The Last Stork.

Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times ; and the turtle and the crane and the
swallow observe the time of their coming ; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord.”
Jeremiah, viii. 7.
I’ve heard a tale of olden time,1
Of stately Stork of southern clime,2
That sail’d the billowy ocean rare,3
That waves above the ambient air4
That rolling sea which heaves reclined5
Above the regions of the wind,6
From which descendeth down amain7
The drizzly day, the rattling rain,8
The motley mists on mountain blue,9
And showers of silver-sifted dew.10
O’er this grand ocean of the sky,11
Our noble Stork had sail’d on high,12
With some few hundred thousands more,13
From Nile’s debased and muddy shore,14
And Jordan’s stream, held sacred still,15
That from the springs of Hermon hill16
Descends by Mirom’s reedy brake,17
And lone Tiberias’ sultry lake,18
To glut the Dead Sea’s pregnant weed19
A gorgeous range for storks indeed !20
And where they still a welcome prove,21
As blessings sent from heaven above.22
There had the guests their gathering made,23
To shape the dauntless escalade24
Of heaven’s own arch, and there the host25
Gather’d from all Arabia’s coast ;26
From Ethiopia’s lakes of gloom,27
And jungles of the fierce Simoom :28
At last, that none might lag behind,29
The word was pass’d as day declined,30
To mount upon the moaning wind.31
As ever you saw the fire-flaughts sweep32
From furnace at the midnight deep,33
Pouring with fierce and heavenward aim,34
Like rapid shreds of living flame,35
Till, fading in the dark alcove,36
They vanish in the fields above ;37
So rose from Jordan’s sullen tide,38
And dark Tyberias’ sultry side,39
To navigate the cloudy spheres,40
Thousands of milk-white mariners,41
All flickering with their dappled wings,42
A spiral stream of living things,43
Till far within the ether blue,44
They melt in regions of the dew.45
Then nought is seen from earth below,46
Nor heard but sounds of distant woe,47
A howling, shrieking strain on high,48
Alongst the stories of the sky ;49
As if an host of spirits bright50
From this dire world had ta’en their flight,51
Weeping with dread uncertainty,52
Where their abode was thence to be,53
All heighten’d by the thrilling pain,54
That they might ne’er return again.55
It brings to mind that evening drear,56
The last of Judah’s hope or fear,57
When Heathens raised the demon yell58
Of triumph, and Jerusalem fell ;59
When the devouring brand of Rome60
Uplighted Zion’s sacred dome,61
And told unto the remnant small62
Of God’s own people, that their thrall63
Was then begun that end should never,64
Forsaken by their God for ever.65
Their temple in one smouldering flame,66
What more on earth remain’d for them !67
Then rush’d the young and old on death,68
Sinking beneath the foemen’s wrath,69
Till even Havock’s bloodshot eye70
Turn’d from the carnage scared and dry ;71
And Avarice spared the wailing few, 72
Which Pity had refused to do.73
What thousands of excluded souls74
Would leave that night their earthly goals,75
Mounting the air like flickering flame,76
With rapid but unguided aim,77
Guided, though all to them unknown,78
The path unto the judgment throne !79
Think of the air crowded to be80
With beings of Eternity,81
All fearing, hoping, trembling, crying,82
Romans and Jews together flying,83
How would they feel their race now run,84
Of all that they had lost or won,85
Of old heart-burnings and of strife,86
And all their daring deeds of life !87
Alas ! would every warrior famed,88
Or council where a war is framed,89
But think of this as madness past,90
And to what all must come at last,91
And then remember seriously92
That there’s a reckoning still to be !93
But simile now aside I lay,94
For similes lead me still astray,95
And to our migrant hordes repair.96
High o’er the columns of the air,97
Like fleets of angels on they steer,98
With check, with challenge, and with cheer.99
The light foam that we see besprent100
On surface of the firmament,101
Yielded before the downy prow102
And silken sails of wavy snow,103
And a long path of changing hue104
Laid open vales of deeper blue,105
While shepherds of the Alpine reign,106
Of Kryman and the Apennine,107
Are startled by the wailing cry108
Within the bosom of the sky,109
That dies upon the northern wind,110
And gathers, gathers still behind ;111
In vain he strains his aching sight,112
It strays bewilder’d, lost in light,113
While, all alongst the empyrean cone,114
Thousands of voices, sounding on,115
Strike the poor hind with terror dumb !—116
