Through high defiles of warehouses that dwarf
With undetermined age the passer-by,
We walk toward the ancient wharf,
Assailed by smells – sweet, pungent, bitter, dry:
The perfumed plunder of a continent.
To this shore Roman, Moslem, Christian, Jew
Were gathered by the dense, sharp scent;
Absorbed now in the once-outlandish view
They camped by hills their children would call home.
So in the soil blurred Roman coins are found;
Saint Thomas stepped into the foam
And strode ashore, and blessed the acrid ground;
Jews settled here when Sion was laid waste,
And Arabs edged tall dhows into the bay,
Dutch burghers felt their northern haste,
Becalmed by slow siestas, ebb away . . .
So many faiths and peoples mingle here,
Breathing an air benign with spice and scent,
That we, though strangers, should not fear
To invoke, in honor of our sacrament,
The sensual, wise genius of this place.
Approach, kind god: bestow your gifts on two,
Your votaries, of different race
Made one, by love, by marriage, and by you.