Quen das finem, rex magne, dolorum?
Where we went in the boat was a long bay a slingshot wide, walled in by towering stone-- Peaked margin of antiquity's delay, And we went there out of time's monotone: Where we went in the black hull no light moved But a gull white-winged along the feckless wave, The breeze, unseen but fierce as a body loved, That boat drove onward like a willing slave: Where we went in the small ship the seaweed Parted and gave to us the murmuring shore And we made feast and in our secret need Devoured the very plates Aeneas bore: Where derelict you see through the low twilight The green coast that you, thunder-tossed, would win, Drop sail, and hastening to drink all night Eat dish and bowl--to take that sweet land in! Where we feasted and caroused on the sandless Pebbles, affecting our day of piracy, What prophecy of eaten plates could landless Wanderers fulfil by the ancient sea? We for that time might taste the famous age Eternal here yet hidden from our eyes When lust of power undid its stuffless rage; They, in a wineskin, bore earth's paradise. Let us lie down once more by the breathing side Of Ocean, where our live forefathers sleep As if the Known Sea still were a month wide-- Atlantis howls but is no longer steep! What country shall we conquer, what fair land Unman our conquest and locate our blood? We've cracked the hemispheres with careless hand! Now, from the Gates of Hercules we flood Westward, westward till the barbarous brine Whelms us to the tired land where tasseling corn, Fat beans, grapes sweeter than muscadine Rot on the vine: in that land were we born.
From Selected Poems by Allen Tate, published by Charles Scribner's Sons. Copyright © 1937 by Charles Scribner's Sons. Used with permission.
Poet Allen Tate was a founding editor of The Fugitive and had a great influence as a critic and a mentor to younger poets.
Date Published: 1937-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/mediterranean