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

Asia Minor: Ephesus (Ayasoolook)


By Nicholas Michell (1807–1880)

(From Ruins of Many Lands)

AND where stands Ephesus, in days gone by

Pride of the East, Ionia’s radiant eye,

Boasting the shrine to famed Diana reared,

Earth’s wonder called, that myriad hearts revered?

There spreads Selinus’ lake beneath the hill,

And flows unchanged the Cayster’s willowed rill;

These speak the city near,—through waving grass,

O’er blackened stones, we slowly laboring pass;

Across our way the timid leveret springs;

Woke from his sleep, the snake uncoils his rings.

No street we tread, but climb a grass-grown mound,—

What! is this Ephesus that moulders round?

The embattled walls that swept o’er Lepre’s side,

To shapeless ruin crushed, have stooped their pride:

Where stood that early church Paul loved so well,

No cross, no tomb, no stone remains to tell.

Diana’s fane that, glassed in depths below,

From bronze and silver cast a starry glow,

With statues, colonnades, and courts apart,

And porphyry pillars, each the pride of art,—

Have Time’s stern scythe, man’s rage, and flood and fire,

Left naught for curious pilgrims to admire?

A few poor footsteps now may cross the shrine,

Cell, long arcade, high altar, all supine;

Bound with thick ivy, broken columns lie,

Through low rent arches winds of evening sigh,

Rough brambles choke the vaults where gold was stored,

And toads spit venom forth where priests adored.

The shivering bolt of ruthless ruin falls

On pleasure’s haunts, as well as priestly walls:

See! in the circus, where gay chariots pressed

Their rapid race, the plover builds her nest.

Ten thousand voices rang from yonder hill,

There, clothed with moss, sweep circling benches still,

But e’en the peasant shuns that spot in fear,

So deep the voiceless calm, its look so drear.

Poor actors! Greek or Roman, where are they,

That toiled and laughed to make their fellows gay?

Down the long stream of sable Lethe tost,

Their graves unknown, and e’en their memories lost.

Yet, Ephesus! while desolate and lorn,

And though thy starless night shall know no morn,

Cold is the breast of him who looks on thee,

And feels no thrill of solemn ecstasy.

As musing now we walk thy desert bound,

The heart leaps up as at a trumpet’s sound,

For here, e’en here,—name never to expire,—

Paul taught his church, and breathed his words of fire;

These very stones his foot perchance hath trod,

These roofless walls have heard his prayers to God.

There did Demetrius raise his heathen cry

’Gainst him who led men’s wandering thoughts on high,

Showed the dark errors of their baseless dreams,

Poured on the spirit’s night celestial beams,

And cheered us with the hope, when worms shall prey

On this poor form consigned to slow decay,

The soul, with added powers and new-fledged plume,

Shall spring to life and joy, beyond the tomb.

Ay, Paul’s bright fame, above the fame of kings,

On these sad ruins dazzling lustre flings.

But chief tradition points to yon rude tower,

Where passed in bonds the apostle’s lonely hour,

And pious hands have reared in later day

These fretted Gothic walls, and arches gray:

Within this cell—hush, heart! thy fluttering fears—

To Fancy’s eye his godlike form appears:

What solemn thought that lofty brow displays!

What holy fervor in that lifted gaze!

Monarchs! behold a greater far than ye;

Conquerors! to Christ’s brave champion bend the knee!