Lines Written In A Blank Leaf Of La Perouse's Voyages
by Thomas Campbell
Loved Voyager! his pages had a zest
More sweet than fiction to my wondering breast,
When, rapt in fancy, many a boyish day
I track'd his wanderings o'er the watery way,
Roam'd round the Aleutian isles in waking dreams,
Or pluck'd the fleur-de-lys by Jesso's streams --
Or gladly leap'd on that far Tartar strand,
Where Europe's anchor ne'er had bit the sand,
Where scarce a roving wild tribe cross'd the plain,
Or human voice broke nature's silent reign;
But vast and grassy deserts feed the bear,
And sweeping deer-herds dread no hunter's snare.
Such young delight his real records brought,
His truth so touch'd romantic springs of thought,
That all my after-life -- his fate and fame
Entwined romance with La Perouse's name. --
Fair were his ships, expert his gallant crews,
And glorious was th' emprise of La Perouse, --
Humanely glorious! Men will weep for him,
When many a guilty martial fame is dim:
He plough'd the deep to bind no captive's chain --
Pursued no rapine -- strew'd no wreck with slain;
And, save that in the deep themselves lie low,
His heroes pluck'd no wreath from human woe.
'Twas his the earth's remotest bound to scan,
Conciliating with gifts barbaric man --
Enrich the world's contemporaneous mind,
And amplify the picture of mankind.
Far on the vast Pacific -- 'midst those isles,
O'er which the earliest morn of Asia smiles,
He sounded and gave charts to many a shore
And gulf of Ocean new to nautic lore;
Yet he that led Discovery o'er the wave,
Still fills himself an undiscover'd grave.
He came not back, -- Conjecture's cheek grew pale,
Year after year -- in no propitious gale,
His lilied banner held its homeward way,
And Science sadden'd at her martyr's stay.
An age elapsed -- no wreck told where or when
The chief went down with all his gallant men,
Or whether by the storm and wild sea flood
He perish'd, or by wilder men of blood --
The shuddering Fancy only guess'd his doom,
And Doubt to Sorrow gave but deeper gloom.
An age elapsed -- when men were dead or gray,
Whose hearts had mourn'd him in their youthful day;
Fame traced on Mannicolo's shore at last,
The boiling surge had mounted o'er his mast.
The islemen told of some surviving men,
But Christian eyes beheld them ne'er again.
Sad bourne of all his toils -- with all his band --
To sleep, wreck'd, shroudless, on a savage strand!
Yet what is all that fires a hero's scorn
Of death? -- the hope to live in hearts unborn:
Life to the brave is not its fleeting breath,
But worth -- foretasting fame, that follows death.
That worth had La Perouse -- that meed he won;
He sleeps -- his life's long stormy watch is done.
In the great deep, whose boundaries and space
He measured, Fate ordain'd his resting-place;
But bade his fame, like th' Ocean rolling o'er
His relics -- visit every earthly shore.
Fair Science on that Ocean's azure robe
Still writes his name in picturing the globe,
And paints -- (what fairer wreath could glory twine?)
His watery course -- a world-encircling line.
Source:The Poetical Works Of Thomas Campbell
Little, Brown, And Company, Boston