He deems man’s sins have reach’d their sum,117
And his last day on earth is come.118
One resting-place, and one alone,119
To mankind ever has been known,120
A little lake on Alpine fell,121
Where Zurich meets with Appenzell ;122
And such a scene as their descent123
From out the glowing firmament,124
While skies around with echoes rung,125
No bard hath ever seen or sung ;126
They come with wild and waving wheel,127
Or mazes of the maddening reel,128
Pouring like snowballs in a stream,129
Or dancing in the solar beam,130
With shouts all shouts of joy excelling,131
Till even the frigid Alps are yelling.132
Such scenes were once on Scottish plain,133
But there shall ne’er be seen again !134
On Scottish plain ! who this may trow ?135
What means our bard ? he’s raving now ;136
For save the fieldfare’s countless band,137
Or snowflakes of the northern land,138
Of migrant myriads there are none,139
And trivial such comparison,140
With this great southern inundation,—141
I hate so groundless an illation.142
Stop, countryman, for I allude143
To a more grand similitude,144
’Tis known to you, or, if ’tis not,145
’Tis pity that it were forgot,146
That our own grandsires oft have seen,147
As daylight faded on the green, ;148
And moonlight with its hues was blending,149
The fairy bridallers descending150
Straight from the moon like living stream151
On ladder of her golden beam,152
All pure as dewdrops of the even,153
And countless as the stars of heaven ;154
Their tiny faces glowing bright155
With flashes of a wild delight,156
Their little songs of fairy love,157
Like music of the spheres above ;158
And every saraband and ring159
As swift as fire-flies on the wing,160
That was a scene the soul to glad !161
Deem not my simile so bad.162
Well, here within that Alpine lake,163
Our blithe aërial sailors take164
Their pastime with abundant joy,165
Yet lost no moment of employ ;166
Tribe after tribe apart was set,167
To stock each marsh and minaret,168
From Zealand’s swamps which oceans lave,169
To Wolga’s wastes and Dwina’s wave,170
While a small portion, deem’d the best,171
Their potent leader thus address’d :172
Friends, countrymen, and kinsmen mine,173
Most noble Storks of sacred line,174
It grieves me much that we have lost175
Our empire upon Britain’s coast,176
For nought can happen but mischance,177
Without our blessed countenance ;178
And since the day that we forsook her,179
Such dire mischances have o’ertook her,180
By means of blundering, blustering schemers,181
Bald turncoats, trimmers, and blasphemers,182
That now she stands o’erwhelm’d with horror,183
And trembles at the gulf before her ;184
To ruin’s brink driven on by foes,185
One other push, and down she goes. 186
Haste, then, her drooping heart to cherish,187
I list not church and state should perish.188
One single hint of your descent189
May total ruin yet prevent.”190
Alas ! my liege ! whate’er betide,”191
A stately noble Stork replied,192
There I shall never go for one,193
They are all poachers to a man.194
Herons, bog-bumpers, and such game,195
Are prizes rich enough for them ;196
For they must shoot at every thing,197
Be’t duke or teal, or kirk or king ;198
And not one blessed Stork would be199
Alive within two days or three.200
The very last time I was there,201
Had I not mounted in the air202
Above the clouds, and cross’d the main,203
I ne’er had seen your grace again.204
Two goodly relatives of mine,205
Brave noble Storks of royal line,206
As a secure and shelter’d rest,207
On Wharn-cliff built their airy nest ;208
The squire shot both that night they came,209
And sold them at the mart for game210
At double price of crane or goose,211
Swearing they were white heronsheughs.212
People that cannot keep unriven213
A sacred garb that’s to them given,214
Deserve no countenance nor grace215
From canonized and sacred race.216
On Sidmouth cliff or Eldon hill217
A bird of heaven might venture still,218
Or even on Winshiel’s lofty bower,219
Or dark Newcastle’s smoky tower ;220
But even these the spoiler’s eye221
Leave Britain to her destiny !”222
But one bold Stork, and one alone,223
Straight to the British shores has flown,224
And the first day he settled there,225
As roosting on a palace fair,226
Rolling his red eye in the ring,227
A sporting Bishop broke his wing,228
And bore him home, with smiles of joy,229
To his beloved cadaverous boy.230
That Stork’s last speech and dying words231
Are all that now my tale affords.232
Woe to this land, so long beloved,233
So long by earth and heaven approved,234
But favour’d and preserved in vain235
