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

Appendix: Bermudas


By Lucy Larcom (1826–1893)

UNDER the eaves of a Southern sky,

Where the cloud-roof bends to the ocean-floor,

Hid in lonely seas, the Bermoothes lie,—

An emerald cluster that Neptune bore

Away from the covetous earth-gods’ sight,

And placed in a setting of sapphire light.

Prospero’s realm, and Miranda’s isles,

Floating to music of Ariel

Upon fantasy’s billow, that glows and smiles

Flushing response to the lovely spell,—

Tremulous color and outline seem

Lucent as glassed in a life-like dream.

And away and afar as in dreams we drift

Glimmer the blossoming orange groves;

And the dolphin-tints of the waters shift,

And the angel-fish through the pure lymph moves

Like the gleam of a rainbow; and soft clouds sweep

Over isle and wave like the wings of sleep.

Deepens the dream into memory now:

The straight roads cut through the cedar hills,

The coral cliffs, and the roofs of snow,

And the crested cardinal-bird, that trills

A carol clear as the ripple of red

He made in the air as he flashed overhead.

Through pathways trodden of many feet

The gray little ground-dove follows and cooes;

Yonder blue-throat stirs to a ballad sweet

As ever was mingled with Northern dews;

And the boatswain-bird from the calm lagoon

Lifts his white length into cloudless noon.

See the banana’s broad pennons the wind

Has torn into shreds in his tropical mood!

Look at the mighty old tamarind,

That bore fruit in Saladin’s babyhood:

See the pomegranates begin to burn,

And the roses, roses, at every turn!

Into high calms of the sunny air

The aloe climbs with her golden flower,

While sentinel yucca and prickly-pear

With lance and with bayonet guard her bower,

And the life-leaf creeps by its fibred edge

To hang out gay bells from the jutting ledge.

A glory of oleander bloom

Borders every bend of the craggy road;

Lemon and spice trees with rare perfume

Lingering cloud-fleets heavily load;

And over the beauty and over the balm

Rises the crown of the royal palm.

Far into the hillside’s caverns wind:

Pillar and ceiling of stalactite

Mirrored in lakes the red torches find;

Corridors zigzag from light to light;

And the long fern swings down the slippery stair

Over thresholds curtained with maiden-hair.

Outside, with a motion weirdly slow,

The mangrove walks through secluded coves,

Leaning on crutch-like boughs, that grow

To a rooted network of thickets and groves,

Where, sheltered by jagged rock-shelves wide,

Eeriest sprites of the deep might hide.

Under this headland cliff as you row,

Follow its bastioned layers down

Into fathomless crystal far below

Vision or ken: spite of old renown,

So massive a wall could Titan erect

As the little coralline architect?

Against the dusk arches of surf-worn caves,

In a shimmer of beryl eddies the tide,

Or brightens to topaz where the waves

Outlined in foam on the reef subside,

Or shades into delicate opaline bands

Dreamily lapsing on pale pink sands.

Wherever you wander the sea is in sight,

With its changeable turquoise green and blue,

And its strange transparence of limpid light.

You can watch the work that the Nereids do,

Down, down, where their purple fans unfurl,

Planting their coral and sowing their pearl.

Who knows the spot where Atlantis sank?

Myths of a lovely drowned continent

Homeless drift over waters blank:

What if these reefs were her monument?

Isthmus and cavernous cape may be

Her mountain-summits escaped from the sea.

Spirits alone in these islands dwelt

All the dumb, dim years ere Columbus sailed,

The old voyagers said; and it might be spelt

Into dream-book of legend, if wonders failed,

They were demons that shipwrecked Atlantis, affrayed

At the terror of silence themselves had made.

Whatever their burthen, the winds have a sound

As of muffled voices that, sighing, bewail

An unchronicled sorrow, around and around

Whispering and hushing a half-told tale,—

A musical mystery, filling the air

With its endless pathos of vague despair.

And again into fantasy’s billowy play

Ripples memory back with elusive change;

For chrysolite oceans, a blank of gray,

Fringed with the films of a mirage strange,—

A shimmering blur of blossom and gleam:

Can it be Bermoothes? or is it a dream?