The Bells Of San Blas


    What say the Bells of San Blas
    To the ships that southward pass
        From the harbor of Mazatlan?
    To them it is nothing more
    Than the sound of surf on the shore,--
        Nothing more to master or man.

    But to me, a dreamer of dreams,
    To whom what is and what seems
        Are often one and the same,--
    The Bells of San Blas to me
    Have a strange, wild melody,
        And are something more than a name.

    For bells are the voice of the church;
    They have tones that touch and search
        The hearts of young and old;
    One sound to all, yet each
    Lends a meaning to their speech,
        And the meaning is manifold.

    They are a voice of the Past,
    Of an age that is fading fast,
        Of a power austere and grand,
    When the flag of Spain unfurled
    Its folds o'er this western world,
        And the Priest was lord of the land.

    The chapel that once looked down
    On the little seaport town
        Has crumbled into the dust;
    And on oaken beams below
    The bells swing to and fro,
        And are green with mould and rust.

    "Is, then, the old faith dead,"
    They say, "and in its stead
        Is some new faith proclaimed,
    That we are forced to remain
    Naked to sun and rain,
        Unsheltered and ashamed?

    "Once, in our tower aloof,
    We rang over wall and roof
        Our warnings and our complaints;
    And round about us there
    The white doves filled the air,
        Like the white souls of the saints.

    "The saints!    Ah, have they grown
    Forgetful of their own?
        Are they asleep, or dead,
    That open to the sky
    Their ruined Missions lie,
        No longer tenanted?

    "Oh, bring us back once more
    The vanished days of yore,
        When the world with faith was filled;
    Bring back the fervid zeal,
    The hearts of fire and steel,
        The hands that believe and build.

    "Then from our tower again
    We will send over land and main
        Our voices of command,
    Like exiled kings who return
    To their thrones, and the people learn
        That the Priest is lord of the land!"

    O Bells of San Blas in vain
    Ye call back the Past again;
        The Past is deaf to your prayer!
    Out of the shadows of night
    The world rolls into light;
        It is daybreak everywhere.


facebook share button twitter share button google plus share button tumblr share button reddit share button email share button share on pinterest pinterest

Create a library and add your favorite stories. Get started by clicking the "Add" button.
Add The Bells Of San Blas to your own personal library.

Return to the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Home Page, or . . . Read the next poem; The Bridge

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.