Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > America
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX.  1876–79.
 
Southern States: Appendix: Florida
The Fountain of Youth
Hezekiah Butterworth (1839–1905)
 
A Dream of Ponce de Leon

I.
A STORY of Ponce de Leon,
  A voyager, withered and old,
Who came to the sunny Antilles,
  In quest of a country of gold.
He was wafted past islands of spices,        5
  As bright as the Emerald seas,
Where all the forests seem singing,
  So thick were the birds on the trees;
The sea was as clear as the azure,
  And so deep and so pure was the sky        10
That the jasper-walled city seemed shining
  Just out of the reach of the eye.
By day his light canvas he shifted,
  And rounded strange harbors and bars;
By night, on the full tides he drifted,        15
  ’Neath the low-hanging lamps of the stars.
Near the glimmering gates of the sunset,
  In the twilight empurpled and dim,
The sailors uplifted their voices,
  And sang to the Virgin a hymn.        20
“Thank the Lord!” said De Leon, the sailor,
  At the close of the rounded refrain;
“Thank the Lord, the Almighty, who blesses
  The ocean-swept banner of Spain!
The shadowy world is behind us,        25
  The shining Cipango, before;
Each morning the sun rises brighter
  On ocean, and island, and shore.
And still shall our spirits grow lighter,
  As prospects more glowing enfold;        30
Then on, merry men! to Cipango,
  To the west, and the regions of gold.”
 
II.
There came to De Leon, the sailor,
  Some Indian sages, who told
Of a region so bright that the waters        35
  Were sprinkled with islands of gold.
And they added: “The leafy Bimini,
  A fair land of grottos and bowers,
Is there; and a wonderful fountain
  Upsprings from its gardens of flowers.        40
That fountain gives life to the dying,
  And youth to the aged restores;
They flourish in beauty eternal,
  Who set but their foot on its shores!”
Then answered De Leon, the sailor:        45
  “I am withered, and wrinkled, and old;
I would rather discover that fountain,
  Than a country of diamonds and gold.”
 
III.
Away sailed De Leon, the sailor;
  Away with a wonderful glee,        50
Till the birds were more rare in the azure,
  The dolphins more rare in the sea.
Away from the shady Bahamas,
  Over waters no sailor had seen,
Till again on his wondering vision,        55
  Rose clustering islands of green.
Still onward he sped till the breezes
  Were laden with odors, and lo!
A country embedded with flowers,
  A country with rivers aglow!        60
More bright than the sunny Antilles,
  More fair than the shady Azores.
“Thank the Lord!” said De Leon, the sailor,
  As feasted his eye on the shores,
“We have come to a region, my brothers,        65
  More lovely than earth, of a truth;
And here is the life-giving fountain,—
  The beautiful fountain of youth.”
 
IV.
Then landed De Leon, the sailor,
  Unfurled his old banner, and sung;        70
But he felt very wrinkled and withered,
  All around was so fresh and so young.
The palms, ever-verdant, were blooming,
  Their blossoms e’en margined the seas;
O’er the streams of the forests bright flowers        75
  Hung deep from the branches of trees.
“Praise the Lord!” sung De Leon, the sailor;
  His heart was with rapture aflame;
And he said: “Be the name of this region
  By Florida given to fame.        80
’T is a fair, a delectable country,
  More lovely than earth, of a truth;
I soon shall partake of the fountain,—
  The beautiful fountain of youth!”
 
V.
But wandered De Leon, the sailor,
        85
  In search of that fountain in vain;
No waters were there to restore him
  To freshness and beauty again.
And his anchor he lifted, and murmured,
  As the tears gathered fast in his eye,        90
“I must leave this fair land of the flowers,
  Go back o’er the ocean, and die.”
Then back by the dreary Tortugas,
  And back by the shady Azores,
He was borne on the storm-smitten waters        95
  To the calm of his own native shores.
And that he grew older and older,
  His footsteps enfeebled gave proof,
Still he thirsted in dreams for the fountain,
  The beautiful fountain of youth.
*        *        *        *        *
        100
VI.
One day the old sailor lay dying
  On the shores of a tropical isle,
And his heart was enkindled with rapture,
  And his face lighted up with a smile.
He thought of the sunny Antilles,        105
  He thought of the shady Azores,
He thought of the dreamy Bahamas,
  He thought of fair Florida’s shores.
And, when in his mind he passed over
  His wonderful travels of old,        110
He thought of the heavenly country,
  Of the city of jasper and gold.
“Thank the Lord!” said De Leon, the sailor,
  “Thank the Lord for the light of the truth,
I now am approaching the fountain,        115
  The beautiful Fountain of Youth.”
 
VII.
The cabin was silent: at twilight
  They heard the birds singing a psalm,
And the wind of the ocean low sighing
  Through groves of the orange and palm.        120
The sailor still lay on his pallet,
  ’Neath the low-hanging vines of the roof;
His soul had gone forth to discover
  The beautiful Fountain of Youth.
 
 
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