Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > America
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX.  1876–79.
 
New England: Plum Island, Mass.
Inside Plum Island
Harriet Prescott Spofford (1835–1921)
 
(Excerpt)

WE floated in the idle breeze,
  With all our sails a-shiver;
The shining tide came softly through,
  And filled Plum Island River.
 
The shining tide stole softly up        5
  Across the wide green splendor,
Creek swelling creek till all in one
  The marshes made surrender.
 
And clear the flood of silver swung
  Between the brimming edges,        10
And now the depths were dark, and now
  The boat slid o’er the sedges.
 
And here a yellow sand-spit foamed
  Amid the great sea meadows,
And here the slumberous waters gloomed        15
  Lucid in emerald shadows.
 
While, in their friendly multitude
  Encamped along our quarter,
The host of hay-cocks seemed to float
  With doubles in the water.        20
 
Around the sunny distance rose
  A blue and hazy highland,
And winding down our winding way
  The sand-hills of Plum Island,—
 
The windy dunes that hid the sea        25
  For many a dreary acre,
And muffled all its thundering fall
  Along the wild South Breaker.
 
We crept by Oldtown’s marshy mouth,
  By reedy Rowley drifted,        30
But far away the Ipswich bar
  Its white caps tossed and shifted.
 
Sometimes we heard a bittern boom,
  Sometimes a piping plover,
Sometimes there came the lonesome cry        35
  Of white gulls flying over.
 
Sometimes, a sudden fount of light,
  A sturgeon splashed, and fleeting
Behind the sheltering thatch we heard
  Oars in the rowlocks beating.        40
 
But all the rest was silence, save
  The rippling in the rushes,
The gentle gale that struck the sail
  In fitful swells and gushes.
 
Silence and summer and the sun,        45
  Waking a wizard legion,
Wove as we went their ancient spells
  In this enchanted region.
 
No spectral care could part the veil
  Of mist and sunbeams shredded,        50
That everywhere behind us closed
  The labyrinth we threaded.
 
Beneath our keel the great sky arched
  Its liquid light and azure;
We swung between two heavens, ensphered,        55
  Within their charmed embrasure.
 
Deep in that watery firmament,
  With flickering lustres splendid,
Poised in his perfect flight, we saw
  The painted hawk suspended,        60
 
And there, the while the boat-side leaned,
  With youth and laughter laden,
We saw the red fin of the perch,
  We saw the swift manhaden.
 
Outside, the hollow sea might cry,        65
  The wailing wind give warning;
No whisper saddened us, shut in
  With sunshine and the morning.
 
Oh, far, far off the weary world
  With all its tumult waited,        70
Forever here with drooping sails
  Would we have hung belated!
 
Yet, when the flaw came ruffling down,
  And round us curled and sallied,
We skimmed with bubbles on our track,        75
  As glad as when we dallied.
 
Broadly the bare brown Hundreds rose,
  The herds their hollows keeping,
And clouds of wings about her mast
  From Swallowbanks were sweeping.        80
 
While evermore the Bluff before
  Grew greenly on our vision,
Lifting beneath its waving boughs
  Its grassy slopes Elysian.
 
There, all day long, the summer sea        85
  Creams murmuring up the shingle;
There, all day long, the airs of earth
  With airs of heaven mingle.
 
Singing we went our happy way,
  Singing old songs, nor noted        90
Another voice that with us sang,
  As wing and wing we floated.
 
Till hushed, we listened, while the air
  With music still was beating,
Voice answering tuneful voice, again        95
  The words we sang repeating.
 
A flight of fluting echoes, sent
  With elfin carol o’er us,—
More sweet than bird-song in the prime
  Rang out the sea-blown chorus.        100
 
Behind those dunes the storms had heaped
  In all fantastic fashion,
Who syllabled our songs in strains
  Remote from human passion?
 
What tones were those that caught our own,        105
  Filtered through light and distance,
And tossed them gayly to and fro
  With such a sweet insistence?
 
What shoal of sea-sprites, to the sun
  Along the margin flocking,        110
Dripping with salt dews from the deeps,
  Made this melodious mocking?
 
We laughed,—a hundred voices rose
  In airiest, fairiest laughter;
We sang,—a hundred voices quired        115
  And sang the whole song after.
 
One standing eager in the prow
  Blew out his bugle cheerly,
And far and wide their horns replied
  More silverly and clearly.        120
 
And falling down the falling tide,
  Slow and more slowly going,
Flown far, flown far, flown faint and fine,
  We heard their horns still blowing.
 
Then, with the last delicious note        125
  To other skies alluring,
Down ran the sails; beneath the Bluff
  The boat lay at her mooring.
*        *        *        *        *
 
 
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