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Whether to cheer his coward breast,
Among the rocks and winding crags—
What is there now in Peter's heart?
Or whence the might of this strange sound?
The moon uneasy looked and dimmer,
The broad blue heavens appeared to glimmer,
And the rocks staggered all around.
From Peter's hand the sapling dropped!
He scans the ass from limb to limb;
Whereat, in resolute mood, once more'
A grisly idol hewn in stone?
Is it a fiend that to a stake
Of fire his desperate self is tethering?
Or stubborn spirit doomed to yell
In solitary ward or cell,
Ten thousand miles from all his brethren?
Never did pulse so quickly throb,
Ah, well-a-day for Peter Bell!—
He looks—he ponders—looks again:
He sees a motion—hears a groan;—
His eyes will burst—his heart will break—
He gives a loud and frightful shriek,
And drops, a senseless weight, as if his life were flown! PART SECOND.
We left our hero in a trance,
Beneath the alders, near the river;
The ass is by the river side,
And where the feeble breezes glide,
Upon the stream the moonbeams quiver.
A happy respite!—but at length
He feels the glimmering of the moon;
Wakes with glazed eye, and feebly sighing—
To sink perhaps, where he is lying,
Into a second swoon I
He lifts his head—he sees his staff;
He touches—'tis to him a treasure!
Faint recollection seems to tell
That he is yet where mortals dwell—
A thought received with languid pleasure 1
His head upon his elbow propped,
Thought he, "That is the face of one
Now—like a tempest-shattered bark
His staring bones all shake with joy—
Such life is in the ass's eyes—
The ass looks on—and to his work
He pulls—and looks—and pulls again;
And Peter draws him to dry land;
The meagre shadow all this while—
But no—his purpose and his wish
Encouraged by this hope, he mounts
Intent upon his faithful watch,
The beast four days and nights had passed;
A sweeter meadow ne'er was seen,
And there the ass four days had been,
Nor ever once did break his fast!
Yet firm his step, and stout his heart!
When hark, a burst of doleful sound!
'Tis not a plover of the moors,
'Tis not a bittern of the fen;
Nor can it be a barking fox—
Nor night-bird chambered in the rocks—
Nor wild-cat in a woody glen 1