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

West Indies: Cuba, the Island

Ode on Revisiting Cuba

By Maria Brooks (1795?–1845)


ISLE of eternal spring, thou ’rt desolate

To me; thy limpid seas, thy fragrant shores,

Whither I ’ve sighed to come

And make a tranquil home,

Have lost to me their charm; my heart deplores,

Vainly, of two it loved, the melancholy doom.

Well may I weep you, gentle souls, that while

On earth responded to the love of mine,

Through eyes of heavenly blue,

More deeply, fondly true,

Haply, than He, who lent his breath divine,

May give again on earth to cheer me with their smile.

My George, if thou hadst faults, they only were

That thou wert gifted ill for this poor sphere

Where first he faints who spares

Earth’s selfish, sordid cares;

And what might faults to baser eyes appear,

When ta’en where angels dwell, must be bright virtues there.

Men toil, betray, nay, even kill, for gold;

But had some wretch pressed by misfortune sore

Asked thy last piece of thee

To ease his misery,

When thou couldst only look to Heaven for more,

That last piece had been given, and thine own safety sold.

Oft when the noisome streams of pestilence

Poisoned the air around thee, hast thou stayed

By friends, while thirsty Death

Lurked near, to quaff their breath;

And soothed and saved while others were afraid,

And hardier hearts and hands than thine rushed wildly thence.

Oh, could I find thee in some palm-leaf cot,

Still for this earth, with thy sweet brothers too,

Though scarce our worldly hoard

Sufficed a frugal board,

Hope should beguile no more: I ’d live for you,

Disclaim all other love—and sing, and bless my lot.


How could I kneel and kiss the hand of Fate,

Were it but mine to decorate some hall—

Here, where the soil I tread

Colors my feet with red—

Far down these isles, to hear your voices call,

Then haste to hear and tell what happed while separate!

Beautiful isles! beneath the sunset skies

Tall silver shafted palm-trees rise between

Full orange-trees that shade

The living colonnade;

Alas! how sad, how sickening, is the scene

That were ye at my side would be a paradise!

E’en one of those cool caves which, light and dry,

In many a leafy hillside, near this spot,

Seem as by Nature made

For shelter and for shade

To such as bear a homeless wanderer’s lot,

Were home enough for me, could those I mourn be nigh.

Palace or cave (where ’neath the blossom and lime

Winter lies hid with wreaths) alike may be,

If love and taste unite,

A dwelling for delight,

And kings might leave their silken courts to see

O’er such wild, garnished grot the grandiflora climb.

Thus, thus, doth quick-eyed Fancy fondly wait

The pauses of my deep remorse between;

Before my anxious eyes

’T is thus her pictures rise;

They show what is not, yet what might have been;

Angels, why came I not?—why have I come too late?

The cooling beverage—strengthening draught—as craved

The needs of both, could but these hands have given;

Could I have watched the glow—

The pulse, too quick, or slow—

My earnest, fond, reiterate prayers to Heaven,

Some angel might have come, besought, returned, and saved.

To stay was imbecility—nay, more—

’T was crime—how yearned my panting heart to see,

When, by mere words delayed,

’Gainst the strong wish, I stayed

(Trifling with that which inly spoke to me),

And longed, and hoped, and feared, till all I feared was o’er!

Mild, pitying George, when maple leaves were red

O’er Ladaüanna, in his much-loved north,

Breathed here his last farewell—

And when the tears that fell

From April, called Mohecan’s violets forth,

Edgar, as following his, thy friendly spirit fled.

Now, side by side, ’neath cross and tablet white

Is laid, sweet brothers, all of you that ’s left;

Yet, all the tropic dew

Can damp would seem not you:

Your finer particles from earth are reft,

Haply (and so I ’ll hope) for lovelier forms of light.