Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  From “The Earthly Paradise.” VI. A Land Across the Sea

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

William Morris 1834–96

From “The Earthly Paradise.” VI. A Land Across the Sea


ACROSS the sea a land there is,

Where, if fate will, men may have bliss,

For it is fair as any land:

There hath the reaper a full hand,

While in the orchard hangs aloft

The purple fig, a-growing soft;

And fair the trellis’d vine-bunches

Are swung across the high elm-trees;

And in the rivers great fish play,

While over them pass day by day

The laden barges to their place.

There maids are straight, and fair of face,

And men are stout for husbandry,

And all is well as it can be

Upon this earth where all has end.

For on them God is pleas’d to send

The gift of Death down from above,

That envy, hatred, and hot love,

Knowledge with hunger by his side,

And avarice and deadly pride,

There may have end like everything

Both to the shepherd and the king:

Lest this green earth become but hell

If folk thereon should ever dwell.

Full little most men think of this,

But half in woe and half in bliss

They pass their lives, and die at last

Unwilling, though their lot be cast

In wretched places of the earth,

Where men have little joy from birth

Until they die; in no such case

Were those who till’d this pleasant place.

There soothly men were loth to die,

Though sometimes in his misery

A man would say “Would I were dead!”

Alas! full little likelyhead

That he should live forever there.

So folk within that country fair

Liv’d on unable to forget

The long’d-for things they could not get,

And without need tormenting still

Each other with some bitter ill;

Yea, and themselves too, growing gray

With dread of some long-lingering day,

That never came ere they were dead

With green sods growing on the head;

Nowise content with what they had,

But falling still from good to bad

While hard they sought the hopeless best;

And seldom happy or at rest

Until at last with lessening blood

One foot within the grave they stood.