[Page [145]]

* The Morai, the sepulchre of the Otaheitans, was composed at the desire of the kind patron of my first essays in literature, the Rev. Doctor Kippis, and inserted in his History of Captain Cook's Life by that revered friend, for whom the feelings of attachment and veneration, cherished since the days of childhood, still make a part of my existence. Nothing, indeed, is better fitted to confirm our love and admiration of particular virtue, than experience of the world in general.

1 FAIR OTAHEITE, fondly blest
2 By him who long was doom'd to brave
3 The fury of the Polar wave,
4 That fiercely mounts the frozen rock
5 Where the harsh sea-bird rears her nest,
6 And learns the raging surge to mock
[Page 146]
7 There Night, that loves eternal storm,
8 Deep and lengthened darkness throws,
9 And untried danger's doubtful form
10 Its half-seen horror shews!
11 While Nature, with a look so wild,
12 Leans on the cliffs, in chaos pil'd,
13 That here the aw'd, astonish'd mind
14 Forgets, in that o'erwhelming hour,
15 When her rude hands the storms unbind
16 In all the madness of her power,
17 That she who spreads the savage gloom,
18 That she can dress in melting grace,
19 In sportive Summer's lavish bloom,
20 The awful terrors of her face;
21 And wear the sweet perennial smile
22 That charms in OTAHEITE'S isle.
23 Yet, amid her fragrant bowers,
24 Where Spring, whose dewy fingers strew
25 O'er other lands some fleeting flowers,
26 Lives, in blossoms ever new;
[Page 147]
27 Whence arose that shriek of pain?
28 Whence the tear that flows in vain?
29 Death! thy unrelenting hand
30 Bursts some transient, human band.
31 What art thou, Death? terrific shade,
32 In unpierc'd gloom array'd!
33 Oft will daring Fancy stray
34 Far in the central wastes, where night
35 Divides no cheering hour with day,
36 And unnam'd horrors meet her sight;
37 There thy form she dimly sees,
38 And round the shape unfinish'd throws
39 All her frantic vision shews,
40 When numbing fears her spirit freeze.
41 But can mortal voice declare,
42 If Fancy paints thee as thou art?
43 Thy aspect may a terror wear
44 Her pencil never shall impart;
45 The eye that once on thee shall gaze
46 No more its stiffen'd orb can raise;
[Page 148]
47 The lips that could thy power reveal,
48 Shall lasting silence instant seal.
49 In vain the icy hand we fold,
50 In vain the breast with tears we steep,
51 The heart that shar'd each pang is cold,
52 The vacant eye no more can weep.
53 Yet from the shore where Ganges rolls
54 His waves beneath the torrid ray,
55 To earth's chill verge, where o'er the poles
56 Falls the last beam of ling'ring day,
57 For ever sacred are the dead!
58 Sweet Fancy comes in sorrow's aid,
59 And bids the mourner lightly tread
60 Where th' insensate clay is laid;
61 Bids partial gloom the sod invest
62 By the mould'ring relics prest;
63 There lavish strews with sad delight,
64 Whate'er her consecrating power
65 Reveres, of herb or fruit, or flower,
66 And fondly weaves the various rite.
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67 See! o'er OTAHEITE'S plain
68 Moves the long funereal train;
69 Slow the pallid corse they bear,
70 Oft they breathe the solemn prayer.
71 Where the Ocean bathes the land,
72 Thrice and thrice, with pious hand,
73 The priest, where high the billow springs,
74 From the wave unsullied, flings
75 Waters pure, that sprinkled near,
76 Sanctify the hallow'd bier;
77 But never may one drop profane
78 The relics with forbidden stain!
79 Now around the fun'ral shrine,
80 Led in mystic mazes, twine
81 Garlands, where the plantain weaves
82 With the palm's luxuriant leaves,
83 And o'er each sacred knot is spread
84 The plant devoted to the dead.
85 Five pale moons with trembling light
86 Shall gaze upon the lengthen'd rite;
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87 Shall see distracted beauty tear
88 The tresses of her flowing hair;
89 Those graceful locks, no longer dear,
90 She wildly scatters o'er the bier,
91 And frantic gives the frequent wound
92 That purples with her blood the ground!
93 Where along the western sky
94 Day's reflected colours die,
95 And twilight rules the doubtful hour
96 Ere slow-pac'd night resumes her power,
97 Mark the cloud that lingers still
98 Darkly on the hanging hill:
99 There the disembodied mind
100 Hears, upon the hollow wind,
101 Low, in mournful cadence thrown,
102 Sorrow's oft repeated moan
103 Still some human passions sway
104 The spirit, late immers'd in clay;
105 Still the hopeless sigh is dear,
106 Still belov'd the fruitless tear!
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107 Five waning moons with wand'ring light
