Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Oceanica
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Oceanica: Vol. XXXI.  1876–79.
 
Appendix: Bermudas
Bermoothes
Lucy Larcom (1826–1893)
 
UNDER the eaves of a Southern sky,
  Where the cloud-roof bends to the ocean-floor,
Hid in lonely seas, the Bermoothes lie,—
  An emerald cluster that Neptune bore
Away from the covetous earth-gods’ sight,        5
And placed in a setting of sapphire light.
 
Prospero’s realm, and Miranda’s isles,
  Floating to music of Ariel
Upon fantasy’s billow, that glows and smiles
  Flushing response to the lovely spell,—        10
Tremulous color and outline seem
Lucent as glassed in a life-like dream.
 
And away and afar as in dreams we drift
  Glimmer the blossoming orange groves;
And the dolphin-tints of the waters shift,        15
  And the angel-fish through the pure lymph moves
Like the gleam of a rainbow; and soft clouds sweep
Over isle and wave like the wings of sleep.
 
Deepens the dream into memory now:
  The straight roads cut through the cedar hills,        20
The coral cliffs, and the roofs of snow,
  And the crested cardinal-bird, that trills
A carol clear as the ripple of red
He made in the air as he flashed overhead.
 
Through pathways trodden of many feet        25
  The gray little ground-dove follows and cooes;
Yonder blue-throat stirs to a ballad sweet
  As ever was mingled with Northern dews;
And the boatswain-bird from the calm lagoon
Lifts his white length into cloudless noon.        30
 
See the banana’s broad pennons the wind
  Has torn into shreds in his tropical mood!
Look at the mighty old tamarind,
  That bore fruit in Saladin’s babyhood:
See the pomegranates begin to burn,        35
And the roses, roses, at every turn!
 
Into high calms of the sunny air
  The aloe climbs with her golden flower,
While sentinel yucca and prickly-pear
  With lance and with bayonet guard her bower,        40
And the life-leaf creeps by its fibred edge
To hang out gay bells from the jutting ledge.
 
A glory of oleander bloom
  Borders every bend of the craggy road;
Lemon and spice trees with rare perfume        45
  Lingering cloud-fleets heavily load;
And over the beauty and over the balm
Rises the crown of the royal palm.
 
Far into the hillside’s caverns wind:
  Pillar and ceiling of stalactite        50
Mirrored in lakes the red torches find;
  Corridors zigzag from light to light;
And the long fern swings down the slippery stair
Over thresholds curtained with maiden-hair.
 
Outside, with a motion weirdly slow,        55
  The mangrove walks through secluded coves,
Leaning on crutch-like boughs, that grow
  To a rooted network of thickets and groves,
Where, sheltered by jagged rock-shelves wide,
Eeriest sprites of the deep might hide.        60
 
Under this headland cliff as you row,
  Follow its bastioned layers down
Into fathomless crystal far below
  Vision or ken: spite of old renown,
So massive a wall could Titan erect        65
As the little coralline architect?
 
Against the dusk arches of surf-worn caves,
  In a shimmer of beryl eddies the tide,
Or brightens to topaz where the waves
  Outlined in foam on the reef subside,        70
Or shades into delicate opaline bands
Dreamily lapsing on pale pink sands.
 
Wherever you wander the sea is in sight,
  With its changeable turquoise green and blue,
And its strange transparence of limpid light.        75
  You can watch the work that the Nereids do,
Down, down, where their purple fans unfurl,
Planting their coral and sowing their pearl.
 
Who knows the spot where Atlantis sank?
  Myths of a lovely drowned continent        80
Homeless drift over waters blank:
  What if these reefs were her monument?
Isthmus and cavernous cape may be
Her mountain-summits escaped from the sea.
 
Spirits alone in these islands dwelt        85
  All the dumb, dim years ere Columbus sailed,
The old voyagers said; and it might be spelt
  Into dream-book of legend, if wonders failed,
They were demons that shipwrecked Atlantis, affrayed
At the terror of silence themselves had made.        90
 
Whatever their burthen, the winds have a sound
  As of muffled voices that, sighing, bewail
An unchronicled sorrow, around and around
  Whispering and hushing a half-told tale,—
A musical mystery, filling the air        95
With its endless pathos of vague despair.
 
And again into fantasy’s billowy play
  Ripples memory back with elusive change;
For chrysolite oceans, a blank of gray,
  Fringed with the films of a mirage strange,—        100
A shimmering blur of blossom and gleam:
Can it be Bermoothes? or is it a dream?
 
 
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