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

Mesopotamia: Babylon


By Robert Southey (1774–1843)

(From Thalaba the Destroyer, Book V)


Yet wore one dusky hue;

The cranes upon the mosque

Kept their night-clatter still,

When through the gate the early traveller passed.

And when, at evening, o’er the swampy plain

The bittern’s boom came far,

Distinct in darkness seen

Above the low horizon’s lingering light,

Rose the near ruins of old Babylon.

Once from her lofty walls the charioteer

Looked down on swarming myriads; once she flung

Her arches o’er Euphrates’ conquered tide,

And through her brazen portals when she poured

Her armies forth, the distant nations looked

As men who watch the thunder-cloud in fear,

Lest it should burst above them. She was fallen!

The Queen of cities, Babylon, was fallen!

Low lay her bulwarks; the black scorpion basked

In the palace-courts; within the sanctuary

The she-wolf hid her whelps.

Is yonder huge and shapeless heap, what once

Hath been the aerial gardens, height on height

Rising like Media’s mountains crowned with wood,

Work of imperial dotage? Where the fame

Of Belus? Where the Golden Image now,

Which at the sound of dulcimer and lute,

Cornet and sackbut, harp and psaltery,

The Assyrian slaves adored?

A labyrinth of ruins, Babylon

Spreads o’er the blasted plain;

The wandering Arab never sets his tent

Within her walls; the shepherd eyes afar

Her evil towers, and devious drives his flock.

Alone unchanged, a free and bridgeless tide,

Euphrates rolls along,

Eternal nature’s work.