Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  An Oriental Idyl

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

Syria: Damascus

An Oriental Idyl

By Bayard Taylor (1825–1878)

A SILVER javelin which the hills

Have hurled upon the plain below,

The fleetest of the Pharpar’s rills,

Beneath me shoots in flashing flow.

I hear the never-ending laugh

Of jostling waves that come and go,

And suck the bubbling pipe, and quaff

The sherbet cooled in mountain snow.

The flecks of sunshine gleam like stars

Beneath the canopy of shade;

And in the distant, dim bazaars

I scarcely hear the hum of trade.

No evil fear, no dream forlorn,

Darkens my heaven of perfect blue;

My blood is tempered to the morn,—

My very heart is steeped in dew.

What Evil is I cannot tell;

But half I guess what Joy may be;

And, as a pearl within its shell,

The happy spirit sleeps in me.

I feel no more the pulse’s strife,—

The tides of Passion’s ruddy sea,—

But live the sweet, unconscious life

That breathes from yonder jasmine-tree.

Upon the glittering pageantries

Of gay Damascus’ streets I look

As idly as a babe that sees

The painted pictures of a book.

Forgotten now are name and race;

The Past is blotted from my brain;

For Memory sleeps, and will not trace

The weary pages o’er again.

I only know the morning shines,

And sweet the dewy morning air;

But does it play with tendrilled vines,

Or does it lightly lift my hair?

Deep-sunken in the charmed repose,

This ignorance is bliss extreme;

And whether I be Man, or Rose,

O, pluck me not from out my dream!