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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

Ulysses and Columbus

By Alfred William Winterslow Dale (1855–1926)

(From The Centenary of the Declaration of American Independence)

NOT over violet seas that rise and fall

With whispering winds beneath an eastern sky,

Lay the mysterious Island of the Blest,

Nor in the limits of a pent-up lake

Where timid seamen crept from isle to isle

Scattered like stars in heaven, as a child

Through the wide field wanders with doubting foot

By daisies led that ever beckon on;

But with the western sun, ’fore shifting gales

Of hope and doubt, full many a weary soul

Set sail upon the deep, and shot between

The twin tall pillars,—that sheer precipice

From known to mystery,—then into a sea

Where wave and sky were blent with wreaths of cloud,

Without a guide to lead, or star to cheer.

And there he wandered, ere the storm came on

And whelmed his bark, yet in his darkest hour

Found—not the shore he sought amidst the gloom,

But life’s eternal secret clear at last,

Life’s inmost mystery all made bright in death.

And ages passed, and races rose and fell,

And from their ashes other nations sprang

Like flowers that draw life from the past year’s grave.

Last a strong soul, after long days of strife,

Foiling the fears within, the foes without,

Set sail from Spain, and groping in the gloom

After the flying shore, the fable land,

Stood bravely on in face of sea and storm.

And, ere he won his goal, full many a pledge

Of triumph long delayed came drifting on

Far o’er the darkening blue, as land grew near,

Lurking amid a mass of cloudy sky,

Low lying in the far-off western wave.

Then year by year swept on, and as they ran,

Great forests rose and crumbled, and the lives

Of men passed with them, while a mighty race

Was gathering slowly, as the atoms meet

That go to form the framework of a star,

And mid the crash of kingdoms and of throne

Rising like coral reefs from thundering seas.

And British speech and British laws were theirs,

And British princes. Faithfully they served

For many a year, and rendered every due

As it beseemed them, till an evil day

Came on the rulers, and possessed their souls

With foul injustice working cruel wrong.

Then flamed our fathers’ spirit, and they dared

A struggle all uneven, till they broke

The tyrant’s chain and won their human right,

Earning their freedom with free heart and soul.