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

Introductory to Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia

Pelters of Pyramids

By Richard Hengist Horne (1802–1884)

A SHOAL of idlers, from a merchant craft

Anchored off Alexandria, went ashore,

And mounting asses in their headlong glee,

Round Pompey’s Pillar rode with hoots and taunts,—

As men oft say, “What art thou more than we?”

Next in a boat they floated up the Nile,

Singing and drinking, swearing senseless oaths,

Shouting, and laughing most derisively

At all majestic scenes. A bank they reached,

And, clambering up, played gambols among tombs;

And in portentous ruins (through whose depths—

The mighty twilight of departed gods—

Both sun and moon glanced furtive, as in awe)

They hid, and whooped, and spat on sacred things.

At length, beneath the blazing sun they lounged

Near a great Pyramid. Awhile they stood

With stupid stare, until resentment grew,

In the recoil of meanness from the vast;

And, gathering stones, they, with coarse oaths and gibes,

(As they would say, “What art thou more than we?”)

Pelted the Pyramid! But soon these men,

Hot and exhausted, sat them down to drink,—

Wrangled, smoked, spat, and laughed, and drowsily

Cursed the bald Pyramid, and fell asleep.

Night came:—a little sand went drifting by—

And morn again was in the soft blue heavens.

The broad slopes of the shining Pyramid

Looked down in their austere simplicity

Upon the glistening silence of the sands

Whereon no trace of mortal dust was seen.