Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Americas
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Americas: Vol. XXX.  1876–79.
 
South America: Guiana
Sir Walter Raleigh
Charlotte Fiske Bates (1838–1916)
 
In 1617

GUIANA’S opulence of bloom and fruit,
Its clustering pyramids of solid rock,
Its cataracts’ might and beauty of cascade,
Its glimpses of sierras meeting heaven,
The wonders of its forests and its streams,—        5
All these Sir Walter’s eyes had looked upon
Full twenty years before. His vivid pen
Had pictured this great kingdom, far and fair,
When in his noon of power;—this is his night.
There wait no more his queen’s all-pardoning smiles,        10
But a dark sentence and a fatal frown,
Since promised gold he cannot win for James;
If aught there be—safe in Spain’s iron clutch,
No chance remains of wrenching it away.
The poor discoverer knows, alas! too well        15
That gold alone can lengthen out the glow
Of life’s fast narrowing day,—that gold alone
Can light the hard, cold face of Tyranny;
Yet, lo! gray, worn, and desolate, he turns—
With Disappointment only, and a crew        20
In whose foiled hearts is room for mutiny,—
With these alone—to launch for England’s shore!
The faithful Kemys, whose unswerving love
Had shared the Tower and faced the fearful rack,
Pierced by his master’s first word of reproach,        25
Had pierced himself straightway with blade and ball;
So Raleigh’s strongest friend was in the grave;
So, too, his gallant son, just fallen in fight;
Ay, and a third, for Hope is buried now!
The poet in him is not dead perhaps,        30
Nor lost the dear remembrance of his queen.
The royal water-lilies floating thick
Along the river-banks, may well recall
That other distant day when, homeward bound,
He thought, in passing these, what regal things        35
To give the regal woman that he served;
Yet, in their beauty, oh! how like they are
To his own youthful love, Elizabeth,
Who waits him now, an anxious, long-tried wife,
Whose full devotion will outlast his breath,        40
Yea, nine-and-twenty years, till hushed her own!
For her a living love beats at his heart,
But dark foreboding overshadows all,
Nor his, to-day, that signal valorous cheer
So soon to mark his exit from the earth.        45
If all the alternations of his life
Between his rise to power and fall therefrom
Were noted,—all between the day when first
He bowed his head in homage to the queen,
And that wherein he bowed it on the block,—        50
What fate in all the “History of the World”—
Unfinished monument of prisoned years,
Unfinished product of his splendid mind—
Could stir the thought to deeper sympathy,
To quicker sense of this world’s fickleness,        55
Or of the great injustice of a king!
 
 
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