White Nassau

Original Text: 
Bliss Carman, A Winter Holiday (Boston: Small, Maynard, Nov. 1899), pp. 38-43. B-10 1921 Fisher Library.
1There is fog upon the river, there is mirk upon the town;
2You can hear the groping ferries as they hoot each other down;
4Through looming granite canyons of glitter, noise, and rush.
5Are you sick of phones and tickers and crazing cable gongs,
8When there's hardly any morning and five o'clock is dark?
9I know where there's a city, whose streets are white and clean,
10And sea-blue morning loiters by walls where roses lean,
11And quiet dwells; that's Nassau, beside her creaming key,
13She's ringed with surf and coral, she's crowned with sun and palm;
14She has the old-world leisure, the regal tropic calm;
15The trade winds fan her forehead; in everlasting June
16She reigns from deep verandas above her blue lagoon.
17She has had many suitors,--Spaniard and Buccaneer,--
18Who roistered for her beauty and spilt their blood for her;
20Went down from Carolina a hundred years ago.
21Unmodern, undistracted, by grassy ramp and fort,
22In decency and order she holds her modest court;
23She seems to have forgotten rapine and greed and strife,
24In that unaging gladness and dignity of life.
25Through streets as smooth as asphalt and white as bleaching shell,
26Where the slip-shod heel is happy and the naked foot goes well,
27In their gaudy cotton kerchiefs, with swaying hips and free,
28Go her black folk in the morning to the market of the sea.
29Into her bright sea-gardens the flushing tide-gates lead,
30Where fins of chrome and scarlet loll in the lifting weed;
31With the long sea-draft behind them, through luring coral groves
32The shiny water-people go by in painted droves.
33Under her old pink gateways, where Time a moment turns,
35Live the harmless merry lizards, quicksilver in the sun,
36Or still as any image with their shadow on a stone.
37Through the lemon-trees at leisure a tiny olive bird
38Moves all day long and utters his wise assuring word;
39While up in their blue chantry murmur the solemn palms.
40At their litanies of joyance, their ancient ceaseless psalms.
41There in the endless sunlight, within the surf's low sound,
42Peace tarries for a lifetime at doorways unrenowned;
43And a velvet air goes breathing across the sea-girt land,
44Till the sense begins to waken and the soul to understand.
46With her wheezy donkey-engines taking cargo and supplies;
48For the lovely white girl city in the Islands of the Blest.
49She'll front the riding winter on the gray Atlantic seas,
50And thunder through the surf-heads till her funnels crust and freeze;
51She'll grapple the Southeaster, the Thing without a Mind,
52Till she drops him, mad and monstrous, with the light ship far behind.
53Then out into a morning all summer warmth and blue!
54By the breathing of her pistons, by the purring of the screw,
55By the springy dip and tremor as she rises, you can tell
56Her heart is light and easy as she meets the lazy swell.
57With the flying fish before her, and the white wake running aft,
58Her smoke-wreath hanging idle, without breeze enough for draft,
59She will travel fair and steady, and in the afternoon
60Run down the floating palm-tops where lift the Isles of June.
61With the low boom of breakers for her only signal gun,
62She will anchor off the harbor when her thousand miles are done,
63And there's my love, white Nassau, girt with her foaming key,
64The queen of the Lucayas in the blue Bahaman sea!


3] Battery: Battery Park on New York harbour at the southern tip of Manhattan.
Harlem: on the east side of Manhattan, above 96th Street, and on the west side, above 110th Street: poor black and Hispanic neighbourhoods in north Manhattan. Back to Line
6] hansoms: light two-wheeled carriages with the driver seated behind and on top.
Broadway: main north-south thoroughfare, known for its theatres, and ending at Battery Park. Back to Line
7] Flouret's: French restaurant at 18th Street and Fifth Avenue (Muriel Miller, Bliss Carman: Quest & Revolt[St John's, Newfoundland: Jesperson Press, 1985], p. 171).
Waldorf: Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Park Avenue and East 49th Street, an expensive and elegant place to stay.
Park: Central Park in Manhattan. Back to Line
12] Lucayas: another name for the Bahamas, an archipelago of the British west Indies, the largest island of which is New Providence, whose capital is Nassau. Back to Line
19] Loyalist Deveaux: Lieutenant-Colonel Deveaux of the South Carolina militia took New Providence, Bahamas, in June 1783. Back to Line
34] hibiscus: scrub of mallow family with big flowers. Back to Line
45] East River: strait linking Long Island sound with Upper New York Bay and separating Manhattan from Long Island.
Ward Liner: presumably named after Ward Island. Back to Line
47] the Hook: Sandy Hook, bar about 20 miles south of Manhattan itself, and the entrance to the harbour. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.