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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII. 1876–79.


Boyhood of Columbus

By James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)

(From Columbus)

I KNOW not when this hope enthralled me first,

But from my boyhood up I loved to hear

The tall pine-forests of the Apennine

Murmur their hoary legends of the sea,

Which hearing, I in vision clear beheld

The sudden dark of tropic night shut down

O’er the huge whisper of great watery wastes,

The while a pair of herons trailingly

Flapped inland, where some league-wide river hurled

The yellow spoil of unconjectured realms

Far through a gulf’s green silence, never scarred

By any but the North-wind’s hurrying keels.

And not the pines alone; all sights and sounds

To my world-seeking heart paid fealty,

And catered for it as the Cretan bees

Brought honey to the baby Jupiter,

Who in his soft hand crushed a violet,

Godlike foremusing the rough thunder’s gripe;

Then did I entertain the poet’s song,

My great Idea’s guest, and, passing o’er

That iron bridge the Tuscan built to hell,

I heard Ulysses tell of mountain-chains

Whose adamantine links, his manacles,

The western main shook growling, and still gnawed;

I brooded on the wise Athenian’s tale

Of happy Atlantis, and heard Björne’s keel

Crunch the gray pebbles of the Vinland shore:

For I believed the poets; it is they

Who utter wisdom from the central deep,

And, listening to the inner flow of things,

Speak to the age out of eternity.