Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.


The Fens

By George Crabbe (1754–1832)

(From The Lover’s Journey)

ON rode Orlando, counting all the while

The miles he passed, and every coming mile;

Like all attracted things, he quicker flies,

The place approaching where the attraction lies;

When next appeared a dam—so call the place—

Where lies a road confined in narrow space;

A work of labor, for on either side

Is level fen, a prospect wild and wide,

With dikes on either hand by ocean’s self supplied:

Far on the right the distant sea is seen,

And salt the springs that feed the marsh between;

Beneath an ancient bridge, the straitened flood

Rolls through its sloping banks of slimy mud;

Near it a sunken boat resists the tide,

That frets and hurries to the opposing side;

The rushes sharp, that on the borders grow,

Bend their brown flowerets to the stream below,

Impure in all its course, in all its progress slow:

Here a grave Flora scarcely deigns to bloom,

Nor wears a rosy blush, nor sheds perfume;

The few dull flowers that o’er the place are spread

Partake the nature of their fenny bed;

Here on its wiry stem, in rigid bloom,

Grows the salt lavender that lacks perfume;

Here the dwarf sallows creep, the septfoil harsh,

And the soft slimy mallow of the marsh;

Low on the ear the distant billows sound,

And just in view appears their stony bound;

No hedge nor tree conceals the glowing sun,

Birds, save a watery tribe, the district shun,

Nor chirp among the reeds where bitter waters run.