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

Introductory to Persia


By Nicholas Michell (1807–1880)

(From Ruins of Many Lands)

PERSIA! time-honored land! who looks on thee

A desert, yet a Paradise, will see,

Vast chains of hills where not a shrub appears,

Wastes where no dews distil their diamond tears,

The only living things foul birds of prey,

Who whet their beaks, or court the solar ray,

And wolves that fill with howlings midnight’s vale,

Turning the cheek of far-off traveller pale;—

Anon, the ravished eye delighted dwells

On chinar-groves and brightly watered dells;

Blooming where man and art have nothing done,

Pomegranates hang their rich fruit in the sun;

Grapes turn to purple many a rock’s tall brow,

And globes of gold adorn the citron’s bough;

Mid rose-trees hid, or perched on some high palm,

The bulbul sings through eve’s delicious calm;

While girt by planes, or washed by cooling streams,

On some green flat the stately city gleams.—

T is as a demon there had cast his frown,

And here an angel breathed a blessing down;

As if in nature as the human soul,

The god of darkness spurned heaven’s bright control,

Good struggling hard with Evil’s withering spell,

A smiling Eden on the marge of hell.

Immortal clime! where Zoroaster sprung,

And light on Persia’s earlier history flung;

Let charity condemn not Iran’s sage,

Who taught, reformed, and humanized his age.

In him one great as Mecca’s prophet see,

But oh, more gentle, wise, and pure than he.