At anchor near a lonely isle
The pirate's vessel lay.
The call and song of many a bird
Rang near and far away,
And luscious fruits and cooling shade
Beguiled their resting-day.
Idly they strayed, or lounged around,
Safe from the burning sun,
Or filled the dusty water kegs,
Or brought down, one by one,
From leafy heights, for plumage bright,
The spoil of bow and gun.
They drew from out the brooklet clear
The trout at fearless play,
And pillaged from the isle's gray rocks
The honey stored away
By busy bees, and gathered fruits
With none to say them nay.
Would you not think these men had cause
To bend the grateful knee
When God had placed there, fresh to hand,
Such blessings bounteously,
And caves for shelter when it stormed
Upon the restless sea?
But no, these men cared not for Him
Who made earth, sea, and sky,
Nor cared for fellow-creatures' rights
Or helpless beings' cry;
They pillaged earth and sea alike
And lived but to defy.
They only waited for the night
To sail from shelt'ring shore,
For as they watched, a noble ship
That precious cargo bore,
Passed gently by, and loud they laughed
Above the ocean's roar.
The pirate's ship, like bird on wing,
Sped with the sun or gale;
Her lightness and her proven strength
Had ne' er been known to fail,
And so, secure for stealthy chase,
They watched the flitting sail.
And, lounging, one apart half dreamed,
When a soft murmur broke
The sense of sleep and with a start
The bearded man awoke;
It seemed as though somewhere afar
To him a sweet voice spoke.
He listened, and it all was clear,
Again it called above,
And mem'ry brought forgotten scenes
Of home, and youth, and love,
It was the same his mother fed
A gentle, cooing dove.
Again he leaned beside her knee
And watched her tender hand
Strew grain and crumbs, and saw the birds
In fearless, pretty band,
Gather around her garments' hem,
And close where he did stand.
Then he remembered how she led
His steps through paths of light,
How every day' s account was sealed
With her fond kiss at night,
And how her prayers had been that God
Would guide him in the right.
Her parting kiss, the promise asked
"Will you remember, love,
To choose the right and shun the wrong,
And trust to Him above,
When dangers press, to bring you home,
My heart's dear, soul-white dove?"
How many years had passed, and he,
Soul-stained, with hand upraised
'Gainst all her life had taught was good,
Beheld himself, amazed;
And back o'er broken wrecks of years
His spirit sadly gazed.
And still the little dove cooed on,
And others flocking came.
The pictures grew like life almost
He heard her speak his name,
Its cadence just for him alone,
It was the very same.
And those white doves, with fearless wings,
Around and near him flew,
They almost seemed like messengers ;
Their bright eyes looked him through
And seemed to say, ' ' She sent us forth
Who waits at home for you. ' '
And all the while the restless flock
Seemed evermore to coo
He could make out no other words
But ' ' waits for you ! for you ! ' '
They pierced his ears, rang in his brain,
And thrilled his spirit through.
Then in the flower-jeweled grass
The strong man hid his face,
And One who stood from sight drew near
And filled the green-roofed place
With that sweet spell repentance learns,
And blessed him with its grace.
That night the pirate's ship set forth,
But never overtook
The prize they sought, for storms arose
That the swift cruiser shook
Just like a thing with new-known fright
That all her crew partook.
Some swore it was a wicked power,
Their "evil day" at last,
For raving winds with blackest rains
And blinding spray swept past,
Until they drove the rover's ship
On shore, a wreck at last.
But there was one who murmured not,
But, like the prisoned bird
Whose cage is broken, gladly wings
His flight to where is heard
The notes of freedom; so his heart
With gratitude was stirred.
The days grew into weeks, and then
One night there softly came
Near to a vine-wreathed cottage door
A man of rugged frame,
But something in his earnest eye
That might your wonder claim.
He halted, for a flock of birds
Fed where a woman stood.
You would not say, " How beautiful! "
But whisper, ' ' Saintly good, ' '
For sorrow's sign was in her face
Perhaps of widowhood. '
When all had fled and flown away,
She turned with gentle sigh :
'Ah, where art thou, my fairest dove? ^
The sad, long years go by,
And still I wait thy coming home
To bless me ere I die."
A step-she turns and reads his face,
Then takes his strong, rough hand.
No matter! 'tis her boy again;
Her heart can understand;
And clear his eyes and smile as when
He left his native land.
Oh, little doves on lonely isle,
Ye did a wond'rous deed;
Ye saved his soul and cheered her heart
That hungered with its need!
And more! ye blessed the wide, bright world,
Where men and women read;
For, through all years of after life,
He studied nature's page;
With brush and pen he wrought till men
Loved him and named him sage.
Who hath such stores from nature won
As the great artist, Audubon !