Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Forest and Sea-Shore

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

Appendix: New Zealand

Forest and Sea-Shore

By Alfred Domett (1811–1887)

(From Ranolf and Amohia)

AND thus o’er many a mountain wood-entangled,

And stony plain of stunted fern that hides

The bright-green oily anise; and hillsides

And valleys, where its dense luxuriance balks

With interclinging fronds and tough red stalks

The traveller’s hard-fought path, they took their way.

Sometimes they traversed, half the dreary day,

A deep-glenned wilderness all dark and dank

With trees, whence tattered and dishevelled dangled

Pale streaming strips of mosses long and lank;

Where at each second step of tedious toil

On perfect forms of fallen trunks they tread,

And ankle-deep sink in their yielding bed,—

Moss-covered rottenness long turned to soil,—

Until, ascending ever in the drear

Dumb gloom forlorn, a sudden rushing sound

Of pattering rain strikes freshly on the ear,—

’T is but the breeze that up so high has found

Amid the rattling leaves a free career!

To the soft, mighty, sea-like roar they list:

Or else ’t is calm; the gloom itself is gone;

And all is airiness and light-filled mist,

As on the open mountain-side, so lone

And lofty, freely breathing they emerge.

And sometimes through a league-long swamp they urge

Slow progress, dragging through foot-sucking slush

Their weary limbs, red-painted to the knees

In pap rust-stained by iron or seeding rush;

But soon through limpid brilliant streams that travel

With murmuring, momentary-gleaming foam

That flits and flashes over sun-warmed gravel

They wade, and laughing wash that unctuous loam

Off blood-stained limbs now clean beyond all cavil

And start refreshed new road-knots to unravel.

And what delight, at length, that glimpse instils,

That wedge-shaped opening in the wooded hills,

Which, like a cup, the far-off ocean fills!

Anon they skirt the winding wild sea-shore;

From woody crag or ferny bluff admiring

The dim-bright beautiful blue bloom it wore,

That still Immensity, that placid Ocean,

With all its thousand leagues of level calm,

Tremendously serene; he, fancying more

Than feeling, for tired spirits peace-desiring,

With the world-fret and life’s low fever sore,

Weary and worn with turmoil and emotion,

The soothing might of its majestic balm.

Or to the beach descending, with joined hands

They pace the firm tide-saturated sands

Whitening beneath their footpress as they pass;

And from that fresh and tender marble floor

So glossy-shining in the morning sun,

Watch the broad billows at their chase untiring,—

How they come rolling on, in rougher weather,—

How in long lines they swell and link together,

Till, as their watery walls they grandly lift,

Their level crests extending sideways, swift

Shoot over into headlong roofs of glass

Cylindric, thundering as they curl and run

And close, down-rushing to a weltering dance

Of foam that slides along the smooth expanse,

Nor seldom, in a streaked and creamy sheet

Comes unexpected hissing round their feet,

While with great leaps and hurry-skurry fleet,

His louder laughter mixed with hers so sweet,

Each tries to stop the other’s quick retreat.

Or else on sands that, white and loose, give way

At every step, they toil, till labor-sped

Their limbs in the noon-loneliness they lay

On that hot, soft, yet unelastic bed,

With brittle seaweed, pink and black, o’erstrewn,

And wrecks of many a forest-growth upthrown,

Bare stem and barkless branches, clean, sea-bleached,

Milk-white, or stringy logs deep-red as wine,

Their ends ground smooth against a thousand rocks,

Dead-heavy, soaked with penetrating brine;

Or bolted fragment of some ship storm-breached

And shattered,—all with barnacles o’ergrown,

Gray-crusted thick with hollow-coned small shells,—

So silent in the sunshine still and lone,

So reticent of what it sadly tells.