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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Scotland: Vols. VI–VIII. 1876–79.

Staffa, the Island

Cave of Staffa

By William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

WE saw, but surely, in the motley crowd,

Not one of us has felt the far-famed sight;

How could we feel it? each the other’s blight,

Hurried and hurrying, volatile and loud.

O, for those motions only that invite

The ghost of Fingal to his tuneful cave

By the breeze entered, and wave after wave

Softly embosoming the timid light!

And by one votary, who at will might stand

Gazing, and take into his mind and heart,

With undistracted reverence, the effect

Of those proportions where the Almighty hand

That made the worlds, the sovereign Architect,

Has deigned to work as if with human art!

THANKS for the lessons of this spot,—fit school

For the presumptuous thoughts that would assign

Mechanic laws to agency divine;

And, measuring heaven by earth, would overrule

Infinite Power. The pillared vestibule,

Expanding yet precise, the roof embowed,

Might seem designed to humble man, when proud

Of his best workmanship by plan and tool.

Down-bearing with his whole Atlantic weight

Of tide and tempest on that structure’s base,

And flashing to that structure’s topmost height,

Ocean has proved its strength, and of its grace

In calms is conscious, finding for his freight

Of softest music some responsive place.

YE shadowy Beings, that have rights and claims

In every cell of Fingal’s mystic grot,

Where are ye? Driven or venturing to the spot,

Our fathers glimpses caught of your thin frames,

And, by your mien and bearing, knew your names;

And they could hear his ghostly song who trod

Earth, till the flesh lay on him like a load,

While he struck his desolate harp without hopes or aims.

Vanished ye are, but subject to recall;

Why keep we else the instincts whose dread law

Ruled here of yore, till what men felt they saw,

Not by black arts but magic natural!

If eyes be still sworn vassals of belief,

Yon light shapes forth a bard, that shade a chief.