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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.

Greece: Helicon, the Mountain

The Flowers of Helicon

By Richard Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton (1809–1885)


Are rife with gay and scented flowers,

Shining the marble rocks upon,

Or mid the valley’s oaken bowers;

And ever since young Fancy placed

The Hieron of the Muses here,

Have ceaseless generations graced

This airy temple year by year.

But those more bright, more precious, flowers

With which old Greece the Muses wooed,

The Art whose varied forms and powers

Charmed the poetic multitude,

The Thought that from each deep recess

And fissure of the teeming mind

Sent up its odorous fruitfulness,—

What have those glories left behind?

For from those generous calices

The vegetative virtue shed,

Flew over distant lands and seas,

Waking wide nations from the dead;

And e’er the parent plants o’erthrown

Gave place to rank and noisome weed,

The giant Roman world was sown

Throughout with that ennobling seed.

And downward thence to latest days

The heritage of Beauty fell,

And Grecian forms and Grecian lays

Prolonged their humanizing spell,

Till, when new worlds for man to win

The Atlantic’s riven waves disclose,

The wildernesses there begin

To blossom with the Grecian rose.

And all this while in barren shame

Their native land remote reclines,

A mocked and miserable name

Round which some withered ivy twines;

Where, wandering mid the broken tombs,

The remnant of the race forget

That ever with such royal blooms

This Garden of the Soul was set.

O breezes of the wealthy West!

Why bear ye not on grateful wings

The seeds of all your life has blest

Back to their being’s early springs?

Why fill ye not these plains with hopes

To bear the treasures once they bore,

And to these Heliconian slopes

Transport civility and lore?

For now, at least, the soil is free,

Now that one strong reviving breath

Has chased that Eastern tyranny

Which to the Greek was ever death;

Now that, though weak with age and wrongs,

And bent beneath the recent chain,

This motherland of Greece belongs

To her own Western world again.