« PreviousContinue »
Those mount the hill, to catch the breezes there,
These in balloons spring up at once to air ;
Those by safe steps descend the rocky steep,
These clear the dreadful barrier at a leap !
Oh! none can doubt which rival throng of fame
Our own bold hero of the fall may claim :
His is a class, too rare in every age,
Who blend at once the hero with the sage;
Who mighty thoughts with mighty brains conceive,
And mighty deeds with mighty hands achieve.
He stopped at nought his daring spirit bid ;
Whate'er his mind conceived his body did.
Oh! rarest union of all mortal powers !
Oh! pride — that such a paragon is ours!
We left him fainting on the grassy bank;
His frame unstrung, his garments dripping dank :
Unconscious violets bore his noble head,
And mossy cushions lent his limbs a béd.
O’er bis pale brows green laurels brushed : he air,
As though they sought to twine in chaplets there:
While trump of frogs, sole heralds of his feat,
Seemed but the foretaste of applause more sweet.
Revived at length, he seeks his humble home;
Full of past deeds, but more of those to come.
At every step, lit by the moon's white beamn,
The trickling drops like gems all-sparkling gleam:
And gems they are in Science' eye that shine
More precious than the rarest of the mine.
The tears of pity, or the soldier's blood,
Match not those drippings of the conquered flood.
He feels no damp; when hearts with ardor thrill,
There is no fear that skins will quake with chill:
Triumph is his and ever bright renown -
Ranked with immortals shall his name go down!
He proved a fact that science never knew,
And did a deed which none had dared to do.
Next morn, the sun awakes the busy town,
To learn of feats and miracles unknown :
On every post, pump, pillar, corner, tree,
This startling card the awe-struck people see:
'On Wednesday next, from yonder rocky height,
Whence falls the flood - unwinged, unaided quite
Near where the dwarf pine lives, yet cannot grow
One Patch will leap into the tide below;
And in his body prove to every one,
Some things as well as others can be done.'
Some pity melis, some horrid fears appal;
But soul-absorbing wonder rouses all.
Some that had chanced his moody ways to know,
And feared him mad, now deemed him truly so.
Some as a hoax the matter feigned to treat,
And foully called the hero wag and cheat.
The parson said, as God no wings had given,
Such Alights by man seemed like defying heaven:
Patch he denounced, and on his head did pour
Such doom as Galileo met before.
The Doctor thought the case was doubtful; true,
If safe he reached the water safe went through,
Unhurt by rocks, why - he must own, for one —
He thought the feat might - possibly -- be done :
Especially – if he were standing by
The limbs to rub the stomach-pump apply --
Then put to bed - then purge a week — then bleed
He felt quite sure he might – perhaps - succeed.
At length the day of awful trial came; Momentous morn! - big with disgrace or fame.
And neighboring farms, and distant cities, all
Disgorge their throngs, to mingle at the fall.
There stand at least, on mountain-height and glen,
Ten thousand women, and one thousand men;
For woman seeks and shines in trial's hour,
When pity her own balsam - she can pour ;
And measuring glances many an eye would throw
From the tall cliff to yon black lake below,
Streaked white with suds from many a well-washed rock ;
Oh! who could mark that depth, without a shock!
Schools are let loose – the merry urchins scream -
Bestride the sharp-backed rock, or wade the stream ;
And many a tree around that craggy shore
The precious fruit of mortal bodies bore:
Among their leaves that quivered in the breeze,
A thousand hearts were fluttering more than these.
Loud shouts the tumbling river, 'till it frights
To shrieks and quakings, all the rocky heights.
Oh glorious spectacle ! - oh noble stage !
Whereon to bare bright science to the age ;
A heaven-set trap appears this rock-girt glen,
To corner truth, and here pursuing, pen;
And captured thus, by genius' conquering power,
Advance it centuries in a single hour.
Who would not seek it even through yon abyss !
Or die to prove it on a scene like this i
But where is he? the hero of the day
Whose call this thronging multitude obey ?
Why ask? When genius oft its face displays,
'T is tanned and cheapened in the public gaze:
It were unfitting his should be attacked
By vulgar vision, till the hour of act.
But where is he? Approach yon humble shed,
Behold him there! — his frugal dinner spread
His active jaws their motion quick repeating -
And Patch the hero, Patch the sage, is eating!
You smile! as if á wit could live on stone
As if God meant his fruits for fools alone;'*
As if a genius of the mightiest ken
Had not teeth, stomach, throat, like other men.
Even Satire might forgive him a repast
All human reason feared would be his last.
Our hero knew what compounds men must be,
He felt himself 'half dust, half deity!'
And knew the body still supplies must find,
Despite the nausea of the haughty mind :
Ungrateful mind the very means to slight,
Whence through corporeal channels springs its might.
