On the Beauties of Santa Cruz

Philip Freneau

Sick of thy northern glooms, come, shepherd, seek
More equal climes, and a serener sky:
Why shouldst thou toil amid thy frozen ground,
Where half year's snows, a barren prospect lie,
When thou mayst go where never frost was seen,
Or north-west winds with cutting fury blow,
Where never ice congeal'd the limpid stream,
Where never mountain tipt its head with snow 
Twice seven days prosperous gales thy barque shall bear
To isles that flourish in perpetual green,
Where richest herbage glads each shady vale,
And ever verdant plants on every hill are seen.
Nor dread the dangers of the billowy deep,
Autumnal winds shall safely waft thee o'er;
Put off the timid heart, or, man unblest,
Ne'er shalt thou reach this gay enchanting shore.
Thus Judah's tribes beheld the promis'd land,
While Jordan's angry waters swell'd between;
Thus trembling on the brink I see them stand,
Heav'n's type in view, the Canaanitish green.
Thus, some mean souls, in spite of age and care,
Are so united to this globe below,
They never wish to cross death's dusky main,
That parting them and happiness doth flow.
Though reason's voice might whisper to the soul
That nobler climes for man the gods design—
Come, shepherd, haste—the northern breezes blow,
No more the slumbering winds thy barque confine.
From the vast caverns of old ocean's bed,
Fair Santa Cruz, arising, laves her waist,
The threat'ning waters roar on every side,
For every side by ocean is embrac'd.
Sharp, craggy rocks repel the surging brine,
Whose cavern'd sides by restless billows wore,
Resemblance claim to that remoter isle                        
AEolia Where once the winds' proud lord the sceptre bore.
Betwixt old Cancer and the mid-way line,
In happiest climate lies this envied isle,
Trees bloom throughout the year, streams ever flow,
And fragrant Flora wears a lasting smile.
Cool, woodland streams from shaded clifts descend,
The dripping rock no want of moisture knows,
Supply'd by springs that on the skies depend,
That fountain feeding as the current flows.
Such were the isles which happy Flaccus sung,
Where one tree blossoms while another bears,
Where spring forever gay, and ever young,
Walks her gay round through her unwearied years.
Such were the climes which youthful Eden saw
Ere crossing fates destroy'd her golden reign—
Reflect upon thy loss, unhappy man,
And seek the vales of Paradise again.
No lowering skies are here—the neighbouring sun
Clear and unveil'd, his brilliant journey goes,
Each morn emerging from the ambient main,
And sinking there each evening to repose.
In June's fair month the spangled traveller gains
The utmost limits of his northern way,
And blesses with his beams cold lands remote,
Sad Greenland's coast, and Hudson's frozen bay.
The shivering swains of those unhappy climes
Behold the side-way monarch through the trees,
We feel his fiercer heat, his vertic beams,
Temper'd with cooling winds and trade-wind breeze.
Yet, though so near heav'n's blazing lamp doth run,
We court the beam that sheds the golden day,
And hence are called the children of the sun,
Who, without fainting, bear his downward ray.
No threatening tides upon our island rise,
Gay Cynthia scarce disturbs the ocean here,
No waves approach her orb, and she, as kind,
Attracts no water to her silver sphere.
The happy waters boast, of various kinds,
Unnumber'd myriads of the scaly race,
Sportive they glide above the delug'd sand,
Gay as their clime, in ocean's ample vase.
Some streak'd with burnish'd gold, resplendent glare,
Some cleave the limpid deep, all silver'd o'er,
Some, clad in living green, delight the eye,
Some red, some blue; of mingled colours more.
Here glides the spangled Dolphin through the deep,
The giant-carcas'd whales at distance stray.
The huge green turtles wallow through the wave,
Well pleas'd alike with land or water, they.
The Rainbow cuts the deep, of varied green,
The well fed Grouper lurks remote, below,
The swift Bonetta coasts the watry scene,
The diamond coated Angels kindle as they go.
Delicious to the taste, salubrious food,
Which might some temperate studious sage allure
To curse the fare of his abstemious school,
And turn, for once, a cheerful Epicure.
Unhurt, may'st thou this luscious food enjoy,
To fulness feast upon the scaly kind;
These, well selected from a thousand more,
Delight the taste, and leave no plague behind.
Nor think Hygeia is a stranger here;
To sensual souls the climate may fatal prove,
Anguish and death attend, and pain severe,
The midnight revel, and licentious love.
Full many a swain, in youth's serenest bloom,
Is borne untimely to this alien clay,
Constrain'd to slumber in a foreign tomb,
Far from his friends, his country far away.
Yet, if devoted to a sensual soul,
If fondly their own ruin they create,
These victims to the banquet and the bowl
Must blame their folly only, not their fate.
