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

Introductory to Greece

Grecian Ode

By Aubrey Thomas de Vere (1814–1902)

YES, yes, ’t is Greece! full many a fane

Around me gleams, as white

As when it gladdened cape or plain

The first time with its light;

And living choirs, far-eyed and virgin,

Once more through Time’s old shade emerging,

With dew-brushed sandal and soft sound

Salute the dedicated ground.

Each hill of asphodel and bays

Sufficient deems its height

If steep enough its arch to raise

A temple into light.

From cape to cape, across the deep

The “winged Pines” in panic sweep,—

Among their forest-sires so ran

Shy wood-nymphs in the days of Pan!

In every bay the yearning billows

Swell up, as proud as when

White Nereids slid from purple pillows

Under old Homer’s ken.

Above them still the Acacia throws

The warm shower of her sun-touched snows

Profusely as when Zephyr first

Deflowered the blooms himself had nursed.

Those theatres the white cliffs gird,

Those hollows gray and wide,

With tamarisk feathered, and moss-furred,

Those blue rifts far descried,

Those sinuous streams that blushing wander

Through labyrinthine oleander,

Those crocus mounds, that wind-flower hill,—

Hail, ancient land! ’t is Hellas still!

Range beyond range the mountains rise;

Smooth platform, and meet stage

If demigods for chariot prize

Fraternal strife should wage.

Glad clouds are launched along the wind,

As though each snowy tent enshrined

Olympian choirs borne lightly by

With sound of spheral melody.

Behold that goat yon rift beneath,

Eying those rocks pine-cloven!

Nor lacks yon mound its living wreath

Of goatherds dance-inwoven,

Now measuring forth with Attic grace

(Like figures round a sculptured vase)

The accent of some mythic song,

Now hurled, a Bacchic group, along.

That old man ’neath the palm who sits

Trolls loud a merry lay;

Round him as genial fancy flits

As when his month was May.

Still from the nectared air he quaffs

As happy health, as gayly laughs,

As when he clomb yon breeze-swept hill

And see, those maidens fly him still!

Yon mighty ilex, vast and grave,

Flings far its restless shadow;

But through its trunk, a windowed cave,

Long lights divide the meadow:

Its roots all round like serpents creep,

And honey-dews its branches steep:

Thus beamed Dodona’s oak afar

Fawn-haunted and oracular.

What vale was that wherein the Nine

Were used with harmony to play?

Between the juniper and vine

They roam each vale to-day!

What stream was that o’er which, flower-wreathed,

Her passion Aphrodité breathed?

Each lilied bank that stays each rill

From that wild breath is quivering still!

Yon children chasing the wild bees

Have lips as full and fair

As Plato had, or Sophocles,

When bees sought honey there.

But song of bard or sage’s lore

Those fields ennoble now no more:

It is not Greece,—it must not be,—

And yet, look up,—the land is free!

I gazed round Marathon. The plain

In peaceful sunshine slept;

Eternal Sabbath there her reign

Inviolably kept:

“Is this the battle-field?” I cried.

An eagle from on high replied

With shade far cast and clangor shrill

“Yes, yes,—’t is Hellas, Hellas still!”