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The Boat On The Serchio
by [?]

‘Never mind,’ said Lionel,
‘Give care to the winds, they can bear it well
About yon poplar-tops; and see
The white clouds are driving merrily, 55
And the stars we miss this morn will light
More willingly our return to-night.–
How it whistles, Dominic’s long black hair!
List, my dear fellow; the breeze blows fair:
Hear how it sings into the air–‘ 60

–‘Of us and of our lazy motions,’
Impatiently said Melchior,
‘If I can guess a boat’s emotions;
And how we ought, two hours before,
To have been the devil knows where.’ 65
And then, in such transalpine Tuscan
As would have killed a Della-Cruscan,

So, Lionel according to his art
Weaving his idle words, Melchior said:
‘She dreams that we are not yet out of bed; 70
We’ll put a soul into her, and a heart
Which like a dove chased by a dove shall beat.’

‘Ay, heave the ballast overboard,
And stow the eatables in the aft locker.’
‘Would not this keg be best a little lowered?’ 75
‘No, now all’s right.’ ‘Those bottles of warm tea–
(Give me some straw)–must be stowed tenderly;
Such as we used, in summer after six,
To cram in greatcoat pockets, and to mix
Hard eggs and radishes and rolls at Eton, 80
And, couched on stolen hay in those green harbours
Farmers called gaps, and we schoolboys called arbours,
Would feast till eight.’

With a bottle in one hand,
As if his very soul were at a stand 85
Lionel stood–when Melchior brought him steady:–
‘Sit at the helm–fasten this sheet–all ready!’

The chain is loosed, the sails are spread,
The living breath is fresh behind,
As with dews and sunrise fed, 90
Comes the laughing morning wind;–
The sails are full, the boat makes head
Against the Serchio’s torrent fierce,
Then flags with intermitting course,
And hangs upon the wave, and stems 95
The tempest of the…
Which fervid from its mountain source
Shallow, smooth and strong doth come,–
Swift as fire, tempestuously
It sweeps into the affrighted sea; 100
In morning’s smile its eddies coil,
Its billows sparkle, toss and boil,
Torturing all its quiet light
Into columns fierce and bright.

The Serchio, twisting forth 105
Between the marble barriers which it clove
At Ripafratta, leads through the dread chasm
The wave that died the death which lovers love,
Living in what it sought; as if this spasm
Had not yet passed, the toppling mountains cling, 110
But the clear stream in full enthusiasm
Pours itself on the plain, then wandering
Down one clear path of effluence crystalline
Sends its superfluous waves, that they may fling
At Arno’s feet tribute of corn and wine;
Then, through the pestilential deserts wild
Of tangled marsh and woods of stunted pine,
It rushes to the Ocean.

58-61 List, my dear fellow, the breeze blows fair;
How it scatters Dominic’s long black hair!
Singing of us, and our lazy motions,
If I can guess a boat’s emotions.’–editions 1824, 1839.
61-67 Rossetti places these lines conjecturally between lines 51 and 52.
61-65 ‘are evidently an alternative version of 48-51’ (A.C. Bradley).
95, 96 and stems The tempest of the wanting in editions 1824, 1839.
112 then Boscombe manuscript; until editions 1824, 1839
114 superfluous Boscombe manuscript; clear editions 1824, 1839.
117 pine Boscombe manuscript; fir editions 1824, 1839.