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Poem by John Stagg

The Unfortunate Lovers


ON Eden's banks, whose limpid stream
In smooth meanders glides along:
In grief and wretchedness extreme,
Fair Ella tun'd her love-lorn song;
To each successive passing wave
A tear responsive left her eye;
To every shower, a shower she gave,
To ev'ry breeze an answ'ring sigh.
Ah me, she cried, my Edwin's gone,
Ill-fated youth! ne'er to return;
Whilst I in grief am left alone,
His loss in solitude to mourn;
Torn by the ruthless hand of war,
From these soft mansions of repose,
Helpless in hostile climes afar,
To combat with a thousand woes.
Ye tyrants that usurp mankind,
By foul ambition onward led,
In slavish bords the world to bind,
And strike the universe with dread;
Why could your arm despotic seize
My Edwin kind, my Edwin true?
To drag him from the shades of peace,
In hostile fields to bleed for you.
Was his the quarrel, his the crime
That first excited these alarms,
To drag from each remotest clime
Whole millions to expire in arms?
Tho' mad ambition fir'd your breast,
And hope of conquest urg'd the strife,
What right could sanction your behests;
What cause demand my Edwin's life.
Tho' Gallia's conquest and renown,
Spread terror thro' each neighbouring state;
Each despot fearful for his crown,
And trembling, conscious for his fate.
When hostile armaments combin'd,
Shook Albion's confines with dismay;
Or when invasive fleets design'd
Your valour, Britons, to essay.
Had he, my Edwin, urgent need
To quit for discord Ella's arms?
Was it essential he should bleed,
To terminate those dire alarms?
If he the sacrifice alone,
Could these calamities compose;
Could for his country's crimes atone,
And put a period to her woes.
Then would I think that order just,
Which call'd my Edwin to the field
In silence smother my disgust,
And to the fates resentment yield:
But when with him the thousands fall,
With him whole hosts resign their breath,
Devoid of reason seems the call
Of his unnecessary death.
On yon far distant burning sands,
On sultry Egypt's arid coast;
Where far and wide barbaric bands
The farce of Gallic freedom boast;
Or on the bold impelling wave,
Where Nelson's ensign glorious flies,
My lover meets a timeless grave;
Unnotic'd and unpity'd dies!
Amidst the sad conflicting fight,
With direst dangers compass'd round,
He sinks beneath superior might,
And stung with anguish, bites the ground;
Even now methinks I see him fall,
With wounds and carnage cover'd o'er;
Reach'd by the sadly destin'd balls
He dies on Delta's hostile shore!
No more she sa'd, distracting grief
Suppress'd the melancholy theme;
Here, here, she said, I'll seek relief,
And plung'd into the surging stream;
Borne by the current of the flood,
Awhile she shriek'd with fa'ltring breath,
But life not long the strife withstood,
Down, down she sinks in silent death!
Now throngh the solitary shade,
With aweful howl the whirlwind roars,
Whilst down the steep the loud cascade,
Impetuous laves its bounding shores,
Pale gleams the moon with feeblest light,
Still silence reigns a dead profound,
Save where the pensive bird of night,
Screams forth with fear-inspiring sound!
Just at the sad eventful hour,
From war and danger safe return'd,
Young Edwin knock'd at Ella's door,
Whose bosom with impatience burn'd;
Awake, my love, why thus delay,
My Ella fair, awake! arise!
Thy Edwin calls, O come away,
And cheer once more my anxious eyes;
Safe from the horrors of the war,
With joy I come, with joy to thee;
Then haste and turn the envious bar,
And happiness restore to me:
Keen blows the wind, dark is the night,
In thickning torrents pours the rain,
I faint, fatigue o'ercomes me quite,
I die in a suspence of pain!
In vain he knocks, in vain he calls,
His voice no more his Ella hears;
In heavier gusts the tempest falls,
And night more horrible appears;
With rage inspir'd and mix'd despair
He spurns the door, which yielding flies,
Then seeks the object of his care,
But soon each expectation dies,
In vain he speaks, in vain he calls,
Swift o'er his heart despondence spread.
Supine on Ella's couch he falls,
To ease his sad disorder'd head;
There thro' the long lorn night he mourns,
Unconscious of his lover's fate;
Each passion rends his heart by turns,
All fearful for his beauteous mate.
Soon as Aurora's fingers spread,
With dawning light, yon orient skies,
He quits the solitary shed,
And thro' the valley frantic flies
To find his love, his only care;
Each stranger asks, of all inquires,
But ah! no stranger can declare
Where, when, and why his love retires;
Till chance directed near the brook,
Her floating corpse he lifeless view'd,
He gaz'd but with a partial look,
Then like a statue senseless stood;
Her well known face too well he knew,
He had no cause to doubt 'twas she,
He saw too well at single view,
To doubt his certain misery!
Ah, me! he cried, with bursting heart,
Is this the end of all my pain,
To 'scape death's ordinary dart
With one severer to be slain?
Curse or your heads, ye tyrants curst!
Prime engines of all human strife,
You made me miserable first
And doubly now destroy my life:
By your despotic mandates led,
I left this once lov'd peaceful plain,
To join where crimeless millions bled,
Your wrongful quarrels to maintain:
Then say, for all my various woes,
For each fatigue and danger past,
When joys my labours shall compose,
This is my sad reward at last;
Here on this fatal shore she lies,
In form most fair, in heart most true;
On me her shade for vengeance cries,
She, tyrants! fell appress'd by you.
Ah, little think, ye sons of pride!
Whilst thus you wanton life away,
What scenes of wretchedness betide
The victims of your lawless sway;
With but this poor pretence to raise
Your honours on the page of fame,
With useless trophies to emblaze
The annals of a villian's name;
But cease, invective, since in vain
My poor resentment here would prove:
Some nobler part let me sustain,
That more shall vindicate my love.
Yes, beauteous constancy! he cried,
Thy sad example calls on me;
It was for me that Ella died,
I am a life in debt to thee!
He ceas'd, for grief his words suppress'd,
Cold horror shook him as he stood;
I come, he cried, to thee and rest,
Then plung'd into the fatal flood.

John Stagg

John Stagg's other poems:
  1. Occasional Reflections
  2. Sonnet on Winter
  3. Tom Pendant
  4. The Sapient Ass
  5. Sonnet on Autumn

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