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

Syria: Hebron


By Nicholas Michell (1807–1880)

(From Ruins of Many Lands)

THERE stands a tree at Hebron,—huge its form,

Oft seared by lightning, worn by many a storm:

Ages that level thrones beneath their stroke,

And sweep off races, spare that spreading oak.

Pilgrims, when Rome was Pagan, came to see,

And muse beneath this famed and hallowed tree.

Here oft did Abraham sit, when evening still

Cooled the green vale, and crimsoned Hebron’s hill;

The musky breezes round his forehead played,

He blessed bright Nature’s God, and blessed that shade.

Here stood those guests sent earthward from the skies,

Mortal their forms, but heaven within their eyes;

And yonder glooms Machpelah’s ancient cave,

The bartering sons of Heth to Abraham gave.

Now giant stones protect that spot so blest,

Where the great sire and Hebrew mother rest;

Nor yet perchance the rock betrays its trust,

Though forty ages brood above their dust.

But sealed to Christians is that cell of gloom,

The Turk’s proud crescent glittering o’er the tomb;

For Moslems guard the spot with jealous care,

And burn their lamps, and read their Koran there,

And pray to Allah in that worshipped place,

E’en while they scorn and hate the Patriarch’s race.