Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE MINER OF PERU, by DAVID MACBETH MOIR

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE MINER OF PERU, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: In that vast realm, where down the rivers wash
Last Line: Beside the cherish'd grave of him she loved!
Alternate Author Name(s): Delta
Subject(s): Death; Love - Loss Of; Mines And Miners; Nature; Dead, The

IN that vast realm, where down the rivers wash
Gold from their channels, and the Andes vast
With serene foreheads look, while tempests brood,
And blacken with their shadows the hush'd vales,
Down on the wreathed clouds that girdle them,
Stands, in a spacious plain, Potosi famed,
With domes sublime, and obelisk, and spire,
Like a stone-guardian o'er the buried wealth,
Which Nature, at the moulding of the world,
Hid in her treasury there, deep in the dark.
Not far remote, 'mid fragrant cassia groves,
With many a fig and olive tree between,
Luxurious, spreads a lake, whose shining waters,
Half-subterranean, 'gainst the tooth of Time
Have charmed influence, so that nought therein
Withers away, or rots into oblivion.

In the old time, a hundred years ago,
Where now to sunlight, and the face of heaven,
Gleams the blue deep, a spacious vale outspread,
Green-carpeted, and overgrown with shrubs,
Lavish of bloom and odours; but the Miner,
Dark Mammon's slave, mole-like, through year and year,
Had wrought beneath, emptying the silver bowels,
So that in earth were large and spacious halls,
Wide-sweeping stairs, and winding passages,
And many-chamber'd domes, lengthening around,
A palace for Pluto, on his upward journeys—
When sudden, on one summer morn, the shell
Crack'd, with earth-quaking violence; tree and rock,
Blossoming flower and shrub, all disappear'd,
Like Sodom and Gomorrah, as we read;
And to noonday the cavern'd waters raised
Their azure foreheads, bright as winter's stars,
And calm as innocent childhood, when it sleeps.

Husbands and sons, many and well beloved,
Age silver-hair'd, green boyhood, men mature,
Perish'd; yea, in the twinkling of an eye,
Perish'd in that vast ruin, when the roof
Of rock sank o'er them, and the prison'd waters
Rush'd in, like roaring lions, on their prey.

Through all Los Charcos valleys went the woe,
Darkening, like clouds, Potosi's many homes;
And, farther off, on Atacama sate,
Chuqusaco remote, and chacras lonely,
Perch'd on the steep sides of the neighbouring hills,
As lonely as the condor's nests above them,
And scarcely more accessible to man.
Woe then was general as the air they breathed;
But there was one among the wretched mourners,
Perhaps more wretched than the rest—a girl
Fair as the aspect of serenest summer,
When but the zephyr stirs, and bloomy fields
Look up in beauty to the cloudless sky:
Her thoughts were all the breathings of bright hope,
Sanguine and passionate; but stepdame Fortune
Had sternly link'd her to a low estate;
And, with her sisters, lovely as herself,
Amid the valleys, flocks of richest fleece
She tended, on the sloping heights, or where
Over the stream arbutus hung, and gave
Delightful shelter from meridian heat.
Yet hers was happiness, for she did love—
Now in the bloom of sunny seventeen,
With pure and deep affection did she love
A miner youth. The nuptial day was set;
All for the joyous ceremony ready;
And he had bought her presents of bright feathers,
And trinkets emblematic of his passion,
So that both long'd—long'd for the affianced day,
A week scarce distant—(ah! what narrow bounds
Divide our joys from woe!)—when tidings came,
Even as she sat and sang before the door,
Amid the orange trees—the tidings came,
Telling of death, and clouding o'er the sky
Of her heart's hopes and happiness for ever!

Grief, for a while, within her bosom wrought,
Like fiery lightnings in the thunder-cloud;
And, in the tribulation of her heart,
She turn'd away, nor would be comforted!
So young, and yet so wretched; beautiful,
Yet withering in the rosebud of her beauty;
Scathed, while expanding to admiring eyes.
'Twas pitiful—but she did ask not pity:
Shunning communion, and the face of man,
And woman, to the groves and solitudes;
Sequester'd banks, magnolia-overgrown;
Empurpled valleys, prodigal of odours;
Woods lofty, and magnificent, and dim
With richness of o'erarching foliage,
And fruits display'd to woo the wanderer's hand,
Where humming-birds, like bees, piped cheerily,
An elfin sound, charming the listless air,
'Twas her delight to wander: morning there,
Looking in glory o'er the Andes' summits,
Beheld her footsteps; and the evening sun,
When landward breezes from the ocean sigh'd,
Threw back his parting radiance on her brow.

In her wild sorrow had she vow'd a vow,
Fervent and deep, of pure virginity;
And well that oath was kept. Years came and went,
Many and mournful all, but more serene;
And as, from sunset glow, the occident
Fades by degrees into a pensive calm,
Soothing and holy, so her soul, subdued
By Nature's kindly influences, partook
Mild resignation: on the past she gazed
As on a vision, brilliant but delusive;
And, in the deep abstraction of her spirit,
She pictured, 'mid the future, stabler bliss.
With him, too early lost, in happier worlds.

