Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Greece and Turkey in Europe: Vol. XIX. 1876–79.

Greece: Delos, the Island


By Richard Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton (1809–1885)

THOUGH Syria’s rock was passed at morn,

The wind so faintly arched the sail,

That ere to Delos we were borne,

The autumn day began to fail,

And only in Diana’s smiles

We reached the bay between the isles.

In sweet serenity of force

She ruled the heavens without a star,—

A sacred image that the course

Of time and thought can hardly mar,—

As dear and nearly as divine

As ever in Ephesian shrine.

I knew that on the spot I trod

Her glorious twins Latona bore,

That for her sake the pitying God

Had fixed the isle afloat before;

And, fearful of his just disdain,

I almost felt it move again.

For the delicious light that threw

Such clear transparence on the wave,

From the black mastick-bushes drew

Column and frieze and architrave,

Like rocks, which, native to the place,

Had something of mysterious grace.

“Strong was the power of art to bid

Arise such beauty out of stone,

Yet Paros might as well have hid

Its wealth within its breast unknown,

As for brute Nature to regain

The fragments of the fallen fane.

“Who can rebuild these colonnades

Where met the ancient festal host,

The peasant from Arcadia’s glades,

The merchant from Ionia’s coast,

Gladdening their Grecian blood to stand

On one religious Fatherland?”

So in my angry discontent

I cried, but calmer thoughts came on,

And gratitude with sorrow blent,

And murmur turned to orison:

I thanked the gods for what had been,

And Nature for the present scene.

I felt that while in Greece remained

Signs of that old heroic show,

Hope, Memory’s sister, so sustained,

Would sink not altogether low,

And Grecian hearts once more might be

Combined in powerful amity.

Long ere the sun’s most curious ray

Had touched the morning’s zone of pearl,

I and my boat were far away,

Raised on the water’s freshening curl;

And barely ’twixt the rose and blue

The island’s rim was still in view.

So Delos rests upon my mind,

A perfect vision of the night,

A picture by moon-rays designed,

And shaded into black and bright,—

A true idea borne away,

Untroubled by the dreamless day.