Here, we have gathered some of the greatest poems written about the allure of travel, and the wonders that can be discovered when we venture beyond our own doorsteps. 


From The Silverado Squatters 

 

There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign. 

 

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894)

 

A Prayer for Travellers 

 

May the road rise up to meet you. 

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face;

The rains fall soft upon your fields. 

And until we meet again, 

May God hold you in the palm of His hand. 

 

Anon.

 

On the World 

 

The world’s an inn; and I her guest. 

I eat; I drink; I take my rest. 

My hostess, nature, does deny me 

Nothing, wherewith she can supply me; 

Where, having stayed a while, I pay 

Her lavish bills, and go my way. 

 

Francis Quarles (1592–1644)

 

If Once You Have Slept on an Island 

 

If once you have slept on an island 

You’ll never be quite the same; 

You may look as you looked the day before 

And go by the same old name, 

 

You may bustle about in street and shop; 

You may sit at home and sew, 

But you’ll see blue water and wheeling gulls 

Wherever your feet may go. 

 

You may chat with the neighbors of this and that 

And close to your fire keep, 

But you’ll hear ship whistle and lighthouse bell 

And tides beat through your sleep. 

 

Oh, you won’t know why, and you can’t say how 

Such change upon you came, 

But – once you have slept on an island

You’ll never be quite the same! 

 

Rachel Field (1894–1942)

 

Eldorado 

 

Gaily bedight, 

A gallant knight,

In sunshine and in shadow,

Had journeyed long, 

Singing a song,

In search of Eldorado. 

 

But he grew old – 

This knight so bold – 

And o’er his heart a shadow 

Fell, as he found 

No spot of ground 

That looked like Eldorado. 

 

And, as his strength 

Failed him at length, 

He met a pilgrim shadow – 

‘Shadow,’ said he, 

‘Where can it be – 

This land of Eldorado?’ 

 

‘Over the Mountains 

Of the Moon,

 Down the Valley of the Shadow, 

Ride, boldly ride,’ 

The shade replied, 

‘If you seek for Eldorado!’ 

 

Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) 

 

Ozymandias

 

I met a traveller from an antique land 

Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone 

Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand, 

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, 

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command 

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read 

Which yet survive (stamped on these lifeless things) 

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed: 

And on the pedestal these words appear: 

‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: 

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’ 

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay 

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare 

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

 

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)

 

A Strip of Blue 

 

I do not own an inch of land,     

But all I see is mine, – 

The orchard and the mowing fields, 

The lawns and gardens fine. 

The winds my tax-collectors are, 

They bring me tithes divine, – 

Wild scents and subtle essences, 

A tribute rare and free; 

And, more magnificent than all, 

My window keeps for me 

A glimpse of blue immensity, – 

A little strip of sea. 

 

Richer am I than he who owns 

Great fleets and argosies; 

I have a share in every ship 

Won by the inland breeze, 

To loiter on yon airy road 

Above the apple-trees, 

I freight them with my untold dreams; 

Each bears my own picked crew; 

And nobler cargoes wait for them 

Than ever India knew, – 

My ships that sail into the East 

Across that outlet blue. 

 

Sometimes they seem like living shapes, – 

The people of the sky, – 

Guests in white raiment coming down 

From heaven, which is close by; 

I call them by familiar names, 

As one by one draws nigh,

So white, so light, so spirit-like, 

From violet mists they bloom! 

The aching wastes of the unknown 

Are half reclaimed from gloom, 

Since on life’s hospitable sea 

All souls find sailing-room. 

 

The ocean grows a weariness 

With nothing else in sight; 

Its east and west, its north and south, 

Spread out from morn till night; 

We miss the warm, caressing shore, 

Its brooding shade and light. 

 

Lucy Larcom (1824–1893)

 

O to sail 

 

O to sail in a ship, 

To leave this steady unendurable land, 

To leave the tiresome sameness of the streets, 

the sidewalks and the houses, 

To leave you, O you solid motionless land, and 

entering a ship, 

To sail and sail and sail! 

 

Walt Whitman (1819–1892)

 

Midnight on the Great Western 

 

In the third-class sat the journeying boy, 

And the roof-lamp’s oily flame 

Played down on his listless form and face, 

Bewrapt past knowing to what he was going, 

Or whence he came. 

 

In the band of his hat the journeying boy 

Had a ticket stuck; and a string 

Around his neck bore the key of his box, 

That twinkled gleams of the lamp’s sad beams 

Like a living thing. 

 

What past can be yours, O journeying boy,

Towards a world unknown, 

Who calmly, as if incurious quite

 On all at stake, can undertake 

This plunge alone?

 

Knows your soul a sphere, O journeying boy, 

Our rude realms far above, 

Whence with spacious vision you mark and mete 

This region of sin that you find you in

 But are not of? 

 

Thomas Hardy (1840–1928)


Freedom 

 

Give me the long, straight road before me, 

A clear, cold day with a nipping air, 

Tall, bare trees to run on beside me, 

A heart that is light and free from care. 

Then let me go! – I care not whither 

My feet may lead, for my spirit shall be 

Free as the brook that flows to the river, 

Free as the river that flows to the sea. 

 

Olive Runner