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

British America: Newfoundland, the Island

Prima Vista

By Thomas D’Arcy McGee (1825–1868)

“LAND! land!” how welcome is the word

To all,—or landsmen bred or seamen!

Deep in their lairs the sick are stirred,—

The decks are thronged with smiling women.

The face that had gone down in tears

Ten days since in the British Channel,

Now, like Aurora, reappears,—

Aurora wrapped in furs and flannel.

“Where?” “Yonder, on the right, dost see

A firm dark line, and close thereunder

A white line drawn along the sea,

A flashing line whose voice is thunder?”

“It seems to be a fearsome coast,—

No trees, no hospitable whiffs,—

God help the crew whose ship is lost

On yonder homicidal cliffs!”

“Amen!” say I to that sweet prayer:

“The land, indeed, looks sad and stern,

No female savans’ field-day there,

Collecting butterflies and fern.

An iron land it seems from far,

On which no shepherd’s flock reposes;

Lashed by the elemental war,

The land is not a land of roses.”

Proudly, O Prima Vista! still,

Where sweeps the sea-hawk’s fearless pinion,

Do thou unfurl from every hill

The banner of the New Dominion!

Proudly to all who sail the sea,

Bear then, advanced, the Union standard,

And friendly may its welcome be

To all men, seaward bound or landward!

All hail! old Prima Vista! long

As break the billows on thy boulders,

Will seamen hail thy lights with song,

And home-hopes quicken all beholders.

Long as thy headlands point the way

Between man’s old and new creation,

Evil fall from thee like the spray,

And hope illumine every station!

Long may thy hardy sons count o’er

The spoils of ocean, won by labor;

Long may the free, unbolted door

Be open to each trusty neighbor!

Long, long may blossom on thy rocks

Thy sea-pinks, fragrant as the heather;

Thy maidens of the flowing locks

Safe sheltered from life’s stormy weather!

Yes! this is Prima Vista! this

The very landmark we have prayed for;

Darkly they wander who have missed

The guidance yon stern land was made for.

Call it not homicidal, then,

The New World’s outwork; grim its beauty,

This guardian of the lives of men,

Clad in the garb that does its duty!

Less gayly trills the lover lark

Above the singing swain at morning,

Than rings through sea-mists chill and dark

This name of welcome and of warning.

Not happier to his cell may go

The saint, triumphant o’er temptation,

Than the worn captain turns below,

Relieved as by a revelation.

How blest, when Cabot ventured o’er

This northern sea, yon rocks rose gleaming!

A promised land seemed Labrador

(Nor was the promise all in seeming);

Strong sea-wall, still it stands to guard

An island fertile, fair as any,

The rich, but the unreaped reward

Of Cabot and of Verrazzani!