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Anna Jane Vardill

The Elfin Arrow [1]

Found on the Coast of Malta

Pledge of my own far-distant land,
Forgotten on this lonely strand,
In abject wretchedness how near
Art thou to him who views thee here!
Like thee on Scotia’s wilds he grew
A mass of dark and changeful hue,
Yet haply once by science wrought,
And once with forms of beauty fraught—
Now idly thrown to whet the glaives
Of felon Turks and christian slaves!

Yet could these elves alert and bland,
 That hover in the purple west,
Bring from one kind consenting hand
 A gift like this—it would be blest
Beyond whatever fairy-wand
Raised from the gems of Samarcand:
But thus forgetting and forgot,
To bear an unregarded lot,
To waste among these rocks away
As barren and as blank as they—
This, this is wretchedness more base,
Poor relic!—than thy resting-place.

Ill-judged the dreaming anchorite,
 That man in Eden must be blest;
The breath, the spirit of delight,
 Dwelt only in the garden’s guest.
Else why these summer-bowers among.
So rich in bloom, and sweets, and song;
Or on yon land, where lingers all
That time has sav’d from glory’s fall.
Thus fondly turns my soul to dwell
On one grey roof—one mighty dell?
Why!—but that life’s own Eden-tree,
Love, social love! is there for me.

To watch beneath the dark blue tide
The thousand lamps of ocean glide;
Pillow’d on starry flowers to hear
The coral-seeker warbling near—
These are but pageants that beguile
Sick fancy back to Albine’s isle;
To her blue eyes of swifter light,
And lips with living coral bright—
Can these suffice to soothe a fate
Thus gaudy, yet thus desolate?
O!—dark and fruitless as yon pile
Of coralline that weeds defile,
Is the rich spirit left alone,
Till crush’d and harden’d into stone!

Ye bigot islanders!—ye mourn’d
 Your cross by felon Franks profan’d,
But faithful hearts the plunder scorn’d
 While yet the glorious cross remained;
And mine could well your treasures spare
If hope—one holy hope was there:
It once had such unearthly wealth
As might have brav’d the bandit’s stealth!
Still, like your saints’ defrauded shrine,
It boasts its pledge of life divine,
But it has lost the gem, whose worth
Gave beauty to its place on earth.

Pledge of my native land, farewell!—
Thou art not here, neglected stone!
The only exile left to dwell
In baleful solitude unknown;
Nor bearest thou alone a trace
Of love’s sweet fable, Psyche’s face [2]—
Those cherub features that express
The soul all peace and loveliness:
A heart as firm as thee shall keep
The beauteous symbol grav’d as deep,
And it may break like thee, but never
Lose the fair image stamp’d for ever.



  1. The Cairngorn diamond, or Scotch pebble, is sometimes distinguished by this name, being supposed to enchant the person at whom it is thrown. 
  2. Psyche’s head was engraved on it. 

The European Magazine, Vol. 73, March 1818, p. 257