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Poem by Richard Monckton Milnes


Thou pleasant Island, whose rich garden--shores
Have had a long--lived fame of loveliness,
Recorded in the historic song, that framed
The unknown Poet of an unknown time,
Illustrating his native Ithaca,
And all her bright society of isles,--
Most pleasant land! To us, who journeying come
From the far west, and fall upon thy charms,
Our earliest welcome to Ionian seas,
Thou art a wonder and a deep delight,
Thy usual habitants can never know.
Thou art a portal, whence the Orient,
The long--desired, long--dreamt--of, Orient,
Opens upon us, with its stranger forms,
Outlines immense and gleaming distances,
And all the circumstance of faery--land.
Not only with a present happiness,
But taking from anticipated joys
An added sense of actual bliss, we stand
Upon thy cliffs, or tread the slopes that leave
No interval of shingle, rock, or sand,
Between their verdure and the Ocean's brow,--
Whose olive--groves (unlike the darkling growth,
That earns on western shores the traveller's scorn)
Can wear the grey that on their foliage lies,
As but the natural hoar of lengthened days,--
Making, with their thick--bossed and fissured trunks,
Bases far--spread and branches serpentine,
Sylvan cathedrals, such as in old times
Gave the first life to Gothic art, and led
Imagination so sublime a way.

Then forth advancing, to our novice eyes
How beautiful appears the concourse clad
In that which, of all garbs, may best befit
The grace and dignity of manly form:
The bright--red open vest, falling upon
The white thick--folded kirtle, and low cap
    Above the high--shorn brow. Nor less than these,
With earnest joy, and not injurious pride,
We recognise of Britain and her force
The wonted ensigns and far--known array;
And feel how now the everlasting Sea,
Leaving his old and once imperious Spouse,
To faint, in all the beauty of her tears,
On the dank footsteps of a mouldering throne,
Has taken to himself another mate,
Whom his uxorious passion has endowed,
Not only with her antique properties,
But with all other gifts and privilege,
Within the circle of his regal hand.

Now forward,--forward on a beaming path,
But be each step as fair as hope has feigned it,
For me, the memory of the little while,
That here I rested happily, within
The close--drawn pale of English sympathies,
Will bear the fruit of many an after--thought,
Bright in the dubious track of after--years.

Richard Monckton Milnes

Richard Monckton Milnes's other poems:
  1. Switzerland and Italy
  2. To the Moon of the South
  3. London Churches
  4. The Subterranean River, At Cong
  5. Sir Walter Scott at the Tomb of the Stuarts in St Peter's

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