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

Introductory to Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia


By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

(From Kéramos)

AND now the winds that southward blow,

And cool the hot Sicilian isle,

Bear me away. I see below

The long line of the Lybian Nile,

Flooding and feeding the parched lands

With annual ebb and overflow:

A fallen palm whose branches lie

Beneath the Abyssinian sky,

Whose roots are in Egyptian sands.

On either bank huge water-wheels,

Belted with jars and dripping weeds,

Send forth their melancholy moans,

As if, in their gray mantles hid,

Dead anchorites of the Thebaid

Knelt on the shore and told their beads,

Beating their breasts with loud appeals

And penitential tears and groans.

This city, walled and thickly set

With glittering mosque and minaret,

Is Cairo, in whose gay bazaars

The dreaming traveller first inhales

The perfume of Arabian gales,

And sees the fabulous earthen jars,

Huge as were those wherein the maid

Morgiana found the Forty Thieves

Concealed in midnight ambuscade;

And seeing more than half believes

The fascinating tales that run

Through all the Thousand Nights and One,

Told by the fair Scheherezade.

More strange and wonderful than these

Are the Egyptian deities—

Ammon, and Emoth, and the grand

Osiris, holding in his hand

The lotus; Isis, crowned and veiled;

The sacred Ibis, and the Sphinx;

Bracelets with blue-enamelled links;

The Scarabee in emerald mailed,

Or spreading wide his funeral wings;

Lamps that perchance their night-watch kept

O’er Cleopatra while she slept,—

All plundered from the tombs of kings.