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Poem by Letitia Elizabeth Landon


Where are they bound, those gallant ships,
    That here at anchor lie,
Now quiet as the sleeping birds,
    Beneath a summer sky?

Their white wings droop, their shadows rest,
    Unbroken on the deep,
As if the airy elements
    Had their own hour of sleep.

A little while the wind will rise,
    And every ship will be,
With plashing prow, and shining sail,
    Afar upon the sea.

Some will go east, and some go west,
    Some to the Indian isles,
Where spring is lavish of her bloom,
    And summer of her smiles;

And some will seek the latitudes
    Where northern breezes blow,
And winter builds a throne of ice
    Upon a world of snow:

Some will come back with plume, and pearl,
    The attar, and the gem;
Little do the gay wearers think
    How brave men toil for them.

The product of far distant lands,
    Nurst by far distant skies,
Are here the triumph and reward
    Of human enterprise.

Amid the ships that bear around
    The wealth of half the world,
Are those that, for the Quorra bound,
    Have just their sails unfurled.

Freighted with goods that new-found climes
    May envy English skill,
They bear no thunders oer the deep
    To work our nations will.

In peace they go, with pure intent,
    And with this noble aim;
Barbaric hordes to civilize,
    By traffic to reclaim.

Not as they went in former days,
    To bear the wretched slave;
To pine beneath a foreign sky,
    Or perish on the wave.

They go for knowledge, and in hope
    Such knowledge may avail,
To draw the savage and unknown
    Within the social pale.

A deep and ardent sympathy,
    The heart has with the bold;
The cheek is flushed, the eye is bright,
    Wheneer their deeds are told.

We half forget the conquerors crime,
    In honour of the brave,
And raise the banner and the arch,
    Although upon the grave.

But here the danger and the toil
    Of no false light have need,
Tho courage and tho constancy
    Deserve the highest meed.

The dreary day, mid trackless wood,
    The lion at their side,
The gloomy night, when rocks, and foes,
    Were on the faithless tide.

Mid slavry, suffering, deserts, death,
    It has been theirs to roam,
Led onward by that general thought,
    "What will they say at home?"

Science, thy own adventurers
    Again are on their way
And but for thy most glorious hopes,
    What were our mental day?

Sail on, proud bark, a lofty aim
    It was that freighted thee,
And for their sake who tread thy decks,
    God speed thee oer the sea!

Letitia Elizabeth Landon

Poem Theme: Cities of England

Letitia Elizabeth Landon's other poems:
  1. Amelioration and the Future, Man's Noble Tasks
  2. The Tournament
  3. The Nameless Grave
  4. Fragment (It is not spring, but still the new-come year)
  5. Cafes in Damascus

Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • Robert Leighton Liverpool ("IN Liverpool, the good old town, we miss")

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