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

Miscellaneous: Seas of the Tropics

The Torrid Zone

By James Thomson (1834–1882)

(From The Seasons: Summer)

NOW come, bold Fancy, spread a daring flight,

And view the wonders of the Torrid Zone:

Climes unrelenting! with whose rage compared,

Yon blaze is feeble, and yon skies are cool.

See, how at once the bright effulgent sun,

Rising, direct, swift chases from the sky

The short-lived twilight; and with ardent blaze

Looks gayly fierce o’er all the dazzling air:

He mounts his throne; but kind before him sends,

Issuing from out the portals of the morn,

The gentle breeze, to mitigate his fire,

And breathe refreshment on a fainting world.

Great are the scenes, with dreadful beauty crowned

And barbarous wealth, that see, each circling year,

Returning suns and double seasons pass:

Rocks rich in gems, and mountains big with mines,

That on the high equator ridgy rise,

Whence many a bursting stream auriferous plays:

Majestic woods, of every vigorous green,

Stage above stage, high waving o’er the hills;

Or to the far horizon wide diffused,

A boundless deep immensity of shade.

Here lofty trees, to ancient song unknown,

The noble sons of potent heat and floods

Prone-rushing from the clouds, rear high to heaven

Their thorny stems, and broad around them throw

Meridian gloom. Here, in eternal prime,

Unnumbered fruits of keen delicious taste

And vital spirit, drink amid the cliffs,

And burning sands that bank the shrubby vales,

Redoubled day, yet in their rugged coats

A friendly juice to cool its rage contain.

Bear me, Pomona! to thy citron groves;

To where the lemon and the piercing lime,

With the deep orange, glowing through the green,

Their lighter glories blend. Lay me reclined

Beneath the spreading tamarind that shakes,

Fanned by the breeze, its fever-cooling fruit.

Deep in the night the massy locust sheds,

Quench my hot limbs; or lead me through the maze,

Embowering endless, of the Indian fig;

Or thrown at gayer ease, on some fair brow,

Let me behold, by breezy murmurs cooled,

Broad o’er my head the verdant cedar wave,

And high palmettos lift their graceful shade.

Or stretched amid these orchards of the sun,

Give me to drain the cocoa’s milky bowl,

And from the palm to draw its freshening wine!

More bounteous far than all the frantic juice

Which Bacchus pours. Nor, on its slender twigs

Low-bending, be the full pomegranate scorned;

Nor, creeping through the woods, the gelid race

Of berries. Oft in humble station dwells

Unboasted worth, above fastidious pomp.

Witness, thou best Anana, thou the pride

Of vegetable life, beyond whate’er

The poets imaged in the Golden Age:

Quick let me strip thee of thy tufty coat,

Spread thy ambrosial stores, and feast with Jove!

From these the prospect varies. Plains immense

Lie stretched below, interminable meads,

And vast savannas, where the wandering eye,

Unfixed, is in a verdant ocean lost.

Another Flora there, of bolder hues

And richer sweets, beyond our garden’s pride,

Plays o’er the fields, and showers with sudden hand

Exuberant spring; for oft these valleys shift

Their green embroidered robe to fiery brown,

And swift to green again, as scorching suns

Or streaming dews and torrent rains prevail.

Along these lonely regions, where, retired

From little scenes of art, great Nature dwells

In awful solitude, and naught is seen

But the wild herds that own no master’s stall,

Prodigious rivers roll their fattening seas:

On whose luxuriant herbage, half concealed,

Like a fallen cedar, far diffused his train,

Cased in green scales, the crocodile extends.

The flood disparts: behold! in plaited mail

Behemoth rears his head. Glanced from his side,

The darted steel in idle shivers flies:

He fearless walks the plain, or seeks the hills;

Where, as he crops his varied fare, the herds,

In widening circle round, forget their food,

And at the harmless stranger wondering gaze.

Peaceful, beneath primeval trees, that cast

Their ample shade o’er Niger’s yellow stream,

And where the Ganges rolls his sacred wave;

Or mid the central depth of blackening woods,

High raised in solemn theatre around,

Leans the huge elephant: wisest of brutes!

O truly wise, with gentle might endowed,

Though powerful, not destructive! here he sees

Revolving ages sweep the changeful earth,

And empires rise and fall; regardless he

Of what the never-resting race of men

Project: thrice happy! could he ’scape their guile

Who mine, from cruel avarice, his steps;

Or with his towery grandeur swell their state,

The pride of kings! or else his strength pervert,

And bid him rage amid the mortal fray,

Astonished at the madness of mankind.

Wide o’er the winding umbrage of the floods,

Like vivid blossoms glowing from afar,

Thick swarm the brighter birds. For Nature’s hand,

That with a sportive vanity has decked

The plumy nations, there her gayest hues

Profusely pours. But, if she bids them shine,

Arrayed in all the beauteous beams of day,

Yet frugal still, she humbles them in song.