The Isle of Despair. A Vision.

Cold blew the noisy winds unceasingly1
Across the waste, where never summer-flower,2
Expanding, spread its bosom to the sun,3
Or drank the freshness of the matin dew ;4
Where never tree was seen to rear its head,5
Branching, nor verdure to o’erspread the lawn ;6
Where sound was never heard, except the roar7
Of battling elements—the sleety north8
When Eurus buffeted, or tortured waves9
Lashed foaming on the rocks—except the howl10
Of famished bears and sea birds ; or the crash11
Of frozen masses, with o’erwhelming force,12
That, bursting, thundered from the mountain-tops,13
And woke the slumbering echoes from repose.14
A solitary waste—a waste of snows—15
Bleak rocks and frozen waters—desolate,16
Beyond the painter’s touch, or poet’s thought.17
Dark precipices bound it, giant-like,18
Hiding their snowy scalps amid the clouds,19
And listening to the storms that growled below,20
And to the lazy ocean fathomless,21
In icy greenness, rolling with its waves.22
Sure to the voice of man these barren rocks23
Re-echoed never ! sure, by human steps,24
Were never trodden these eternal snows,25
But silence, slumbering on her mountain, though26
Voiceless, hath governed since the first of time,27
A region darkened with the shadow of death !28
More bleak and blank, more desolate and drear,29
Than ever fancy conjured to the mind30
Of dreaming murderer, on his midnight couch.31
What moving creature stirs on yonder height,32
And, with his breath, disturbs the solitude ?33
Severed from all communion with mankind,34
For ever severed, like a ghost he stands35
Above the ocean, where he cannot drown ;36
And where, thro’ countless labyrinths of years,37
Years that have neither origin nor end,38
Summer nor sunshine, he is doomed to bear39
The burden of his solitude ; to drink40
The thoughts of gall and bitterness ; to feel41
The curse of immortality ; and long42
For death that mocks him still. His hollow eye,43
His haggard visage, and his flowing beard,44
White as December’s billow, wind-enchafed,45
Bespeak the desolation of his soul ;46
And as the she-wolf, when the hunter’s hand47
Hath robbed her of her young, with starting eye,48
And piercing howl, stands maddening in her den,49
So, in the torment, but without the power50
To utter it unto the winds of heaven,51
Voiceless he stood.
The famished bear came by,52
Grinding his teeth in famine ; in the path53
Prostrate he threw himself, and hoped for death54
Turning his eye towards her—’twas in vain !55
Howling she fled in cruel mockery,56
And, with remorseless and unnatural rage,57
I saw her rush towards her suckling cubs,58
Dart on them in her hungry wretchedness,59
And crunch their young bones, with unfeeling maw !60
The clouds grew dark—the shadows hovered round—61
They hovered round, and compassed him about,62
As with a garment ; and I heard a cry,63
Ear-piercing—horrible—a desolate cry—64
The circling hills re-echoed it ; around65
They caught the tone, till faint and far away66
Lowly it died ; and, listening there I heard,67
Alone, the weltering of the dreary sea.68