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

Greece: Ithaca


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

The Return of Ulysses

THE MAN of wisdom and endurance rare,

A sundry-colored and strange-featured way,

Our hearts have followed; now the pleasant care

Is near its end,—the oars’ sweet-echoed play

Falls on the cliffs of Ithaca’s deep bay;

The enemy, on whose impetuous breast

The hero rode undaunted, night and day,

(Such was Minerva’s power and Jove’s behest,)

Scorns the inglorious strife, and lays his wrath to rest.

And how returns the tempest-tost? his prows

Gay-garlanded, with grand triumphal song?

Leaps he upon the strand, and proudly vows

Dire vengeance unto all who did him wrong?

Not so; for him, all force and passion strong,

And fretful tumult, for a while is o’er,—

He is borne gently, placidly along,

And laid upon his own belovéd shore,

Even as a wearied child, in quiet sleep once more!

There is no part of that Archaic lay

That strikes with such resistless power on me

As this pure artist-touch, this tender ray,

A perfect, simple light of poesy:

Not the nice wiles of chaste Penelope,—

Not the poor pining dog that died of joy,—

Not the gray smoke the wanderer yearned to see,

Whose wavings he had traced, a careless boy,

Sweet as they are, for me this preference can destroy.

Where the “stone distaffs” of the nymphs of old

Still make rich tracery in the sacred cave,

Where peasants the dark-shadowed fountain cold

Hail by the name the poet found or gave,

Where on the eagle height the walls outbrave

All time, and only the full-fruited vine

Trails o’er the home—it may be o’er the grave—

Of him for whom these memories combine,—

Rest, care-worn mortal, rest, and let his sleep be thine.