Joseph Rodman Drake

Here you will find the Long Poem The Culprit Fay of poet Joseph Rodman Drake

The Culprit Fay

'TIS the middle watch of a summer's night - 
The earth is dark, but the heavens are bright; 
Nought is seen in the vault on high 
But the moon, and the stars, and the cloudless sky, 
And the flood which rolls its milky hue, 
A river of light on the welkin blue. 
The moon looks down on old Cronest, 
She mellows the shades on his shaggy breast, 
And seems his huge gray form to throw 
In a sliver cone on the wave below; 
His sides are broken by spots of shade, 
By the walnut bough and the cedar made, 
And through their clustering branches dark 
Glimmers and dies the fire-fly's spark - 
Like starry twinkles that momently break 
Through the rifts of the gathering tempest's rack. 
The stars are on the moving stream, 
And fling, as its ripples gently flow, 
A burnished length of wavy beam 
In an eel-like, spiral line below; 
The winds are whist, and the owl is still, 
The bat in the shelvy rock is hid, 
And nought is heard on the lonely hill 
But the cricket's chirp, and the answer shrill 
Of the gauze-winged katy-did; 
And the plaint of the wailing whip-poor-will, 
Who moans unseen, and ceaseless sings, 
Ever a note of wail and wo, 
Till morning spreads her rosy wings, 
And earth and sky in her glances glow. 
'Tis the hour of fairy ban and spell: 
The wood-tick has kept the minutes well; 
He has counted them all with click and stroke, 
Deep in the heart of the mountain oak, 
And he has awakened the sentry elve 
Who sleeps with him in the haunted tree, 
To bid him ring the hour of twelve, 
And call the fays to their revelry; 
Twelve small strokes on his tinkling bell - 
('Twas made of the white snail's pearly shell:- ) 
'Midnight comes, and all is well! 
Hither, hither, wing your way! 
'Tis the dawn of the fairy day.' 
They come from beds of lichen green, 
They creep from the mullen's velvet screen; 
Some on the backs of beetles fly 
From the silver tops of moon-touched trees, 
Where they swung in their cobweb hammocks high, 
And rock'd about in the evening breeze; 
Some from the hum-bird's downy nest - 
They had driven him out by elfin power, 
And pillowed on plumes of his rainbow breast, 
Had slumbered there till the charmed hour; 
Some had lain in the scoop of the rock, 
With glittering ising-stars inlaid; 
And some had opened the four-o'clock, 
And stole within its purple shade. 
And now they throng the moonlight glade, 
Above - below - on every side, 
Their little minim forms arrayed 
In the tricksy pomp of fairy pride! 
They come not now to print the lea, 
In freak and dance around the tree, 
Or at the mushroom board to sup, 
And drink the dew from the buttercup; - 
A scene of sorrow waits them now, 
For an Ouphe has broken his vestal vow; 
He has loved an earthly maid, 
And left for her his woodland shade; 
He has lain upon her lip of dew, 
And sunned him in her eye of blue, 
Fann'd her cheek with his wing of air, 
Played in the ringlets of her hair, 
And, nestling on her snowy breast, 
Forgot the lily-king's behest. 
For this the shadowy tribes of air 
To the elfin court must haste away:- 
And now they stand expectant there, 
To hear the doom of the Culprit Fay. 
The throne was reared upon the grass 
Of spice-wood and of sassafras; 
On pillars of mottled tortoise-shell 
Hung the burnished canopy - 
And o'er it gorgeous curtains fell 
Of the tulip's crimson drapery. 
The monarch sat on his judgment-seat, 
On his brow the crown imperial shone, 
The prisoner Fay was at his feet, 
And his peers were ranged around the throne. 
He waved his sceptre in the air, 
He looked around and calmly spoke; 
His brow was grave and his eye severe, 
But his voice in a softened accent broke: 
'Fairy! Fairy! list and mark, 
Thou hast broke thine elfin chain, 
Thy flame-wood lamp is quenched and dark, 
And thy wings are dyed with a deadly stain - 
Thou hast sullied thine elfin purity 
In the glance of a mortal maiden's eye, 
Thou hast scorned our dread decree, 
And thou shouldst pay the forfeit high, 
But well I know her sinless mind 
Is pure as the angel forms above, 
Gentle and meek, and chaste and kind, 
Such as a spirit well might love; 
Fairy! had she spot or taint, 
Bitter had been thy punishment. 
Tied to the hornet's shardy wings; 
Tossed on the pricks of nettles' stings; 
Or seven long ages doomed to dwell 
With the lazy worm in the walnut-shell; 
Or every night to writhe and bleed 
Beneath the tread of the centipede; 
Or bound in a cobweb dungeon dim, 
Your jailer a spider huge and grim, 
Amid the carrion bodies to lie, 
Of the worm, and the bug, and the murdered f