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

Syria: Jehoshaphat (Kedron), the Valley


By Nicholas Michell (1807–1880)

(From Ruins of Many Lands)

WE enter Kedron’s vale,—the stony height

Once crowned with olive-forests, bounds our right:

Age after age men yielded up their breath,

Till millions slumbered in this glen of death;

And here with those he loves, in peace to lie,

Is still the hapless Hebrew’s latest sigh.

Ah! where so sadly sweet may scene be found!

Though flowers no longer deck the shrunken mound,

And plane and yew have ceased their shade to cast,—

They, voiceless mourners, dead themselves at last,—

Here, deep below sad Salem’s eastern walls,

The garish sunbeam mildly tempered falls;

Perched on the tombs, soft plains the hermit-bird,

And scarce the Pagan’s Allah-cry is heard:

Through all, the Kedron pours its placid rill,

Sweet Nature’s child mid death surviving still;

Its low-breathed voice like whispers from the graves,

As their stone fronts its limpid wavelet laves.

The rocks of Olivet are piled above,

Whose shade steals down, as if in hallowing love.

In such a spot the soul, till Judgment-day,

Might wish to leave her frail and cumbering clay,

Revisiting, at moonlight’s holy hour,

That vale of peace, where Death has built his bower.

Stately are Kedron’s tombs; in yon gray pile

Frowns Egypt’s strength, while Attic graces smile;

Cornice and base are hewn from living rock,

Its pointed summit braves Time’s lengthened shock:

The murdered rests within,—those breezes bear

To Fancy’s ear his last and anguished prayer.

Pause we awhile before this columned grot;

Meet for calm musing seems the quiet spot,

For here, tradition tells, the Apostles came,

To hear those words which touched their hearts with flame.

Still further, near yon bridge, whose arch of stone

By modern hand across the stream is thrown,

A pile more massive, and of statelier height,

Like Petra’s cliff-hewn temples, meets the sight.

Strange towers its form and well may wake surprise;

Its top, like flame, is pointing to the skies;

And yet no saint, a rebel slumbers here,

But ah! to one fond heart how passing dear!

The fair-haired Absalom, the gay of mien,

Who proud and graceful as a god was seen:

Hark to the royal father’s heart-breathed sigh!

See his rent robe, and sorrow-streaming eye!

The crime of him no more he all forgave,

And only mourned in dust the lost, the brave!