Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Asia
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII.  1876–79.
 
Introductory to Japan
Ode to the Mikado of Japan
Richard Hengist Horne (1802–1884)
 
I.
FIRST of thy race,—first of thy nation’s Kings!
  Who see’st and weigh’st the world by reason’s light,
  Not judging by old Custom’s sight,
But by the rolling tide of men and things,—
Thou mayst sow broadcast o’er thy brilliant land        5
  New thoughts and hopes as glowing as thy own,
Burying grim Idols in thy deep sea-sand,
  That men may kneel at shrines from slavery won.
      Those slaveries of soul, designed
  By the close-veiled mysterious power        10
      Which priestcraft bred for thee, and all,
          By thine own sceptre fall!
  Their depths thy piercing brain hath countermined,
The fabric sinks in one black thunder-shower,
  And Life’s expanding wings flame up behind!        15
 
II.
            The mind of man,
    Once opened, claims a boundless span;
            Thou canst no more
            Contract its shore
Than make a flood-tide ebb at thy command.        20
            Take then thy stand
    On Nature’s constant love and youth,
            Her heart and truth,
    And thy resolve to search and weigh
All creeds that ferment ’neath this pregnant day,        25
    Then choose the loftiest,—hold thou fast,
  And thy rare-flowered crown shall ever last
In star-like record when its bloom hath passed!
 
III.
          There was a Dome, like midnight
            Lit up by blood-red lightning!        30
                    And deep within
                    A demon din,
                    With many a sight
            Of ghastly horror whitening
Faces and forms, e’en while the flames were brightening!        35
    The screams of those wild massacres
    Long echoed down the shuddering years;
        And yet we know the selfsame creed
  For which those proselyting martyrs died,
  Hath caused unnumbered victims thus to bleed        40
        Before its symbols deified!
          O, Great Creative Spirit!
            Can man inherit
          Thine image, yet disgrace it,—
          Distort and half erase it,        45
          Till Nature scarce can trace it,
        While to such night-dreams, crowd on crowd,
              Sheep, swine, and sages
        Pray secretly, or fierce and loud,
              Blasting a land for ages!        50
 
IV.
            Heaped clouds at noon!
            Night’s high festoon!
      The piled-up books of the Tycoon
      Were like the mountains of the Moon!
      Glorious to dream of,—but to climb        55
        Impossible, or to divine,
        Grow grapes on, olives, or to mine,
  Or put to any use of human time;
        But thou, Mikado, thou hast spoken
          A new word,—and all locks are broken!        60
            The gates gape wide,
            The rising tide
  Brings minds of every nation side by side;
        And secrets deep as Southern skies,
In chronicles, porcelain, metals, woods, silks, dyes,        65
        Steel, ivory, garden-beds, and lies
        Of mortal Pagods, meet all eyes!
 
V.
        Deal with us, and believe that we
            Deal honestly;
        Be friendly, as you find us friends,—        70
          Each having his own ends,
            Frankly and openly!
          Beware of Hell-born War!
          Earth’s branding scar
              Through History!        75
        Degrading man the beast beneath,
          Who wars but from necessity,
    And builds no Glory on his fellows’ death!
 
VI.
Wise Sovereign! who hath sent from dazzling seas
          Thy Envoys to far-distant shores,        80
Be thou not dazzled by the swarming bees,
            Their human hives and stores,—
          Their armies, ships, magnificence,—
          Nor by each fine court-eloquence
            But note what hath been won        85
            Midst a few sands, called years,
From Earth’s inexhaustible wonders! from the Sun!
            From man’s soul-swaddling fears!
To know what can be known, while yearning still,
By Intellect and Science and the Will,        90
Up towards the visioned footstool of God’s throne!
 
VII.
    Mikado! be not sudden to conceive
        Love, hatred, or indifference,
    But each illuminated tome receive,
      Which Europe old, or young America,        95
        Before thee proudly may lay bare,—
Cross-questioning each by generous Common-sense;
        As one who searching many a beach
        Selects and stores the best from each.
            Thus act, and in futurity        100
Thy country’s rational idol thou wilt be;
        The ancient splendors of Japan
        Will dwindle to a painted fan,
        And the rich flowers of all her Kings,
        Beside thy fruits, be childish things!        105
 
 
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