Abba Thule

William Lisle Bowles

I climb the highest cliff: I hear the sound   
Of dashing waves; I gaze intent around:   
I mark the sun that orient lifts his head!   
I mark the sea’s lone rule beneath him spread:   
But not a speck can my long-straining eye,           
A shadow, o’er the tossing waste descry,   
That I might weep tears of delight, and say,   
“It is the bark that bore my child away!”   
  Thou sun, that beamest bright, beneath whose eye   
The worlds unknown, and outstretched waters, lie,           
Dost thou behold him now? On some rude shore,   
Around whose crags the cheerless billows roar,   
Watching the unwearied surges doth he stand,   
And think upon his father’s distant land?   
Or has his heart forgot, so far away,           
These native scenes, these rocks and torrents gray,   
The tall bananas whispering to the breeze,   
The shores, the sound of these encircling seas,   
Heard from his infant days, and the piled heap   
Of holy stones, where his forefathers sleep?           
  Ah me! till sunk by sorrow, I shall dwell   
With them forgetful in the narrow cell,   
Never shall time from my fond heart efface   
His image; oft his shadow I shall trace   
Upon the glimmering waters, when on high           
The white moon wanders through the cloudless sky.   
Oft in my silent cave (when to its fire   
From the night’s rushing tempest we retire)   
I shall behold his form, his aspect bland;   
I shall retrace his footsteps in the sand;           
And, when the hollow-sounding surges swell,   
Still think I listen to his echoing shell.

*        *        *        *        *
  O, I shall never, never hear his voice;   
The spring-time shall return, the isles rejoice;   
But faint and weary I shall meet the morn,           
And mid the cheering sunshine droop forlorn!   
  The joyous conch sounds in the high wood loud,   
O’er all the beach now stream the busy crowd;   
Fresh breezes stir the waving plantain grove;   
The fisher carols in the winding cove;           
And light canoes along the lucid tide   
With painted shells and sparkling paddles glide.   
I linger on the desert rock alone,   
Heartless, and cry for thee, my son, my son.


Abba Thule was a king of the Pelew Islands (Palau).

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