The Oceanides, Edited by Judith Pascoe

Jewsbury's "Lines Written after Reading Sir Edward Seaward's Narrative" appeared as follows in the December 1, 1832 issue of the Athenaeum just before the first installment of her "Extracts from a Lady's Log-Book." Edward Seaward's Narrative of his Shipwreck and Consequent Discovery of Certain Islands in the Caribbean Sea, edited by Miss J. Porter, was first published in 1831. The work is often attributed to Jane Porter, but most of it was written by her brother William.

[To those who have not yet perused the above-named 'Narrative,' it may not be impertinent to mention, that it relates the Robinson-Crusoe adventures of a noble-minded husband and wife shipwrecked on a desert island, in 1733—their mode of living there—their discovery of ancient treasure, supposed to have been hidden by Buccaneers-their subsequent visit to England, and measures for colonizing the island—their plans, difficulties, and complete success, terminated only by the dispersal of the colony, through the machinations of the court of Spain. Whether the 'Narrative' be truth touched by fancy, or fancy working on truth, the result is equally captivating; and whether they belong to tale or history, the characters of Sir Edward Seaward and his lady equally excite interest and challenge admiration.]

Lines Written After Reading Sir Edward Seaward's Narrative By Mrs. Fletcher

(Late Miss Jewsbury.)

Brave beauteous pair! if e'er indeed
Your names were clothed in mortal weed;
If ye are more than lovely gleams,
Whose dwelling is the land of dreams:
Bright phantoms from the far-off shore
Of rich romance and fairy lore:
A fable new, or history old,
With quaintness framed, with sweetness told;
I ask not, heed not; love more strong,
Belief more firm, though said in song,
Would scarcely fill my heart and eye,
If I had seen ye live and die.

And, send the heart on pilgrimage
    Through many a land, to many a shrine
Of saint and hero, chief and sage,
    Where shall it meet one more divine?
Whether, like nereid king and queen,
    It find ye in your island-cave,
Or see ye, scarcely less serene,
    The storm-tried wanderers of the wave;
Whether ye walk your shelly isle,
    A lovely, but a lonely pair,
Your only pride each other's smile,
    And but each other's weal your care:
Your Eden bliss, your Eden calm,
    Your toil, and rest, and peaceful sway,
Blent with that hope-diffusing balm—
    How blessed were ye day by day,
    Within that bright and hidden bay!

And scarce less sweet to watch at last
Your pure hearts amid riches vast,
That strange, forgotten, antique store,
That brings to mind Arabian lore.
To see you, on your gorgeous prize,
    By men and times long vanished, moulded,
Gaze, with the innocent surprise
    Of Eve, when first her flowers unfolded;
With such sweet fear of evil lurking
    Amid your treasure's golden show,
Which had Eve of the serpent's working,
    The world had not by her found woe.

Brave beauteous pair! yet nobler still,
When with high thoughts and steady will
We see ye not alone, but wearing
Honours, and such grave office bearing,
As only lofty spirits feel
In their true burden, joy, or weal!
Your lonely isle a peopled state
Become, and ye its human fate;
A little Zidon on the waters,
Of busy sons and smiling daughters;
A peace-engirdled spot, that shows
How deserts blossom like the rose;
Till cold intrigue and state-born wile
Forbade that it should longer smile,
But as of old, become again
A wilderness upon the main,
Each vale untilled, untrod each plain!

That isle is yet on Ocean's breast,
But ye are in one grave at rest—
An English grave: O knew I where
Couches such dust of brave and fair!
Perchance cathedralled marble holds,
With angel forms, and massive folds
Of drapery round the lettered urn,
(Where sometimes more than truth we learn,)
Holds, and reveals in stately phrase,
Relics too sacred far for praise.
Perchance removed from stall and quire,
    In some sweet nest of wood and rill,
Where, over trees, a low, grey spire
    Looks on its hamlet green and still;
Where the few simple peasants seen,
Know little of what once hath been;—
Perchance within that rustic mound
A mouldering monument is found;
Its gold grown dim, and all defaced,
Scroll and device with which once graced:
Yet when the slanting sun pours in
    At eve his broad and steady smile,
There pondering heart and eye may win
    Memorials of the desert isle;
And of the noble pair who made
So long their dwelling in its shade,
And thence by statesmen exiled home,
Died 'neath their own manorial dome!

Idle my dream? I know it well;
But dreams are ever for the shell.

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Published @ RC

November 2003

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