The Realms of Gold

Alfred Noyes

(Written after hearing a line of Keats repeated by a passing stranger under the palms of Southern California.)

Under the palms of San Diego
  Where gold-skinned Mexicans loll at ease,
And the red half-moons of their black-pipped melons
  Drop from their hands in the sunset seas,
And an incense, out of the old brown missions,
  Blows through the orange trees;

I wished that a poet who died in Europe
  Had found his way to this rose-red West;
That Keats had walked by the wide Pacific
  And cradled his head on its healing breast,
And made new songs of the sun-burned sea-folk,
  New poems, perhaps his best.

I thought of him, under the ripe pomegranates
  At the desert's edge, where the grape-vines grow,
In a sun-kissed ranch between grey-green sage-brush
  And amethyst mountains, peaked with snow,
Or watching the lights of the City of Angels
  Glitter like stars below.

He should walk, at dawn, by the lemon orchards,
  And breathe at ease in that dry bright air;
And the Spanish bells in their crumbling cloisters
  Of brown adobe would sing to him there;
And the old Franciscans would bring him their baskets
  Of apple and olive and pear.

And the mandolins, in the deep blue twilight,
  Under that palm with the lion's mane,
Would pluck, once more, at his golden heart-strings,
  And tell him the old sea-tales of Spain;
And there should the daughters of Hesperus teach him
  Their mystical songs again.

Then, the dusk blew sweet over seas of peach-bloom;
  The moon sailed white in the cloudless blue;
The tree-toads purred, and the crickets chirruped;
  And better than anything dreamed came true;
For, under the murmuring palms, a shadow
  Passed, with the eyes I knew;

A shadow, perhaps, of the tall green fountains
  That rustled their fronds on that glittering sky,
A hungering shadow, a lean dark shadow,
  A dreaming shadow that drifted by;
But I heard him whisper the strange dark music
  That found it so "rich to die."

And the murmuring palms of San Diego
  Shook with stars as he passed beneath.
The Paradise palms, and the wild white orchards,
  The night, and its roses, were all one breath,
Bearing the song of a nightingale seaward,
  A song that had out-soared death.

The phrase "realms of gold" is taken from the wonderful sonnet On first looking into Chapman's Homer by John Keats.