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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

Fingal’s Cave

By John Keats (1795–1821)

NOT Aladdin magian

Ever such a work began;

Not the wizard of the Dee

Ever such a dream could see;

Not Saint John, in Patmos’ isle,

In the passion of his toil,

When he saw the churches seven,

Golden aisled, built up in heaven,

Gazed at such a rugged wonder!

As I stood its roofing under,

Lo! I saw one sleeping there,

On the marble cold and bare;

While the surges washed his feet,

And his garments white did beat,

Drenched about the sombre rocks;

On his neck his well-grown locks,

Lifted dry above the main,

Were upon the curl again.

“What is this? and what art thou?”

Whispered I, and touched his brow;

“What art thou? and what is this?”

Whispered I, and strove to kiss

The spirit’s hand, to wake his eyes.

Up he started in a trice:

“I am Lycidas,” said he,

“Famed in fun’ral minstrelsy!

This was architectured thus

By the great Oceanus!—

Here his mighty waters play

Hollow organs all the day;

Here, by turns, his dolphins all,

Finny palmers, great and small,

Come to pay devotion due,—

Each a mouth of pearls must strew!

Many a mortal of these days

Dares to pass our sacred ways;

Dares to touch, audaciously,

This cathedral of the sea!

I have been the pontiff-priest,

Where the waters never rest,

Where a fledgy sea-bird choir

Soars forever! Holy fire

I have hid from mortal man;

Proteus is my sacristan!

But the dulled eye of mortal

Hath passed beyond the rocky portal;

So forever will I leave

Such a taint, and soon unweave

All the magic of the place.”

So saying, with a spirit’s glance

He dived!