Bound to the Mast (Favenc)

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Bound to the Mast  (1880) 
by Ernest Favenc

"So they with voices sweet their music pour'd
On my delighted ear, winning with ease
My heart's desire to listen, and by signs
I bade my people instant let me free,
But they more strenuous row'd, and from their seats
Eurylochus and Perimedes sprang
With added cords to bind me still the more."
"The Odyssey" (Cowper's translation).

Ulysses (loq.) :

"'Twas but the wave, and yet methought there came,
Just for a moment, sounding o'er the sea,
A shout of welcome, and I heard my name
As if my long-left queen were calling me.
Hark! there it swells again, now loud and clear.
'Tis not the waves as they plash idly past.
Quick will I hasten. Gods! what keeps me here!
Ah, I forgot: they bound me to the mast."

"In vain the long long wars, the cruel strife,
Last boon of all, I seem denied a grave.
Doomed thus alone to linger out my life,
And weary wander o'er the restless wave.
But I have toiled for years, and surely now
May claim a little ease for all my pains.
Release me, comrades, turn our vessel's prow —
Can you not feel the magic of those strains?

"Loud in their tones there seems at once to swell
The voice of wife, of son, of faithful friend,
And in glad accents joyfully they tell
How they have longed for this — the wished-for end.
See, in yon cove our boat will safely ride.
Deaf slaves, why will ye thus row idly past!
Turn e'er too late, and court the favouring tide —
Curse on these bonds that bind me to the mast."

   * * * * *
Bound to the mast the mast of daily toil.
Doomed by stern poverty to longing gaze
At the fair land, the teeming fruitful soil
That looks the fairer for our darker days.
The sirens' voices ever in our ear,
Vainly we struggle; Fate our lot has cast.
We drift along, powerless our course to steer,
Bound by a threefold cord unto the mast.

Bound round with sickness, poverty, and sin —
Tightening the bonds at every effort made
To free ourselves. What can we hope to win
But chafing wounds until the game's outplayed?
Far happier they who never heed the song,
But, with deaf ears, hear nothing 'till the last,
And cannot know the yearnings that belong
To those who pass through life bound to the mast.

This work is in the public domain in Australia because it was created in Australia and the term of copyright has expired.

See Australian Copyright Council - Duration of Copyright (August 2014).

This work is also in the public domain in the United States because it was in the public domain in Australia in 1996, and no copyright was registered in the U.S. (This is the combined effect of Australia having joining the Berne Convention in 1928, and of 17 USC 104A with its critical date of January 1, 1996.)

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.