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.
 
Introductory to Australasia
Australia
Thomas Kibble Hervey (1804–1859)
 
(Excerpt)

AUSTRALIA, in her varied forms, expands,
And opens to the sky her hundred lands,
From where the day-beam paints the waters blue,
Around the blessed islands of Arroo,
And life, in all its myriad mouldings, plays,        5
Amid the beauty of the tropic blaze,—
Where summer watches with undying eye,
And equal day and night divide the sky,—
Where the throned Phœbus wakens all the flowers,
To do him homage in his own bright bowers,—        10
And Cynthia, on her empyrean height,
Holds crowded levee through the livelong night,—
Where starlight is a gala of the skies,
And sunset is a cloud-sketched paradise;
Away, away, to where the billows rave,        15
Around the quenched volcano’s echoing cave,—
Where she, the lonely beauty, sits and smiles,
In sweetness, like an orphan of the isles,
Fair as fair Aphrodite on the deep,
But lone as Ariadne on her steep!        20
Away,—away, to where the dolphins play,
And the sea-lion tracks his pathless way;
Away,—away, where southern icebergs roll,
Upon the troubled billows round the pole;
Where the bold mariner, whose course has run        25
Beyond the journey of the circling sun,
Condemned, for lingering months, to sleep and wake
By nights that cloud not, days that never break,
To watch by stars that fade not from the eye,
And moons that have no rival in the sky,        30
Lies down to slumber, and awakes to weep
For brighter scenes that rose upon his sleep,
And many a glance from faces far away,
That turned the darkness into more than day,—
Till his fond bosom glows with fancy’s fires,        35
And hope embodies all the heart desires,
And every vision of his distant home
Warms, like a prophecy of days to come!
 
Isles of the Orient! gardens of the East!
Thou giant secret of the liquid waste,        40
Long ages in untrodden paths concealed,
Or, but in glimpses faint and few revealed,
Like some chimera of the ocean-caves,
Same dark and sphinx-like riddle of the waves,
Till he, the northern Œdipus, unfurled        45
His venturous sail, and solved it to the world!
Surpassing beauty sits upon thy brow,
But darkness veils thy all of time, save now;
Enshrouded in the shadows of the past,
And secret in thy birth as is the blast!        50
If, when the waters and the land were weighed,
Thy vast foundations in the deep were laid;
Or, mid the tempests of a thousand years,
Where through the depths her shell the mermaid steers,
Mysterious workmen wrought unseen at thee,        55
And reared thee, like a Babel, in the sea;
It Afric’s dusky children sought the soil
Which yields her fruits without the tiller’s toil;
Or, southward wandering on his dubious way,
Came to thy blooming shores the swarth Malay;—        60
’T is darkness all! long years have o’er thee rolled
Their flight unnoted, and their tale untold!
But beautiful thou art, as fancy deems
The visioned regions of her sweetest dreams;
Fair as the Moslem, in his fervor, paints        65
The promised valleys of his prophet’s saints;
Bright with the brightness which the poet’s eye
Flings o’er the long-lost bowers of Araby!
The soul of beauty haunts thy sunny glades,
The soul of music whispers through thy shades,        70
And Nature, gazing on her loveliest plan,
Sees all supremely excellent but man!
*        *        *        *        *
Now on my soul the rising vision warms,
But mingled in a thousand lovely forms.
Methinks I see Australian landscapes still,        75
But softer beauty sits on every hill;—
I see bright meadows decked in livelier green,
The yellow cornfield, and the blossomed bean;
A hundred flocks o’er smiling pastures roam,
And hark! the music of the harvest-home.        80
Methinks I hear the hammer’s busy sound,
And cheerful hum of human voices round,—
The laughter, and the song that lightens toil,
Sung in the language of my native isle;
In mighty bays unnumbered navies ride,        85
Or come and go upon the distant tide,
In land-locked harbors rest their giant forms,
Or boldly launch upon the “Bay of Storms”;
While the swarth native crowns the glorious plan
In all the towering dignity of man.        90
 
The vision leads me on by many a stream;
And spreading cities crowd upon my dream,
Where turrets darkly frown, and lofty spires
Point to the stars, and sparkle in their fires.
Here Sydney gazes from the mountain-side,        95
Narcissus-like, upon the glassy tide!
There Hobart stretches, where the Derwent sees
Her flaxen ringlets tremble in the breeze!
O’er rising towns Notasian commerce reigns,
And temples crowd Tasmania’s lovely plains,        100
And browsing goats, without a keeper, stray,
Where the bushranger tracked the covert way.
 
The prospect varies in an endless range,
Villas and lawns go by in ceaseless change.
Glenfinlas! thou hast hundred rival vales,        105
Where quiet hamlets deck the sloping dales;
And, wafted on the gale from many a dell,
Methinks I hear the village Sabbath bell!
And now the anthem swells; on every hand
A cloud of incense gathers o’er the land;        110
Faith upward mounts, upon devotion’s wings,
And, like the lark, at heaven’s high portal sings;
From myriad tongues the song of praise is poured,
And o’er them floats “the Spirit of the Lord.”
 
 
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