Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Asia
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII.  1876–79.
 
India: Ganges, the River
An Evening Walk in Bengal
Reginald Heber (1783–1826)
 
OUR task is done! on Gunga’s breast
The sun is sinking down to rest;
And, moored beneath the tamarind bough,
Our bark has found its harbor now.
With furléd sail and painted side        5
Behold the tiny frigate ride.
Upon her deck, mid charcoal gleams,
The Moslem’s savory supper steams;
While all apart beneath the wood,
The Hindoo cooks his simpler food.        10
 
  Come walk with me the jungle through.
If yonder hunter told us true,
Far off in desert dank and rude,
The tiger holds its solitude;
Nor (taught by recent harm to shun        15
The thunders of the English gun),
A dreadful guest but rarely seen,
Returns to scare the village green.
Come boldly on! no venomed snake
Can shelter in so cool a brake.        20
Child of the Sun! be loves to lie
Midst Nature’s embers, parched and dry,
Where o’er some tower in ruin laid,
The peepul spreads its haunted shade;
Or round a tomb his scales to wreathe        25
Fit warder in the gate of Death.
Come on! yet pause! Behold us now
Beneath the bamboo’s archéd bough,
Where gemming oft that sacred gloom
Glows the geranium’s scarlet bloom,        30
And winds our path through many a bower
Of fragrant tree and giant flower;
The Ceiba’s crimson pomp displayed
O’er the broad plantain’s humbler shade,
And dusk anana’s prickly glade;        35
While o’er the brake, so wild and fair
The betel waves his crest in air.
With pendent train and rushing wings
Aloft the gorgeous peacock springs;
And he the bird of hundred dyes,        40
Whose plumes the dames of Ava prize.
So rich a shade, so green a sod
Our English fairies never trod!
Yet who in Indian bowers has stood,
But thought on England’s “good greenwood”!        45
And blessed, beneath the palmy shade,
Her hazel and her hawthorn glade,
And breathed a prayer (how oft in vain!)
To gaze upon her oaks again?
A truce to thought,—the jackal’s cry        50
Resounds like sylvan revelry;
And through the trees yon failing ray
Will scantly serve to guide our way.
Yet mark, as fade the upper skies,
Each thicket opes ten thousand eyes.        55
Before, beside us, and above,
The firefly lights his lamp of love,
Retreating, chasing, sinking, soaring,
The darkness of the copse exploring.
While to this cooler air confest,        60
The broad Dhature bares her breast,
Of fragrant scent and virgin white,
A pearl around the locks of night!
Still as we pass in softened hum
Along the breezy alleys come        65
The village song, the horn, the drum.
Still as we pass, from bush and brier,
The shrill Cigala strikes his lyre;
And what is she whose liquid strain
Thrills through yon copse of sugar-cane?        70
I know that soul-entrancing swell,
It is,—it must be,—Philomel!
Enough, enough, the rustling trees
Announce a shower upon the breeze,
The flashes of the summer sky        75
Assume a deeper, ruddier dye;
Yon lamp that trembles on the stream,
From forth our cabin sheds its beam;
And we must early sleep to find
Betimes the morning’s healthy wind.        80
But, oh, with thankful hearts confess
Even here there may be happiness;
And He, the bounteous sire, has given
His peace on earth,—his hope of heaven!
 
 
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