---but checks the rising sigh,
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L92And turns on his firm band a glist'ning eye.---
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L93Not for himself the sighs unbidden break,
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L94Amid the terrors of the icy wreck;
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L95Not for himself starts the impassion'd tear,
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L96Congealing as it falls;---nor pain, nor fear,
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L97Nor Death's dread darts, impede the great design,
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L98Till Naturedraws the circumscribing line.
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L99Huge rocks of ice th' arrested ship embay,
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L100And bar the gallant Wanderer's dangerous way.---
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L101His eye regretful marks the Goddess turn
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L102The assiduous prow from its relentless bourn.


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L103And now antarctic Zealand's drear domain
L104Frowns, and o'erhangs th' inhospitable main.
L105On its chill beach this dove of human-kind
L106For his long-wand'ring foot short rest shall find,
L107Bear to the coast the olive-branchin vain,
L108And quit on wearied wing the hostile plain.---
L109With jealous low'r the frowning natives view
L110The stately vessel, and adventurous crew;
L111Nor fear the brave, nor emulate the good,
L112But scowl with savage thirst of human blood!
L113And yet there were, who in this iron clime
L114Soar'd o'er the herd on Virtue's wing sublime;
L115Rever'd the stranger-guest, and smiling strove
L116To sooth his stay with hospitable love;
L117Fann'd in full confidence the friendly flame,
L118Join'd plighted hands, and name exchang'dfor name.

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L119 To these the Hero leads his living store,
L120 And pours new wonders on th' uncultur'd shore
L121 The silky fleece, fair fruit, and golden grain;
L122 And future herds and harvests bless the plain.
L123 O'er the green soil the kids exulting play,
L124 And sounds his clarion loud the bird of day;
L125 The downy goose her ruffled bosom laves,
L126 Trims her white wing, and wantons in the waves;
L127 Stern moves the bull along th' affrighted shores,
L128 And countless nations tremble as he roars.
L129 So when the Daughter of eternal Jove,
L130 And Ocean's God, to bless their Athens strove,
L131 The massy trident with gigantic force
L132 Cleaves the firm earth---and lo! the stately horse;
L133 He paws the ground, impatient of the rein,
L134 Shakes his high front, and thunders o'er the plain.
L135 Then Wisdom's Goddess plants the embryon seed,
L136 And bids new foliage shade the sultry mead;
L137 'Mid the pale green the tawny olive shine,
L138 And famish'd thousands bless the hand divine.


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L139 Now the warm solstice o'er the shining bay,
L140 Darts from the north its mild meridian ray;
L141 Again the Chief invokes the rising gale,
L142 And spreads again in desert seas the sail;
L143 O'er dangerous shoals his steady steerage keeps,
L144 O'er walls of coral, ambush'd in the deeps;
L145 Strong Labour's hands the crackling cordage twine,
L146 And sleepless Patienceheaves the guardian line.
L147 Borne on fierce eddies black Tornado springs,
L148 Dashing the gulphy main with ebon wings;
L149 In the vex'd foam his sweeping trail he shrouds,
L150 And rears his serpent-crest amid the clouds;
L151 Wrapp'd in dark mists with hideous bellowing roars,
L152 Drives all his tempests on, and shakes the shores.
L153 Already has the groaning ship resign'd
L154 Half her proud glories to the furious wind.
L155 The fear-struck mariner beholds from far,
L156 In gathering rage, the elemental war;
L157 As rolls the rising vortex, stands aghast,
L158 Folds the rent sail, or clasps the shivering mast!


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L159Onward, like Night, the frowning Demon comes,
L160Show'rs a dread deluge from his shaken plumes;
L161Fierce as he moves the gulphed sand uptears,
L162And high in air the shatter'd canvass bears.
L163Hardly the heroes in that fateful hour
L164Save the torn navy from his whelming power;
L165But soon from Industry's restoring hand,
L166New masts aspire, and snowy sails expand.

L167On a lone beach a rock-built templestands,
L168Stupendous pile! unwrought by mortal hands;
L169Sublime the ponderous turrets rise in air,
L170And the wide roof basaltic columns bear;
L171Through the long aisles the murm'ring tempests blow,
L172And Ocean chides his dashing waves below.
L173From this fair fane, along the silver sands,
L174Two sister-virgins wave their snowy hands;
L175First gentle Flora--round her smiling brow
L176Leaves of new forms, and flow'rs uncultur'd glow;
L177Thin folds of vegetable silk, behind,
L178Shade her white neck, and wanton in the wind;
L179Strange sweets, where'er she turns, perfume the glades,
L180And fruits unnam'd adorn the bending shades.

