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

Syria: Samaria (Sebaste)

Ruins of Sebaste

By Nicholas Michell (1807–1880)

(From Ruins of Many Lands)

BUT seek ye ruins? Pilgrim, raise thine eye,

On yon steep mount what whitening relics lie?

’T is Herod’s city, built where Israel reared

Samaria’s walls, ere conquering Rome appeared,

Royal Sebaste, crowning Shemer’s brow,

A spot of wildness and of silence now.

See yon fair pillars threatening soon to fall,

Once rich with gold, they graced a royal hall;

Calm on their tops the raven folds his wing,

And round their base long grass and thistles spring:

And this was Herod’s palace, luxury’s slave,

Who ruled the land to Jordan’s northern wave;

And here his goblets flowed, fair women sang,

And charming night, sweet harp and tabret rang:

Yes, by these pillars, mourners of the wild,

Once danced Herodias’ beauty-beaming child;

Here waved her locks, and pealed her laughter sweet,

And, light as fairy’s, gleamed her sandalled feet.

The prince, who gazed with rapture in his eye,

Naught to that fair enchantress could deny:

A mother’s hate then burned, and sped the blow

That smote a prophet in those cells below.

But Christian relics, too, are rising near;

Shall not yon moss-grown fane the heart revere?

The massy buttress and the solid tower

Reluctant yield to Time’s o’erwhelming power;

No more shall sound beneath those arches dim,

The voice of prayer, the holy choral hymn;

No more the priest his burning censer swing,

Or the soul mount on rapt Devotion’s wing.

Helena! peace to thee, whose pious hand

With Christian shrines thus decked this sainted land;

Bright on thy memory honor’s beams be shed!

As amaranths now adorn thine angel head.