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Friday, October 26, 2018

"FIRST LANDING OF THE PILGRIMS" BY ROBERT SOUTHEY

I found a second poem for this year's Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge. It's about the arrival of the Pilgrims, some of whom were my ancestors, in the New World  What's unusual about it is it was written by Robert Southey who was a British Poet Laureate. I found it here on the Bartleby.com website:




First Landing of the Pilgrims
Robert Southey (1774–1843)

(Excerpt)

DAYS pass, winds veer, and favoring skies   
Change like the face of fortune; storms arise;   
    Safely, but not within her port desired,   
              The good ship lies.   
          Where the long sandy Cape           
          Bends and embraces round,   
  As with a lover’s arm, the sheltered sea,   
            A haven she hath found   
From adverse gales and boisterous billows free.   

            Now strike your sails,           
  Ye toilworn mariners, and take your rest   
        Long as the fierce northwest   
          In that wild fit prevails,   
Tossing the waves uptorn with frantic sway.   
          Keep ye within the bay,           
            Contented to delay   
Your course till the elemental madness cease,   
And heaven and ocean are again at peace.   

            How gladly there,   
      Sick of the uncomfortable ocean,           
The impatient passengers approach the shore;   
  Escaping from the sense of endless motion,   
To feel firm earth beneath their feet once more,   
          To breathe again the air   
    With taint of bilge and cordage undefiled,           
  And drink of living springs, if there they may,   
And with fresh fruits and wholesome food repair   
      Their spirits, weary of the watery way.   

              And oh! how beautiful   
            The things of earth appear
            To eyes that far and near   
          For many a week have seen   
        Only the circle of the restless sea!   
            With what a fresh delight   
      They gaze again on fields and forests green,
              Hovel, or whatsoe’er   
    May bear the trace of man’s industrious hand;   
            How grateful to their sight   
            The shore of shelving sand,   
      As the light boat moves joyfully to land!           

  Woods they beheld, and huts, and piles of wood,   
            And many a trace of toil,   
  But not green fields or pastures. ’T was a land   
              Of pines and sand;   
    Dark pines, that from the loose and sparkling soil           
      Rose in their strength aspiring: far and wide   
      They sent their searching roots on every side,   
      And thus, by depth and long extension, found   
Firm hold and grasp within that treacherous ground:   
  So had they risen and flourished; till the earth,           
      Unstable as its neighboring ocean there,   
    Like an unnatural mother, heaped around   
  Their trunks its wavy furrows white and high;   
    And stifled thus the living things it bore.   
            Half buried thus they stand,           
            Their summits sere and dry,   
    Marking, like monuments, the funeral mound;   
    As when the masts of some tall vessel show   
Where, on the fatal shoals, the wreck lies whelmed below.
*        *        *        *        *
    
Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes, ed. by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Boston: James R. Osgood & Co., 1876–79

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