Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Oceanica
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Oceanica: Vol. XXXI.  1876–79.
Introductory to Australasia
Winthrop Mackworth Praed (1802–1839)
THE SUN is high in heaven; a favoring breeze
Fills the white sail and sweeps the rippling seas,
And the tall vessel walks her destined way,
And rocks and glitters in the curling spray.
Among the shrouds, all happiness and hope,        5
The busy seaman coils the rattling rope,
And tells his jest, and carols out his song,
And laughs his laughter, vehement and long;
Or pauses on the deck, to dream awhile
Of his babes’ prattle and their mother’s smile,        10
And nods the head, and waves the welcome hand,
To those who weep upon the lessening strand.
  His is the roving step and humor dry,
His the light laugh, and his the jocund eye;
And his the feeling which, in guilt or grief,        15
Makes the sin venial, and the sorrow brief.
But there are hearts, that merry deck below,
Of darker error, and of deeper woe,—
Children of wrath and wretchedness who grieve
Not for the country, but the crimes they leave,        20
Who, while for them on many a sleepless bed
The prayer is murmured and the tear is shed,
In exile and in misery, lock within
Their dread despair, their unrepented sin,
And in their madness dare to gaze on heaven,        25
Sullen and cold, unawed and unforgiven!
  There the gaunt robber, stern in sin and shame,
Shows his dull features and his iron frame;
And tenderer pilferers creep in silence by,
With quivering lip, flushed brow, and vacant eye.        30
And some there are who, in their close of day,
With dropping jaw, weak step, and temples gray,
Go tottering forth, to find, across the wave,
A short sad sojourn, and a foreign grave;
And some, who look their long and last adieu        35
To the white cliffs that vanish from the view,
While youth still blooms, and vigor nerves the arm,
The blood flows freely, and the pulse beats warm.
The hapless female stands in silence there,
So weak, so wan, and yet so sadly fair,        40
That those who gaze, a rude untutored tribe,
Check the coarse question and the wounding gibe,
And look, and long to strike the fetter off,
And stay to pity, though they came to scoff.
Then o’er her cheek there runs a burning blush,        45
And the hot tears of shame begin to rush
Forth from their swelling orbs;—she turns away,
And her white fingers o’er her eyelids stray,
And still the tears through those white fingers glide,
Which strive to check them, or at least to hide!        50
And there the stripling, led to plunder’s school,
Ere Passion slept, or Reason learned to rule,
Clasps his young hands, and beats his throbbing brain,
And looks with marvel on his galling chain.
O, you may guess, from that unconscious gaze,        55
His soul hath dreamed of those far-fading days,
When, rudely nurtured on the mountain’s brow,
He tended day by day his father’s plough;
Blest in his day of toil, his night of ease,
His life of purity, his soul of peace.        60
O, yes! to-day his soul hath backward been
To many a tender face and beauteous scene,—
The verdant valley and the dark brown hill,
The small fair garden, and its tinkling rill,
His grandame’s tale, believed at twilight hour,        65
His sister singing in her myrtle bower,
And she, the maid, of every hope bereft,
So fondly loved, alas! so falsely left,—
The winding path, the dwelling in the grove,
The look of welcome, and the kiss of love,—        70
These are his dreams; but these are dreams of bliss!
Why do they blend with such a lot as his?
  And is there naught for him but grief and gloom,
A lone existence, and an early tomb?
Is there no hope of comfort and of rest        75
To the seared conscience and the troubled breast?
Oh, say not so! In some far distant clime,
Where lives no witness of his early crime,
Benignant Penitence may haply muse
On purer pleasures and on brighter views,        80
And slumbering Virtue wake at last to claim
Another being, and a fairer fame.
  Beautiful land! within whose quiet shore
Lost spirits may forget the stain they bore;
Beautiful land! with all thy blended shades        85
Of waste and wood, rude rocks, and level glades,
On thee, on thee I gaze, as Moslems look
To the blest islands of their Prophet’s Book:
And oft I deem that, linked by magic spell,
Pardon and Peace upon thy valleys dwell,        90
Like two sweet Houris beckoning o’er the deep
The souls that tremble and the eyes that weep!
Therefore on thee undying sunbeams throw
Their clearest radiance and their warmest glow,
And tranquil nights, cool gales, and gentle showers        95
Make bloom eternal in thy sinless bowers.
