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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV. 1876–79.

Spain: Gibraltar

The Straits of Gibraltar

By William Gibson (1826–1887)

“LAND, ho!” how welcome was the voice,

Which bade, as forth its tidings went,

The deeps of sea and air rejoice

For a new element!

And lightly did our spirits leap!

Beautiful is the rise of Earth

Up from the bosom of the deep,

As at Creation’s birth!

’T was land,—but no accustomed coast

That woke such feelings of delight;

For now, the wide Atlantic crossed,

The Old World met the sight.

The lofty ship went booming on,

With full sails swelling gloriously;

And, long before the day was gone,

There rose up near and high

Spain,—land of chivalry and romance,—

Whose maidens erst, with dark-bright eyes,

Looked down upon the splintered lance,

And gave the victor’s prize.

Proud Spain,—which sent the Armada forth,

Magnificent but evil-starred,

Against an island of the north,

For whom the tempest warred.

Though once the mistress of the world,

Her far-off provinces Perus,

Before that island’s flag unfurled

Doomed pomp and power to lose.

Where Andalusia’s green hills slope,

The eye could just behold afar

The column—with the telescope—

Which stands on Trafalgar.

There last the Spanish ensign flew

In war, while nations thronged the sea,

Which Nelson’s prowess overthrew

In his death-victory!

As fast we swept through Calpe’s strait,—

A continent on either hand,—

We saw, like guardians of the gate,

The mountain-monsters stand.

While greenly swelled the Spanish shore,

Sunburnt and steep, upon the right,

Appeared the mountains of the Moor,

Bare with primeval blight.

And, far in the interior,

Old Atlas propped the leaning sky,

Wearing upon his shoulders hoar

A snowy drapery.

The sun set,—and an instant’s shock

Told that the ship was anchored now

Within the shadow of the Rock,—

Beneath the Lion’s brow!

Thus opening on that glooming sea,

Well seemed these walls the ends of earth:

Death and a dark eternity

Sublimely symbolled forth!

Ere to one eagle soul was given

The will—the wings—that deep to brave;

In the sun’s path to find a heaven—

A New World—o’er the wave!

Retraced the path Columbus trod,

Our course was from the setting sun;

While all the visible works of God,

Though various else, had one,—

One westward and unwearying march:

The crownéd day, from morn till even;

From east to west, in night’s great arch,

The starry host of heaven!

And aye, as Europe’s lights grow dim,

May thine in the ascendant be,

I sing, as swells our martial hymn,

America, to thee!