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The Diver
by [?]

He comes; they surround him with shouts of glee;
At the king’s feet he sinks on the sod,
And hands him the beaker upon his knee;
To his lovely daughter the king gives a nod:
She fills it brim-full of wine sparkling and playing,
And then to the king the youth turned him saying:

“Long live the king!–Well doth he fare
Who breathes in this rosy light,
But, ah, it is horrible down there!
And man must not tempt the heavenly Might,
Or ever seek, with prying unwholesome,
What he graciously covers with darkness dolesome!

“It tore me down with a headlong swing;
Then a shaft in a rock outpours,
Wild-rushing against me, a torrent spring;
It seized me, the double stream’s raging force,
And like a top, with giddy twisting,
It spun me round–there was no resisting!

“Then God did show me, sore beseeching
In deepest, frightfullest need,
Up from the bottom a rock-ledge reaching–
At it I caught, and from death was freed!
And, behold, on spiked corals the beaker suspended,
Which had else to the very abyss descended!

“For below me it lay yet mountain-deep
The purply darksome maw;
And though to the ear it was dead asleep,
The ghasted eye, down staring, saw
How with dragons, lizards, salamanders crawling,
The hell-jaws horrible were sprawling.

“Black swarming in medley miscreate,
In masses lumped hideously,
Wallowed the conger, the thorny skate,
The lobster’s grisly deformity;
And bared its teeth with cruel sheen a
Terrible shark, the sea’s hyena.

“And there I hung, and shuddering knew
That human help was none;
One thinking soul mid the horrid crew,
In the ghastly solitude I was alone–
Deeper than man’s speech ever sounded,
By the waste sea’s dismal monsters surrounded.

“I thought and shivered. Then something crept near,
Moved at once a hundred joints!
Now it will have me!–Frantic with fear
I lost my grasp of the coral points!
Away the whirl in its raging tore me,
But it was my salvation, and upward bore me!”

The king at the tale is filled with amaze:–
“The beaker, well won, is thine;
And this ring I will give thee too,” he says,
“Precious with gems that are more than fine,
If thou dive yet once, and bring me the story–
What thou sawst in the sea’s lowest repertory.”

His daughter she hears with a tender dismay,
And her words sweet-suasive plead:
“Father, enough of this cruel play!
For you he has done an unheard-of deed!
And can you not master your soul’s desire,
‘Tis the knights’ turn now to disgrace the squire!”

The king he snatches and hurls the cup
Into the swirling pool:–
“If thou bring me once more that beaker up,
My best knight I hold thee, most worshipful;
And this very day to thy home thou shall lead her
Who there for thee stands such a pitying pleader.”

A heavenly passion his being invades,
His eyes dart a lightning ray;
He sees on her beauty the flushing shades,
He sees her grow pallid and sink away!
Determination thorough him flashes,
And downward for life or for death he dashes!

They hear the dull roar!–it is turning again,
Its herald the thunderous brawl!
Downward they bend with loving strain:
They come! they are coming, the waters all!–
They rush up!–they rush down!–up, down, for ever!
The youth again bring they never.