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The Diver
by [?]


FROM SCHILLER.

“Which of you, knight or squire, will dare
Plunge into yonder gulf?
A golden beaker I fling in it–there!
The black mouth swallows it like a wolf!
Who brings me the cup again, whoever,
It is his own–he may keep it for ever!”

‘Tis the king who speaks. He flings from the brow
Of the cliff, that, rugged and steep,
Hangs out o’er the endless sea below,
The cup in the whirlpool’s howling heap:–
“Again I ask, what hero will follow,
What hero plunge into yon dark hollow?”

The knights and the squires the king about
Hear, and dumbly stare
Into the wild sea’s tumbling rout;
To win the beaker they hardly care!
The king, for the third time, round him glaring–
“Not one soul of you has the daring?”

Speechless all, as before, they stand.
Then a squire, young, gentle, gay,
Steps from his comrades’ shrinking band,
Flinging his girdle and cloak away;
And all the women and men that surrounded
Gazed on the noble youth, astounded.

And when he stepped to the rock’s rough brow
And looked down on the gulf so black,
The waters which it had swallowed, now
Charybdis bellowing rendered back;
And, with a roar as of distant thunder,
Foaming they burst from the dark lap under.

It wallows, seethes, hisses in raging rout,
As when water wrestles with fire,
Till to heaven the yeasty tongues they spout;
And flood upon flood keeps mounting higher:
It will never its endless coil unravel,
As the sea with another sea were in travail!

But, at last, slow sinks the writhing spasm,
And, black through the foaming white,
Downward gapes a yawning chasm–
Bottomless, cloven to hell’s wide night;
And, sucked up, see the billows roaring
Down through the whirling funnel pouring!

Then in haste, ere the out-rage return again,
The youth to his God doth pray,
And–ascends a cry of horror and pain!–
Already the vortex hath swept him away,
And o’er the bold swimmer, in darkness eternal,
Close the great jaws of the gulf infernal!

Then the water above grows smooth as glass,
While, below, dull roarings ply;
And trembling they hear the murmur pass–
“High-hearted youth, farewell, good-bye!”
And hollower still comes the howl affraying,
Till their hearts are sick with the frightful delaying.

If the crown itself thou in should fling,
And say, “Who back with it hies
Himself shall wear it, and shall be king,”
I would not covet the precious prize!
What Ocean hides in that howling hell of it
Live soul will never come back to tell of it!

Ships many, caught in that whirling surge,
Shot sheer to their dismal doom:
Keel and mast only did ever emerge,
Shattered, from out the all-gulping tomb!–
Like the bluster of tempest, clearer and clearer,
Comes its roaring nearer and ever nearer!

It wallows, seethes, hisses, in raging rout,
As when water wrestles with fire,
Till to heaven the yeasty tongues they spout,
Wave upon wave’s back mounting higher;
And as with the grumble of distant thunder,
Bellowing it bursts from the dark lap under.

And, see, from its bosom, flowing dark,
Something heave up, swan-white!
An arm and a shining neck they mark,
And it rows with never relaxing might!
It is he! and high his golden capture
His left hand waves in success’s rapture!

With long deep breaths his path he ploughed,
And he hailed the heavenly day;
Jubilant shouted the gazing crowd,
“He lives! he is there! he broke away!
Out of the grave, the whirlpool uproarious,
The hero hath rescued his life victorious!”