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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

Introductory to India

The Palm-Tree

By John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)

IS it the palm, the cocoa-palm,

On the Indian Sea, by the isles of balm?

Or is it a ship in the breezeless calm?

A ship whose keel is of palm beneath,

Whose ribs of palm have a palm-bark sheath,

And a rudder of palm it steereth with.

Branches of palm are its spars and rails,

Fibres of palm are its woven sails,

And the rope is of palm that idly trails.

What does the good ship bear so well?

The cocoa-nut with its stony shell,

And the milky sap of its inner cell.

What are its jars, so smooth and fine,

But hollowed nuts, filled with oil and wine,

And the cabbage that ripens under the Line?

Who smokes his nargileh, cool and calm?

The master, whose cunning and skill could charm

Cargo and ship from the bounteous palm.

In the cabin he sits on a palm-mat soft,

From a beaker of palm his drink is quaffed,

And a palm-thatch shields from the sun aloft!

His dress is woven of palmy strands,

And he holds a palm-leaf scroll in his hands,

Traced with the Prophet’s wise commands!

The turban folded about his head

Was daintily wrought of the palm-leaf braid,

And the fan that cools him of palm was made.

Of threads of palm was the carpet spun

Whereon he kneels when the day is done,

And the foreheads of Islam are bowed as one!

To him the palm is a gift divine,

Wherein all uses of man combine,—

House and raiment and food and wine!

And, in the hour of his great release,

His need of the palm shall only cease

With the shroud wherein he lieth in peace.

“Allah il Allah!” he sings his psalm,

On the Indian Sea, by the isles of balm;

“Thanks to Allah who gives the palm!”