Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
The Sea-Cave
By Lord Byron (1788–1824)
YOUNG Neuha plunged into the deep, and he
Followed: her track beneath her native sea
Was as a native’s of the element,
So smoothly, bravely, brilliantly she went,
Leaving a streak of light behind her heel,        5
Which struck and flashed like an amphibious steel.
Closely, and scarcely less expert to trace
The depths where divers hold the pearl in chase,
Torquil, the nursling of the Northern seas,
Pursued her liquid steps with art and ease.        10
Deep—deeper for an instant Neuha led
The way—then upward soared—and, as she spread
Her arms, and flung the foam from off her locks,
Laughed, and the sound was answered by the rocks.
They had gained a central realm of earth again,        15
But looked for tree, and field, and sky, in vain.
Around she pointed to a spacious cave,
Whose only portal was the keyless wave,
(A hollow archway by the sun unseen,
Save through the billows’ glassy veil of green,        20
In some transparent ocean holiday,
When all the finny people are at play),
Wiped with her hair the brine from Torquil’s eyes,
And clapped her hands with joy at his surprise.
Forth from her bosom the young savage drew        25
A pine torch, strongly girded with gnatoo;
A plantain leaf o’er all, the more to keep
Its latent sparkle from the sapping deep.
This mantle kept it dry; then from a nook
Of the same plantain leaf, a flint she took,        30
A few shrunk withered twigs, and from the blade
Of Torquil’s knife struck fire, and thus arrayed
The grot with torchlight. Wide it was and high,
And showed a self-born Gothic canopy;
The arch upreared by Nature’s architect,        35
The architrave some earthquake might erect;
The buttress from some mountain’s bosom hurled,
When the poles crashed and water was the world;
There, with a little tinge of phantasy,
Fantastic faces moped and mowed on high,        40
And then a mitre or a shrine would fix
The eye upon its seeming crucifix.
Then Nature played with the stalactites,
And built herself a chapel of the seas.
And Neuha took her Torquil by the hand,        45
And waved along the vault her kindled brand,
And led him into each recess, and showed
The secret places of their new abode.
Nor these alone, for all had been prepared
Before, to soothe the lover’s lot she shared;        50
The mat for rest; for dress the fresh gnatoo,
The sandal-oil to fence against the dew;
For food the cocoa-nut, the yam, the bread
Born of the fruit; for board the plantain spread
With its broad leaf, or turtle-shell which bore        55
A banquet in the flesh if covered o’er;
The gourd with water recent from the rill,
The ripe banana from the mellow hill;
A pine torch pile to keep undying light;
And she herself as beautiful as night,        60
To fling her shadowy spirit o’er the scene,
And make their subterranean world serene.
She had foreseen, since first the stranger’s sail
Drew to their isle, that force or flight might fail,
And formed a refuge of the rocky den        65
For Torquil’s safety from his countrymen.
Each dawn had wafted there her light canoe,
Laden with all the golden fruits that grew;
Each eve had seen her gliding through the hour
With all could cheer or deck their sparry bower;        70
And now she spread her little store with smiles,
The happiest daughter of the loving isles.
’Twas morn; and Neuha, who by dawn of day
Swam smoothly forth to catch the rising ray,
And watch if aught approached the amphibious lair        75
Where lay her lover, saw a sail in air:
It flapped, it filled, then to the growing gale
Bent its broad arch: her breath began to fail
With fluttering fear, her heart beat thick and high,
While yet a doubt sprung where its course might lie:        80
But no! it came not; fast and far away,
The shadow lessened as it cleared the bay.
She gazed, and flung the sea-foam from her eyes,
To watch as for a rainbow in the skies.
On the horizon verged the distant deck,        85
Diminished, dwindled to a very speck—
Then vanished. All was ocean, all was joy!

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