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For 'twas alone the bravest
Of those who nobly shed Their lifeblood in the battle
Whose wrists were bound with red.
And when they thus had graced them
Who fell before the foe,
Into the plain below.,
Those hillsmen brave and free, The sky alone should cover
The warriors of Trukkee.
There came a time of conflict,
And a great armed throng Of England's bravest soldiers,
Avengers of the wrong, Marched through the gloomy gorges,
Forded the mountain rills, Vowing that they would vanquish
Those robbers of the hills.
The road was strange and dubious;
Easy it was to stray ;
Eleven lost their way.
They reached a fearful glen, And saw a mountain stronghold
Guarded by forty men.
Guarded by forty veterans
Of that fierce robber band, In every face defiance,
Weapons in every hand.
“ Back !" cried the trusty leader ;
The soldiers would not hear,
Charged with their English cheer.
With loud huzzas they stormed it,
Nor thought to turn from death,
Yielded their latest breath.
For, when our last man fell,
Were left the tale to tell.
But those sixteen were noble :
They loved a brave deed done ;
And treated him as one.
Sought for their comrades slain,
Prostrate upon the plain :
Fixed eyes, and firm clenched fists,
Was twined around their wrists.
I soon discovered that this ballad was a favourite with Pelican;
and it was one of the very few of his own effusions he could ever be prevailed upon to recite. He told me once that it always maintained its hold upon his imagination, and that he never came to the last verse without all his blood stirring within him. It was given by an acquaintance of his at a public reading in the neighbourhood, and he was obviously very much pleased at the interest which it excited. “I don't pretend to wonder at it,” said he. “The poem may be bad or it may be good ; but I will maintain to the last that the story is grand. It is the finest example of non-Christian chivalry I ever heard of."
The following little study is one of the numberless records of natural phenomena and their accompanying moods which I found among Pelican's verses, and of which I dare say I shall be tempted to give other specimens in some chapter of these reminiscences. The hour of sunset had always a singular charm for him ; indeed, he had a decided sunset mania, and after a hard day's work would often walk three or four miles to a little bit of rising ground where he could enjoy what he called his evening feast. Alexander Smith in one of those charming essays on which, I think, his fame will ultimately rest, asks, “Who remembers the sunsets of last year?" If Smith had known Pelican, this question would never have been put. He remembered them; and would sometimes say when looking at a picture, “ This reminds me of a sunset I saw at such a place five summers ago.” He had a curious system of classification, and spoke of sunsets religious, passionate, contemplative, demoniac, and so forth. The sunset of the poem seems to belong either to the religious or the contemplative species.
The sun is sinking slowly in the west,
A broadening silver light is on the sea,
And gentle voices seem to speak to me.
Those voices come, but why will they not stay?
Why has the bird of calm such wandering wings?
So quickly? They should not be transient things.
They should not go could I detain them here;
I would have evening always with its balm';
Should never mar the spirit's blissful calm.
And yet, perchance, if calm could thus be made
Eternal here it would be calm no more ;
And of the sunset light upon the shore.
I might sigh longingly for starry night,
Or languish for the fresh life-giving morn,
Had I but it the heat might well be borne.”
So it is best this soft, sweet light should go,
And day die gorgeously across the sea
And that this calm should pass away from me.
And yet not wholly pass: the life once known
But for a moment lives in us for aye,
No years nor ages can take quite away.
The next poem I quote is of a very different order. I call it a poem rather than two poems, because the connection of the sonnets is evidently not arbitrary but vital. I could not believe when I first read them, and I cannot believe now, that there was not some love-story behind them-a love-story which was not altogether a comedy but had certain tragic threads woven into the centre of its fabric. Whether there were really such a story, and if there were, what part Pelican had played in it, whether actor or spectator, were questions which often suggested themselves to me; but I never got from him even a hint that could give me a clue to an answer. Of course it is possible that I am altogether mistaken, and that they were only written as a semi-lyric, semidramatic exercise. But I doubt.
TWO SIDES OF A LOVE.
Dearest, a dreadful fear clouds my sad soul,