Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TOWARDS DEMOCRACY: PART 4. THE COAST OF LIGURIA, by EDWARD CARPENTER

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TOWARDS DEMOCRACY: PART 4. THE COAST OF LIGURIA, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: A thousand years are nothing
Last Line: And crown their slopes with gladness.
Subject(s): Christianity; Daphne (Mythology); Modern Life; Religion; Seashore; Theology; Beach; Coast; Shore

A THOUSAND years are nothing.
Once the Ligurian, sturdy and thickset, scaled these rocks,
And built his beehive huts of unhewn stone on the limestone terraces,
And gathered snails for food, and fought his tribal battles.
Now the Greek wanders along the shore, and oleander and rosemary
Shine in the moon for him, or Daphne hides
Among the laurel groves, or Heracles
Drives his red cattle home along the coast-line.
Later, the Roman makes great roads, and marches columns of soldiers through
the dust,
Where overhead some temple of Castor and Pollux on the height
Gives omen of good fortune. The Christian follows,
Peacefully toiling in his olive-garden,
Hymning the gentle god,
And turns the Temple to a shrine of Michael—rechristens Mars, St.
But presently the Moor with fire and rapine sweeps the coast,
Or in his mountain-fastness, for a moment resting, watches the shining
scimitar of the sea
Sheathed in the bay, its scabbard. Then, in their turn,
Bishops and Barons rule the land, and rage against each other. In the end
the Modern
Buries it all in a big Hotel's foundations
Or the embankment of a Railroad.

Yet still beneath the surface all is alive.
Still the old peasant-woman—grin-faced, big-mouthed, with big-palmed
hands, short fingers, and bandy climbing legs—among the rocks
Goes foraging for snails. The people still
Dimly athwart the mists of time remember,
Of Heracles the Savior,
How on this Plain, that Promontory, he rested
From his great labors in the West returning.
Still the little Church of St. Michael on the rock
Stands dearer to the folk for being pagan;
And still provencal songs and dances gladden the vintage;
And Moorish faces, and Greek, and old Phoenician,
Stir in the villages a stones-throw from the rail.

And still old names and festivals and customs
Linger along the coast and country side;
And still the hills stand, still the herbs diffuse
From the warm ground the old intoxication
Of aromatic sweetness. The waters still
Lap blue against the rocks. The snowy Alps
Look o'er the foot-hills and far out to sea,
To where and when perchance a worthier race
Than all that yet has been at length shall come
And gaze with grateful eyes upon their beauty,
And crown their slopes with gladness.

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