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

Miscellaneous: Pacific Ocean

Southern Seas

By William Howitt (1792–1879)

YES! let us mount this gallant ship;

Spread canvas to the wind,—

Up! we will seek the glowing South,—

Leave care and cold behind.

Let the shark pursue through the waters blue

Our flying vessel’s track;

Let strong winds blow, and rocks below

Threaten,—we turn not back.

Trusting in Him who holds the sea

In his Almighty hand,

We pass the awful waters wide,

Tread many a far-off strand.

Right onward as our course we hold,

From day to day, the sky

Above our head its arch shall spread

More glowing, bright, and high;

And from night to night—oh, what delight!

In its azure depths to mark

Stars all unknown come glittering out

Over the ocean dark.

The moon uprising like a sun,

So stately, large, and sheen,

And the very stars, like clustered moons,

In the crystal ether keen.

Whilst all about the ship, below,

Strange, fiery billows play,—

The ceaseless keel through liquid fire

Cuts wondrously its way.

But oh, the South! the balmy South!

How warm the breezes float!

How warm the amber waters stream

From off our basking boat!

Come down, come down from the tall ship’s side,—

What a marvellous sight is here!

Look! purple rocks and crimson trees,

Down in the deep so clear.

See! where those shoals of dolphins go,

A glad and glorious band,

Sporting amongst the roseate woods

Of a coral fairy-land.

See! on the violet sands beneath

How the gorgeous shells do glide!

O sea! old sea, who yet knows half

Of thy wonders and thy pride!

Look how the sea-plants trembling float,

As it were like a mermaid’s locks,

Waving in thread of ruby red

Over those nether rocks,

Heaving and sinking, soft and fair,

Here hyacinth, there green,—

With many a stem of golden growth,

And starry flowers between.

But away! away to upper day!

For monstrous shapes are here,—

Monsters of dark and wallowing bulk,

And horny eyeballs drear:

The tuskéd mouth, and the spiny fin,

Speckled and warted back;

The glittering swift, and the flabby slow,

Ramp through this deep sea track.

Away! away! to upper day,

To glance o’er the breezy brine,

And see the nautilus gladly sail,

The flying-fish leap and shine.

But what is that? “’T is land! ’T is land!

’T is land!” the sailors cry.

Nay! ’t is a long and a narrow cloud

Betwixt the sea and sky.

“’T is land! ’t is land!” they cry once more;

And now comes breathing on

An odor of the living earth,

Such as the sea hath none.

But now I mark the rising shores!

The purple hills! the trees!

Ah! what a glorious land is here,

What happy scenes are these!

See! how the tall palms lift their locks

From mountain clefts,—what vales,

Basking beneath the noontide sun,

That high and hotly sails.

Yet all about the breezy shore,

Unheedful of the glow,

Look how the children of the South

Are passing to and fro!

What noble forms! what fairy place!

Cast anchor in this cove,

Push out the boat, for in this land

A little we must rove!

We ’ll wander on through wood and field,

We ’ll sit beneath the vine;

We ’ll drink the limpid cocoa-milk,

And pluck the native pine.

The bread-fruit and cassada-root,

And many a glowing berry,

Shall be our feast; for here, at least,

Why should we not be merry!

For ’t is a southern paradise,

All gladsome,—plain and shore,—

A land so far that here we are,

But shall be here no more.

We ’ve seen the splendid southern clime,

Its seas and isles and men;

So now! back to a dearer land,—

To England back again!