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: New Zealand
Forest and Sea-Shore
Alfred Domett (1811–1887)
 
(From Ranolf and Amohia)

AND thus o’er many a mountain wood-entangled,
And stony plain of stunted fern that hides
The bright-green oily anise; and hillsides
And valleys, where its dense luxuriance balks
With interclinging fronds and tough red stalks        5
The traveller’s hard-fought path, they took their way.
Sometimes they traversed, half the dreary day,
A deep-glenned wilderness all dark and dank
With trees, whence tattered and dishevelled dangled
Pale streaming strips of mosses long and lank;        10
Where at each second step of tedious toil
On perfect forms of fallen trunks they tread,
And ankle-deep sink in their yielding bed,—
Moss-covered rottenness long turned to soil,—
Until, ascending ever in the drear        15
Dumb gloom forlorn, a sudden rushing sound
Of pattering rain strikes freshly on the ear,—
’T is but the breeze that up so high has found
Amid the rattling leaves a free career!
To the soft, mighty, sea-like roar they list:        20
Or else ’t is calm; the gloom itself is gone;
And all is airiness and light-filled mist,
As on the open mountain-side, so lone
And lofty, freely breathing they emerge.
And sometimes through a league-long swamp they urge        25
Slow progress, dragging through foot-sucking slush
Their weary limbs, red-painted to the knees
In pap rust-stained by iron or seeding rush;
But soon through limpid brilliant streams that travel
With murmuring, momentary-gleaming foam        30
That flits and flashes over sun-warmed gravel
They wade, and laughing wash that unctuous loam
Off blood-stained limbs now clean beyond all cavil
And start refreshed new road-knots to unravel.
And what delight, at length, that glimpse instils,        35
That wedge-shaped opening in the wooded hills,
Which, like a cup, the far-off ocean fills!
Anon they skirt the winding wild sea-shore;
From woody crag or ferny bluff admiring
The dim-bright beautiful blue bloom it wore,        40
That still Immensity, that placid Ocean,
With all its thousand leagues of level calm,
Tremendously serene; he, fancying more
Than feeling, for tired spirits peace-desiring,
With the world-fret and life’s low fever sore,        45
Weary and worn with turmoil and emotion,
The soothing might of its majestic balm.
Or to the beach descending, with joined hands
They pace the firm tide-saturated sands
Whitening beneath their footpress as they pass;        50
And from that fresh and tender marble floor
So glossy-shining in the morning sun,
Watch the broad billows at their chase untiring,—
How they come rolling on, in rougher weather,—
How in long lines they swell and link together,        55
Till, as their watery walls they grandly lift,
Their level crests extending sideways, swift
Shoot over into headlong roofs of glass
Cylindric, thundering as they curl and run
And close, down-rushing to a weltering dance        60
Of foam that slides along the smooth expanse,
Nor seldom, in a streaked and creamy sheet
Comes unexpected hissing round their feet,
While with great leaps and hurry-skurry fleet,
His louder laughter mixed with hers so sweet,        65
Each tries to stop the other’s quick retreat.
Or else on sands that, white and loose, give way
At every step, they toil, till labor-sped
Their limbs in the noon-loneliness they lay
On that hot, soft, yet unelastic bed,        70
With brittle seaweed, pink and black, o’erstrewn,
And wrecks of many a forest-growth upthrown,
Bare stem and barkless branches, clean, sea-bleached,
Milk-white, or stringy logs deep-red as wine,
Their ends ground smooth against a thousand rocks,        75
Dead-heavy, soaked with penetrating brine;
Or bolted fragment of some ship storm-breached
And shattered,—all with barnacles o’ergrown,
Gray-crusted thick with hollow-coned small shells,—
So silent in the sunshine still and lone,        80
So reticent of what it sadly tells.
 
 
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