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

Introductory to America


By James Montgomery (1771–1854)

(From Greenland, Canto IV)

GREENLAND’S bold sons, by instinct, sallied forth

On barks, like icebergs drifting from the north,

Crossed without magnet undiscovered seas,

And, all surrendering to the stream and breeze,

Touched on the line of that twin-bodied land

That stretches forth to either pole a hand,

From arctic wilds that see no winter sun

To where the oceans of the world are one,

And round Magellan’s straits, Fuego’s shore,

Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific roar.

Regions of beauty there these rovers found;

The flowery hills with emerald woods were crowned;

Spread o’er the vast savannas, buffalo herds

Ranged without master; and the bright-winged birds

Made gay the sunshine as they glanced along,

Or turned the air to music with their song.

Here from his mates a German youth had strayed,

Where the broad river cleft the forest glade;

Swarming with alligator-shoals, the flood

Blazed in the sun, or moved in clouds of blood;

The wild boar rustled headlong through the brake;

Like a live arrow leaped the rattlesnake;

The uncouth shadow of the climbing bear

Crawled on the grass, while he aspired in air;

Anon with hoofs, like hail, the greenwood rang,

Among the scattering deer a panther sprang:

The stripling feared not, yet he trod with awe,

As if enchantment breathed o’er all he saw,

Till in his path uprose a wilding vine;

Then o’er his memory rushed the noble Rhine;

Home and its joys, with fulness of delight,

So rapt his spirit, so beguiled his sight,

That in those glens of savage solitude

Vineyards and cornfields, towns and spires, he viewed,

And through the image-chamber of his soul

The days of other years like shadows stole.


Wineland the glad discoverers called that shore,

And back the tidings of its riches bore;

But soon returned with colonizing bands,—

Men that at home would sigh for unknown lands;

Men of all weathers, fit for every toil,

War, commerce, pastime, peace, adventure, spoil;

Bold master-spirits, where they touched they gained

Ascendance, where they fixed their foot they reigned.

Both coasts they long inherited, though wide

Dissevered; stemming to and fro the tide,

Free as the Syrian dove explores the sky,

Their helm their hope, their compass in their eye,

They found at will, where’er they pleased to roam,

The ports of strangers or their northern home,

Still midst tempestuous seas and zones of ice,

Loved as their own, their unlost Paradise.

Yet was their Paradise forever lost:

War, famine, pestilence, the power of frost,

Their woes combining, withered from the earth

This late creation, like a timeless birth,

The fruit of age and weakness, forced to light,

Breathing awhile,—relapsing into night.