Home Life Works Articles Contact

Anna Jane Vardill

The Pearl Island

A Fragment

The sun looks from his tent of gold
On Caspia’s waters calm and cold,
And on that glitt’ring bark that greets
The south-gale with its store of sweets,
Like the gay raft to ocean’s king
Maldivia’s fragrant offering:—
 Alone it comes—a fragrant boat,
Rich with a thousand painted flow’rs
From the sweet depths of Persian bow’rs,
And that most precious amber kept
From tears by faithful sea-doves wept.
 Slowly and safe its treasures float,
Tho’ helmless and without a guide
It skims along the sparkling tide,
As the bright taper fed with balm,
That maids send when the sea is calm,
Glides in a cocoa’s perfum’d shell,
With sweets (as Georgian legends tell),
To trace a wand’ring lover’s track,
And tempt the waves to urge him back.
 But in that floating cradle lies
A maid, whose blue half-opening eyes
Might seem the buds of Paradise,
Whence guardian Peris come to cull
The dews that virgin sleepers lull.—
She smiles, and where her cheek reposes
A blush steals o’er the silver roses;
And the soft clinging jasmine keeps
Her balmy breathing while she sleeps.
It is the Spirit of Peace!—and where
Will this sweet bark its treasure bear?
It rests not in the golden bay
Where Caspia’s secret treasures lay,
 Nor where the laughing sea-maids light
With insect-lamps the glowing waves
That glide above their diamond caves,
 Till the rich surface burns more bright
Than that fam’d crystal pavement spread
O’er gems, for Saba’s queen to tread.
But Peace, a spirit pure and fair,
Finds not her promis’d haven there;
 The demon of the death-mine dwells
In that false bay of floating gold;
And Pleasure’s syren daughters hold
 Their revel in those glassy cells.—
There is a city dimly seen
Beneath the deep sea’s mirror green,
Where spiry roofs and trellis’d walls,
And the long pomp of pillared halls
Seem like some eastern forest’s pride,
By emeralds mock’d, below the tide;
Or like Formosa’s kindred isle,
Stol’n by and envious sea-maid’s guile,
With gems in many a column’d heap,
To tempt the diver to the deep.
 But the mild Spirit rests not there,
For that sunk city is the wreck
Of glorious pomp, which war-fiends deck
 The fearless venturer to snare,
Who ’midst those glitt’ring wrecks shall perish,
Where only mimic palm-trees flourish,
Or snatch ambition’s prize to gem
His thankless monarch’s diadem.
Far, far from thence the mild waves curl,
Where softly swells the Isle of Pearl,
The white isle of the blissful west,
The home of spirits pure and blest.
Nor gold, nor incense, nor the flow’rs
That tempt fond Sloth in fading bow’rs,
Dwell on that shore; but all things fair,
Gentle, and pure, are treasur’d there.
 The hearts of mothers, and the dreams
Of Innocence when life is young;
 The first rich radiant hope that gleams
On the proud bard whose harp is strung
 In honor’s praise; and that sweet thought
That longest, deepest, richest lies
In souls whose secret sacrifice
 Is by the shining world unbought:—
 And sisters’ loves, and those dear cares
That give paternal Age repose;
And the bland charities that close
 The silver veil weak Nature wears,
All shrin’d within this holy bound,
Pure in eternal light are found.
 The boat is moor’d—the Seraph-maid
On this blest isle has found a shade
Beneath the bow’r of Charity,
That like the balsam-raining tree
Sheds life and freshness on what-e’er
Blooms its ambrosial shadow near;
And there to mortal eyes unknown
Peace builds her everlasting throne—
But often o’er that summer-tide,
Without a helm, without a guide,
Youth’s boat of flow’rs returns again
To seek the Isle of Pearl* in vain.


* The Islet once known to mariners by this name is said to have disappeared.

The European Magazine, Vol. 72, October 1817, p. 358