Fortune-Hunter, The - Canto 5

by William Somervile

William Somervile


I F Heav'n the thriving trader bless,
What fawning crowds about him press!
But if he fail, distress'd and poor,
His mob of friends are seen no more;
For all men hold it meet to fly
The' infectious breath of Poverty.
Poor Frank, deserted and forlorn,
Curses the day that he was born:
Each treacherous crony hides his face,
Or starts whene'er he haunts the place.
His wealth thus lost, with that his friends,
On Fortune still the youth depends:
One smile, said he, can soon restore
A bankrupt wretch, and give him more;
She will not, sure, refuse her aid.
Fallacious hope! for the false jade
That very day took wing, was flown,
And on her wonted journey gone
(Intent her costly goods to sell)
From Panama to Portobel
Five hundred mules her baggage bear,
And groan beneath the precious ware,
The goddess rides sublime in air;
And hence conveys a fresh supply
For pride, debate, and luxury.
Frank, when he heard the' unwelcome news,
Like a staunch hound the chase pursues,
Takes the same rout, doubles his speed,
Nor doubts her help in time of need.
O'er the wide waste, through pathless ways,
The solitary pilgrim strays;
Now on the swampy desert plain,
Through brakes of mangroves works with pain,
Then climbs the hills with many a groan,
And melts beneath the torrid zone.
With berries and green plantains fed,
On the parch'd earth he leans his head;
Fainting with thirst, to Heav'n he cries,
But finds no stream but from his eyes.
Ah, wretch! thy vain laments forbear,
And for a worse extreme prepare:
Sudden the lowering storms arise,
The bursting thunder rends the skies,
Aslant the ruddy lightning flies,
Darts through the gloom a transient ray,
And gives a short but dreadful day;
With pealing rain the woods resound,
Convulsions shake the solid ground;
Benumb'd with cold, but more with fear,
Strange phantoms to his mind appear,
The wolves around him howl for food,
The ravenous tigers hunt for blood,
And cannibals, more fierce than they,
(Monsters who make mankind their prey
Riot and feast on human gore,
And, still insatiate, thirst for more.
Half-dead, at every noise he hears
His fancy multiplies his fears;
Whate'er he read or heard of old,
Whate'er his nurse or Crusoe told,
Each tragic scene his eyes behold:
Things past as present fear applies,
Their pains he bears, their deaths he dies.
At length the sun began to peep,
And gild the surface of the deep,
Then on the reeking moisture fed,
The scatter'd clouds before him fled,
The rivers shrunk into their bed:
Nature revives; the feather'd throng
Salute the morning with a song.
Frank with his fellow-brutes arose,
Yet dreaming still he saw his foes,
Reels to and fro, laments and grieves,
And, starting, doubts if yet he lives.
At last his spirits mend their pace.
And Hope sat dawning on his face;
" Ev'n such is human life," said he,
" A night of dread and misery,
Till Heav'n relents, relieves our pain,
And sunshine days return again.
O Fortune! who dost now bestow,
Frowning, this bitter cup of woe,
Do not thy faithful slave destroy,
But give the' alternative of joy."
Then many a painful step he takes,
O'er hills and vales, through woods and brakes:
No sturdy desperate buccaneer
E'er suffer'd hardships more severe;
Stubborn, incorrigibly blind,
No dangers can divert his mind;
His tedious journey he pursues,
At last his eye transported views
Fair Portobel, whose rising spires
Inflame his heart with new desires.
Secure of Fortune's grace, he smiles,
And flattering hopes the wretch beguiles,
Though Nature calls for sleep and food,
Yet stronger avarice subdued;
Ev'n shameful nakedness and pain,
And thirst and hunger, plead in vain:
No rest he gives his weary feet,
Fortune he seeks from street to street;
Careful in every corner pries,
Now here, now there, impatient flies,
Wherever busy crowds resort,
The change, the market, and the port;
In vain he turns his eye-balls round,
Fortune was no where to be found;
The jilt, nor many hours before,
With the Plate-fleet had left the shore;
Laughs at the credulous fool behind,
And joyful scuds before the wind.
Poor Frank forsaken on the coast,
All his fond hopes at once are lost.
Aghast the swelling sails he views,
And with his eye the fleet pursues,
Till, lessen'd to his wearied sight,
It leaves him to despair and night.
So when the faithless Theseus fled
The Cretan nymph's deserted bed,
Awak'd, at distance on the main,
She view'd the prosperous perjur'd swain,
And call'd the' avenging Gods in vain.
Prostrate on earth, till break of day,
Senseless and motionless he lay,
Till tears at last find out their way;
Gush'd like a torrent from his eyes,
In bitterness of soul he cries,
" O, Fortune! now too late I see,
Too late, alas! thy treachery.
Wretch that I am! abandon'd, lost,
About the world at random tost,
Whither, oh! whither shall I run?
Sore pinch'd with hunger, and undone.
In the dark mines go hide thy head
Accurs'd, exchange thy sweat for bread;
Skulk under ground, in earth's dark womb
Go, slave, and dig thyself a tomb:
There's gold enough; pernicious gold!
To which long since thy peace was sold;
Vain helpless idol! canst thou save
This shatter'd carcass from the grave?
Restless disturber of mankind,
Canst thou give health or peace of mind?
