All paths lead upward to the sky
In this green isle, which mounts on high
Through slumbrous valleys, veiled in light
From waters dancing blue and bright.
And on those leafy paths appear
Delicately stepping deer
That move in wild and silent grace,
The very spirits of the place.
Whether by old pine-roots they stand
Or print small hoof-marks on sea-sand,
Their liquid eyes, their gentle tread,
Are innocent of human dread.
Beneath the ancient boughs they seem
Strayed from the memory or the dream
Or hope of man, the Golden Age,
His unrecovered heritage.
This sacred isle has banished death;
And yet I would that my last breath
Might amid ocean-murmur cease
On such an isle, in such a peace.
Binyon’s note added in 1941:
Miyajima is a small island covered with trees and rising
to a peak, in Japan’s Inland Sea. Neither birth nor death is permitted
to take place on its sacred soil.
appeared in the Koya San: Four Poems from Japan (BC24).
For an overview of Binyon’s relation with Japan
see Laurence Binyon and Japan
in the Bibliography, and for notes about Binyon titles in print