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

Introductory to Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia


By Nicholas Michell (1807–1880)

(From Ruins of Many Lands)

HAIL! Egypt! land of ancient pomp and pride,

Where Beauty walks by hoary Ruin’s side;

Where Plenty reigns, and still the seasons smile,

And rolls—rich gift of God!—exhaustless Nile.

Land of the pyramid and temple lone!

Whose fame, a star, on earth’s dark midnight shone;

Bright seat of wisdom, graced with arts and arms,

Ere Rome was built, or smiled fair Athens’ charms;

What owes the past, the living world to thee?

All that refines, sublimes humanity.

The tall papyrus whispering seems to say,

Here rose the letters Cadmus bore away.

The Greek to thee his Jove and Bacchus owes,

With many a tale that charms, and thought that glows.

In thy famed schools the Samian learnt his lore,

That souls, though wandering, live forevermore;

The giant structures piled on Gizeh’s plain

Speak of the sages watching heaven’s bright train,

Who first years, months divided, traced afar

The comet’s course, and named each glittering star.


Worshipped of old, whence flows the Nile’s proud wave?

From what far spring, green vale, or sunless cave?

Vainly its fountains curious pilgrims seek;

The solveless mystery ages fail to break.

Sure on the spring some god hath set his seal,

Sworn the bright waters never to reveal:

But if mid Ethiop wilds, or Lunar steeps,

Her secret charge the jealous Naiad keeps,

Sleeking her locks unseen in that bright well,

And planting flowers where only sylphs may dwell,

What boots it? bounding from his cradling-place,

Young Nile comes forth, to run his giant race,

Pours down Sennar, and washes Nubia’s wild,

Fresh, full, and free, as when first Nature smiled;

Foams o’er the granite ridge by Souan’s shore,

With flashing billow, and with sullen roar;

Still sees the temple crown his palmy banks,

And hoary Sphinxes sleep, in long-drawn ranks.

What though no more the priest on Isis calls,

Or grand processions sweep from Memphis’ walls,

Praying the flood to rise o’er bower and field,

Still swell the waves, and wonted blessings yield;

And sweet the stream to traveller’s thirsty lip,

As when the Egyptian deemed it heaven to sip;

And green the flags, and fair the lotus-flower,

As when that babe, within his bulrush-bower,

The embryo leader, Fame’s immortal heir,

Smiled on the royal maids who found him there.