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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Africa: Vol. XXIV. 1876–79.

Introductory to Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia

An Egyptian Tomb

By William Lisle Bowles (1762–1850)

POMP of Egypt’s elder day,

Shade of the mighty passed away,

Whose giant works still frown sublime

Mid the twilight shades of time;

Fanes, of sculpture vast and rude,

That strew the sandy solitude,

Lo! before our startled eyes,

As at a wizard’s wand, ye rise,

Glimmering larger through the gloom!

While on the secrets of the tomb,

Rapt in other times, we gaze,

The Mother Queen of ancient days,

Her mystic symbol in her hand,

Great Isis, seems herself to stand.

From mazy vaults, high-arched and dim,

Hark! heard ye not Osiris’ hymn?

And saw ye not in order dread

The long procession of the dead?

Forms that the night of years concealed,

As by a flash, are here revealed;

Chiefs who sang the victor song;

Sceptred kings,—a shadowy throng,—

From slumber of three thousand years

Each, as in light and life, appears,

Stern as of yore! Yes, vision vast,

Three thousand years have silent passed,

Suns of empire risen and set,

Whose story Time can ne’er forget,

Time, in the morning of her pride

Immense, along the Nile’s green side,

The City of the Sun appeared,

And her gigantic image reared.

As Memnon, like a trembling string

When the sun, with rising ray,

Streaked the lonely desert gray,

Sent forth its magic murmuring,

That just was heard,—then died away;

So passed, O Thebes! thy morning pride!

Thy glory was the sound that died!

Dark city of the desolate,

Once thou wert rich, and proud, and great!

This busy-peopled isle was then

A waste, or roamed by savage men

Whose gay descendants now appear

To mark thy wreck of glory here.

Phantom of that city old,

Whose mystic spoils I now behold,

A kingdom’s sepulchre, O, say,

Shall Albion’s own illustrious day

Thus darkly close! Her power, her fame,

Thus pass away, a shade, a name!

The Mausoleum murmured as I spoke;

A spectre seemed to rise, like towering smoke;

It answered not, but pointed as it fled

To the black carcass of the sightless dead.

Once more I heard the sounds of earthly strife,

And the streets ringing to the stir of life.