Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Scotland
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Scotland: Vols. VI–VIII.  1876–79.
 
Staffa, the Island
Cave of Staffa
William Wordsworth (1770–1850)
 
I.
WE saw, but surely, in the motley crowd,
Not one of us has felt the far-famed sight;
How could we feel it? each the other’s blight,
Hurried and hurrying, volatile and loud.
O, for those motions only that invite        5
The ghost of Fingal to his tuneful cave
By the breeze entered, and wave after wave
Softly embosoming the timid light!
And by one votary, who at will might stand
Gazing, and take into his mind and heart,        10
With undistracted reverence, the effect
Of those proportions where the Almighty hand
That made the worlds, the sovereign Architect,
Has deigned to work as if with human art!
 
II.
THANKS for the lessons of this spot,—fit school
        15
For the presumptuous thoughts that would assign
Mechanic laws to agency divine;
And, measuring heaven by earth, would overrule
Infinite Power. The pillared vestibule,
Expanding yet precise, the roof embowed,        20
Might seem designed to humble man, when proud
Of his best workmanship by plan and tool.
Down-bearing with his whole Atlantic weight
Of tide and tempest on that structure’s base,
And flashing to that structure’s topmost height,        25
Ocean has proved its strength, and of its grace
In calms is conscious, finding for his freight
Of softest music some responsive place.
 
III.
YE shadowy Beings, that have rights and claims
In every cell of Fingal’s mystic grot,        30
Where are ye? Driven or venturing to the spot,
Our fathers glimpses caught of your thin frames,
And, by your mien and bearing, knew your names;
And they could hear his ghostly song who trod
Earth, till the flesh lay on him like a load,        35
While he struck his desolate harp without hopes or aims.
Vanished ye are, but subject to recall;
Why keep we else the instincts whose dread law
Ruled here of yore, till what men felt they saw,
Not by black arts but magic natural!        40
If eyes be still sworn vassals of belief,
Yon light shapes forth a bard, that shade a chief.
 
 
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