The morning shone on Tagus' rocky side,
And airs of summer swelled the yellow tide,
When, rising from his melancholy bed,
And faint, and feebly by Antonio led,
Poor Camoens, subdued by want and woe,
Along the winding margin wandered slow,
His harp, that once could each warm feeling move
Of patriot glory or of tenderest love,
His sole and sable friend (while a faint tone
Rose from the wires) placed by a mossy stone.
How beautiful the sun ascending shines
From ridge to ridge, along the purple vines!
How pure the azure of the opening skies!
How resonant the nearer rock replies
To call of early mariners! and, hark!
The distant whistle from yon parting bark,
That down the channel as serene she strays,
Her gray sail mingles with the morning haze,
Bound to explore, o'er ocean's stormy reign,
New lands that lurk amid the lonely main!
A transient fervour touched the old man's breast;
He raised his eyes, so long by care depressed,
And while they shone with momentary fire,
Ardent he struck the long-forgotten lyre.
From Tagus' yellow-sanded shore,
O'er the billows, as they roar,
O'er the blue sea, waste and wide,
Our bark threw back the burning tide,
By northern breezes cheer'ly borne,
On to the kingdoms of the morn.
Blanco, whose cold shadow vast
Chills the western wave, is past!
Huge Bojador, frowning high,
Thy dismal terrors we defy!
But who may violate the sleep
And silence of the sultry deep;
Where, beneath the intenser sun,
Hot showers descend, red lightnings run;
Whilst all the pale expanse beneath
Lies burning wide, without a breath;
And at mid-day from the mast,
No shadow on the deck is cast!
Night by night, still seen the same,
Strange lights along the cordage flame,
Perhaps, the spirits of the good,
That wander this forsaken flood
Sing to the seas, as slow we float,
A solemn and a holy note!
Spectre of the southern main,
Thou barr'st our onward way in vain,
Wrapping the terrors of thy form,
In the thunder's rolling storm!
Fearless o'er the indignant tide,
On to the east our galleys ride.
Triumph! for the toil is o'er--
We kiss the far-sought Indian shore!
Glittering to the orient ray,
The banners of the Cross display!
Does my heart exulting bound?
Alas, forlorn, I gaze around:
Feeble, poor, and old, I stand,
A stranger in my native land!
My sable slave (ah, no! my only friend,
Whose steps upon my rugged path attend)
Sees, but with tenderness that fears to speak,
The tear that trickles down my aged cheek!
My harp is silent,--famine shrinks mine eye,--
'Give me a little food for charity!'

More verses by William Lisle Bowles