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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Introductory to America

The Voyage to Vinland

By James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)

FOUR weeks they sailed, a speck in sky-shut seas,

Life, where was never life that knew itself,

But tumbled, lubber-like, in blowing whales;

Thought, where the like had never been before

Since Thought primeval brooded the abyss;

Alone as men were never in the world.

They saw the icy foundlings of the sea,

White cliffs of silence, beautiful by day,

Or looming, sudden-perilous, at night

In monstrous hush; or sometimes in the dark

The waves broke ominous with paly gleams

Crushed by the prow in sparkles of cold fire.

Then came green stripes of sea that promised land

But brought it not, and on the thirtieth day

Low in the West were wooded shores like cloud.

They shouted as men shout with sudden hope;

But Biörn was silent, such strange loss there is

Between the dream’s fulfilment and the dream,

Such sad abatement in the goal attained.

Then Gudrida, that was a prophetess,

Rapt with strange influence from Atlantis, sang:

Her words: the vision was the dreaming shore’s.

Looms there the New Land:

Locked in the shadow

Long the gods shut it,

Niggards of newness

They, the o’er-old.

Little it looks there,

Slim as a cloud-streak;

It shall fold peoples

Even as a shepherd

Foldeth his flock.

Silent it sleeps now;

Great ships shall seek it,

Swarming as salmon;

Noise of its numbers

Two seas shall hear.

Man from the Northland,

Man from the Southland,

Haste empty-handed;

No more than manhood

Bring they, and hands.

Dark hair and fair hair,

Red blood and blue blood,

There shall be mingled;

Force of the ferment

Makes the New Man.

Pick of all kindreds,

King’s blood shall theirs be,

Shoots of the eldest

Stock upon Midgard,

Sons of the poor.

Them waits the New Land;

They shall subdue it,

Leaving their sons’ sons

Space for the body,

Space for the soul.