Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Alexander in India

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

Introductory to India

Alexander in India

By William Lisle Bowles (1762–1850)

(From The Spirit of Discovery by Sea)

IT was thine,

Immortal son of Macedon! to hang

In the high fane of maritime renown

The fairest trophies of thy fame, and shine,

Then only like a god, when thy great mind

Swayed in its master council the deep tide

Of things, predestining the eventful roll

Of commerce, and uniting either world,

Europe and Asia, in thy vast design.

’T was when the victor, in his proud career,

O’er ravaged Hindostan, had now advanced

Beyond Hydaspes; on the flowery banks

Of Hyphasis, with banners thronged, his camp

Was spread. On high he bade the altars rise,

The awful records to succeeding years

Of his long march of glory, and to point

The spot where, like the thunder rolled away,

His army paused. Now shady eve came down;

The trumpet sounded to the setting sun,

That looked from his illumed pavilion, calm

Upon the scene of arms, as if, all still,

And lovely as his parting light, the world

Beneath him spread; nor clangors, nor deep groans,

Were heard, nor victory’s shouts, nor sighs, nor shrieks,

Were ever wafted from a bleeding land,

After the havoc of a conqueror’s sword.

So calm the sun declined; when from the woods,

That shone to his last beam, a Brahmin old

Came forth. His streaming beard shone in the ray,

That slanted o’er his feeble frame; his front

Was furrowed. To the sun’s last light he cast

A look of sorrow, then in silence bowed

Before the conqueror of the world. At once

All, as in death, was still. The victor chief

Trembled, he knew not why; the trumpet ceased

Its clangor, and the crimson streamer waved

No more in folds insulting to the Lord

Of the reposing world. The pallid front

Of the meek man seemed for a moment calm,

Yet dark and thronging thoughts appeared to swell

His beating heart. He paused,—and then abrupt:

Victor, avaunt! he cried,

Hence! and the banners of thy pride

Bear to the deep! Behold on high

Yon range of mountains mingled with the sky!
It is the place

Where the great Father of the human race

Rested, when all the world and all its sounds

Ceased; and the ocean that surrounds

The earth, leaped from its dark abode

Beneath the mountains, and enormous flowed,

The green earth deluging! List, soldier, list!

And dread His might no mortal may resist.