Full well he knew the courage food instils
The heart grows bigger as the stomach fills:
Full well he knew, where food does not refresh,
The shrivelled soul shrinks inward with the flesh;
That he's best armed for danger's rash career,
Who's crammed so full there is no room for fear.
Now from the gathered and still gathering crowd,
Impatient murmurs swell, and burst aloud ;
And threats arise - which soon to whispers sink —
For look! at last he stands upon the brink :
'Patch ! shouts the mighty multitude around,
And 'Patch! PATCH! Patch !' hills, caves, and skies rebound !
Now ! hero - now! - one trial, and the last,
To build thy fortune, or for ever blast;
Ere one young hour be born from time's full womb,
Thy fame shall find a trumpet, or a tomb !
No time he wastes ; from the brown jug he brings,
One draught he takes — thrice claps his hands – then springs !
He's off! He whirls ! with Autter, rush, whiz – dash;
Cleaving the foam with gurgle, spatter, splash,
Down-sinking! Through the hushed and choking crowd,
The breath grows thick, and cannot shriek aloud :
All feel his gasping pangs — increasing still
The breathless spasm the epigastric thrill ;
As fast, and faster hurried to the stroke,
He strikes! all start as from wild dreams awoke!
In that dread moment of uncertainty,
Ev'n envy's sneer dies down to pity's sigh;
While the cold doubier, wbom no pangs can thrill,
Prepares to croak 'He knew 't would end in ill :'
But soon to sneers and fears is put an end;
Through the dark lake behold his face ascend !
Ruddy, and welcome as the second sun
To Adam rose, who feared his race was run.
When genius shools his lightning through the soul
Applause the recognizing peal should roll:
Loud shouts and long, the roaring flood outroar,
When safe he finds, and stands upon the shore !
Through the glad heavens, which tempests now conceal,
Deep thunder-guns in quick succession peal ;
As if salutes were firing from the sky,
To hail the triumph, and the victory :
Shout ! trump of fame – 'till thy brass lungs burst out!
Shout! mortal tongues ! - deep throated thunders, shout!
For lo ! - electric genius, downward hurled,
Has startled science, and illumed the world!
Now rashing winds and thunderbolts engage :
Chaos of sounds, and dust, and fame in rage ;
That the firm frame-work of the heavens on high
Rocks wide, as if an earthquake shook the sky.
While from the brimming and o'errunning cloud,
The ominous drops, big, scattered, rare and loud,
Tinkle like dropping pebbles on the lake
Beat dust from earth - on rocks, wide spattering, break.
Each friend of science gazes upward – wheels,
And takes, for shelter, meanly to his heels:
Not even the hero, dripping from the flood,
The general panic of the time withstood.
Oh! strange infatuation of the mind :
To flinch at trifles, though to dangers blind.
So the hot heroes of the barricade,
When, tired of laws and kings themselves had made
They met defying fire and sword and slaughter,
Were by Lobau dispersed with muddy water.*
A knot of savans, huddled 'neath a shed,
Discussed the feat; one rigid sceptic said
There was some trick but where he could not see :
Enough for him to know it could not be ;
What was impossible for man t' achieve,
Ev'n though he saw it, he would not believe.
A learned sage from Gotham that had come,
Who bared some falsehoods, and believed in some,
Declared, with boldness common to the wise,
Possible, or not – he must believe his eyes.
The doubter cried 't was humbug, humbug all
Believers ever into error fall;
The world was full of humbug; he, for one,
Could not so tamely be imposed upon.
The hero vowed -- with anger jusily moved,
To hear disputed all that he had proved ;
To prove it still, on that, or any ground
On ialler heights, could taller heights be found ;
* A mob in the Place Vendome, at Paris, that refused to retire on throat of being fired upon, wero thus finally scattered by meaus of a fire-engine, and a little dirty water.
Ay, hotly swore to leap through all the air,
From the moon's horns, if they would hang him there.
Take not his boasting in the literal sense –
Success and whiskey gave him confidence;
And in the heat, and triumph of the hour,
He felt no bounds to his presumptuous power.
The doubter, warming, said he must repeat,
He deemed him all a humbúg, and his feat.
Redder than morn the hero's life-blood rose,
And tinged his cheek still brighter than his nose:
Then fell his vengeance on the slanderer's head,
Fists flew – claws clenched — teeth gnashed, and nosos bled;
And struggling, tumbling, rolling, on they go,
Till Patch was parted from his prostrate foe:
Conqueror, alike in battle and th' abyss,
The day, the triumph, now is doubly his!
