Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Ireland
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Ireland: Vol. V.  1876–79.
 
Appendix: Hy-Brasail
The Isle of the Blest
Gerald Griffin (1803–1840)
 
          “From the Isles of Aran and the west continent often appears visible that inchanted island called O’Brasil, and in Irish Beg-ara, or the Lesser Aran, set down in cards of navigation. Whether it be reall and firm land kept hidden by speciall ordinance of God, as the terrestriall paradise, or else some illusion of airy clouds appearing on the surface of the sea, or the craft of evill spirits, is more than our judgments can sound out. There is, westward of Aran, a wild island of huge rocks, (Skira Rocks) the receptacle of a deale of seales thereon yearly slaughtered. These rocks sometimes appear to be a great city far off, full of houses, castles, towers, and chimneys; sometimes full of blazing flames, smoak, and people running to and fro. Another day you would see nothing but a number of ships, with their sailes and riggings; then so many great stakes or reekes of corn and turf; and this not only on fair sun-shining dayes, whereby it might be thought the reflection of the sun-beamse, on the vapours arising about it, had been the cause, but alsoe on dark and cloudy days.”—O’Flaherty’s West Connaught, Irish Archæological Society’s Publications.

ON the ocean that hollows the rocks where ye dwell
A shadowy land has appeared, as they tell;
Men thought it a region of sunshine and rest,
And they called it Hy-Brasail, the isle of the blest;
From year unto year, on the ocean’s blue rim,        5
The beautiful spectre showed lovely and dim;
The golden clouds curtained the deep where it lay,
And it looked like an Eden, away, far away!
 
A peasant who heard of the wonderful tale
In the breeze of the Orient loosened his sail;        10
From Ara, the holy, he turned to the west,
For though Ara was holy, Hy-Brasail was blest.
He heard not the voices that called from the shore,
He heard not the rising wind’s menacing roar;
Home, kindred, and safety he left on that day,        15
And he sped to Hy-Brasail, away, far away!
 
Morn rose on the deep, and that shadowy isle
O’er the faint rim of distance reflected its smile;
Noon burned on the wave, and that shadowy shore
Seemed lovelily distant, and faint as before;        20
Lone evening came down on the wanderer’s track,
And to Ara again he looked timidly back;
O, far on the verge of the ocean it lay,
Yet the isle of the blest was away, far away!
 
Rash dreamer, return! O ye winds of the main,        25
Bear him back to his own peaceful Ara again.
Rash fool! for a vision of fanciful bliss,
To barter thy calm life of labor and peace.
The warning of reason was spoken in vain;
He never revisited Ara again!        30
Night fell on the deep, amidst tempest and spray,
And he died on the waters, away, far away!
 
 
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