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The Diver (a ballad)
by [?]


“What knight or what vassal will be so bold
As to plunge in the gulf below?
See! I hurl in its depths a goblet of gold,
Already the waters over it flow.
The man who can bring back the goblet to me,
May keep it henceforward,–his own it shall be.”

Thus speaks the king, and he hurls from the height
Of the cliffs that, rugged and steep,
Hang over the boundless sea, with strong might,
The goblet afar, in the bellowing deep.
“And who’ll be so daring,–I ask it once more,–
As to plunge in these billows that wildly roar?”

And the vassals and knights of high degree
Hear his words, but silent remain.
They cast their eyes on the raging sea,
And none will attempt the goblet to gain.
And a third time the question is asked by the king:
“Is there none that will dare in the gulf now to spring?”

Yet all as before in silence stand,
When a page, with a modest pride,
Steps out of the timorous squirely band,
And his girdle and mantle soon throws aside,
And all the knights, and the ladies too,
The noble stripling with wonderment view.

And when he draws nigh to the rocky brow,
And looks in the gulf so black,
The waters that she had swallowed but now,
The howling Charybdis is giving back;
And, with the distant thunder’s dull sound.
From her gloomy womb they all-foaming rebound.

And it boils and it roars, and it hisses and seethes,
As when water and fire first blend;
To the sky spurts the foam in steam-laden wreaths,
And wave presses hard upon wave without end.
And the ocean will never exhausted be,
As if striving to bring forth another sea.

But at length the wild tumult seems pacified,
And blackly amid the white swell
A gaping chasm its jaws opens wide,
As if leading down to the depths of hell:
And the howling billows are seen by each eye
Down the whirling funnel all madly to fly.

Then quickly, before the breakers rebound,
The stripling commends him to Heaven,
And–a scream of horror is heard around,–
And now by the whirlpool away he is driven,
And secretly over the swimmer brave
Close the jaws, and he vanishes ‘neath the dark wave.

O’er the watery gulf dread silence now lies,
But the deep sends up a dull yell,
And from mouth to mouth thus trembling it flies:
“Courageous stripling, oh, fare thee well!”
And duller and duller the howls recommence,
While they pause in anxious and fearful suspense.

“If even thy crown in the gulf thou shouldst fling,
And shouldst say, ‘He who brings it to me
Shall wear it henceforward, and be the king,’
Thou couldst tempt me not e’en with that precious foe;
What under the howling deep is concealed
To no happy living soul is revealed!”

Full many a ship, by the whirlpool held fast,
Shoots straightway beneath the mad wave,
And, dashed to pieces, the hull and the mast
Emerge from the all-devouring grave,–
And the roaring approaches still nearer and nearer,
Like the howl of the tempest, still clearer and clearer.

And it boils and it roars, and it hisses and seethes,
As when water and fire first blend;
To the sky spurts the foam in steam-laden wreaths,
And wave passes hard upon wave without end.
And, with the distant thunder’s dull sound,
From the ocean-womb they all-bellowing bound.

And lo! from the darkly flowing tide
Comes a vision white as a swan,
And an arm and a glistening neck are descried,
With might and with active zeal steering on;
And ’tis he, and behold! his left hand on high
Waves the goblet, while beaming with joy is his eye.