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

Miscellaneous: Pacific Ocean

Lines Written in a Blank Leaf of La Pérouse’s Voyages

By Thomas Campbell (1777–1844)

LOVED Voyager! his pages had a zest

More sweet than fiction to my wondering breast,

When, rapt in fancy, many a boyish day

I tracked his wanderings o’er the watery way,

Roamed round the Aleutian isles in waking dreams,

Or plucked the fleur-de-lys by Jesso’s streams,

Or gladly leaped on that far Tartar strand

Where Europe’s anchor ne’er had bit the sand,

Where scarce a roving wild tribe crossed the plain,

Or human voice broke nature’s silent reign;

But vast and grassy deserts feed the bear,

And sweeping deer-herds dread no hunter’s snare.

Such young delight his real records brought,

His truth so touched romantic springs of thought,

That all my after-life his fate and fame

Entwined romance with La Pérouse’s name.

Fair were his ships, expert his gallant crews,

And glorious the enterprise of La Pérouse,—

Humanely glorious! Men will weep for him,

When many a guilty martial fame is dim:

He ploughed the deep to bind no captive’s chain,

Pursued no rapine, strewed no wreck with slain;

And, save that in the deep themselves lie low,

His heroes plucked no wreath from human woe.

’T was his the earth’s remotest bound to scan,

Conciliating with gifts barbaric man,—

Enrich the world’s contemporaneous mind,

And amplify the picture of mankind.

Far on the vast Pacific, midst those isles,

O’er which the earliest morn of Asia smiles,

He sounded and gave charts to many a shore

And gulf of ocean new to nautic lore;

Yet he that led discovery o’er the wave

Still fills himself an undiscovered grave.

He came not back,—Conjecture’s cheek grew pale,

Year after year,—in no propitious gale

His lilied banner held its homeward way,

And Science saddened at her martyr’s stay.

An age elapsed,—no wreck told where or when

The chief went down with all his gallant men,

Or whether by the storm and wild sea flood

He perished, or by wilder men of blood:

The shuddering Fancy only guessed his doom,

And Doubt to Sorrow gave but deeper gloom.

An age elapsed,—when men were dead or gray,

Whose hearts had mourned him in their youthful day,

Fame traced, on Mannicolo’s shore, at last,

The boiling surge had mounted o’er his mast,

The islesmen told of some surviving men,

But Christian eyes beheld them ne’er again.

Sad bourn of all his toils—with all his band—

To sleep, wrecked, shroudless, on a savage strand!

Yet what is all that fires a hero’s scorn

Of death?—the hope to live in hearts unborn:

Life to the brave is not its fleeting breath,

But worth—foretasting fame, that follows death.

That worth had La Pérouse,—that meed he won;

He sleeps,—his life’s long stormy watch is done.

In the great deep, whose boundaries and space

He measured, Fate ordained his resting-place;

But bade his fame, like the ocean rolling o’er

His relics, visit every earthly shore.

Fair Science, on that ocean’s azure robe,

Still writes his name in picturing the globe,

And paints (what fairer wreath could glory twine?)

His watery course,—a world-encircling line.