Tour De l'Île (Tahiti, French Oceania)

THIS small island is, for me,
Everything a home should be:
As far from any continent
As they are far from discontent
Who, from whatever vantage ground,
Behold the sea that rings them round
Lonelier than the morning sky
Where the waning moon is high.
Here no great plantations are
Owned by men who live afar,
But little lands, where those who toil
Own the food and own the soil
With trees to bear them fruit, and shade
Where their fathers’ bones are laid.
The sons have no great store of wealth
Save peace and tranquil minds and health.
I often think how more than wise
In planting islands of this size
Was Mother Earth, and how remiss
To plant so few the size of this.
A world of lesser worlds could be
Scattered on this empty sea,
Though sea enough should still remain
For isolation, fish, and rain.
Five-score miles, or, better, four,
Should island circuits be — no more;
So that, when he wished it, one
Could bike around from sun to sun;
Or, circumscribing more at ease,
Loiter ’neath the breadfruit trees
Of his friends, engaged in talk
Of matters pondered on the walk;
For he will walk as much as ride
To look at things on either side;
Then moving on, with matter new
To ponder for an hour or two
Until another halt is made,
This time in a mango’s shade,
Cool beneath the midday sun,
There to rest from twelve to one;
Or, if Inclination said,
‘Why the haste?’ to nod his head
And, ‘Why indeed?’ to make response.
He has a dwelling for the nonce:
Let him make a longer stay
Of half an hour or half a day,
Reading his book till evening comes
And the brisk mosquito hums.
Bordering the still lagoons,
Orion’s mirror and the moon’s,
Now fares he on, in deep content,
With a silence round him bent
Wider than the dome of Night
There for his express delight.
Let him now drop all but peace;
Tell his arrogance to cease
Concern with other-where, or how,
Accepting only here, and now.
Thus his mind is healed and whole
And large as the inverted bowl
Of heaven, it seems, for influence
That comes— he knows not how, or whence.
Truth the passive spirit gains
That mind may not, for all its pains.
Unaware, the seeker tries
Varied paths to where it lies
Or doesn’t lie, for even wells
May not be receptacles,
And biking round an island road
May lead to some half-truth’s abode.
If not, at least he’s bound to come
Back to the place he started from.
Now is heaven bare and wide;
Now through checkered gloom he’ll ride.
Here, along the sandy shore
Where the feathering breakers roar,
From the corner of his eye
Mermen’s children he will spy
In the surf, and from their tails
Moonlight falling off in scales.
Farther on his way he views
Children with no tails to use
Leaping from a palm-tree bole
Into some deep water-hole
Where the foam and broken light
Lacquer bodies creamy white
Over brown. . . . Felicity,
The world is far too small for thee,
And all the wide world knows it not,
Or if it knew, has since forgot ,
Save children in such lands as these
Lost in the farthest, loneliest seas.