On a tall cliff that overhung the deep,
A maniac stood. He heeded not the sweep
Of the swift gale that lashed the troubled main,
And spread with showery foam the watery plain.
His reckless foot was on the dizzy line
That edged the rock, impending o'er the brine;
His form was bent, and leaning from the height,
Like the light gull whose wing is stretched for flight.
Far down beneath his feet, the surges broke;
Above his head the pealing thunders spoke;
Around him flashed the lightning's ruddy glare,
And rushing torrents swept along the air.
But nought he heeded, save a gallant sail
That on the sea was wrestling with the gale.
Far on the ocean's billowy verge she hung,
And strove to shun the storm that landward swung.
With many a tack she turned her bending side
To the rude blast, and bravely stemmed the tide.
In vain! the bootless strife with fate is o'er
And the doomed vessel nears the iron shore.
A mighty bird, she seems, whose wing is rent
By the red shaft from heaven's fierce quiver sent.
Her mast is shivered and her helm is lashed,
Around her prow the kindled waves are dashed
And as an eagle swooping in its might,
Toward the dark cliff she speeds her headlong flight.
She comes, she strikes! the trembling wave withdraws,
And the hushed elements a moment pause;
Then swelling high above their helpless prey,
The billows burst, and bear the wreck away!
One look to heaven the raptured Maniac cast,
One low breathed murmur from his bosom passed:
'God of the soul and sea! I read thy choice
Told by the shipwreck and the whirlwind's voice.
In this dread omen I can trace my doom,
And hear thee bid me seek an ocean-tomb.
Like the lost ship my weary mind hath striven
With the wild tempest o'er my spirit driven;
That strife is done and the dim caverned sea
Of this wrecked bosom must the mansion be.
Thou who canst bid the billows cease to roll,
Oh! smooth a pillow for my weary soul
Watch o'er the pilgrim in his shadowy sleep,
And send sweet dreams to light the sullen deep!'
Thus spoke the maniac, while above he gazed,
And his pale hands beseechingly upraised;
Then on the viewless wind he swiftly sprung,
And far below his senseless form was flung;
A thin white spray told where he met the wave,
And battling surges thunder o'er his grave!
The Maniac. by Samuel Griswold Goodrich