Poems and Essays

by Joseph Howe




[On viewing England for the first time.]
Land of my Fathers! do I then behold
Thy noble outline rising from the sea?
Is this the Isle of which such tales are told?
Home of the wise, the valiant, and the free,
Dear to her sons,—perchance as dear to me,
  Whose tongue is her’s—and whose impetuous tide
Of life is of the sap of that great tree,
The trunk of which stands here in all its pride,

For whose majestic limbs the world is scarce too wide.
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And is this England? let more sail be spread,
  The mother’s breast invites her unknown child,
The glorious visions which his youth have fed,
Crowd on the mind and make him almost wild
With ecstacy, as, in the distance piled,
Her verdant cliffs in solemn grandeur rise:—
  By mixed emotions every sense beguiled,
The tears are standing in his straining eyes,

While all too slow each cloud the lagging breeze supplies.
And is this England? Shall I shortly tread
The hallowed soil from which my Fathers came?
  Where sleep in honored graves, the mighty dead,
Who built the stately fabric of her fame,
And, in her Temples, still have kept the flame
Of Freedom burning on from age to age?
How, like familiar words, each magic name,
  In childhood conned from the historic page
Of Patriot, Warrior, Poet, Saint or Sage,
Comes back upon me now, while drawing near
The soil on which they labored, fought and sung;
And shall I view the scenes they made so dear,

And stroll, entranced, their mouldering tombs among?
Stand where, from craven John reluctant wrung,
The Charter’s ample guards were first unroll’d,
Where, ’neath the Lion Banner, old and young,
The hardy Yeoman, Priest, and Baron bold,

A lesson gave their sons more precious far than gold?
And shall I rove beside the very stream
Which Shakspeare loved? beneath the trees recline,
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That broke from his high brow the noonday beam,
Less radiant, aye, and almost less divine

  Than were the gems from that exhaustless mine
The brow contained, whose wealth the world supplies,
Whose teeming fancies, like to generous wine,
Ripen with age? Sweetest of England’s ties,

Where’er her children live, there Shakspeare never dies.
On, on, good Bark!—I go where Milton sleeps,
Where Hampden’s soul despotic power defied,
Where Nelson’s urn a grateful Nation keeps,
Where Dryden wrote, and gallant Russell died,
Where in her ancient Temples, side by side,
  The master spirits of my Country strove,
Where Fox and Chatham thundered in their pride,
Where Spencer lines of varied sweetness wove,
Where precious memories haunt each mountain, stream and               grove.
  1838. [Page 78]