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.
 
Various Islands: Canary Islands
Teneriffe
Seymour Green Wheeler Benjamin (1837–1914)
 
THERE is an isle which I have seen,
Whose slopes and vales are fadeless green,
Whose flowers are evermore in bloom,
And all whose seasons breathe perfume,—
The fairest of the Happy Isles        5
Whereon eternal summer smiles.
There the dark cypress rears its spire
Against the sunset’s tropic fire;
There the palm lifts its bronze-like shaft
Slow-rocking when the sea-winds waft        10
The caprioté’s song of love
Where black-eyed Spanish maidens rove
And roses cull for festal days,
And on the passing wanderer gaze
With glances passionate and keen,        15
Yet full of tenderness, I ween.
 
The lizard basks upon the walls
Whereon the yellow sunlight falls,
Or darts amid the cactus’ spines,
Or where the purple-loaded vines        20
Over the trellis weave a bower,
And deck the gray, embattled tower.
Around the isle volcanic capes,
In huge and castellated shapes,
And ruddy rocks grotesque and weird,        25
Like giants of the deep are reared;
While age to age, forevermore,
The surges roll with sullen roar
Upon the lava-laden shore.
Enthroned on precipices grand,        30
Serene above that summer land,
Gray Teneriffe in solitude
Commands the ocean’s mighty flood,
And his fire-riven breast enshrouds
With the majestic pomp of clouds,        35
While from the crater-peak on high,
Outlined stupendous in the sky,
Fair wreaths of mist perpetual rise,
Like daily smoke of sacrifice
Burned to the immortals in the skies.        40
But when the sun draws near the verge
Of the receding westering surge,
O, then across the eastern sea,—
Like shadow of eternity,—
Impalpable, mysterious, vast,        45
The shadow of the Peak is cast,
A purple mist against the arch
Through which the constellations march,
Until Night’s curtains are unfurled,
And darkness veils the sleeping world.        50
The music of the sea-beat shores
Up through the silent twilight soars,
In eerie, plaintive requiem lay
For a lost race long past away,
A pastoral race whose bones were laid        55
In the dread cavern’s sunless shade; 1
Thy mystic murmurs soft and low
By the old patriarch gently flow,—
The dragon-tree whose crest upbears
The burden of three thousand years.        60
By pathways where the ocean laves
Their footsteps with its harmless waves,
The islesmen in procession wend,
Or over craggy mountains tend,
To dance about the virgin’s shrine        65
While maidens form in merry line
And hail the shimmering evening star
With tinkle of the blithe guitar.
The chime from ancient campaniles
O’er lovely Orotava steals;        70
From slope to slope the music swells,
Till Realejo’s silvery bells
Respond among the mountain dells,
And all the fragrant evening air
Repeats the melody of prayer.        75
 
Note 1. The Guanches, who were always embalmed and buried in almost inaccessible caves. They were finally exterminated by the Spaniards. [back]
 
 
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