Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X. 1876–79.

Sein (Sena), the Island


By James Kenward


RAGES storm around the island; purple-swathed through mist and gloom

Sinks the sun as an old blind emperor to a foe-beleaguered tomb;

Heaves broad the darkling ocean from abysses of the West,

Like the first great throb of anger of Megæra’s snake-bound breast;

Then bursts upon the grinding reef that hurls it back in foam,

And thundering down the cavern, mocks the granite-guarded Gnome;

And the North-wind, speeding from his lair on dread Uxantos’ steep,

Stirs the watchers on Gobæum in their demon-haunted sleep,

And ploughs the dunes of Crozon, and shakes the towers of Is,

And veils the candid lights of Jove with the ghastly shades of Dis;

And through brumal fog and drowning spray and elemental roar

Grow the solemn hours to midnight on the wild Osismian shore.

A moment, and blue lightnings cleave the smoke-pall of the sea;

A moment, like the swooning hush ere cataclysms be;

What shrieks reverberating rang from Sena’s tortured coast!

What Mænad-shapes, with vapory hair and white arms heaven-tossed,

Stood beckoning on the cliffs keen marge to the Furies of the cloud,

And glided ’mong the death-struck oaks, with weeping faces bowed!


The Druid temple crowns the isle, girt by the death-struck trees,

Reared in the night of time by hands from Defrobanian seas;

Around it the rude monoliths in solemn order rise

That guard the great quadrangle of the Caer of Sacrifice,

Where on the central stone converge the triple rays which flow

When in solstice and in equinox the dawn’s red banners glow,—

Rays brightening into symbols of the Name alone divine,

The Logos of his utterance, his love-bestowing sign.

But the pure faith waned in Arvor’s bounds: truth’s white unmingled beam

Was decomposed to gaudy hues, and dream engendered dream,

And the Teuton sent traditions dark from his forest-girt abodes,

And the Roman brought the dower of his twice mishandled gods;

False Mithras vexed the Circles; in all the islands shone

With Sabian pomp the temple, or with deadly flame the stone;


The red sun shines on cliff and shore, on revelry and tears,

On the wolf-skins of the Velites and their sheaves of slender spears:

Shouting, they throng the galleys, and bear, with haughty smile,

The world-familiar standards to the lone Armoric Isle;

And the Isle waits vacant, voiceless, all life and symbol fled,

Save the smoke of dying embers faintly circling o’er the dead.