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

Introductory to West Indies

Discovery of the Antilles

By James Montgomery (1771–1854)

(From The West Indies)

THE WINDS were prosperous, and the billows bore

The brave adventurer to the promised shore;

Far in the west, arrayed in purple light,

Dawned the new world on his enraptured sight:

Not Adam, loosened from the encumbering earth,

Waked by the breath of God to instant birth,

With sweeter, wilder wonder gazed around,

When life within and light without he found;

When, all creation rushing o’er his soul,

He seemed to live and breathe throughout the whole.

So felt Columbus, when, divinely fair,

At the last look of resolute despair,

The Hesperian isles, from distance dimly blue,

With gradual beauty opened on his view.

In that proud moment his transported mind

The morning and the evening worlds combined,

And made the sea, that sundered them before,

A bond of peace, uniting shore to shore.


Where first his drooping sails Columbus furled,

And sweetly rested in another world,

Amidst the heaven-reflecting ocean, smiles

A constellation of elysian isles;

Fair as Orion when he mounts on high,

Sparkling with midnight splendor from the sky:

They bask beneath the sun’s meridian rays,

When not a shadow breaks the boundless blaze;

The breath of ocean wanders through their vales

In morning breezes and in evening gales;

Earth from her lap perennial verdure pours,

Ambrosial fruits and amaranthine flowers;

O’er the wild mountains and luxuriant plains,

Nature in all the pomp of beauty reigns,

In all the pride of freedom. Nature free

Proclaims that man was born for liberty.

She flourishes where’er the sunbeams play

O’er living fountains, sallying into day;

She withers where the waters cease to roll,

And night and winter stagnate round the pole:

Man, too, where freedom’s beams and fountains rise,

Springs from the dust, and blossoms to the skies;

Dead to the joys of light and life, the slave

Clings to the clod; his root is in the grave:

Bondage is winter, darkness, death, despair;

Freedom the sun, the sea, the mountains, and the air!

In placid indolence supinely blest,

A feeble race these beauteous isles possessed;

Untamed, untaught, in arts and arms unskilled,

Their patrimonial soil they rudely tilled,

Chased the free rovers of the savage wood,

Insnared the wild-bird, swept the scaly flood;

Sheltered in lowly huts their fragile forms

From burning suns and desolating storms;

Or when the halcyon sported on the breeze,

In light canoes they skimmed the rippling seas;

Their lives in dreams of soothing languor flew,

No parted joys, no future pains, they knew,

The passing moment all their bliss or care;

Such as their sires had been the children were,

From age to age; as waves upon the tide

Of stormless time, they calmly lived and died.