In bulwark of her rolling main !236
For all her precious blessings sent237
Are wholly by the roots uprent.238
That sin can never be forgiven,239
Committed ’gainst the light of Heaven,240
The spirit’s warnings, and the din241
Of the small voice that cries within.242
Instead of birds that wing the sky,243
Of bold and independent eye,244
Nought can her wisdom cherish now245
But gull, and grebe, and heronsheugh ;246
These slabberers, whom God disapproves,247
That watch for fishes and for loaves ;248
Who, for fat puddock, or such thing,249
Would pluck the royal eagle’s wing,250
And on a view, however sinister,251
Would sell the kirk and hang the minister ;252
Out on them all ! I here disburse253
To every class my latest curse !254
Since they have sacrificed the last255
Best blessing to their lot was cast ;256
Meet they should grovel in the mire,257
Till quench’d be all their ancient fire !258
The last bird of the heavenly race259
Here falls, and leaves his vacant place,260
Which base venality surrounds,261
A prey to harpies and to hounds.262
Farewell, ye vales of Palestine,263
Which I shall ne’er behold again ;264
Ye piles and altars clothed in dust,265
Wherein I placed my early trust,266
And which, with death before my sight,267
My spirit turns to with delight !268
Farewell, ye clouds, which oft I’ve rent,269
Ye foldings of the firmament,270
Where oft I’ve view’d the treasures dire271
Of hail, of thunder, and of fire,272
With reeling shades of hideous form,273
The first gyrations of the storm.274
Farewell, ye wreathes so downy bright,275
Ye windows of empyreal light,276
Through which I’ve view’d the rolling world277
With all her winding dells unfurl’d,278
When snowy Alps and streams were seen,279
All else appear’d one level green,280
While glassy lakes would intervene281
As mirrors of the heavenly reign,282
In which I saw inverted lie283
The marbled clouds that clothed the sky,284
And dark blue windows, deeply sleeping,285
Through which a thousand Storks were peeping.286
Farewell, ye Stars, whose tiny brightness287
I’ve often fann’d with wing of lightness,288
Brushing with snowy down the damps289
Away from off your gilded lamps,290
Then with joint shout of thousand yellings,291
Which sounded through your sapphire dwellings,292
With boom that made you stop your ears,293
And shoot like rockets from your spheres,294
Frightening almost to parting breath295
The children of this world beneath ;296
This last farewell with grief I render ;—297
One bird of heaven foregoes your splendour !298
Farewell thou Moon, whose silver light299
Gilds the dim alcove of the night,300
And when thy lord to rest has gone,301
With modest mien ascend’st his throne,302
Dispensing far, as queen beseems,303
The bounty of thy borrow’d beams !304
Beloved moon, there is a bound305
Of holiness breathes thee around,306
A majesty of virgin prime,307
A stillness beauteous and sublime,308
That, oh ! it grieves thy servant’s core309
That he shall ne’er behold thee more,310
Nor pilot to his tribe the way311
Through regions of thy modest ray !312
Imperial Sun, so gorgeous bright,313
Great source of glory, life, and light,314
The Stork’s own deity alone,315
He worships thee—beside thee, none,316
For thou endow’st him with the sense317
To seek thy milder influence,318
Whether in Europe’s shadowy woods319
Or regions of the tropic floods ;320
Farewell for ever, king of heaven,321
Be all my trespasses forgiven !322
And now on Britain’s sordid line323
I leave my curse, but crave not thine.324
Forgive them all save the state botchers,325
Those piteous pedagogues and poachers,326
Praters oppress’d with proud proficiency,327
Sapience supreme, and self-sufficiency ;328
Degrading with their yelping bills,329
The shepherds on a thousand hills.330
O blessed Sun, to man in kindness,331
Visit them with Assyrian blindness,332
That they may grope about for foe,333
To tell them whither they should go.334
That curse falls on myself—I bow335
To thee, to death, and darkness now,336
And yield my spirit to the giver.—337
Thou beauteous world, adieu for ever !”338
Then the fair journeyer of the sky339
Crook’d his fair neck, and closed his eye,340
Stretch’d out his wing with rigid shiver,341
His noble heart gave its last quiver ;342
And the last guest of heaven is gone343
That e’er sought grace in Albion.344
Woe to the hands so ill directed,345
That should have such a life protected ;346
But that dire day of sin and shame,347
Of bare-faced brazenness and blame,348
When Heaven’s vicegerents were forsworn,349
The child shall rue that is unborn.350