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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Greece and Turkey in Europe: Vol. XIX. 1876–79.

Turkey in Europe, and the Principalities: Bosphorus (Straits of Constantinople)

The Bosphorus Revisited

By Seymour Green Wheeler Benjamin (1837–1914)

HAS earth a lovelier sight to show

Than yonder strait whose waters flow

Bordered with vineyards, summer bowers,

White palaces, and ivied towers?

How mellow upon snowy walls

The tranquil light of morning falls;

The various tints how softly blent

On distant hill and battlement;

What gleaming mist half veils the slopes,

Fair as the haze of youthful hopes;

How darkly blue or lucent green

The current in the noonday sheen

Goes by, anon impearled with spray,

Or lingering in some sheltered bay,

Where charmed pavilions skirt the marge,

Where idly floats the fisher’s barge,

And ancient plane-trees shade the stream,

Bidding the passer there to dream,

Lapped in the arms of peaceful rest,

As in the Islands of the Blest.

There let my footsteps lead me down

To gaze on palace, tower, and town;

To taste the grape of purple hue,

And peel the fig ice-cool with dew;

To breathe the influence of the clime,

And smoke the lotus of our time;

Watching the white-winged vessels glide

Like flocks of sea-fowl down the tide,

Lulled by the sound of plunging oars

Echoing along the wooded shores,

Or soothed by the eerie wind that roves

With whispers through the slumberous groves,

Or dances through the tossing vines

And sweeps the harp of dark-robed pines,

Low murmuring to the dreamer’s ears

The requiem for the dying years.

There let me linger till the rays

Of sunset make the sky ablaze

With vast magnificence that fires

The imperial city’s thousand spires.

See, in the west, how, fold on fold,

The clouds are gathered, massive gold;

What glowing purple robes the shore,

Richer than monarchs ever wore;

The hill-tops and the distant isles

Reflect the sun’s departing smiles;

The very cypresses that keep

Stern watch above the dead man’s sleep

Have caught the glory of the scene,

And woven its purple with their green.

Then twilight’s veil steals softly down

O’er ruined tower and droning town;

Lights quiver on the glassy deep,

Ships at their moorings lie asleep,

From festal halls voluptuous strains

Float gently by in soft refrains,

The nightingale’s delicious trills

Ring in the covert of the hills;

And hark, upon the swooning air,

The solemn voice that calls to prayer.

But lo! the moon majestic looms

Above the sea, and braids the glooms

Of evening with her argent light,

And summons to my wondering sight

The brave and fair of olden time

Who dwelt in this enchanted clime.


Then let me tarry here awhile,

O land of roses! in the smile

O’ th’ Eastern sun; in the serene

Elysian light of midnight’s queen;

Thankful that Time—who turns our gold

To ashes, cramps us in a mould

Of social forms, and gives, instead

Of youth’s gay garlands crushed and dead,

The abstractions of philosophy,

Too purely cold to satisfy

The ardent, earnest, restless soul

Whose passionate yearnings scorn control—

Has left me still the power to enjoy

The beautiful without alloy.

The fervor of my earlier days

Still warms my bosom when I gaze

On all the lovely and sublime

In this my own, my native clime.

I count among God’s choicest gifts

That love of beauty which uplifts

The weary soul above the prose

Of life’s routine, its toil and woes;

That subtle spirit of poesy

That joins the soul in harmony

With outward objects, that imbues

The humblest things with magic hues,

Sublimes our nature, and allies

Our mortal being with the skies.