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

Syria: Jerusalem


By Nicholas Michell (1807–1880)

(From Ruins of Many Lands)

AWAKE! behold! within the mountain zone

That, circling, girds her stern and desert throne,

Immortal Salem sits, famed Zion’s queen,

Stretching her hands, and weeping o’er the scene.

Immortal?—yes, though ills have laid her low,

Patient in ruin, deathless in her woe!—

And do we gaze, our weary wanderings past,

On Sheba’s envy, David’s pride at last?

The city prophets blessed, and kings revered,

The saintly loved, the barbarous nations feared?

What lips have kissed these stones! what holy sighs

And burning prayers have mounted to those skies,

As zealous pilgrims, kneeling on the sod,

Have hailed the towers so favored once by God!

Methinks we see those travellers from the West,

With weary limb, and soiled and tattered vest,

Just as they gain the last hill’s stony brow,

And glorious Salem bursts upon them now.

The aged man whom peril, naught could daunt,

With eager step still presses to the front,

Throws back his locks, and spreads his hands on high,

Light long-unknown rekindling in his eye,

And blesses Heaven ’t is his that scene to view,

Ere his bones rest beneath the funeral yew.

The maiden, taught from earliest hour to deem

That city holy as a seraph’s dream,

Half veils her face in awe, and, bending meek,

Vents in deep sobs all, all she may not speak.

E’en the small child, that ran beside his sire,

Hath caught from those around the hallowed fire,

Drops on his knees with calmed and solemn air,

And lisps from cherub mouth the simple prayer,

Raises his eyes, each orb a sapphire gem,

And folds his hands, and cries,—“Jerusalem!”


Where through the world shall traveller hope to tread

Soil blessed as this, though beauty long hath fled?

With every scene we see is linked a spell,

And every rock we climb a tale can tell.

The ground is holy,—sainted memories rise,—

Cities decay, but naught of spirit dies.


Salem! since David stormed her craggy height,

And dwelt where scoffed the vaunting Jebusite,

What stern, what varied fortunes has she known,

Now conquering nations, now herself o’erthrown!

To-day her Temple glitters wide and far,

Shining in glory like a new-born star;

Tyre gives her arts, and Ophir sends her gold,

And monarchs burn at all their eyes behold.

Chaldæa comes,—she darkens Salem’s fame,

Her walls are stormed, her Temple sinks in flame,

And distant far, where Babel’s waters sweep,

Her prophets pine, her captive children weep.

Woe’s midnight past, again dawn freedom’s hours,

And Salem smiles, the new-built Temple towers;

Once more the caravan from Yemen comes,

The altar burns, and busy commerce hums;

Once more his lion front stern Judah shows,

And heroes rise to brave their country’s foes.

But lo! o’er western hills that gathering cloud,

Where muttering thunder peals more loud and loud,

And forky lightning glitters down the sky,—

’T is the dread flash of Rome’s avenging eye!

The Titan stalks,—beneath his coming tread,

Towns bow in dust, and Syria quakes with dread;

Where’er he moves, the oldest empires fall,

And Rome, wide-conquering Rome, seems lord of all.

Gihon’s long hill presents a ridge of spears,

And filled with bucklers Kedron’s vale appears;

While north and south the bristling troops advance,

And bear war’s engines on, and shake the lance.

Girt on all sides, doomed Salem sees her grave;

Her cup of woe is full, and naught can save.

O direst fruit of crime and hate and rage;

O bloodiest leaf in History’s warning page!

Was it too little Rome besieged her wall,

But Salem’s sons by Salem’s sons must fall?

See! Hebrew chiefs above yon mangled heap,

Their kindred slain, exult when all should weep;

In civil strife true valor ceased to glow,

’T was who should crush his fellow, not the foe.


O Titus! Titus! “darling of mankind,”

That saw his virtues, to his errors blind,

Extolled his feeling heart, his justice praised,

And to his honor busts and arches raised;

But Salem’s name in blood must written be,

The leprous spot that blasts his memory!

What though he rears his countless captives high,

To crosses nailed, that friends may see them die,

The Hebrews shed no tears, for woe has worn

Their senses dull, and more may scarce be borne:

Pangs, like old wounds, oft lull though will not heal,

Excess of feeling makes us cease to feel.

Some fight despairing, some in caverns hide,

These mope in madness, and their God deride;

While others full of zeal, in frenzy strong,

Still call on Heaven to avenge their country’s wrong,

And half expect, down stooping from above,

Messiah’s form will come in power and love,

And with one wave of glory’s dazzling sword,

Scare from their holy walls the Pagan horde.

’T is o’er,—a deadlier struggle earth ne’er knew,

E’en fiends might shrink those scenes of blood to view;

’T is o’er,—a million hearts lie cold and still,

And Rome’s dread eagle soars on Zion’s hill.

Salem, the home of prophets, helpless lies,

The mean one’s jest, the raging heathen’s prize.

Fire wraps her towers, her blazing Temple falls,

With all its golden spires and cedared halls.

Yes, that proud fane, as by an earthquake’s shock,

Is hurled to dust, and levelled with the rock;

And o’er its site must pass the Latian plough—

Seraphs! look down from heaven, and pity now!

And if in your blessed eyes grief e’er appears,

For lost and ruined Salem shed your tears!