Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

In the Harbor

Hermes Trismegistus

  • As Seleucus narrates, Hermes describes the principles that rank as wholes in two myriads of books; or, as we are informed by Manetho, he perfectly unfolded these principles in three myriads six thousand five hundred and twenty-five volumes.…
  • … Our ancestors dedicated the inventions of their wisdom to this deity, inscribing all their own writings with the name of Hermes.—IAMBLICUS.

  • STILL through Egypt’s desert places

    Flows the lordly Nile,

    From its banks the great stone faces

    Gaze with patient smile.

    Still the pyramids imperious

    Pierce the cloudless skies,

    And the Sphinx stares with mysterious,

    Solemn, stony eyes.

    But where are the old Egyptian

    Demi-gods and kings?

    Nothing left but an inscription

    Graven on stones and rings.

    Where are Helios and Hephæstus,

    Gods of eldest eld?

    Where is Hermes Trismegistus,

    Who their secrets held?

    Where are now the many hundred

    Thousand books he wrote?

    By the Thaumaturgists plundered,

    Lost in lands remote;

    In oblivion sunk forever,

    As when o’er the land

    Blows a storm-wind, in the river

    Sinks the scattered sand.

    Something unsubstantial, ghostly,

    Seems this Theurgist,

    In deep meditation mostly

    Wrapped, as in a mist.

    Vague, phantasmal, and unreal

    To our thought he seems,

    Walking in a world ideal,

    In a land of dreams.

    Was he one, or many, merging

    Name and fame in one,

    Like a stream, to which, converging,

    Many streamlets run?

    Till, with gathered power proceeding,

    Ampler sweep it takes,

    Downward the sweet waters leading

    From unnumbered lakes.

    By the Nile I see him wandering,

    Pausing now and then,

    On the mystic union pondering

    Between gods and men;

    Half believing, wholly feeling,

    With supreme delight,

    How the gods, themselves concealing,

    Lift men to their height.

    Or in Thebes, the hundred-gated,

    In the thoroughfare

    Breathing, as if consecrated,

    A diviner air;

    And amid discordant noises,

    In the jostling throng,

    Hearing far, celestial voices

    Of Olympian song.

    Who shall call his dreams fallacious?

    Who has searched or sought

    All the unexplored and spacious

    Universe of thought?

    Who, in his own skill confiding,

    Shall with rule and line

    Mark the border-land dividing

    Human and divine?

    Trismegistus! three times greatest!

    How thy name sublime

    Has descended to this latest

    Progeny of time!

    Happy they whose written pages

    Perish with their lives,

    If amid the crumbling ages

    Still their name survives!

    Thine, O priest of Egypt, lately

    Found I in the vast,

    Weed-encumbered, sombre, stately,

    Grave-yard of the Past;

    And a presence moved before me

    On that gloomy shore,

    As a waft of wind, that o’er me

    Breathed, and was no more.