Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Ode to the Lighthouse at Malta

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

Various Islands: Malta

Ode to the Lighthouse at Malta

By El Duque de Rivas (1791–1865)

Anonymous translation

THE WORLD in dreary darkness sleeps profound,—

The storm-clouds hurry on, by hoarse winds driven,

And night’s dull shades and spectral mists confound

Earth, sea, and heaven!

King of surrounding chaos! thy dim form

Rises with fiery crown upon thy brow,

To scatter light and peace amid the storm,

And life bestow.

In vain the sea with thundering waves may peal

And burst beneath thy feet in giant sport,

Till the white foam in snowy clouds conceal

The sheltering port.

Thy flaming tongue proclaims—“Behold the shore!”

And voiceless hails the weary pilot back,

Whose watchful eyes, like worshippers, explore

Thy shining track.

Now silent night a gorgeous mantle wears,

By sportive winds the clouds are scattered far,

And lo! with starry train the moon appears

In circling car.

While the pale mist that thy tall brow enshrouds

In vain would veil thy diadem from sight,

Whose form colossal seems to touch the clouds

With starlike light.

Ocean’s perfidious waves may calmly sleep,

Yet hide sharp rocks—the cliff false signs display:

And luring lights, far flashing o’er the deep,

The ship betray.

But thou, whose splendor dims each lesser beam,

Whose firm, unmoved position might declare

Thy throne a monarch’s—like the north-star’s gleam,

Reveals each snare.

So Reason’s steady torch, with light as pure,

Dispels the gloom when stormy passions rise,

Or Fortune’s cheating phantoms would obscure

The soul’s dim eyes!

Since I am cast by adverse fortunes here,

Where thou presidest o’er this scanty soil,

And bounteous heaven a shelter grants to cheer

My spirit’s toil;

Frequent I turn to thee, with homage mute,

Ere yet each troubled thought is calmed in sleep,

And still thy gem-like brow my eyes salute

Above the deep.

How many now may gaze on this sea-shore,

Alas! like me, as exiles doomed to roam!

Some who perchance would greet a wife once more,

Or children’s home;

Wanderers, by poverty or despots driven

To seek a refuge, as I do, afar,

Here find, at last, the sign of welcome given,—

A hospitable star!

And still to guide the barque it calmly shines,—

The barque that from my native land oft bears

Tidings of bitter griefs, and mournful lines

Written with tears.

When first thy vision flashed upon my eyes,

And all its dazzling glory I beheld,

Oh, how my heart, long used to miseries,

With rapture swelled!

Inhospitable Latium’s shores were lost,

And, as amid the threatening waves we steered,

When near to dangerous shoals, by tempests tost,

Thy light appeared.

No saints the fickle mariners then praised,

But vows and prayers forgot they with the night;

While from the silent gloom the cry was raised,—

“Malta in sight!”

And thou wert like a sainted image crowned,

Whose forehead bears a shower of golden rays,

Which pilgrims, seeking health and peace, surround

With holy praise.

Never may I forget thee! One alone

Of cherished objects shall with thee aspire,

King of the night! to match thy lofty throne

And friendly fire.

That vision still with sparkling light appears

In the sun’s dazzling beams at matin hour,

And is the golden angel memory rears

On Cordova’s proud tower!