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.
 
Southern States: St. Augustine, Fla.
Dolores
Constance Fenimore Woolson (1840–1894)
 
(Excerpt)

HER old boat loaded with oranges,
      Her baby tied on her breast,
Minorcan Dolores bends to her oars,
Noting each reed on the slow-moving shores;
But the way is long, and the inlet wide,—        5
Can two small hands overcome the tide
      Sweeping up into the west?
 
Four little walls of coquina-stone,
      Rude thatch of palmetto leaves;
There have they nestled, like birds in a tree,        10
From winter and labor and hunger free;
Taking from earth their small need, but no more,
No thought of the morrow, no laying in store,
      No gathering patient sheaves.
 
Alone in their Southern island-home,        15
      Through the year of summer days,
The two love on; and the bountiful beach
Clusters its sea-food within his reach;
The two love on, and the tropical land
Drops its wild fruit in her indolent hand,        20
      And life is a sunshiny haze.
 
Luiz, Dolores, and baby brown,
      With dreamy, passionate eyes,—
Far in the past, lured by Saxon wiles,
A simple folk came from the Spanish sea-isles,        25
Now, tinged with the blood of the Creole quadroon,
Their children live idly along the lagoon,
      Under the Florida skies.
 
Luiz, Dolores, and baby brown,
      Ah, their blossoming life of love!—        30
But fever falls with its withering blight:
Dolores keeps watch through the sultry night,
In vain her poor herbs, in vain her poor prayers,—
Her Luiz is mounting the spirit-winged stairs
      That lead to her heaven above.        35
 
So, her old boat loaded with oranges,
      Her baby tied on her breast,
Dolores rows off to the ancient town,
Where the blue-eyed soldiers come marching down
From the far cold North; they are men who know—        40
Thus Dolores thinks—how to cure all woe;
      Nay, their very touch is blest.
*        *        *        *        *
But the northern soldiers move steadily on,
      They hear not nor understand;
The last blue rank has passed down the street,        45
She sees but the dust of their marching feet;
They have crossed a whole country by night and by day,
And marked, with their blood, every step of the way,
      To conquer this Southern land.
 
They are gone—O despair! she turns to the church,        50
      Half fainting, her fruit wet with tears;
“Perhaps the old saint, who is always there,
May wake up and take them to pay for a prayer;
They are very sweet, as the saint will see,
If he would but wake up, and listen to me:        55
      But he sleeps so, he never hears.”
 
She enters; the church is filled with men,
      The pallid men of the North!
Each dingy old pew is a sick man’s bed,
Each battered old bench holds a weary head,        60
The altar-candles are swept away
For vials and knives in shining array,
      And a new saint is stepping forth!
 
He must be a saint, for he comes from the shrine,
      A saint of a Northern creed,—        65
Clad in a uniform,—army blue,
But surely the saints may wear any hue
Dolores thinks, as he takes her hands
And hears all her story, and understands
      The cry of her desperate need.        70
 
An orange he gives to each weary man,
      To freshen the fevered mouth,
Then forth they go down the old sea-wall,
And they hear in the dusk the picket’s call;
The row-boat is moored on the shadowy shore,        75
The Northern saint can manage an oar,
      And the boat glides fast to the south.
 
A healing touch and a holy drink,
      A bright little heavenly knife,
And this strange Northern saint, who prays no prayers,        80
Brings back the soul from the spirit-winged stairs,
And once more Minorcan Luiz’s dark eyes,
In whose depths the warmth of the tropics lies,
      Rest calm on the awe-stricken wife.
*        *        *        *        *
 
 
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