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


Desert Hymn to the Sun

By Bayard Taylor (1825–1878)

UNDER the arches of the morning sky,

Save in one heart, there beats no life of man;

The yellow sand-hills bleak and trackless lie,

And far behind them sleeps the caravan.

A silence, as before creation, broods

Sublimely o’er the desert solitudes.

A silence as if God in heaven were still,

And meditating some new wonder! Earth

And Air the solemn portent own, and thrill

With awful prescience of the coming birth.

And Night withdraws, and on their silver cars

Wheel to remotest space the trembling Stars.

See! an increasing brightness, broad and fleet,

Breaks on the morning in a rosy flood,

As if He smiled to see his work complete,

And rested from it, and pronounced it good.

The sands lie still, and every wind is furled:

The Sun comes up, and looks upon the world.

Is there no burst of music to proclaim

The pomp and majesty of this new lord?

A golden trumpet in each beam of flame,

Startling the universe with grand accord?

Must Earth be dumb beneath the splendors thrown

From his full orb to glorify her own?

No: with an answering splendor, more than sound

Instinct with gratulation, she adores.

With purple flame the porphyry hills are crowned,

And burn with gold the Desert’s boundless floors;

And the lone Man compels his haughty knee,

And, prostrate at thy footstool, worships thee.

Before the dreadful glory of thy face

He veils his sight; he fears the fiery rod

Which thou dost wield amid the brightening space,

As if the sceptre of a visible god.

If not the shadow of God’s lustre, thou

Art the one jewel flaming on his brow.

Wrap me within the mantle of thy beams,

And feed my pulses with thy keenest fire!

Here, where thy full meridian deluge streams

Across the desert, let my blood aspire

To ripen in the vigor of thy blaze,

And catch a warmth to shine through darker days!

I am alone before thee: Lord of Light!

Begetter of the life of things that live!

Beget in me thy calm, self-balanced might;

To me thine own immortal ardor give.

Yea, though, like her who gave to Jove her charms,

My being wither in thy fiery arms.

Whence came thy splendors? Heaven is filled with thee;

The sky’s blue walls are dazzling with thy train;

Thou sitt’st alone in the Immensity,

And in thy lap the World grows young again.

Bathed in such brightness, drunken with the day,

He deems the Dark forever passed away.

But thou dost sheathe thy trenchant sword, and lean

With tempered grandeur towards the western gate;

Shedding thy glory with a brow serene,

And leaving heaven all golden with thy state:

Not as a king discrowned and overthrown,

But one who keeps, and shall reclaim his own.