Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Asia
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII.  1876–79.
India: Madura
Hindoo Temples and Palace at Madura
Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802–1838)
LITTLE the present careth for the past,
          Too little,—’t is not well!
          For careless ones we dwell
Beneath the mighty shadow it has cast.
Its blessings are around our daily path,        5
          We share its mighty spoil,
          We live on its great toil,
And yet how little gratitude it hath.
Look on these temples, they were as a shrine
          From whence to the far north        10
          The human mind went forth,
The moral sunshine of a world divine,—
The light that is of heaven shone there the first,
          The elements of art,
          Mankind’s diviner part;        15
There was young Science in its cradle nurst.
That inward world which maketh of our clay
          Its temporary home;
          From whence those lightnings come,
That kindle from a far and better day.        20
Mighty the legacies by mind bequeathed,
          For glorious were its pains
          Amid those giant fanes,
And mighty were the triumphs it achieved.
A woman’s triumph mid them is imprest, 1        25
          One who upon the scroll
          Flung the creative soul
Disdainful of life’s flowers and of its rest.
Vast was the labor, vast the enterprise,
          For she was of a race        30
          Born to the lowest place,
Earth insects, lacking wings whereon to rise.
How must that youthful cheek have lost its bloom,
          How many a dream above
          Of early hope and love,        35
Must that young heart have closed on like a tomb!
Such throw life’s flowers behind them, and aspire
          To ask the stars their lore,
          And from each ancient store
Seek food to stay the mind’s consuming fire.        40
Her triumph was complete and long; the chords
          She struck are yet alive;
          Not vainly did she strive
To leave her soul immortal on her words.
A great example she has left behind,        45
          A lesson we should take,
          Whose first task is to make
The general wish to benefit our kind.
Our sword has swept o’er India; there remains
          A nobler conquest far,        50
          The mind’s ethereal war,
That but subdues to civilize its plains.
Let us pay back the past the debt we owe,
          Let us around dispense
          Light, hope, intelligence,        55
Till blessings track our steps where’er we go.
O England! thine be the deliverer’s need,
          Be thy great empire known
          By hearts made all thine own
By thy free laws and thy immortal creed.        60
Note 1. The celebrated Avyia, a Pariah of the lowest class, who obtained such literary distinction that her works are even now the class-books of the scholars of the highest rank and caste in the Hindoo schools of the Indian Peninsula. [back]

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