Green is thy turf; stern Winter doth not dare
To breathe his blast, and leave a ruin there,
And the charmed ocean roams thy rocks around,
With softer motion and with sweeter sound:        100
Among thy blooming flowers and blushing fruit
The whispering of young birds is never mute,
And never doth the streamlet cease to well
Through its old channel in the hidden dell.
O, if the Muse of Greece had ever strayed,        105
In solemn twilight, through thy forest shade,
And swept her lyre, and waked thy meads along
The liquid echo of her ancient song,
Her fabling Fancy in that hour had found
Voices of music, shapes of grace, around;        110
Among thy trees, with merry step and glance,
The Dryad then had wound her wayward dance,
And the cold Naiad in thy waters fair
Bathed her white breast, and wrung her dripping hair.
  Beautiful land! upon so pure a plain        115
Shall Superstition hold her hated reign?
Must Bigotry build up her cheerless shrine
In such an air, on such an earth as thine?
Alas! Religion from thy placid isles
Veils the warm splendor of her heavenly smiles,        120
And the wrapt gazer in the beauteous plan
Sees nothing dark—except the soul of Man.
  Sweet are the links that bind us to our kind,
Meek, but unyielding,—felt, but undefined;
Sweet is the love of brethren, sweet the joy        125
Of a young mother in her cradled boy,
And sweet is childhood’s deep and earnest glow
Of reverence for a father’s head of snow!
Sweeter than all, ere our young hopes depart,
The quickening throb of an impassioned heart,        130
Beating in silence, eloquently still,
For one loved soul that answers to its thrill.
But where thy smile, Religion, hath not shone,
The chain is riven, and the charm is gone;
And, unawakened by thy wondrous spell,        135
The Feelings slumber in their silent cell.
  Hushed is the voice of labor and of mirth,
The light of day is sinking from the earth,
And Evening mantles in her dewy calm
The couch of one who cannot heed its balm.        140
Lo! where the chieftain on his matted bed
Leans the faint form, and hangs the feverish head!
There is no lustre in his wandering eye,
His forehead hath no show of majesty;
His gasping lip, too weak for wail or prayer,        145
Scarce stirs the breeze, and leaves no echo there;
And his strong arm, so nobly wont to rear
The feathered target or the ashen spear,
Drops powerless and cold! the pang of death
Locks the set teeth and chokes the struggling breath,        150
And the last glimmering of departing day
Lingers around to herald life away.
  Is there no duteous youth to sprinkle now
One drop of water on his lip and brow?
No dark-eyed maid to bring with soundless foot        155
The lulling potion or the healing root?
No tender look to meet his wandering gaze?
No tone of fondness, heard in happier days,
To soothe the terrors of the spirit’s flight,
And speak of mercy and of hope to-night?        160
  All love, all leave him!—terrible and slow
Along the crowd the whispered murmurs grow.
“The hand of Heaven is on him! is it ours
To check the fleeting of his numbered hours?
Oh, not to us,—oh, not to us is given        165
To read the book, or thwart the will, of Heaven!
Away, away!” and each familiar face
Recoils in horror from his sad embrace;
The turf on which he lies is hallowed ground,
The sullen priest stalks gloomily around,        170
And shuddering friends, that dare not soothe or save,
Hear the last groan, and dig the destined grave.
The frantic widow folds upon her breast
Her glittering trinkets and her gorgeous vest,
Circles her neck with many a mystic charm,        175
Clasps the rich bracelet on her desperate arm,
Binds her black hair, and stains her eyelid’s fringe
With the jet lustre of the henna’s tinge;
Then, on the spot where those dear ashes lie,
In bigot transport sits her down to die.        180
Her swarthy brothers mark the wasted cheek,
The straining eyeball, and the stifled shriek,
And sing the praises of her deathless name,
As the last flutter racks her tortured frame.
They sleep together: o’er the natural tomb        185
The lichened pine rears up its form of gloom,
And lorn acacias shed their shadow gray,
Bloomless and leafless, o’er the buried clay.
And often there, when calmly, coldly bright,
The midnight moon flings down her ghastly light,        190
With solemn murmur and with silent tread,
The dance is ordered, and the verse is said,
And sights of wonder, sounds of spectral fear,
Scare the quick glance and chill the startled ear.
  Yet direr visions e’en than these remain;        195
A fiercer guiltiness, a fouler stain!
Oh, who shall sing the scene of savage strife,
Where Hatred glories in the waste of life?