108 Have past the shadowy bound of night,
109 And mingled their departing ray
110 With the soft fires of early day;
111 Let the last sad rites be paid,
112 Grateful to the conscious shade.
113 Let the priest with pious care
114 Now the wasted relics bear,
115 Where the MORAI'S awful gloom
116 Shrouds the consecrated tomb.
117 Let the plantain lift its head;
118 Cherish'd emblem of the dead;
119 Slow, and solemn, o'er the grave
120 Let the twisted plumage wave,
121 Symbol hallow'd and divine
122 Of the god who guards the shrine.
123 Hark! that shriek of strange despair
124 Never shall disturb the air;
125 Never, never shall it rise,
126 But for Nature's broken ties!
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127 Bright Crescent! that with lucid smile
128 Gild'st the MORAI'S lofty pile;
129 Whose broad lines of shadow throw
130 A gloomy horror far below,
131 Witness, O recording moon,
132 All the rites are duly done;
133 Be the faithful tribute o'er,
134 The hov'ring spirit asks no more!
135 Mortals, cease the pile to tread,
136 Leave to silence, leave the dead.
137 But where may she who loves to stray
138 'Mid shadows of funereal gloom,
139 And courts the sadness of the tomb,
140 Where may she seek that proud MORAI,
141 Whose dear memorial points the place
142 Where fell the friend of human race?
143 Ye lonely Isles, on Ocean's bound,
144 Ye bloom'd thro' Time's long flight unknown,
145 Till Cook the untrack'd billow past!
146 Till he along the surges cast
[Page 153]
147 Philanthropy's connecting zone,
148 And spread her loveliest blessings round!
149 Not like that murd'rous band he came,
150 Who stain'd with blood the new-found West;
151 Nor as, with unrelenting breast,
152 From BRITAIN'S free, enlightened land,
153 Her sons now seek ANGOLA'S strand,
* The Slave-trade was not then abolished.
154 The ties most sacred to unbind,
155 To load with chains a brother's frame,
156 And plunge a dagger in the mind;
157 Mock the sharp anguish bleeding there
158 Of nature in her last despair!
159 Great COOK! Ambition's lofty flame,
160 So oft directed to destroy,
161 Led thee to circle with thy name
162 The smile of love, and hope, and joy!
163 Those fires that lend the dang'rous blaze
164 The devious comet trails afar,
165 Might form the pure, benignant rays
166 That gild the morning's gentle star.
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167 Sure, where the hero's ashes rest,
168 The nations late emerg'd from night
169 Still haste with love's unwearied care,
170 That spot in lavish flowers is drest,
171 And fancy's dear, inventive rite
172 Still paid with fond observance there?
173 Ah, no! around his fatal grave
174 No lavish flowers were ever strew'd,
175 No votive gift was ever laid
176 His blood a savage shore bedew'd!
177 His mangled limbs, one hasty prayer,
178 One pious tear by friendship paid,
179 Were cast upon the raging wave!
180 Deep in the wild abyss he lies,
181 Far from the cherish'd scene of home;
182 Far, far from her whose faithful sighs
183 A husband's trackless course pursue;
184 Whose tender fancy loves to roam
185 With him o'er lands and oceans new;
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186 And gilds with hope's deluding form
187 The gloomy pathway of the storm!
188 Yet, Cook! immortal wreathes are thine!
189 While Albion's grateful toil shall raise
190 The marble tomb, the trophied bust,
191 For ages faithful to its trust;
192 While, eager to record thy praise,
193 She bids the muse of history twine
194 The chaplet of undying fame,
195 And tell each polish'd land thy worth,
196 The ruder natives of the earth
197 Shall oft repeat thy honour'd name,
198 While infants catch the frequent sound,
199 And learn to lisp the oral tale,
200 Whose fond remembrance shall prevail
201 Till Time has reach'd her destin'd bound!


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Title (in Source Edition): THE MORAI.
Themes: places
Genres: ode

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Williams, Helen Maria, 1759-1827. Poems on various subjects: with introductory remarks on the present state of science and literature in France. London: G. and W. B. Whittaker, 1823, pp. [145]-155.  (Page images digitized from a copy in the Bodleian Library [8º W 229 BS].)

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Typography, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been cautiously modernized. The source of the text is given and all significant editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. This ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.

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