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

Various Islands: Canary Islands


By Seymour Green Wheeler Benjamin (1837–1914)

THERE is an isle which I have seen,

Whose slopes and vales are fadeless green,

Whose flowers are evermore in bloom,

And all whose seasons breathe perfume,—

The fairest of the Happy Isles

Whereon eternal summer smiles.

There the dark cypress rears its spire

Against the sunset’s tropic fire;

There the palm lifts its bronze-like shaft

Slow-rocking when the sea-winds waft

The caprioté’s song of love

Where black-eyed Spanish maidens rove

And roses cull for festal days,

And on the passing wanderer gaze

With glances passionate and keen,

Yet full of tenderness, I ween.

The lizard basks upon the walls

Whereon the yellow sunlight falls,

Or darts amid the cactus’ spines,

Or where the purple-loaded vines

Over the trellis weave a bower,

And deck the gray, embattled tower.

Around the isle volcanic capes,

In huge and castellated shapes,

And ruddy rocks grotesque and weird,

Like giants of the deep are reared;

While age to age, forevermore,

The surges roll with sullen roar

Upon the lava-laden shore.

Enthroned on precipices grand,

Serene above that summer land,

Gray Teneriffe in solitude

Commands the ocean’s mighty flood,

And his fire-riven breast enshrouds

With the majestic pomp of clouds,

While from the crater-peak on high,

Outlined stupendous in the sky,

Fair wreaths of mist perpetual rise,

Like daily smoke of sacrifice

Burned to the immortals in the skies.

But when the sun draws near the verge

Of the receding westering surge,

O, then across the eastern sea,—

Like shadow of eternity,—

Impalpable, mysterious, vast,

The shadow of the Peak is cast,

A purple mist against the arch

Through which the constellations march,

Until Night’s curtains are unfurled,

And darkness veils the sleeping world.

The music of the sea-beat shores

Up through the silent twilight soars,

In eerie, plaintive requiem lay

For a lost race long past away,

A pastoral race whose bones were laid

In the dread cavern’s sunless shade;

Thy mystic murmurs soft and low

By the old patriarch gently flow,—

The dragon-tree whose crest upbears

The burden of three thousand years.

By pathways where the ocean laves

Their footsteps with its harmless waves,

The islesmen in procession wend,

Or over craggy mountains tend,

To dance about the virgin’s shrine

While maidens form in merry line

And hail the shimmering evening star

With tinkle of the blithe guitar.

The chime from ancient campaniles

O’er lovely Orotava steals;

From slope to slope the music swells,

Till Realejo’s silvery bells

Respond among the mountain dells,

And all the fragrant evening air

Repeats the melody of prayer.