The hurried march, the looks of grim delight,
The yell, the rush, the slaughter, and the flight,        200
The arms unwearied in the cruel toil,
The hoarded vengeance and the rifled spoil,
And, last of all, the revel in the wood,
The feast of death, the banqueting of blood,
When the wild warrior gazes on his foe        205
Convulsed beneath him in his painful throe,
And lifts the knife, and kneels him down to drain
The purple current from the quivering vein?
Cease, cease the tale; and let the ocean’s roll
Shut the dark horror from my wildered soul!        210
  And are there none to succor? none to speed
A fairer feeling and a holier creed?
Alas! for this, upon the ocean blue,
Lamented Cook, thy pennon hither flew;
For this, undaunted, o’er the raging brine        215
The venturous Frank upheld his Saviour’s sign.
Unhappy Chief! while Fancy thus surveys
The scattered islets and the sparkling bays,
Beneath whose cloudless sky and gorgeous sun
Thy life was ended, and thy voyage done,        220
In shadowy mist thy form appears to glide,
Haunting the grove, or floating on the tide;
Oh, there was grief for thee, and bitter tears,
And racking doubts through long and joyless years;
And tender tongues that babbled of the theme,        225
And lonely hearts that doated on the dream.
Pale Memory deemed she saw thy cherished form
Snatched from the foe, or rescued from the storm;
And faithful Love, unfailing and untired,
Clung to each hope, and sighed as each expired.        230
On the bleak desert, or the tombless sea,
No prayer was said, no requiem sung for thee;
Affection knows not whether o’er thy grave
The ocean murmur or the willow wave;
But still the beacon of thy sacred name        235
Lights ardent souls to Virtue and to Fame,
Still Science mourns thee, and the grateful Muse
Wreathes the green cypress for her own Pérouse.
  But not thy death shall mar the gracious plan,
Nor check the task thy pious toil began;        240
O’er the wide waters of the bounding main
The Book of Life must win its way again,
And, in the regions by thy fate endeared,
The cross be lifted, and the altar reared.
  With furrowed brow and cheek serenely fair,        245
The calm wind wandering o’er his silver hair,
His arm uplifted, and his moistened eye
Fixed in deep rapture on the golden sky,—
Upon the shore, through many a billow driven,
He kneels at last, the Messenger of Heaven!        250
Long years, that rank the mighty with the weak,
Have dimmed the flush upon his faded cheek,
And many a dew and many a noxious damp,
The daily labor, and the nightly lamp,
Have reft away, forever reft, from him        255
The liquid accent and the buoyant limb.
Yet still within him aspirations swell
Which time corrupts not, sorrow cannot quell,—
The changeless zeal, which on, from land to land,
Speeds the faint foot and nerves the withered hand,        260
And the mild Charity, which, day by day,
Weeps every wound and every stain away,
Rears the young bud on every blighted stem,
And longs to comfort where she must condemn.
With these, through storms and bitterness and wrath,        265
In peace and power he holds his onward path,
Curbs the fierce soul, and sheathes the murderous steel,
And calms the passions he hath ceased to feel.
  Yes! he hath triumphed!—while his lips relate
The sacred story of his Saviour’s fate,        270
While to the search of that tumultuous horde
He opens wide the Everlasting Word,
And bids the soul drink deep of Wisdom there,
In fond devotion, and in fervent prayer,
In speechless awe the wonder-stricken throng        275
Check their rude feasting and their barbarous song:
Around his steps the gathering myriads crowd,
The chief, the slave, the timid, and the proud;
Of various features, and of various dress,
Like their own forest-leaves, confused and numberless.        280
Where shall your temples, where your worship be,
Gods of the air, and rulers of the sea?
In the glad dawning of a kinder light,
Your blind adorer quits your gloomy rite,
And kneels in gladness on his native plain,        285
A happier votary at a holier fane.
  Beautiful land, farewell!—when toil and strife,
And all the sighs and all the sins of life
Shall come about me,—when the light of Truth
Shall scatter the bright mists that dazzled youth,        290
And Memory muse in sadness on the past,
And mourn for pleasures far too sweet to last;
How often shall I long for some green spot,
Where, not remembering, and remembered not,
With no false verse to deck my lying bust,        295
With no fond tear to vex my mouldering dust,
This busy brain may find its grassy shrine,
And sleep, untroubled, in a shade like thine!

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