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

Greece: Olympus, the Mountain, Thessaly


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

WITH no sharp-sided peak or sudden cone,

Thou risest o’er the blank Thessalian plain,

But in the semblance of a rounded throne,

Meet for a monarch and his noble train

To hold high synod;—but I feel it vain,

With my heart full and passionate as now,

To frame my humble verse, as I would fain,

To calm description,—I can only bow

My head and soul, and ask again, “if that be thou?”

I feel before thee, as of old I felt

(With sense as just, more vivid in degree),

When first I entered and unconscious knelt

Within the Roman Martyr’s sanctuary:

I feel that ages laid their faith on thee,

And if to me thou art a holy hill,

Let not the pious scorn,—that piety

Though veiled, that truth though shadowy, were still

All the world had to raise its heart and fallen will.

Thou shrine which man, of his own natural thought,

Gave to the God of Nature, and girt round

With elemental mightiness, and brought

Splendor of form and depth of thunderous sound,

To wall about with awe the chosen ground,—

All without toil of slaves or lavished gold,

Thou wert upbuilt of memories profound,

Imaginations wonderful and old,

And the pure gems that lie in poets’ hearts untold.

God was upon thee in a thousand forms

Of terror and of beauty, stern and fair,

Upgathered in the majesty of storms,

Or floating in the film of summer air;

Thus wert thou made ideal everywhere;

From thee the odorous plumes of love were spread,

Delight and plenty through all lands to bear,—

From thee the never-erring bolt was sped

To curb the impious hand or blast the perjured head.

How many a boy, in his full noon of faith,

Leaning against the Parthenon, half-blind

With inner light, and holding in his breath,

Awed by the image of his own high mind,

Has seen the Goddess there so proudly shrined,

Leave for a while her loved especial home,

And pass, though wingless, on the northward wind,

On to thy height, beneath the eternal dome,

Where Heaven’s grand councils wait, till Wisdom’s self shall come!

Ours is another world, and godless now

Thy ample crown; ’t is well,—yes,—be it so,

But I can weep this moment, when thy brow,

Light-covered with fresh hoar of autumn snow,

Shines in white light and dullness, which bestow

New grace of reverend loveliness, as seen

With the long mass of gloomy hills below:

Blest be our open faith! too grand, I ween,

To grudge these votive tears to beauty that has been.