Wednesday, May 3, 2017


Under the high unclouded sun
That makes the ship and shadow one,
     I sail away as from the fort
Booms sullenly the noonday gun.

The odorous airs blow thin and fine,
The sparkling waves like emeralds shine,
     The lustre of the coral reefs
Gleams whitely through the tepid brine.

And glitters o'er the liquid miles
The jewelled ring of verdant isles,
     Where generous Nature holds her court
Of ripened bloom and sunny smiles.

Encinctured by the faithful seas
Inviolate gardens load the breeze,
     Where flaunt like giant-warders' plumes
The pennants of the cocoa-trees.

Enthroned in light and bathed in balm,
In lonely majesty the Palm
     Blesses the isles with waving hands, –
High-Priest of the eternal Calm.

Yet Northward with an equal mind
I steer my course, and leave behind
     The rapture of the Southern skies,
The wooing of the Southern wind.

For here o'er Nature's wanton bloom
Falls far and near the shade of gloom,
     Cast from the hovering vulture-wings
Of one dark thought of woe and doom.

I know that in the snow-white pines
The brave Norse fire of freedom shines,
     And fain for this I leave the land
Where endless summer pranks the vines.

O strong, free North, so wise and brave!
O South, too lovely for a slave!
     Why read ye not the changeless truth, –
The free can conquer but to save?

May God upon these shining sands
Send Love and Victory clasping hands,
     And Freedom's banners wave in peace
Forever o'er the rescued lands !

And here, in that triumphant hour,
Shall yielding Beauty wed with Power;
     And blushing earth and smiling sea
In dalliance deck the bridal bower.

— John Hay, Key West, Wednesday, March 9, 1864.

SOURCES: John Hay, The Complete Poetical Works of John Hay, p. 140-2Clara B. Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, Volume 1, p. 177-8. Michael Burlingame & John R. Turner Ettlinger, Editors, Inside Lincoln's White House: The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay, p. 178.

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