But thou, who first drew breath in northern air,
At early dawn ascend the sloping hills,
And oft' at noon to lime tree shades repair,
Where some soft stream from neighbouring groves distils.
And with it mix the liquid of the lime,
The old ag'd essence of the generous cane,
And sweetest syrups of this liquorish clime,
And drink, to cool thy thirst, and drink again.
This happy beverage, joy inspiring bowl,
Dispelling far the shades of mental night,
Wakes bright ideas on the raptur'd soul,
And sorrow turns to pleasure and delight.
Sweet verdant isle, through thy dark woods I rove,
And learn the nature of each native tree,
The fustick hard, the poisonous manchineel,
Which for its fragrant apple pleaseth thee:
Alluring to the smell, fair to the eye,
But deadliest poison in the taste is found—
O shun the dangerous tree, nor taste, like Eve,
This interdicted fruit in Eden's ground.
The lowly mangrove, fond of watry soil,
The white bark'd gregory, rising high in air,
The mastick in the woods you may descry,
Tamarind, and lofty plumb-trees flourish there.
Sweet orange groves in lonely vallies rise
And drop their fruits, unnotic'd and unknown,
And cooling acid limes in hedges grow,
The juicy lemons swell in shades their own.
Once in these groves divine Aurelia stray'd!—
Then, conscious nature, smiling, look'd more gay;
But soon she left the dear delightful shade,
The shade, neglected, droops and dies away,
And pines for her return, but pines in vain,
In distant isles belov'd Aurelia died,
Pride of the plains, ador'd by every swain,
Sweet warbler of the woods, and of the woods the pride.
Philander early left this rural maid,
Nor yet return'd, by fate compell'd to roam,
But absent from the heavenly girl he stray'd,
Her charms forgot, forgot his native home.
O fate severe, to seize the nymph so soon,
The nymph, for whom a thousand shepherds sigh,
And in the space of one revolving moon
To doom the fair one and her swain to die!
Sweet, spungy plumbs on trees wide spreading hang,
Bell-apples here, suspended, shade the ground,
Plump grenadilloes and güavas grey,
With melons in each plain and lawn abound.
The conic form'd cashew, of juicy kind,
Which bears at once an apple and a nut;
Whose poisonous coat, indignant to the lip,
Doth in its cell a wholesome kernel shut.
The prince of fruits, whom some jayama call,
Anana some, the happy flavour'd pine;
In which unite the tastes and juices all
Of apple, peach, quince, grape, and nectarine,
Grows to perfection here, and spreads his crest;
His diadem toward the parent sun;
His diadem, in fiery blossoms drest,
Stands arm'd with swords from potent nature won.
Yon' cotton shrubs with bursting knobs behold,
Their snow white locks these humble groves array;
On slender trees the blushing coffee hangs
Like thy fair cherry, and would tempt thy stay.
Safe from the winds, in deep retreats, they rise;
Their utmost summit may thy arm attain;
Taste the moist fruit, and from thy closing eyes
Sleep shall retire, with all his drowsy train.
The spicy berry, they güava call,
Swells in the mountains on a stripling tree;
These some admire, and value more than all,
My humble verse, besides, unfolds to thee.
The smooth white cedar, here, delights the eye,
The bay-tree, with its aromatic green,
The sea-side grapes, sweet natives of the sand,
And pulse, of various kinds, on trees are seen.
Here mingled vines that downward shadows cast,
Here, cluster'd grapes from loaded boughs depend,
Their leaves no frosts, their fruits no cold winds blast,
But, rear'd by suns, to time alone they bend.
The plantane and banana flourish here,
Of hasty growth, and love to fix their root
Where some soft stream of ambling water flows,
To yield full moisture to their cluster'd fruit.
No other trees so vast a leaf can boast,
So broad, so long—through these refresh'd I stray,
And though the noon-sun all his radiance shed,
These friendly leaves shall shade me all the way,
And tempt the cooling breeze to hasten there,
With its sweet odorous breath to charm the grove;
High shades and verdant seats, while underneath
A little stream by mossy banks doth rove,
Where once the Indian dames slept with their swains,
Or fondly kiss'd the moon-light eves away;
The lovers fled, the tearful stream remains,
And only I console it with my lay.
Among the shades of yonder whispering grove
The green palmittoes mingle, tall and fair,
That ever murmur, and forever move,
Fanning with wavy bough the ambient air.
Pomegranates grace the wild, and sweet-sops there
Ready to fall, require thy helping hand,
Nor yet neglect the papaw or mamee
Whose slighted trees with fruits unheeded stand.
Those shaddocks juicy shall thy taste delight,
And yon' high fruits, the richest of the wood,
That cling in clusters to the mother tree,
The cocoa-nut; rich, milky, healthful food.