L181 ---Next Fauna treads, in youthful beauty's pride,
L182A playful Kangroobounding by her side;
L183Around the Nymph her beauteous Poisdisplay
L184Their varied plumes, and trill the dulcet lay;
L185A Giant-bat, with leathern wings outspread,
L186Umbrella light, hangs quiv'ring o'er her head.
L187As o'er the cliff her graceful steps she bends,
L188On glitt'ring wing her insect train attends.
L189With diamond-eye her scaly tribes survey
L190Their Goddess-nymph, and gambol in the spray.
L191With earnest gaze the still enamour'd crew
L192Mark the fair forms; and as they pass, pursue;
L193But round the steepy rocks, and dangerous strand,
L194Rolls the white surf, and shipwreck guards the land.
L195So, when of old, Sicilian shores along,
L196Enchanting Syrens trill'd th' alluring song,
L197Bound to the mast the charm'd Ulysses hears,
L198And drinks the sweet tones with insatiate ears;
L199Strains the strong cords, upbraids the prosp'rous gale,
L200And sighs, as Wisdom spreads the flying sail.

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L201Now leads BENEVOLENCEthe destin'd way,
L202Where all the Loves in Otaheite stray.
L203To bid the Arts disclose their wond'rous pow'rs,
L204To bid the Virtues consecrate the bow'rs,
L205She gives her Hero to its blooming plain:---
L206Nor has he wander'd, has he bled in vain!
L207His lips persuasive charm th' uncultur'd youth,
L208Teach Wisdom's lore, and point the path of Truth.
L209See! chasten'd lovein softer glances flows,
L210See! with new fires parental duty glows.
L211Thou smiling Eden of the southern wave,
L212Could not, alas! thy grateful wishes save
L213That angel-goodness, which had blest thy plain?---
L214Ah! vain thy gratitude, thy wishes vain!
L215On a far distant, and remorseless shore,
L216Where human fiends their dire libations pour;
L217Where treachery, hov'ring o'er the blasted heath,
L218Poises with ghastly smile the darts of death,
L219Pierc'd by their venom'd points, your favorite bleeds,
L220And on his limbs the lust of hunger feeds!

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L221Thus when, of old, the muse-born Orpheus bore
L222Fair Arts and Virtues to the Thracian shore;
L223Struck with sweet energy the warbling wire,
L224And pour'd persuasion from th' immortal lyre;
L225As soften'd brutes, the waving woods among,
L226Bow'd their meek heads, and listen'd to the song;
L227Near, and more near, with rage and tumult loud,
L228Round the bold bard th' inebriate maniacs crowd---
L229Red on the ungrateful soil his life-blood swims,
L230And Fiends and Furies tear his quiv'ring limbs!

L231Gay Eden of the south, thy tribute pay,
L232And raise, in pomp of woe, thy Cook's Morai!
L233Bid mild Omiah bring his choicest stores,
L234The juicy fruits, and the luxuriant flow'rs;
L235Bring the bright plumes, that drink the torrid ray,
L236And strew the lavish spoil on Cook's Morai!


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L237Come, Oberea, hapless fair-one! come,
L238With piercing shrieks bewail thy Hero's doom!---
L239She comes!---she gazes round with dire survey!---
L240Oh! fly the mourner on her frantic way.
L241See! see! the pointed ivory wounds that head,
L242Where late the Loves impurpled roses spread;
L243Now stain'd with gore, her raven tresses flow,
L244In ruthless negligence of maddening woe;
L245Loud she laments!---and long the Nymph shall stray
L246With wild unequal step round Cook's Morai!

L247But ah!---aloft on Albion's rocky steep,
L248That frowns incumbent o'er the boiling deep,
L249Solicitous, and sad, a softer form
L250Eyes the lone flood, and deprecates the storm.---
L251Ill-fated Matron!---far, alas! in vain
L252Thy eager glances wander o'er the main!---
L253 'Tis the vex'd billows, that insurgent rave,
L254Their white foam silvers yonder distant wave,
L255 'Tis not his sails!---thy Husband comes no more!
L256His bones now whiten an accursed shore!---

L257Retire,---for hark! the sea-gull shrieking soars,
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L258The lurid atmosphere portentous low'rs;
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L259Night's sullen spirit groans in ev'ry gale,
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L260And o'er the waters draws the darkling veil,
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L261Sighs in thy hair, and chills thy throbbing breast---
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L262Go, wretched Mourner!---Weep thy griefs to rest!
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L263Yet, though through life is lost each fond delight,
L264Though set thy earthly sun in dreary night,
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L265Oh! raise thy thoughts to yonder starry plain,
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L266And own thy sorrow selfish, weak, and vain;
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L267Since, while Britannia, to his virtues just,
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L268Twines the bright wreath, and rears th' immortal bust;
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L269While on each wind of heav'n his fame shall rise,
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L270In endless incense to the smiling skies;
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L271 The attendant Power, that bade his sails expand,
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L272And waft her blessings to each barren land,
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L273Now raptur'd bears him to the immortal plains,
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L274Where Mercy hails him with congenial strains;
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L275Where soars, on Joy's white plume, his spirit free,
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L276And angels choir him, while he waits for Thee.
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