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

Syria: Baalbec


By Nicholas Michell (1807–1880)

(From Ruins of Many Lands)

BAALBEC! thou glorious city! where the sun,

Long ages back, mysterious worship won;

Where, turning eastward, myriads bent the knee,

Well might Day’s burning god be proud of thee.

As now he sinks behind the cedared hills,

Bathing with gold the rocks and falling rills,

Doth he not view, with sad, regretful eye,

The beauteous wreck of glories long gone by,

And teach the desert wind to creep and moan

Around each prostrate shaft and ivied stone?


City of mystery! by whose hands were piled

These gorgeous fanes on Syria’s lonely wild?

No record tells, but Roman art is here,

More rich than chaste, more splendid than severe.

Who reared yon stones?—or were they upward hurled,

The huge foundations of a granite world?

A hundred giants could not lift them there,—

Did Eblis build their mass, or powers of air?

We ask in vain, and only marvelling stand,

And scarce believe that work by human hand.

And yet, perchance, far back in history’s night,

These blocks were heaved by old Phœnician might,

And here, since Abraham walked the world, have lain,

The elder Baalbec’s dark and sole remain.