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Poem by Richard Monckton Milnes


Where Europe's varied shore is bent
Out to the utmost Occident,
There rose of old from sea to air,
An island wonderful and fair!

Not that on his way to cheer
Our stranger--sister hemisphere,
Here the Sun is pleased to cast
Liefest smiles, as more his last,
Kinder than he gives to us--
Parting love--looks rubious:
Not that here the wind may fling
Odours from his faithless wing,
Scented breath of heaths and bowers,--
Keepsakes from confiding flowers,--
That the rover may be light
For his long Atlantic flight:--
Not that here the haughty land,
Spurning an assistant hand,
Makes a gracious rivalry
With its fere the hoary sea,
Offe'ring up to regal man
All the loyal gifts it can,
Such is not the rarity
O' the Island of the Western Sea.

The name is of a richer tone
Than our baptismal forms may own,--
A Spanish name, I little doubt,
Yet stands no Spanish lady out
When myriad star--rays mingle o'er
Her rose--emblazoned mirador,
Following with a flattered ear
A voice that follows a guitar,
Too mild and mellowed to be near,
But every precious word so clear,
It cannot come from very far.
No relick of gone days is here,
No antient--minded cavalier,
Who takes his grandson on his knee
And half in play, half earnestly,
Watches the darling's tender hand
Labour to clasp a well--used brand,
Which sleeps in quiet rust at last,--
And tells him of the echoing past,
What time the gallant Moorish race
Made Christian Spain their dwelling--place,
But Spain could never be the slave
Of stranger hosts, however brave,
And how this steel had helped to free
Her soil from turbaned Paynimrie.

The world has had its childly days,
Passion--bred hopes and earnest plays,--
The world has had its manhood fraught
With power and war and holy thought,--
The world is now grown vain and old,
Her head and heart are palsy cold,--
Light was called to meet her prime,
Thunder waits on her eve--time,
With a light that is not light,
But a death--glare ghastly bright.
And a voice is every where
Louder than thousand trumpets' blare,
``Hear it, ye mortals, every one,
The life from out your world is gone.''

So murmurs many' a soul sublime,
Engaoled in this unhealthy time,
Whose embryo--thoughts and half--desires
Feed not his heart's sky--seeking fires;
Who scales all highths, and with sharp ken
Observes the policies of men,
Their aims and objects, and can see,
However wide the' horizon be,
No onward--leading knightly road,
Such as his antient heroes trode,--
No one secure and honest way
Where he can travel night and day,--
But every moment full of fear,
Of Truth forgot and Error near:
He dare not mingle in that maze,
He dare not front the doubtful haze,--
He dare not,--as he would keep whole
His virgin rectitude of soul,
As he holds dear his life to be
His claim to blest Eternity!
And thus, with all his loving mind,
He stands at bay against his kind,
Half sad to see amidst the blind.

Is there no refuge but the tomb
For all this timeless spirit--bloom?
Does earth no other prospect yield
But one broad barren battle--field?
Or if there be some cradling spot
Where such grown evil enters not,
Lies it in countries far away
From where he first drank in the day?
Where, if despairing he be driven,
He must renounce his native heaven,
No more by olden ties be bound,
Take other dress, and let the sound
Of native and of neighbour speech
No more his aliened senses reach!

Be it not so! for thou art here,
O Island beautifully drear!
For thou, encounte'ring such a guest,
Wilt claspt him to thy hardy breast,
And bid him dwell at peace with thee
In thy uncitied modesty;
Let him his spirit slake and steep
In thy immense Atlantic deep,--
Let him from thy rude nature gain
Some sturdy posture to sustain
The burthen of ideal care
To which the Poet's soul is heir. 

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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