Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Africa: Vol. XXIV. 1876–79.

Introductory to Africa


By James Montgomery (1771–1854)

(From The West Indies)

WHERE the stupendous Mountains of the Moon

Cast their broad shadows o’er the realms of noon

From rude Caffraria, where the giraffes browse

With stately heads among the forest boughs,

To Atlas, where Numidian lions glow

With torrid fire beneath eternal snow;

From Nubian hills, that hail the dawning day,

To Guinea’s coast, where evening fades away;

Regions immense, unsearchable, unknown,

Bask in the splendor of the solar zone,—

A world of wonders, where creation seems

No more the works of Nature, but her dreams.

Great, wild, and beautiful, beyond control,

She reigns in all the freedom of her soul;

Where none can check her bounty when she showers

O’er the gay wilderness her fruits and flowers;

None brave her fury when, with whirlwind breath

And earthquake step, she walks abroad with death.

O’er boundless plains she holds her fiery flight,

In terrible magnificence of light;

At blazing noon pursues the evening breeze,

Through the dun gloom of realm-o’ershadowing trees:

Her thirst at Nile’s mysterious fountain quells,

Or bathes in secrecy where Niger swells

An inland ocean, on whose jasper rocks

With shells and sea-flower wreaths she binds her locks.

She sleeps on isles of velvet verdure, placed

Midst sandy gulfs and shoals forever waste;

She guides her countless flocks to cherished rills,

And feeds her cattle on a thousand hills:

Her steps the wild bees welcome through the vale,

From every blossom that embalms the gale;

The slow unwieldy river-horse she leads

Through the deep waters, o’er the pasturing meads;

And climbs the mountains that invade the sky,

To soothe the eagle’s nestlings when they cry.

At sunset, when voracious monsters burst

From dreams of blood, awaked by maddening thirst;

When the lorn caves, in which they shrunk from light,

Ring with wild echoes through the hideous night;

When darkness seems alive, and all the air

In one tremendous uproar of despair,

Horror, and agony;—on her they call;

She hears their clamor, she provides for all,

Leads the light leopard on his eager way,

And goads the gaunt hyena to his prey.