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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Western States: San Francisco, Cal.

At the Golden Gate

By Henry Morford (1823–1881)

YEARS, years of waiting, while in shapes terrific

Have loomed the obstacles that held me back;

And now I see, at length, the broad Pacific

Rolling far westward in the sunset’s track;

And now I know how that discoverer Spanish,

Balboa, his long toilsome journey made,

One first glimpse caught, in fear the whole might vanish,

A mirage,—dropped upon his knees and prayed.

The Sunset Sea! The noblest and the broadest

Of all the oceans girdling wave-washed earth;

The calmest, gentlest, yet at times the maddest,

In raving paroxysms of stormy mirth.

The Eagle’s continent its eastern border;

Its western, that on which one half mankind

Sit under despotisms of deadly order

And bow to superstitions old as blind.

And yet how near together, spite of distance,

Stand the two mighty continents, to-day!

How nearly, at this stage of man’s existence,

Current to current makes its powerful way!

Within this Golden Gate, the noblest, surely,

Of all the entrances of all the seas,

The Asian barks-of-hope float in securely,

And furl their lateen sails, and ride at ease.

To prove that land to land is each a neighbor,

Though leagues unnumbered stretch between the twain;

To complicate the problem vexed, of labor,

And aid, one day, perhaps, to make it plain;

While westward stretches, to the Orient boundless,

An influence mighty, from the Land of Gold,

Of which no hope can e’er be vain or groundless

Till all the New has leavened all the Old.

The Golden Gate, indeed! where cliffs stand sentry,

And mountains heavenward lift their giant forms,

And western gales make rough and dangerous entrée

To havens that shut away the wildest storms,—

Fit index for the marvellous City, rising

To granite strength from whelming waves and sands,—

In wealth, in vice, in power, in good, surprising,—

Most strange anomaly of human hands!

The Golden Gate, indeed!—when morning flashes

Its cloudless splendors o’er wave, cliff, and height,

When wild the surf on rocky Lobos dashes,

Then glorious, grand, exhilarant, and bright;

But crowned supreme, when cloudland’s shapes immortal

Attend the sun low down the radiant west,

And the grand gateway grows a gilded portal

For sailing towards the Islands of the Blest.