The Lotos-Eaters

⁠‘Courage!’ he said, and pointed toward the land,
⁠‘This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon.’
⁠In the afternoon they came unto a land
⁠In which it seemed always afternoon.
⁠All round the coast the languid air did swoon,
⁠Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.
⁠Full-faced above the valley stood the moon;
⁠And, like a downward smoke, the slender stream
⁠Along the cliff to fall and pause and fall did seem.
⁠ A land of streams! some, like a downward smoke,
⁠ Slow-dropping veils of thinnest lawn, did go;
⁠And some thro’ wavering lights and shadows broke,
⁠Rolling a slumbrous sheet of foam below.
⁠They saw the gleaming river seaward flow
⁠From the inner land; far off, three mountain-tops,
⁠Three silent pinnacles of aged snow,
⁠Stood sunset-flush’d; and, dew’d with showery drops,
⁠Up-clomb the shadowy pine above the woven copse.

The charmed sunset linger’d low adown
⁠In the red West; thro’ mountain clefts the dale
⁠Was seen far inland, and the yellow down
⁠Border’d with palm, and many a winding vale
⁠And meadow, set with slender galingale;
⁠A land where all things always seem’d the same!
⁠And round about the keel with faces pale,
⁠Dark faces pale against that rosy flame,
⁠The mild-eyed melancholy Lotos-eaters came.

⁠Branches they bore of that enchanted stem,
⁠Laden with flower and fruit, whereof they gave
⁠To each, but whoso did receive of them
⁠And taste, to him the gushing of the wave
⁠Far far away did seem to mourn and rave
⁠On alien shores; and if his fellow spake,
⁠His voice was thin, as voices from the grave;
⁠And deep-asleep he seem’d, yet all awake,
And music in his ears his beating heart did make.

⁠ They sat them down upon the yellow sand,
⁠Between the sun and moon upon the shore;
⁠And sweet it was to dream of Fatherland,
⁠Of child, and wife, and slave; but evermore
Most weary seem’d the sea, weary the oar,
⁠Weary the wandering fields of barren foam.
⁠Then some one said, “We will return no more;”
⁠And all at once they sang, “Our island home
⁠Is far beyond the wave; we will no longer roam.”

                     CHORIC SONG


⁠There is sweet music here that softer falls
⁠Than petals from blown roses on the grass,
⁠Or night-dews on still waters between walls
⁠Of shadowy granite, in a gleaming pass;
⁠Music that gentlier on the spirit lies,
⁠Than tir’d eyelids upon tir’d eyes;
⁠Music that brings sweet sleep down from the blissful skies.
⁠Here are cool mosses deep,
⁠And thro’ the moss the ivies creep,
⁠And in the stream the long-leaved flowers weep,
⁠And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep.


⁠Why are we weigh’d upon with heaviness,
⁠And utterly consumed with sharp distress,
⁠While all things else have rest from weariness?
⁠All things have rest: why should we toil alone,
⁠We only toil, who are the first of things,
⁠And make perpetual moan,
⁠Still from one sorrow to another thrown;
⁠Nor ever fold our wings,
⁠And cease from wanderings,
⁠Nor steep our brows in slumber’s holy balm;
⁠Nor harken what the inner spirit sings,
⁠“There is no joy but calm!”—
⁠Why should we only toil, the roof and crown of things?


⁠Lo! in the middle of the wood,
⁠The folded leaf is woo’d from out the bud
⁠With winds upon the branch, and there
⁠Grows green and broad, and takes no care,
⁠Sun-steep’d at noon, and in the moon
⁠Nightly dew-fed; and turning yellow
⁠Falls, and floats adown the air.
⁠Lo! sweeten’d with the summer light,
⁠The full-juiced apple, waxing over-mellow,
⁠Drops in a silent autumn night.
⁠All its allotted length of days
⁠The flower ripens in its place,
⁠Ripens and fades, and falls, and hath no toil,
⁠Fast-rooted in the fruitful soil.


