BLACK CAT POEMS
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The Cavern by the Sea
Martha Lavinia Hoffman
The tropical islands of Tonga
In the Southern Pacific sea lie
Like fragments of cool rainbow color
Dropped down from the melting blue sky.
They are gardens of clustering palm trees
Of creepers and tall waving fronds,
, colored by sunshine and sea-breeze,
Fruits, painted by tropical dawns.
In these beautiful islands of Tonga
Dwelt a chieftain, young, stalwart and brave,
Who dived like a fish in the ocean
And rose with the foam on the wave.
One morning while swimming and diving
He ventured so deep by the shore
That he rose in a wonderful cavern
Which had never been heard of before.
A cavern that no one could enter
But by diving deep down in the sea,
And stalactites hung from the center
And sides of its arched canopy.
No sunbeam illumined its arches,
No moonbeam lay on its stone floor,
Its pale pensive light was reflected
From the depths of its watery door.
Bright sea-shells and fragments of coral
And seaweed in chaplet and spray
Cast up by the waves' angry quarrel
In ledges and crevices lay.
The chieftain, transfixed in his wonder,
Gazed long with his dark eager eyes,
Like a warrior rejoiced o'er his plunder
He spoke to his wonderful prize.
"Thou art mine, O my beautiful palace!
No other my secret shall know,
My refuge from envy and malice,
I tell not my friend of my foe;
For a secret revealed to a brother
That hour is a secret no more,
One wave whispers low to another
And the surges speak loud on the shore."
once more in the cavern
Then a splashing of sea-foam and wave
And the daring young chief of the Tonga
Rose up from his submarine cave.
passed and a ryler tyrannic
Reigned over the peaceful domain,
So cruel was he that a panic
Spread over the isles in his reign.
One chief planned a great insurrection
And well were his secret plans laid
When the news spread in every direction
That the deeply laid scheme was betrayed.
And he who had planned insurrection
And all of his
Were sentenced to speedy destruction
By the dreadful, tyrannical king.
This chief had a beautiful daughter
Betrothed to a chief of high rank,
Like a great stone cast into the water
At the dread news her happy heart sank.
who discovered the cavern
Had long loved the damsel in vain,
So he brought her the news of her danger
Which inspired him with hope once again.
He begged her to trust him to save her,
Though his terrible peril he knew
Naught but hope of their safety he gave her
As they fled in their little canoe.
On the way he described the lone cavern,
The place of their hasty retreat,
'Till he paused where the rocks towerd above them
And told her to lay at her feet.
With warcries the island resounded
'Till the birds hushed their songs in affright
Then a yell as of victory sounded;
Had the dread king discovered their flight?
Dim forms on the shore became clearer,
Then the splashing of heavy canoes
Just behind sounded nearer and nearer,
They had not a moment to lose.
These women can swim like the
And dive like the fish in the sea;
So the young chief sprang into the water
Down, down through the shadowy water,
With her hair streaming out on the tide,
Sank the great chieftain's beautiful daughter
With the young island chief at her side.
A splashing of waves and then silence,
By the gray rock an empty canoe;
And they rose in the wonderful cavern
That none but the young chieftain knew.
It was fifty feet high at the center
And the widest part, fifty feet wide;
What foeman could ever there enter
To harm the young maid or her guide?
And here the chief hid his brave lady
'Till the angry king gave up the chase
In the great cavern, silent and shady,
Lit but by the sea and her face.
And here to her palace he carried
Costly clothing, food, mats and perfume,
And none knew what treasure was buried
In the great cavern's silence and gloom.
And here by his kindness and daring
His love to the maiden he proved
And won for his bride the fair damsel
Whom long without
he had wooed.
Meanwhile he prepared for a voyage
With all of his tribe to depart
From the land of a cruel oppressor,
The islands still dear to his heart.
At last they embarked all in safety
Unknown to the treacherous king,
He told them to wait in the shadow
And his bride from the sea he would bring.
He dived at the foot of the boulder,
His wondering tribe waited amazed
And half (each astonished beholder)
Believed that the chieftain was crazed.
Alarmed at his long disappearance
His people began to deplore,
O, surely the young chief had perished!
And they waited in fear by the shore.
A sound like the rushing of water,
A sparkling of foam from the tide
And the gallant young chief of the Tongas
Rose up from the sea with his bride.
Her dark hair streamed over the water,
Her eyes shone like stars in the blue;
And the dead chieftain's beautiful daughter
Was safe in her waiting canoe.
In a far distant kingdom they rested
'Till the cruel oppressor was dead,
Then returned to their homes unmolested
Where a better king reigned in his stead.
And long in their palm islands, shady
Dwelt the chieftain, so noble and brave,
With his tribe, and his beautiful lady
Whom he hid in the deep ocean cave.
poems by Martha Lavinia Hoffman