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Verses From The Oldest Portfolio
by [?]


Nescit vox missa reverti.–Horat. Ars Poetica.
Ab lis qua non adjuvant quam mollissime oportet pedem referre.–
Quintillian, L. VI. C. 4.

These verses have always been printed in my collected poems, and as the
best of them may bear a single reading, I allow them to appear, but in a
less conspicuous position than the other productions. A chick, before
his shell is off his back, is hardly a fair subject for severe criticism.
If one has written anything worth preserving, his first efforts may be
objects of interest and curiosity. Other young authors may take
encouragement from seeing how tame, how feeble, how commonplace were the
rudimentary attempts of the half-fledged poet. If the boy or youth had
anything in him, there will probably be some sign of it in the midst of
his imitative mediocrities and ambitious failures. These “first verses”
of mine, written before I was sixteen, have little beyond a common
academy boy’s ordinary performance. Yet a kindly critic said there was
one line which showed a poetical quality:–

“The boiling ocean trembled into calm.”

One of these poems–the reader may guess which–won fair words from
Thackeray. The Spectre Pig was a wicked suggestion which came into my
head after reading Dana’s Buccaneer. Nobody seemed to find it out, and
I never mentioned it to the venerable poet, who might not have been
pleased with the parody. This is enough to say of these unvalued copies
of verses.




THE god looked out upon the troubled deep
Waked into tumult from its placid sleep;
The flame of anger kindles in his eye
As the wild waves ascend the lowering sky;
He lifts his head above their awful height
And to the distant fleet directs his sight,
Now borne aloft upon the billow’s crest,
Struck by the bolt or by the winds oppressed,
And well he knew that Juno’s vengeful ire
Frowned from those clouds and sparkled in that fire.
On rapid pinions as they whistled by
He calls swift Zephyrus and Eurus nigh
Is this your glory in a noble line
To leave your confines and to ravage mine?
Whom I–but let these troubled waves subside–
Another tempest and I’ll quell your pride!
Go–bear our message to your master’s ear,
That wide as ocean I am despot here;
Let him sit monarch in his barren caves,
I wield the trident and control the waves
He said, and as the gathered vapors break
The swelling ocean seemed a peaceful lake;
To lift their ships the graceful nymphs essayed
And the strong trident lent its powerful aid;
The dangerous banks are sunk beneath the main,
And the light chariot skims the unruffled plain.
As when sedition fires the public mind,
And maddening fury leads the rabble blind,
The blazing torch lights up the dread alarm,
Rage points the steel and fury nerves the arm,
Then, if some reverend Sage appear in sight,
They stand–they gaze, and check their headlong flight,–
He turns the current of each wandering breast
And hushes every passion into rest,–
Thus by the power of his imperial arm
The boiling ocean trembled into calm;
With flowing reins the father sped his way
And smiled serene upon rekindled day.