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

Introductory to Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia


By James Thomson (1834–1882)

(From Liberty, Part II)

THUS spoke the Goddess of the fearless eye;

And at her voice renewed the Vision rose:


“For Greece my sons of Egypt I forsook;

A boastful race, that in the vain abyss

Of fabling ages loved to lose their source,

And with their river traced it from the skies.

While there my laws alone despotic reigned,

And king, as well as people, proud obeyed;

I taught them science, virtue, wisdom, arts;

By poets, sages, legislators sought;

The school of polished life, and human-kind.

But when mysterious Superstition came,

And, with her Civil Sister leagued, involved

In studied darkness the desponding mind;

Then Tyrant Power the righteous scourge unloosed:

For yielded reason speaks the soul a slave.

Instead of useful works, like nature’s, great,

Enormous, cruel wonders crushed the land;

And round a tyrant’s tomb, who none deserved,

For one vile carcass perished countless lives.

Then the great Dragon, couched amid his floods,

Swelled his fierce heart, and cried, “This flood is mine,

’T is I that bid it flow.” But, undeceived,

His frenzy soon the proud blasphemer felt;

Felt that, without my fertilizing power,

Suns lost their force, and Niles o’erflowed in vain.”