Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
From The Island
By Lord Byron (1788–1824)
 
HOW pleasant were the songs of Toobonai,
When summer’s sun went down the coral bay!
Come let us to the islet’s softest shade,
And hear the warbling birds! the damsels said:
The wood-dove from the forest depth shall coo,        5
Like voices of the gods from Bolotoo;
We’ll cull the flowers that grow above the dead,
For these most bloom where rests the warrior’s head;
And we will sit in twilight’s face, and see
The sweet moon dancing through the tooa-tree,        10
The lofty accents of whose sighing bough
Shall sadly please us as we lean below;
Or climb the steep, and view the surf in vain
Wrestle with rocky giants o’er the main,
Which spurn in columns back the baffled spray.        15
How beautiful are these, how happy they,
Who, from the toil and tumult of their lives,
Steal to look down where nought but ocean strives!
Even he too loves at times the blue lagoon,
And smooths his ruffled mane beneath the moon.        20
 
Yes—from the sepulchre we’ll gather flowers,
Then feast like spirits in their promised bowers,
Then plunge and revel in the rolling surf,
Then lay our limbs along the tender turf,
And wet and shining from the sportive toil,        25
Anoint our bodies with the fragrant oil,
And plait our garlands gathered from the grave,
And wear the wreaths that sprung from out the brave.
But lo! night comes, the Mooa wooes us back,
The sound of mats is heard along our track;        30
Anon the torchlight-dance shall fling its sheen
In flashings mazes o’er the Marly’s green;
And we too will be there; we too recall
The memory bright with many a festival,
Ere Fiji blew the shell of war, when foes        35
For the first time were wafted in canoes.
Strike up the dance, the cava bowl fill high,
Drain every drop!—to-morrow we may die.
In summer garments be our limbs arrayed;
Around our waist the Tappa’s white displayed;        40
Thick wreaths shall form our coronal, like spring’s,
And round our necks shall glance the Hooni strings;
So shall their brighter hues contrast the glow
Of the dusk bosoms that beat high below.
 
Thus rose a song,—the harmony of times        45
Before the winds blew Europe o’er these climes.
True, they had vices,—such are nature’s growth,—
But only the barbarians’—we have both;
The sordor of civilization, mixed
With all the savage which man’s fall hath fixed.        50
Who hath not seen dissimulation’s reign,
The prayers of Abel linked to deeds of Cain?
Who such would see, may from his lattice view
The old world more degraded than the new,—
Now new no more, save where Columbia rears        55
Twin giants, born by freedom to her spheres,
Where Chimborazo, over air, earth, wave,
Glares with his Titan eye, and sees no slave.
 
 
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