O grant me, gods, if yet condemn'd to stray,
At least to spend life's sober evening here,
To plant a grove where winds yon' shelter'd bay,
And pluck these fruits that frost nor winter fear.
Cassada shrubs abound—transplanted here
From every clime, exotic blossoms blow;
Here Asia plants her flowers, here Europe seeds,
And hyperborean plants, un-winter'd, grow.
Here, a new herbage glads the generous steed,
Mules, goats, and sheep enjoy these pastures fair,
And for thy hedges, nature has decreed,
Guards of thy toils, the date and prickly pear.
But chief the glory of these Indian isles
Springs from the sweet, uncloying sugar-cane,
Hence comes the planter's wealth, hence commerce sends
Such floating piles to traverse half the main.
Whoe'er thou art that leav'st thy native shore,
And shall to fair West India climates come,
Taste not the enchanting plant—to taste forbear,
If ever thou wouldst reach thy much lov'd home.
Ne'er through the Isle permit thy feet to rove,
Or, if thou dost, let prudence lead the way,
Forbear to taste the virtues of the cane,
Forbear to taste what will complete thy stay.
Whoever sips of this enchanting juice,
Delicious nectar, fit for Jove's own hall,
Returns no more from his lov'd Santa Cruz,
But quits his friends, his country, and his all.
And thinks no more of home—Ulysses so
Dragg'd off by force his sailors from that shore
Where lotos grew, and, had not strength prevail'd,
They never would have sought their country more.
No annual toil inters this thrifty plant,
The stalk lopt off, the freshening showers prolong,
To future years, unfading and secure,
The root so vigorous, and the juice so strong.
Unnumber'd plants, besides, these climates yield,
And grass peculiar to the soil, that bears
Ten thousand varied herbs, array the field,
This glads thy palate, that thy health repairs.
Along the shore a wondrous flower is seen,
Where rocky ponds receive the surging wave,
Some drest in yellow, some array'd in green,
Beneath the water their gay branches lave.
This mystic plant, with its bewitching charms,
Too surely springs from some enchanted bower;
Fearful it is, and dreads impending harms,
And Animal the natives call the flower.
From the smooth rock its little branches rise,
The objects of thy view, and that alone,
Feast on its beauties with thy ravish'd eyes,
But aim to touch it, and—the flower is gone.
Nay, if thy shade but intercept the beam
That gilds their boughs beneath the briny lake,
Swift they retire, like a deluding dream,
And even a shadow for destruction take.
Warn'd by experience, seek not thou to gain
The magic plant thy curious hand invades;
Returning to the light, it mocks thy pain,
Deceives all grasp, and seeks its native shades.
On yonder steepy hill, fresh harvests rise,
Where the dark tribe from Afric's sun-burnt plain
Oft o'er the ocean turn their wishful eyes
To isles remote high looming o'er the main,
And view soft seats of ease and fancied rest,
Their native groves new painted on the eye,
Where no proud misers their gay hours molest,
No lordly despots pass unsocial by.
See yonder slave that slowly bends this way,
With years, and pain, and ceaseless toil opprest,
Though no complaining words his woes betray,
The eye dejected proves the heart distrest.
Perhaps in chains he left his native shore,
Perhaps he left a helpless offspring there,
Perhaps a wife, that he must see no more,
Perhaps a father, who his love did share.
Curs'd be the ship that brought him o'er the main,
And curs'd the hands who from his country tore,
May she be stranded, ne'er to float again,
May they be shipwreck'd on some hostile shore—
O gold accurst, of every ill the spring,
For thee compassion flies the darken'd mind,
Reason's plain dictates no conviction bring,
And passion only sways all human kind.
O gold accurst! for thee we madly run
With murderous hearts across the briny flood,
Seek foreign climes beneath a foreign sun,
And there exult to shed a brother's blood.
But thou, who own'st this sugar-bearing soil,
To whom no good the great First Cause denies,
Let freeborn hands attend thy sultry toil,
And fairer harvests to thy view shall rise.
The teeming earth shall mightier stores disclose
Than ever struck thy longing eyes before,
And late content shall shed a soft repose,
Repose, so long a stranger at thy door.
Give me some clime, the favourite of the sky,
Where cruel slavery never sought to rein—
But shun the theme, sad muse, and tell me why
These abject trees lie scatter'd o'er the plain?
These isles, lest nature should have prov'd too kind,
Or man have sought his happiest heaven below,
Are torn with mighty winds, fierce hurricanes,
Nature convuls'd in every shape of woe.
Nor scorn yon' lonely vale of trees so reft;
There plantane groves late grew of lively green,
The orange flourish'd, and the lemon bore,
The genius of the isle dwelt there unseen.