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Far out beyond the furrowed seas they lie,
Those fair Atlantic isles; beyond the strait
Where Calpé sees the glow of sunset die
On Abyla, and through the western gate
Hears from the unknown deep the waves roll in.
Apart they lie, and for an outer wall,
Lest roving eyes should mark, and access win,
White zones of baffling mist encompass all.
And oft from hidden cliffs is borne the din
Of tides that leap and fall.


Nor daring might, nor violence may assail
Those happy isles, for girt about are they
With splintered crags set eastward, and the wail
Of winds is ever round them, and the spray
Whirls its salt dew upon the headland brown.
While, far below, the turmoil of the foam
Caverns the rock, where ceaseless thunders drown
The cries of seals and sea-calves fain to roam;
For few to that dread vortex drifted down
May 'scape their prison-home.


No mortal lives whose feet have reached and trod
The quiet valleys on the further shore,
Though some, by favour of the blue-haired god,
Hither have come in golden days of yore,
And round the cape, through stress of whistling sleet
Swinging with strife of rapid oars and strong,
Have beached their galleys where 'mid odours sweet
White-vestured maidens weave their choric song;
In linkèd dance the level sands they beat,
And speed the hours along.


Faded the glamour of the glad return,
Fond wife, and waiting hearth, and lordless hall;
Faded the old deep hunger to discern
The weedy stones of the white harbour wall.
There was no charm to woo their feet again
To Crete or Corinth, and the marts of men.
Dim were the old bright hills, the pastured plain,
The blue smoke pleasant to the wanderer's ken,
The silver olive slopes, the peasant's wain,
The cattle in the fen.


So on the yellow beach their vessels lay,
And round the gaping beams and tilted prow
The bold device grew fainter day by day,
Telling of stern resolves relinquished now.
And the wide world, with all its mad unrest,
Its bitter envies, hate, and haunting care,
Its war of passions, making every breast
An Ilium, burning into black despair--
These, like the gloom without, no more oppressed,
But all was calm and fair.


And Life became to them a faëry dream,
Or as the life of gods, when o'er the grass
And dark wood-violets of Tempe gleam
Their white unsandalled feet; 'twas joy to pass
Into such perfect quiet, where the sense
On the smooth tide of being lay afloat
Buoyant as river-lilies. Who would thence
Win forth to reach again the shores remote,
Or mourn the days when they, with sinews tense,
The waste of waters smote?


More pleasant seemed it on the turf to lie,
And watch, through arching lattice of moist boughs,
The sails of many a white cloud argosy
Becalmed in blue mid-heaven; and thus to drowse
While Fancy made of every common thing
A wonder, till the faint delicious beat
Of snowy sea-gull wings seemed journeying
From Circe's isle, and through the noonday heat
Sang the slow bees that round the heath-flower swing,
And know that Life is sweet.


And sometimes, ere the light feet of the fawn
Had brushed the dews of sunrise, one might see
A shadow moving o'er the silent lawn
To some loved haunt, where it would wander free,
Unruled of the wan Moon or climbing Day.
And sometimes many came, and clustered round
The hillock with its cloud of pines, or lay
Among the lush grass, where the river wound
By plane-tree roots and bowers with many a spray
Of honeysuckle crowned.


And still they come--the thoughts of poet souls
Who chafe amid the world's ignoble strife:
Thus, for awhile, they 'scape the storm that rolls
For ever in the crowded courts of Life:
Free, like the mountain-bird that cannot build
Above the thunder, yet when every peak
Is drenched in rain and fire, soars upward, filled
With joy supreme, high o'er his eyrie bleak;
Regions of sunlight that no clouds have chilled
On mighty vans to seek.


O happy isles of peace! we deem it wise
That round your shores the Eternal Power has thrown
The floating mist, and veiled you from our eyes;
For, were it lifted, and the way made known,
Whene'er Life's conflict deepened, and there grew
The weary sense of hopeless warfaring,
Faint-hearted we, disdaining to renew
The inglorious strife, might loose the helmet string,
And sheathe the sword, and flee where none pursue,
Nor blasts of battle ring.


But for brief rest our spirits may repair
To those bright isles of summer, as at noon
The mower lies and feels the fragrant air
Play round his hot brow, knowing that full soon
The last swath must be carried; so anon
He rises, and glad thoughts the music are
To which his swift scythe swings in unison.
And for that toiler, when the sun afar
Drops, and the merry-makers all are gone,
How fair the homeward star.