Pass we the engulfing void of sixty years.
Then gaze on lorn Marilla.—Age's seal
Set on her wrinkled brow, the polish'd staff
Grasp'd in her palsied hand, the tottering step.
Proclaim'd Time's ravages, blancher of the hair.
And witherer of the strength, in silence eloquent.
How alter'd from Marilla, bright in youth,
Blithe as the lark at morning, when it springs
From the ripe maize; lovely as lotus flower,
Wooing the dimpled current as it passes!

The summer had been sultry, and the rains
Set in; the ceaseless showers fell deluge-like;
Swam, in the valleys green, the gather'd flood:
And streamlets, roaring down the mountain rifts.
Angry and swoln, and sweated into foam,
Kept ever pouring into them: at length
Sank down another portion of the hollow'd
And ore-embowell'd earth; with gurgling noise
It sank, and, with wild eddying whirl, suck'd in
The tortured disappearing wave, as if
Deep in the dark recesses of the centre,
In his volcano prison-house immured,
Some Titan, boring through the fiery roof,
Had found at length a draught to cool his thirst.
When once again look'd forth the joyous sun
From the blue heaven, whose flood-gates were shut up,
And Nature, tranquillising from the shock,
Her calm serenity again resumed,
To gaze upon a scene so fraught with change,
Came many—nor amazement there sat idle!
For, lo! upon the waters floated men
In their last sleep—it was a horrible sight—
And sounds arose, dismal as winds that sigh,
Darkling, round castled walls deserted long—
Yea, men unknown, some race of other days,
And there were many, all by death unchanged.
So strong had been the power preservative,
Mineral or petrous, of the charmed flood,
That, to the eye of man, a silent troop,
The unsepulchred of sixty years came forth,
Unchanged, as if by talismanic spell;
But, 'mid the congregated Guassos, none
For kindred mourn'd or friends—each face was strange—
Antique the raiment; such as, in past times,
Mayhap their grandsires wore,

Marilla heard,

As in the solitude of years she sate,
The tidings which to all were as a riddle.
She heard—a strange smile lighted up her face,
And her eyes sparkled with unnatural light,
Like stars when frost ices the cloudless sky,
As if at once some truth flash'd on her soul,
As if at once her shoulders had thrown off
The weary burden of augmented years.
By the lake she stood, where, on the summer grass,
Lay the cold bodies, and she look'd at them;
One after one, she search'd with gaze intense;
And, each as she perused, her palms were clasp'd;
And o'er her furrow'd features came the glow
Of sudden recognition, like the sunshine
Breaking through morning clouds that girdle it.
At length she found the object of her search:
Even yet, though cold and colourless the cheek,
And ghastly all the flowing yellow hair,
And stiffen'd out in death the sinewy limb,
Fancy might picture out the handsome youth,
Tall, slender, yet robust.

Down on her knees

She dropp'd—she knelt beside the senseless corpse;
She chafed its temples with her wither'd palms;
She comb'd the matted tangles of its hair
With her thin fingers; and she bent her head,
Listening, in madden'd hope, to hear its breathing.
Now clasping, as in agony of soul,
Her hands on high, she threw herself upon it,
Now calling on the name she loved in youth;
And tears sprang forth, like fountains long damm'd up,
By their hot gush to ease her feeble brain!
'Twas pitiful, to see a woman old,
Whose hair was white as Chimborazo's snow,
Thus, when to earth held by a single hair,
Low prostrate in terrestrial wretchedness.
Over her soul the memory of past times
Vividly came, like objects seen at midnight
Through golden lightning; and, the frost of age
Thawing within her bosom for a moment,
The sensibilities of youth return'd;
His neck she bared, and there undid a string
Of silken tissue, whence depending hung,
Broken, a perforated golden coin,
Which, pressing to the other half, long lying
At her own bosom, to her lips she raised,
And cried, slow turning up her eyes to Heaven,
Fervently, as in confidence of spirit,—
"Thou art the witness of my truth—even Thou!
Nearest this lonely heart for sixty years—
All winters—and each drearier than the other—
This token have I worn, and shall till death!
Now may Thy aged servant die in peace!"

Beneath bananas tall, by nopal hedges
Verdantly girded, sleeps a placid churchyard,
With many a cross to scare unholy shapes,
On the hill-side, and there they buried him.
Evening and morning duly went Marilla,
Leaning on her smooth staff, to visit it;
For round his turf, flowers of all pleasant bloom
Had her hands planted, and she water'd them,
So that the fierce sun had on them no power
To wither; hours on hours there would she sit,
Musing and watchful, as in that fair spot
Her treasure had been buried; 'neath a dark
And aged cypress did she shelter her
From day's meridian power, and when the moon
Ascended o'er the forests into heaven,
Or restless fire-flies, 'mid the purple eve,
Sparkled like dropp'd gold on a monarch's robe.

Now summer's reign was ended, and the earth,
All prodigally lavish, shed its treasures,
Half undeserved, into the idler's hands,
Enrich'd beyond his hopes: the autumn came,
And in its scythed breeze dropp'd the sere leaves,
And the clouds darken'd, and the flowers all wither'd;
And, like the fading year, Marilla faded.

Scarce seem'd she to have died, so tranquilly
Lay on her closed eyes the poppied touch
Of death—but she was dead. Some peasants found her
Under a savin bush, stretch'd on the ground,
Beside the cherish'd grave of him she loved!

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