Page images
PDF
EPUB

the successive depredations of Romans, Turks, and Scotchmen ; but her intellectual empire is imperishable.

And, when those who have rivaled her greatness shall have shared her fate; when civilization and knowledge shall have fixed their abode in distant continents; when the scepter shall have passed away from England; when, perhaps, travelers from distant regions shall in vain labor to decipher on some moldering pedestal the name of our proudest chief, shall hear savage hymns chanted to some misshapen idol over the ruined dome of our proudest temple, and shall see a single naked fisherman wash his nets in the river of the ten thousand masts, — her influence and her glory will still survive, fresh in eternal youth, exempt from mutability and decay, immortal as the intellectual principle from which they derived their origin, and over which they exercise their control.

[graphic]

ALFRED TENNYSON.

1809

ENOCH ARDEN.

FIRST READING.

LONG lines of cliff breaking have left a chasm; And in the chasm are foam and yellow sands; Beyond, red roofs about a narrow wharf In cluster; then a moldered church; and higher A long street climbs to one tall-towered mill; And high in heaven behind it a gray down With Danish barrows; and a hazel-wood, By autumn nutters haunted, flourishes Green in a cuplike hollow of the down.

Here on this beach a hundred years ago,
Three children of three houses, Annie Lee,
The prettiest little damsel in the port,
And Philip Ray the miller's only son,
And Enoch Arden, a rough sailor's lad
Made orphan by a winter shipwreck, played
Among the waste and lumber of the shore,
Hard coils of cordage, swarthy fishing-nets,
Anchors of rusty fluke, and boats updrawn ;
And built their castles of dissolving sand
To watch them overflowed, or following up

barrow, a burial-mound.

And flying the white breaker, daily left
The little footprint daily washed away.

A narrow cave ran in beneath the cliff : In this the children played at keeping house. Enoch was host one day, Philip the next, While Annie still was mistress; but at times Enoch would hold possession for a week : “This is my house, and this my little wife.” “Mine too,” said Philip, “turn and turn about :” When, if they quarreled, Enoch stronger made Was master. Then would Philip, his blue eyes All flooded with the helpless wrath of tears, Shriek out, “I hate you, Enoch;” and at this The little wife would weep for company, And pray them not to quarrel for her sake, And say

she would be little wife to both.

But when the dawn of rosy childhood passed, And the new warmth of life's ascending sun Was felt by either, either fixed his heart On that one girl; and Enoch spoke his love, But Philip loved in silence; and the girl Seemed kinder unto Philip than to him ; But she loved Enoch : though she knew it not, And would if asked deny it. Enoch set A purpose evermore before his eyes, To hoard all savings to the uttermost, To purchase his own boat, and make a home For Annie. And so prospered that at last A luckier or a bolder fisherman, A carefuler in peril, did not breathe

For leagues along that breaker-beaten coast
Than Enoch. Likewise had he served a year
On board a merchantman, and made himself
Full sailor; and he thrice had plucked a life
From the dread sweep of the down-streaming seas;
And all men looked upon him favorably;
And ere he touched his one-and-twentieth May
He purchased his own boat, and made a home
For Annie, neat and nestlike, half-way up
The narrow street that clambered toward the mill.

Then on a golden autumn eventide, The younger people making holiday, With bag and sack and basket, great and small, Went nutting to the hazels. Philip stayed (His father lying sick and needing him) An hour behind; but as he climbed the hill, Just where the prone edge of the wood began To feather toward the hollow, saw the pair, Enoch and Annie, sitting hand-in-hand, His large gray eyes and weather-beaten face All-kindled by a still and sacred fire, That burned as on an altar. Philip looked, And in their eyes and faces read his doom ; Then, as their faces drew together, groaned, And slipped aside, and like a wounded life Crept down into the hollows of the wood. There, while the rest were loud in merry-making, Had his dark hour unseen, and rose and passed, Bearing a lifelong hunger in his heart.

So these were wed, and merrily rang the bells, And merrily ran the years, seven happy years,

Seven happy years of health and competence,
And mutual love and honorable toil;
With children; first a daughter. In him woke,
With his first babe's first cry, the noble wish
To save all earnings to the uttermost,
And give his child a better bringing-up
Than his had been, or hers, - a wish renewed,
When two years after came a boy to be
The rosy idol of her solitudes,
While Enoch was abroad on wrathful seas,
Or often journeying landward ; for in truth
Enoch's white horse, and Enoch's ocean spoil
In ocean-smelling osier, and his face,
Rough-reddened with a thousand winter gales,
Not only to the market-cross were known,
But in the leafy lanes behind the down,
Far as the portal-warding lion-whelp,
And peacock-yewtree of the lonely Hall,
Whose Friday fare was Enoch's ministering.

Then came a change, as all things human change. Ten miles to northward of the narrow port Opened a larger haven: thither used Enoch at times to go by land or sea; And once when there, and clambering on a mast In harbor, by mischance he slipped and fell : A limb was broken when they lifted him ; And while he lay recovering there, his wife Bore him another son, a sickly one : Another hand crept too across his trade, Taking her bread and theirs; and on him fell, Although a grave and staid God-fearing man,

« PreviousContinue »