Oh! no; deceiv'd the fool shall be
Who puts his confidence in thee.
Fatally blind, my native home
I left, in this rude world to roam;
O, brother! shall I view no more
Thy peaceful bow'rs? fair Albion's shore?
Yes (if kind Heav'n my life shall spare)
Some happy moments yet I'll share
In thy delightful bless'd retreat,
With thee contemn the rich and great;
Redeem my time mispent, and wait
Till death relieve the unfortunate.
Adversity! sage useful guest,
Severe instructor, but the best;
It is from thee alone we know
Justly to value things below;
Right reason's ever faithful friend,
To thee our haughty passions bend;
Tam'd by thy rod, poor Frank at last
Repents of all his follies past,
Resign'd, and patient to endure
Those ills which Heav'n alone can cure.
With vain pursuits and labours worn,
He meditates a quick return,
Longs to revisit yet once more,
Poor prodigal! his native shore.
In the next ship for Britain bound
Glad Frank a ready passage found;
Nor vessel now nor freight his own,
He fears no longer Fortune's frown;
No property but life his share,
Life, a frail good not worth his care;
Active and willing to obey,
A merry mariner and gay,
He hands the sails and jokes all day.
At night no dreams disturb his rest,
No passions riot in his breast;
For having nothing left to lose,
Sweet and unbroken his repose.
And now fair Albion's cliffs are seen,
And hills with fruitful herbage green;
His heart beats quick, the joy that ties
His faltering tongue bursts from his eyes:
At length thus hail'd the well-known land,
And, kneeling, kiss'd the happy strand:
" And do I then draw native air
After an age of toil and care?
O welcome parent Isle! no more
The vagrant shall desert thy shore,
But, flying to thy kind embrace,
Here end his life's laborious race."
So when the stag, intent to rove,
Quits the safe park and sheltering grove,
Tops the high pale, strolls unconfin'd,
And leaves the lazy herd behind,
Bless'd in his happy change a while,
Corn fields and flowery meadows smile,
The pamper'd beast enjoys the spoil;
Till on the next returning morn,
Alarm'd, he hears the fatal horn;
Before the staunch blood-thirsty hounds,
Panting, o'er hills unknown he bounds;
With clamour every wood resounds:
He creeps the thorny brakes with pain,
He seeks the distant stream in vain;
And now, by sad experience wise,
To his dear home the rambler flies;
His old inclosure gains once more,
And joins the herd he scorn'd before.
Nor are his labours finish'd yet,
Hunger and thirst, and pain and sweat,
And many a tedious mile remains
Before his brother's house he gains.
Without one doit his purse to bless,
Not very elegant his dress,
With a tarr'd jump, a crooked bat,
Scarce one whole shoe, and half a hat,
From door to door the stroller skipp'd,
Sometimes reliev'd, but oft'ner whipp'd;
Sun-burnt and ragged, on he fares;
At last the mansion-house appears,
Timely relief for all his cares.
Around he gaz'd, his greedy sight
Devours each object with delight,
Through each known haunt transported roves,
Gay smiling fields and shady groves,
Once conscious of his youthful loves
About the hospitable gate
Crowds of dejected wretches wait;
Each day kind Bob's diffusive hand
Cheer'd and refresh'd the tatter'd band,
Proud the most godlike joy to share,
He fed the hungry, cloth'd the bare.
Frank amongst these his station chose,
With looks revealing inward woes;
When, lo! with wonder and surprise,
He saw dame Fortune in disguise;
He saw, but scarce believ'd his eyes.
Her fawning smiles, her tricking air
The' egregious hypocrite declare;
A gipsy's mantle round her spread,
Of various dye, white, yellow, red;
Strange feats she promis'd, clamour'd loud,
And with her cant amus'd the crowd:
There every day impatient plied,
Push'd to get in, but still denied;
For Bob, who knew the subtle whore,
Thrust the false vagrant from his door;
But when the stranger's face he view'd,
With no deceitful tears bedew'd,
His boding heart began to melt,
And more than usual pity felt:
He trac'd his features o'er and o'er,
That spoke him better born though poor,
Though cloth'd in rags, genteel his mien,
That face he somewhere must have seen:
Nature at last reveals the truth;
He knows and owns the hapless youth.
Surpris'd and speechless, both embrace,
And mingling tears o'erflow each face,
Till Bob thus eas'd his labouring thought,
And this instructive moral taught:
" Welcome, my brother! to my longing arms,
Here on my bosom rest secure from harms,
See Fortune there, that false delusive jade,
To whom thy pray'rs and ardent vows were paid;
She (like her sex) the fond pursuer flies,
But slight the jilt, and at thy feet she dies.
Now safe in port, indulge thyself on shore,
Oh! tempt the faithless winds and seas no more
Let unavailing toils and dangers past,
Though late, this useful lesson teach at last:
True happiness is only to be found
In a contented mind, a body sound;
All else is dream, a dance on fairy ground;
While restless fools each idle whim pursue,
And still one wish obtain'd creates a new,
Like froward babes, the toys they have detest,
While still the newest trifle pleases best:
Let us, my brother! rich in wisdom's store,
What Heav'n has lent enjoy, nor covet more;
Subdue our passions, curb their saucy rage.
And to ourselves restore the Golden Age."

Last updated December 12, 2017