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

Syria: Palmyra (Tadmor)


By John Henry Bright

FULL in the centre, towering through the storm,

See cloudy Taurus lift his rugged form,—

Monarch of mountains! nature’s awful throne,

Where grandeur frowns in terrors all his own;

Deep rooted there unnumbered cedars throw

Their giant shadows on the plains below;

There loudly gushing from the mountain’s side

Euphrates rolls his dark and rapid tide,

Then far beneath glides silently away

Through groves of palm and champaigns ever gay.

But as these scenes of sunny calm delight

Recede at length and vanish from the sight,

What barren solitudes of scorching sand

Deform and desolate the fainting land!

No freshening breeze revives the lifeless air,

No living waters sweetly murmur there,

Dry fevers kindle pestilential fires,

All nature droops, and withered life expires!

But deep embosomed in that sandy plain,

Like distant isles emerging from the main,

A radiant spot with loveliest beauty crowned

Once bloomed in contrast with the scenes around,

By nature’s lavish hand profusely graced,

The blessed Eden of the joyless waste.

On every side luxuriant palm-trees grew,

And hence its name the rising city drew,

And though their loveliness has passed away,

The name still lives and triumphs o’er decay.

Two sheltering hills precipitously swell

On either hand, and form a narrow dell:

Thence to the east with undulating bend

Wide and more wide their spreading arms extend,

Then sink at last with slow retiring sweep,

Like distant headlands sloping to the deep.

Outstretched within upon the silent plains

Lies the sad wreck of Tadmor’s last remains;

Outliving still, through each succeeding age,

The tempest’s fury, and the bigot’s rage.

He wants no written record who surveys

But one short hour this scene of other days:

These mouldering piles, that sink in slow decay,

In stronger characters the tale convey

Than e’er were traced by man’s divinest art,—

These speak in simple language to the heart.

Far to the south what scenes of ruin lie,

What sad confusion opens to the eye!

There shattered columns swell with giant train,

Line after line along the crowded plain,

The loosened arch, the roofless colonnade

Where midday crowds imbibed the cooling shade.