Columbian Ode


Four hundred years ago a tangled waste
   Lay sleeping on the west Atlantic's side;
Their devious ways the Old World's millions traced
   Content, and loved, and labored, dared and died.
While students still believed the charts they conned,
   And revelled in their thriftless ignorance,
Nor dreamed of other lands that lay beyond
   Old Ocean's dense, indefinite expanse.


But deep within her heart old Nature knew
   That she had once arrayed, at Earth's behest,
Another offspring, fine and fair to view,—
   The chosen suckling of the mother's breast.
The child was wrapped in vestments soft and fine,
   Each fold a work of Nature's matchless art;
The mother looked on it with love divine,
   And strained the loved one closely to her heart.
And there it lay, and with the warmth grew strong
   And hearty, by the salt sea breezes fanned,
Till Time with mellowing touches passed along,
   And changed the infant to a mighty land.


But men knew naught of this, till there arose
   That mighty mariner, the Genoese,
Who dared to try, in spite of fears and foes,
   The unknown fortunes of unsounded seas.
O noblest of Italia's sons, thy bark
   Went not alone into that shrouding night!

O dauntless darer of the rayless dark,
   The world sailed with thee to eternal light!
The deer-haunts that with game were crowded then
   To-day are tilled and cultivated lands;
The schoolhouse tow'rs where Bruin had his den,
   And where the wigwam stood the chapel stands;
The place that nurtured men of savage mien
   Now teems with men of Nature's noblest types;
Where moved the forest-foliage banner green,
   Now flutters in the breeze the stars and stripes!


This poem is in the public domain.

About this Poem

"Columbian Ode" appeared in The Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar (Dodd, Mead and Company, 1913).