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


On the Desert

By William Wetmore Story (1819–1895)

ALL around,

To the bound

Of the vast horizon’s round,

All sand, sand, sand—

All burning, glaring sand—

On my camel’s hump I ride,

As he sways from side to side,

With an awkward step of pride,

And his scraggy head uplifted, and his eye so long and bland.

Naught is near,

In the blear

And simmering atmosphere,

But the shadow on the sand,

The shadow of the camel on the sand;

All alone, as I ride,

O’er the desert’s ocean wide,

It is ever at my side;

It haunts me, it pursues me, if I flee, or if I stand.

Not a sound,

All around,

Save the padded beat and bound

Of the camel on the sand,

Of the feet of the camel on the sand.

Not a bird is in the air,

Though the sun, with burning stare,

Is prying everywhere,

O’er the yellow thirsty desert, so desolately grand.

Not a breath

Stirs the death

Of the desert, nor a wreath

Curls upward from the sand,

From the waves of loose, fine sand,—

And I doze, half asleep,—

Of the wild Sirocs that sweep

O’er the caravans, and heap

With a cloud of powdery, dusty death, the terror-stricken band.

Their groans

And their moans

Have departed, but their bones

Are whitening on the sand—

Are blanching and grinning on the sand,

O Allah! thou art great!

Save me from such a fate,

Nor through that fearful strait

Lead me, thy basest servant, unto the Prophet-land.