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

British America: St. Lawrence, the Gulf

The Gulf of St. Lawrence

By Alfred Domett (1811–1887)

(From Ranolf and Amohia)

ST. LAWRENCE! yes, I well remember

Thy Gulf,—that morning in September.

Fast flew our ship careering lightly

Over the waters breaking brightly;

Alongside close as if their aim

Were but her vaunted speed to shame,

Sleek porpoises like lightning went

Cleaving the sunny element;

Now where the black bows smote their way

How would they revel in the roaring spray!

Like victors in the contest now

Dash swift athwart the flying prow;

Or springing forward three abreast

Shoot slippery o’er each foamy crest,—

Shoot upwards in an airy arc

As three abreast they passed the bark:

Pied petrels coursed about the sea

And skimmed the billows dexterously;

Sank with each hollow, rose with every hill,

So close, yet never touched them till

They seized their prey with rapid bill:

Afar, the cloudy spurts of spray

Told that the grampus sported there

With his ferocious mates at play.

Meanwhile the breeze that freshly blew

From every breaking wave-top drew

A plume of smoke that straightway from the sun

The colors of the rainbow won,

So that you saw, wherever turning,

A thousand small volcanoes burning,

Emitting vapors of each hue

Of orange, purple, red, and blue.

The sky meanwhile was all alive

With snow-bright clouds that seemed to drive

Swiftly, as though the heavens in glee

Were racing with the racing sea;

Each flitting sight and rushing sound

Spread life and hope and joy around;

Ship, birds and fishes, sky and ocean,

All restless with one glad emotion!

But what a change! when suddenly we spy

Apart from all that headlong revelry,—

Pencilled above the sky-line, like a spectre drear,

A silent iceberg solemnly appear,—

Pausing ghost-like our greeting to await.

The crystal mountain, as we come anear

And feel the airs that from it creep

So chilling o’er the sunny deep,

Discloses, while it slowly shifts,

Now blue, faint-glistening, semi-lucent clifts,

Now melancholy peaks, dead-white and desolate.

But comes it not, this guest unbidden,

This wanderer from a home far-hidden,

Dim herald of the mysteries of the Pole,

With tidings from that cheerless region fraught,—

Comes it not o’er us like the sudden thought,

The haunting phantom of a world apart,

The blank and silent apparition

That, ever prompt to gain serene admission,

Lurks on the crowded confines of the heart,

The many-pictured purlieus of the soul;

Nay, sometimes thrusts its unexpected presence

Upon our brightest-tinted hours of pleasaunce?