'T were vain to trace the toils the hero passed,
Through each repeated trial, to the lasi:
From towering masts to Hudson's tide the leap,
Or from Niagara's more appalling steep :
Till that dark day of sorrow's blackest frown,
When the bright sun of leapers last went down;
And that great light so many streams had drenched,
Oh, Genessee ! - was in thy waters quenched.
No cloud – no gloom that morn the heavens o'erhung,'
Yet dark forebodings rose from many a tongue;
And warning voices bade him shun the shore,
And tempt the horrors of the leap no more.
But with that fatal bias which has led
So many a hero to his doom, he said:
'Could danger fright, I ne'er had braved th' aby98 :
If death must come what fitter hour than this?
He ceased, and leaping from the fatal shore,
Dropped like a stone, and sank to rise no more!
When to the crowd the awful truth grew plain,
That daring form was ne'er to rise again;
They spoke not, shrieked not, wailed not; with dismay,
Each gazed on other, dumb – then turned away.
And oh! most sad, most touching sight - the mate --
The widowed comrade of his wandering fate —
His bear, returning with the mournful throng,
There led, all friendless, masterless, along!
He fell!- the Great Descender of his time-
The only traveller in his route sublime :
Sole, last-nor had before, nor since he fled,
A rival, living, or a follower, dead :
Forewarned, like Nelson, of his doom, too'well ;
Like Nelson, mid his scenes of glory fell :
By that last mortal effort of his mind,
Enriching truth, but beggaring mankind.
Dropping too often for his zeal was such -
He yielded, vanquished by a drop too much.
Think not I mean to hint the hero quaffed
Too oft for health the soul-inspiring draught:
Though some there be who slanderously contend
He thus was basely hurried to his end.
Weak, ignorant fools, then know ye not, indeed,
That souls of fire on fiery food must feed ?
That what would burn your feeble nerves apart,
Is natural diet to the great of heart?
As well the dull and browsing ass might sneer
At locomotive in its swift career ;
Unthinking, in the folly of his ire,
That such tremendous energies require
A drink of scalding vapor, and a food of fire !
There are, who hold this dread belief, beside :
That by design the mighty leaper died ;
That of earth's common, tame abysses tired,
His soul some wilder, bolder plunge desired;
And thus, all braced to brave the final pang,
Down the deep gulf that knows no bottom, sprang.
Such were an end - howe'er the heart it thrill
More in accordance with his daring will.
Why should he farther here prolong the strife ?
He had fulfilled the mission of his life;
And ran art, science, and the world in debt:
A mighty debt, alas! uncancelled yet.
Oh! my sad pen with tears of ink could weep,
To find such worth left unrenowned to sleep.
His class immortal, who possess, combined,
Th' heroic body with th' inventive mind;
Too rarely run with triumph to the goal,
Till from the clay.clog death has loosed the soul.
Then shall their fame rush brightly into day;
What present owes them, future time shall pay;
And all, who erst their living fires did spurn,
Shall throng to hail the ashes of their urn.
No living laurel on their brows may bloom,
But chiselled garlands shall enwreath their tomb:
No praise shall swell, their lonely course to cheer,
Till poured unheeded in their marble ear:
Their very features to the world unknown,
Till carved by glory in the pallid stone.
'Tis only from the chilly air of death
Fame, like the soul, firsi draws enduring breath ;
And genius, when from earthly fetters freed,
First grows immortal, when it has no need.
Like rays phosphoric that surprise the night,
'T is death's corruption fires its hidden light:
Death's tongue of thunder tells us, when gone by,
Some flash of wit has shot along our sky.
The world to merit wakes not till 't is past,
And notes no struggle, till it makes the last :
Nor knows the skies a genius deigned to rain,
Till like a cloud it blooms on high again :
Learns not a spark astray from heaven has come,
Till the bright wanderer finds once more its home;
And, like a star life's day-time has concealed,
Stands, by the darkness of the grave revealed.
Martyr of science !- in whose glorious cause
Thou lost thy life, and gain’dst the world's applause,
To the historian of thy deeds sublime,
Thou seem'st a fossil monster of old time:
Huge, shadowy, lone, of mighty race of yore;
But now on earth extinct for ever more.
Mine be the boast thy relics to have stirred !
Mine the Cuvierian hand that disinterred,
And classed thee monarch of a giant reign,
Whose mammoth like we ne'er may see again.
Farewell! Great Heart! Thou’rt doomed to bright renown,
And like thy body sh all thy fame go down
To the deep sea that rolls without a shore,
Farther than fame or body went before.
Oh! happy chance that gave thee for my theme !
Now, linked together, will we sail the stream;
Thou shalt be called the Patch whom Flaccus sang,
Or I the bard who Patch's praises rang:
Yes! I shall buoy thee on th' immortal sea,
Or, failing that, thyself shalt carry me!
END OF THE GREAT DESCENDER.