⁠Hateful is the dark-blue sky,
⁠Vaulted o’er the dark-blue sea.
⁠Death is the end of life; ah, why
⁠Should life all labor be?
⁠Let us alone. Time driveth onward fast,
⁠And in a little while our lips are dumb.
⁠Let us alone. What is it that will last?
⁠All things are taken from us, and become
⁠Portions and parcels of the dreadful past.
⁠Let us alone. What pleasure can we have
⁠To war with evil? Is there any peace
⁠In ever climbing up the climbing wave?
⁠All things have rest, and ripen toward the grave
⁠In silence—ripen, fall, and cease:
⁠Give us long rest or death, dark death, or dreamful ease.


⁠How sweet it were, hearing the downward stream,
⁠With half-shut eyes ever to seem
⁠Falling asleep in a half-dream!
⁠To dream and dream, like yonder amber light,
⁠Which will not leave the myrrh-bush on the height;
⁠To hear each other’s whisper’d speech;
⁠Eating the Lotos day by day,
⁠To watch the crisping ripples on the beach,
⁠And tender curving lines of creamy spray;
⁠To lend our hearts and spirits wholly
⁠To the influence of mild-minded melancholy;
⁠To muse and brood and live again in memory,
⁠With those old faces of our infancy
⁠Heap’d over with a mound of grass,
⁠Two handfuls of white dust, shut in an urn of brass!


⁠Dear is the memory of our wedded lives,
⁠And dear the last embraces of our wives
⁠And their warm tears; but all hath suffer’d change;
⁠For surely now our household hearths are cold,
⁠Our sons inherit us, our looks are strange,
⁠And we should come like ghosts to trouble joy.
⁠Or else the island princes over-bold
⁠Have eat our substance, and the minstrel sings
⁠Before them of the ten years’ war in Troy,
⁠And our great deeds, as half-forgotten things.
⁠Is there confusion in the little isle?
⁠Let what is broken so remain.
⁠The Gods are hard to reconcile;
⁠’Tis hard to settle order once again.
⁠There is confusion worse than death,
⁠Trouble on trouble, pain on pain,
⁠Long labor unto aged breath,
⁠Sore task to hearts worn out by many wars
⁠And eyes grown dim with gazing on the pilot-stars.


⁠But, propped on beds of amaranth and moly,
⁠How sweet—while warm airs lull us, blowing lowly—
⁠With half-dropped eyelids still,
⁠Beneath a heaven dark and holy,
⁠To watch the long bright river drawing slowly
⁠His waters from the purple hill—
⁠To hear the dewy echoes calling
⁠From cave to cave thro’ the thick-twined vine—
⁠To watch the emerald-color’d water falling
⁠Thro’ many a woven acanthus-wreath divine!
⁠Only to hear and see the far-off sparkling brine,
⁠Only to hear were sweet, stretch’d out beneath the pine.


⁠The Lotos blooms below the barren peak,
⁠The Lotos blows by every winding creek;
⁠All day the wind breathes low with mellower tone;
⁠Thro’ every hollow cave and alley lone
⁠Round and round the spicy downs the yellow Lotos-dust is blown.
⁠We have had enough of action, and of motion we,
⁠Roll’d to starboard, roll’d to larboard, when the surge was seething free,
⁠Where the wallowing monster spouted his foam-fountains in the sea.
⁠Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,
⁠In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined
⁠On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind.
⁠For they lie beside their nectar, and the bolts are hurl’d
⁠Far below them in the valleys, and the clouds are lightly curl’d
⁠Round their golden houses, girdled with the gleaming world;
⁠Where they smile in secret, looking over wasted lands,
⁠Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery sands,
⁠Clanging fights, and flaming towns, and sinking ships, and praying hands.
⁠But they smile, they find a music centred in a doleful song
⁠Steaming up, a lamentation and an ancient tale of wrong,
⁠Like a tale of little meaning tho’ the words are strong;
⁠Chanted from an ill-used race of men that cleave the soil,
⁠Sow the seed, and reap the harvest with enduring toil,
⁠Storing yearly little dues of wheat, and wine and oil;
⁠Till they perish and they suffer—some, ’tis whisper’d—down in hell
⁠Suffer endless anguish, others in Elysian valleys dwell,
⁠Resting weary limbs at last on beds of asphodel.
⁠Surely, surely, slumber is more sweet than toil, the shore
⁠Than labor in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar;
⁠O, rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more.

This poem is in the public domain.