Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Greece
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Greece and Turkey in Europe: Vol. XIX.  1876–79.
Introductory to Greece
James Gates Percival (1795–1856)
(From Greece, from Mount Helicon)

                    EVEN as the pilgrim
Goes with his eye fixed on his prophet’s tomb,
Or where his god is laid, so let me on,
Bent to that summit, where retiring day
Kindles its latest fires.
                I now have conquered,
And heaven is all above me. Earth below
Spreads infinite, and rolls its mountain waves
Tumultuously around me. Breathless awe
Broods o’er my spirit, and I stand awhile
Rapt and absorbed. The magic vision floats        10
Dimly before me, and uncertain lights
Flash on my troubled eye, and then a calm,
High and uplifted, like the peace of heaven,
Steals on my heart, and instantly my thoughts
Are fixed and daring. ’T is the land of song,—        15
The home of heroes. O ye boundless plains,
Ye snowy peaks, ye dusky mountains, heaped
Like ocean billows, far retiring vales,
Blue seas, and gleaming bays, and islands set
Like gems in gold! to you I kneel with awe        20
Deep and unfeigned. If I have ever felt
The stirring energies of warlike virtue,
The sternness of unbending right, the bliss
Of high and holy dreams, the charm of beauty,
The power of verse and song, only to you        25
Be all the praise. And now ye are before me,
Rich with the tints of evening. What an arch
Of golden light swells, from the point of setting,
Over the Delphian hills! and how it rolls,
In dazzling waves, round all the mingled heights        30
That rise between! Yonder my eye can catch
Glimpses from out the far Achaian gulf,
Waving with flame, and seeming through the depths,
That dimly open to them, fiery portals
To brighter worlds. But now to calmer scenes        35
And shadier skies. I trace the silver stream
Threading its way, now hidden, now revealed,
To the round vale, half up the mountain-side,
Then lost in woods, and then in distant windings
Stealing along the plain. Yon lower ridge        40
Lies dark in shade; and hidden half in trees,
The whitewashed convent, with its gilded cross
And humble tower, sends upward through the hushed
And vacant air its vesper knoll, by distance
Mellowed to music. This is all the sound        45
That tells of life. Down through a gloomy gorge,
Walled in by rifted rocks, the vale of Ascra
Lies, like a nook withdrawn beyond the reach
Of violence; and yet the crescent crowns
A minaret, and tells a startling tale        50
Of woe and fear. Beyond, the Theban plain
Stretches to airy distance, till it seems
lifted in air,—green cornfields, olive groves
Blue as their heaven, and lakes, and winding rivers,
And towns whose white walls catch the amber light,        55
That burns, then dies away, and leaves them pale
And glimmering, while a floating vapor spreads
From marsh and stream, till all is like a sea,
Rolling to Œta, and the Eubœan chain,
Stretching, in purple dimness, on the verge        60
Of this unclouded heaven. Far in the east
The Ægean twinkles, and its thousand isles
Hover in mist, and round the dun horizon
Are many floating visions, clouds, or peaks,
Tinted with rose. Before me lies a land        65
Hallowed with a peculiar sanctity,
The eye of Greece,—a wild of rocks and hills,
Lifted in shadowy cones, and deep between
Mysterious hollows, once the proud abodes
Of genius and of power. Now twilight throws        70
Around her softest veil, a purple haze
Investing all at hand, and farther on
Skyey and faint and dim. Methinks I catch,
Through the far opening heights, the Parthenon,
And all its circling glories. Salamis        75
Lies on its dusky wave; and farther out
Islands and capes, and many a flitting sail
White as a sea-bird’s wing. The stars are out,
And all beneath is dark. The lower hills
Float in obscurity, and plain and sea        80
Are blended in one haze. Cyllene still
Bears on her snowy crown the rosy blush
Of twilight; and thy loftier head, Parnassus,
Has not yet lost the glory and the blaze
That suit the heaven of song. There let me pause;        85
There fix my latest look. How beautiful,
Sublimely beautiful, thou hoverest
High in the vacant air! Thou seemest uplifted
From all of earth, and like an island floating
Away in heaven. How pure the eternal snows        90
That crown thee! yet how rich the golden blaze
That flashes from thy peak! how like the rose,
The virgin rose, the tints that fade below,
Till all is sweetly pale!

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