the archipelago

Sail before the morning breeze
The Sporads through and Cyclades
They look like isles of absentees—
                              Gone whither?

You bless Apollo’s cheering ray,
But Delos, his own isle, today
Not e’en a Selkirk there to pray
                              God friend me!

Scarse lone this groups, scarse lone and bare
When Theseus roved a Raleigh there
Each isle a small Virginia fair—
                              Unravished.

Nor less through havoc fell they rue,
They still retain in outline true
Their grace of form when earth was new
                              And primal.

But beauty clear, the frame’s as wey
Never shall make one quite forget
Thy picture, Pan, therein once set—
                              Life’s revel!

‘Til Polynesis reft of palms,
Seaward no valley breathes her balms—
Not such as musk thy rings of calms,
                              Marquesas!

(Melville, from Timoleon, 1891.)

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