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

Asia Minor: Tmolus, the Mountain

An Epistle from Mount Tmolus

By Bayard Taylor (1825–1878)

To Richard Henry Stoddard

O FRIEND, were you but crouched on Tmolus’ side,

In the warm myrtles, in the golden air

Of the declining day, which half lays bare,

Half drapes, the silent mountains and the wide

Embosomed vale, that wanders to the sea;

And the far sea, with doubtful specks of sail,

And farthest isles, that slumber tranquilly

Beneath the Ionian autumn’s violet veil;—

Were you but with me, little were the need

Of this imperfect artifice of rhyme,

Where the strong Fancy peals a broken chime

And the ripe brain but sheds abortive seed.

But I am solitary, and the curse,

Or blessing, which has clung to me from birth,—

The torment and the ecstasy of verse,—

Comes up to me from the illustrious earth

Of ancient Tmolus; and the very stones,

Reverberant, din the mellow air with tones

Which the sweet air remembers; and they blend

With fainter echoes, which the mountains fling

From far oracular caverns: so, my friend,

I cannot choose but sing!

Unto mine eye, less plain the shepherds be,

Tending their browsing goats amid the broom,

Or the slow camels, travelling towards the sea,

Laden with bales from Baghdad’s gaudy loom,

Or yon nomadic Turcomans, that go

Down from their summer pastures,—than the twain

Immortals, who on Tmolus’ thymy top

Sang, emulous, the rival strain!

Down the charmed air did light Apollo drop;

Great Pan ascended from the vales below.

I see them sitting in the silent glow;

I hear the alternating measures flow

From pipe and golden lyre;—the melody

Heard by the Gods between their nectar bowls,

Or when, from out the chambers of the sea,

Comes the triumphant Morning, and unrolls

A pathway for the sun; then, following swift,

The dædal harmonies of awful caves

Cleft in the hills, and forests that uplift

Their sea-like boom, in answer to the waves,

With many a lighter strain, that dances o’er

The wedded reeds, till Echo strives in vain

To follow;

Hark! once more,

How floats the God’s exultant strain

In answer to Apollo!

“The wind in the reeds and the rushes,

The bees on the bells of thyme,

The birds on the myrtle bushes,

The cicàle above in the lime,

And the lizards below in the grass

Are as silent as ever old Tmolus was,

Listening to my sweet pipings.”