Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Scotland: Vols. VI–VIII. 1876–79.



By Epes Sargent (1813–1880)

  • Rockall is a solid block of granite, growing as it were out of the sea, at a greater distance from the mainland, probably, than any other island or rock of the same diminutive size in the world. It is only seventy feet high, and not more than a hundred yards in circumference. It lies at a distance of no fewer than one hundred and eighty-four miles nearly due west of St. Kilda, the remotest part of the Hebrides, and is two hundred and sixty miles from the north of Ireland.

  • PALE ocean rock! that, like a phantom shape,

    Or some mysterious spirit’s tenement,

    Risest amid this weltering waste of waves,

    Lonely and desolate, thy spreading base

    Is planted in the sea’s unmeasured depths,

    Where rolls the huge leviathan o’er sands

    Glistening with shipwrecked treasures. The strong wind

    Flings up thy sides a veil of feathery spray

    With sunbeams interwoven, and the hues

    Which mingle in the rainbow. From thy top

    The sea-birds rise, and sweep with sidelong flight

    Downward upon their prey; or, with poised wings,

    Skim to the horizon o’er the glittering deep.

    Our bark, careening to the welcome breeze,

    With white sails filled and streamers all afloat,

    Shakes from her dipping prow the foam, while we

    Gaze on thy outline mingling in the void,

    And draw our breath like men who see, amazed,

    Some mighty pageant passing. What had been

    Our fate last night, if, when the aspiring waves

    Were toppling o’er our mainmast, and the stars

    Were shrouded in black vapors, we had struck

    Full on thy sea-bound pinnacles, Rockall!

    But now another prospect greets our sight,

    And hope elate is rising with our hearts:

    Intensely blue, the sky’s resplendent arch

    Bends over all serenely; not a cloud

    Mars its pure radiance; not a shadow dims

    The flashing billows. The refreshing air

    It is a luxury to feel and breathe;

    The senses are made keener, and drink in

    The life, the joy, the beauty of the scene.

    Repeller of the wild and thundering surge!

    For ages has the baffled tempest howled

    By thee with all its fury, and piled up

    The massive waters like a falling tower

    To dash thee down; but there thou risest yet,

    As calm amid the roar of storms, the shock

    Of waves uptorn, and hurled against thy front,

    As when, on summer eves, the crimsoned main,

    In lingering undulations, girds thee round!