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

Arabia: Petra (Selah)


By Nicholas Michell (1807–1880)

(From Ruins of Many Lands)

BUT near Mount Hor, for countless ages hid,

And sealed like vaults in Cheops’ pyramid,

Hemmed in by rocks, a wall on every side,

Lo! queen of deserts, Petra veils her pride.

So wild that scene without, and stern and bare,

Ye scarce would deem man once had dwelling there,

But think those rocks the goat could only roam,

Or on their summits eagles make their home.

We pierce yon dell at twilight’s deepening hour;

Tall cliffs each side in savage grandeur tower;

Meeting aloft, like threatening foes they seem,

Till scarce between the clefts the stars can gleam.

The guides, with unsheathed daggers, lead the way,

For ofttimes here the robber lurks for prey:

The flickering torches show each swarthy face,

And wilder horror lend that lonely place.

Dark fir and cypress wave above our head,

And ivy bands fantastic garlands spread.

A fiery ball oft gleams where black rocks scowl,—

’T is the large eye of some sepulchral owl;

And oft a step is heard the crags among,—

’T is the lone wolf that steals in shade along,

And turns and looks, yet flies the torch’s glare,

And growls in rage that man disturbs him there.