A poem by Arthur Hugh Clough

How in God’s name did Columbus get over
Is a pure wonder to me, I protest,
Cabot, and Raleigh too, that well-read rover,
Frobisher, Dampier, Drake, and the rest.
Bad enough all the same,
For them that after came,
But, in great Heaven’s name,
How he should ever think
That on the other brink
Of this wild waste terra firma should be,
Is a pure wonder, I must say, to me.

How a man ever should hope to get thither,
E’en if he knew that there was another side;
But to suppose he should come any whither,
Sailing straight on into chaos untried,
In spite of the motion
Across the whole ocean,
To stick to the notion
That in some nook or bend
Of a sea without end
He should find North and South America,
Was a pure madness, indeed I must say, to me.

What if wise men had, as far back as Ptolemy,
Judged that the earth like an orange was round,
None of them ever said, Come along, follow me,
Sail to the West, and the East will be found.
Many a day before
Ever they’d come ashore,
From the ‘San Salvador,’
Sadder and wiser men
They’d have turned back again;
And that he did not, but did cross the sea,
Is a pure wonder, I must say, to me.

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