Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Written after Visiting the Convent of Arrabida, near Setubal

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

Portugal: Arrabida, the Mountain

Written after Visiting the Convent of Arrabida, near Setubal

By Robert Southey (1774–1843)

HAPPY the dwellers in this holy house;

For surely never worldly thoughts intrude

On this retreat, this sacred solitude,

Where Quiet with Religion makes her home.

And ye who tenant such a goodly scene,

How should ye be but good where all is fair,

And where the mirror of the mind reflects

Serenest beauty? O’er these mountain-wilds

The insatiate eye with ever-new delight

Roams raptured, marking now where to the wind

The tall tree bends its many-tinted boughs

With soft, accordant sound; and now the sport

Of joyous sea-birds o’er the tranquil deep;

And now the long-extending stream of light,

Where the broad orb of day refulgent sinks

Beneath old Ocean’s line. To have no cares

That eat the heart, no wants that to the earth

Chain the reluctant spirit, to be freed

From forced communion with the selfish tribe

Who worship Mammon,—yea, emancipate

From this world’s bondage, even while the soul

Inhabits still its corruptible clay,—

Almost, ye dwellers in this holy house,

Almost I envy you. You never see

Pale Misery’s asking eye, nor roam about

Those huge and hateful haunts of crowded men,

Where Wealth and Power have built their palaces,

Fraud spreads his snares secure, man preys on man,

Iniquity abounds, and rampant Vice,

With an infection worse than mortal, taints

The herd of human-kind.
I too could love,

Ye tenants of this sacred solitude,

Here to abide, and, when the sun rides high,

Seek some sequestered dingle’s coolest shade;

And, at the breezy hour, along the beach

Stray with slow step, and gaze upon the deep,

And while the breath of evening fanned my brow,

And the wild waves with their continuous sound

Soothed my accustomed ear, think thankfully

That I had from the crowd withdrawn in time,

And found a harbor. Yet may yonder deep

Suggest a less unprofitable thought,

Monastic brethren! Would the mariner,

Though storms may sometimes swell the mighty waves,

And o’er the reeling bark with thundering crash

Impel the mountainous surge, quit yonder deep,

And rather float upon some tranquil sea,

Whose moveless waters never feel the gale,

In safe stagnation? Rouse thyself, my soul!

No season this for self-deluding dreams;

It is thy spring-time; sow, if thou wouldst reap;

Then, after honest labor, welcome rest,

In full contentment not to be enjoyed

Unless when duly earned. O, happy then

To know that we have walked among mankind

More sinned against than sinning! happy then

To muse on many a sorrow overpast,

And think the business of the day is done,

And as the evening of our lives shall close,—

The peaceful evening,—with a Christian’s hope

Expect the dawn of everlasting day!