The Last Island

By George Sterling

What prow shall find It? On the charts
    Our own is made the final land;
    But visions of a farther Strand
We find at evening in our hearts.

Then gazing from the headland's height,
    We seem to see, remote and clear,
    A living radiance appear
On jacinth terraces of light.

Deep in the sunset fire it glows,
    Whose dusky scarlet, shoaling north,
    Lures grey or youthful dreamer forth
To seek the tone horizon's rose.

What golden people call it home?
    We too would learn their mythic tongue,
    And listen to the saga sung
Beyond the coral and the foam.

But many doubt and many scorn,
    So transitory burned that fire,
    An ember of the sunset's pyre
That died on solitudes forlorn.

Westward the purple deepens fast,
    Horizon to infinity;
    Mirage is on that changeful sea—
Illusions of the feigning Vast.

Our oldest seaman knew a day
    When, staring from his galley's beak,
    He seemed to see a vesper peak,
Faint, visionary, far away—

A ghost of pearl, a shadow far,
    So dim he could not trust his eyes;
    Then, where it faded on the skies,
Gazing again he saw a star.

And ships have vanished in the West
    Whose mariners we knew awhile;
    Perchance, we say, they found that Isle,
And ended there the dream and quest.

The coastwise keels deny the tale.
    Beyond, they saw but ocean gleam;
    Another port, their captains deem,
Harbors the unreturning sail.

Who shall decide? For still that Land
    Seems not of futile mystery;
    Unresting stars and peaceless sea
May well perturb the compass-hand.

Tho where it gleamed the wave is blue
    On brine a thousand fathom deep.
    The vision and the hope we keep
The sunset solitudes renew—

Of some far dusk when, Eden-eyed,
    Its happy folk shall welcome us,
    By sands no longer fabulous
And foam of that enchanted tide.

Bibliography Entry