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

Syria: Gilead, the Mount

Mount Gilead

By Nicholas Michell (1807–1880)

(From Ruins of Many Lands)

ON Gilead’s hills a voice of wail is heard,

’T is not the sighing wind or plaining bird;

Where yon cool fountain flows, beneath the shade

Of arching willows sits the Hebrew maid:

Young girls around her raise those cries of woe,

But from sweet Miriam’s lips no murmurs flow:

Calm on that breast, which soon beneath the knife

Must yield to heaven its gentle springs of life,

Droops her fair head, her rich locks, once her pride,

In unbound masses floating by her side.

Like soft dark clouds which screen too brilliant skies

The silken fringe half veils those large black eyes,

And as in that deep hush scarce comes her breath,

She seems absorbed in thought, and dreams of death.

Although weak shrinkings shake not Miriam’s soul,

Regret’s sad pangs she may not all control;

She feels how lovely Nature smiles around,

Joy in each beam, and music in each sound;

But soon for her the sun will quench its ray,

And all that ’s bright and glorious fade away;

No more for her will gush the bird’s glad song,

The lithe gazelle in beauty bound along!

No more, O, nevermore, the much-loved voice

Of sire or friend will bid her soul rejoice:

That young warm heart, now fond Affection’s seat,

In soft response to love must cease to beat;

In Gilead’s vales no bride shall Miriam smile,

No mother’s joys shall e’er her heart beguile,

Her nuptial wreath must be Death’s plant of gloom,

Hymen’s sweet bower the cold undreaming tomb.

Did fiends or angels prompt that fatal vow?

O, Heaven, look down! support and pity now!

Were ever woes so dark and crushing piled

On one fair head?—alas for Jephthah’s child!

And there that maiden sat, but made no moan;

Still drooped her beauteous brow, as turned to stone;

The willow branches o’er her sighing spread,

Its crystal tears the bubbling fountain shed:

The fair attendants mourned to hill and dale,

And pitying Echo caught the plaintive wail,

Ages have passed, poor ill-starred Hebrew maid!

Thy heart is hushed, in long, long quiet laid,

Yet pilgrims drawing near this lonely spot,

Will ever think of thee, and mourn thy lot.