Poems for the Sea/Return to Native Land

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Poems of the Sea, 1850 - Return to Native Land.jpg


Land of birth, whose outline dear,
O'er the morning mist doth peer,
Blessed hills whose wings outspread
Seemed to follow, as we fled,
When our parting glance was bent
On our country's battlement,
As with white sails set, we sped
Far away, o'er Ocean dread,
How our glad return ye greet
With a smile of welcome sweet!
He who fashioned earth and sea,
Made no hills more fair than ye.

Spires! that break the rolling tide
Of man's worldliness and pride,

Asking with your Sabbath chime
For his consecrated time,
And with holy chant and prayer
Soothing all his woe and care,—
Minster and cathedral high
Ne'er have shut ye from mine eye,
With your church-yard's grassy sod,
Where my musing childhood trod,
With your music on the glade,
Which the roving Indian staid,
Who, of yore, at twilight dim,
Starting, caught the white man's hymn,
Hallowed spires! that fleck the vale,
Heaven's ambassadors!—all hail!

Trees! with arch of verdure bright,
Gleaming on the gazer's sight,
Have ye met the wintry blast
Bravely, since we saw ye last?
Was your spring-tide wakening sweet,
With the grass flowers at your feet?
Nest the birds with breast of gold
Mid your branches, as of old?

Pours the thrush his carol fair?
Glides the crimson oriole there?
Have ye o'er their callow young
Still your kind protection flung?
Blessings on ye! Dews and rain
Fill with sap each healthful vein;
Blessings on ye! Wear serene
Nature's coronal of green,
And no woodman's savage blade
Dare your birthright to invade.

Roofs! that in the vista rise,
Rude, or towering toward the skies,
Not by wealth or taste alone
Are your innate treasures shown,
Tho', perchance, your hearth-stones show
Signs of penury and woe,
Yet where'er with peaceful sigh
Sits the mother patiently,
Plying still her needle's care
For the child that slumbers there.
Wheresoe'er in cottage low
Rocks the cradle to and fro,

There the eye of God doth turn,
There the lamp of soul doth burn.
Roofs! that nurse this deathless light,
Precious are ye in His sight.

Throngs! I see ye on the strand,
As the steamer nears the land,
Some might fortune's favourites seem,
Borne on pride or pleasure's stream;
Others, marked by weary care,
Labor's rugged livery wear;
Ye, who humbly dig the soil,
Brow and hand embrowned by toil,
If ye eat my country's bread,
If to work her weal ye tread,
Faithful even in lowest sphere,
Friends ye are, like kindred dear.

Since I last these scenes surveyed,
Who have in the tomb been laid?
Who, the bitter tear have shed,
O'er the bosom of the dead?

Who beneath the sable pall
Hath the poet's lyre let fall?
Who that won a nation's trust
Sleep in silence and the dust?
While with faint and trembling fires
Fearfully my heart inquires,
Hears it not an answer swell
"God hath ordered! all is well!"

Home! my home! though earth and sky
Still conceal thee from mine eye,
Still though envious leagues remain
Ere thy vine-clad porch I gain,
Lightest leaf that wooed the gale,
Frailest plant with petals pale,
That beside thy threshold grew,
Ne'er have faded from my view;
On my cheek, through cloud and storm,
Still thy parting kiss was warm;
O'er each dream thine accents free
Stole like angel melody;
Little footsteps, light as wings,
Hands that swept the tuneful strings,

Lips that touched with filial flame
Syllabled a mother's name,
With their memories, warm and true,
Kept Thee ever in my view;
And when loftier mansions prest
Lures of pleasure on their guest,
Held thee, in thine armour bright
Nearest to me day and night.
Home! by absence made more dear,
Heaven be praised that thou art near;
Heaven be praised, that o'er the sea
Once more, I return to thee!

What has been the wanderer's gain?
Sight of foreign land and main?
Sight of visioned forms that sweep
O'er the castle's ruined steep?
Sight of haunts to history dear?
Sight of palace, king, or peer?
No! the joy that lights the eye
When the native shore draws nigh.

In the heart a deeper sense
Of its humbling impotence,
On the lip a grateful strain,—
This hath been the wanderer's gain.