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

Syria: Geraza


By Nicholas Michell (1807–1880)

(From Ruins of Many Lands)

AND this was proud Geraza, where the Jew,

Once lord of Gilead, only slavery knew;

Where Roman victors passed a life of ease,

Mid all that mind could charm, or sense could please:

They melted from the scene,—the Moslems came,

Pillaged the palace, wrapped the shrines in flame,

And searched the dead, and broke the coffin-lid,

Lured by the wealth which Jew or Christian hid.

They in their turn departed; long, long years

Have done their worst,—Geraza still appears,

Queen-like and sad, on ruin gazing down,

No foe but Time, no subjects and no crown,

Her only guest Oblivion’s shade, who keeps

Watch o’er the scene, while Rome’s pale genius weeps.

Behold this Arch of Triumph!—reared to whom?

No line declares,—’t is lonely as a tomb;

Yet here the monarch passed, or man of war,

While shouts rang round, and laurels decked his car;

We walk beneath,—Geraza rises near,

Not harsh the scene, not gloomy or severe,

But grandly beautiful, and softly mild,—

Another Tadmor mourns upon the wild.

The broken statue, column worn and rent,

The tottering tower, the grass-grown monument,

Are mixed with fairer objects,—classic shrines,

Round which the row of rich-carved pillars shines,

And lengthened colonnades, like vistas seen

Narrowing to shadowy points in forests green.

Here spreads the huge Naumachia, where of old

Ships struck, in mimic fight, their beaks of gold;

That marble lake is dry, and flowerets fair,

And many a fragrant shrub, are blooming there.

The circus still displays its ample bound,

Where glittering chariots ran their dizzy round:

The theatres, all open to the sky,

In size and grace with those of Hellas vie;

The broad deep orchestra, the circling seat,

The vaulted gallery, now the bat’s retreat,

Crushed arch, stage clothed with brambles,—such the scene,

The once fair haunt of Pleasure’s bright-eyed queen.