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

Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia: Karnak


By Joseph Ellis (1815–1891)

(From Caesar in Egypt)

SO, with a troop of friends and Theban slaves,

Led by an aged hierophant, well-versed

In mystic records of Egyptus’ land,

And hierogrammat of linguistic skill,—

Cæsar went forth, in sober merriment,

To view the skeletons of ages fled,—

The giant bones, denoting giant minds;

Those unexampled temples sempitern—

Luxor and Karnak, twain, yet linked in one

By avenue of sphinxes, multiplied,

To endless view;—and first to Luxor, built

By Amunothph; passing through the propylon huge,

Prefaced by two tall obelisks, and two

Gigantic figures human-form; beyond,

The temple-tomb of Ozymandias,

And countless gaunt mementos of the past.

But when, mid lines of sphinx and obelisk,

To Karnak Cæsar came, he said, amazed,

“Too wonderful this vision to be real,—

The work of necromancy, or a dream!

This grand confusion, these colossal forms,

This wide extent of ruin; how could die

Men who had life for this? they could not die;

Fate fails to cast them to oblivion;—

Here in their deeds they live; these silent walls,

These graven monoliths, with meaning rife,

These prostrate statues, and these columns stark,

Speak, from remotest time, to us who live.