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

Syria: Galilee (Tabaria), the Sea of

Sea of Galilee

By Nicholas Michell (1807–1880)

(From Ruins of Many Lands)

SLOW moves our skiff o’er still Tabaria’s tide,

Through whose clear azure fish are seen to glide;

Abrupt and steep the girdling mountains frown,

Gigantic shadows stealing darkly down.

No murmuring crowds move busy on the shore,

No shepherd sings, or fisher plies his oar;

No voice in heaven, no whisper from the cave,

Man seems unborn, and Nature here a grave.

A quiet sadness fills the musing mind,

We fain would speak, but language may not find.

Yet, not like Sodom’s waters, here we trace

A holy beauty and a solemn grace;

Though man may now desert yon silent strand,

Fancy will call up forms on wave and land;

A thousand memories treasured still shall be,

And linked throughout all time, fair lake, with thee.

Here lowly Peter’s youthful days were past,

In yon green cove, perchance, his net was cast;

Here, mingling blood with pure and sparkling foam,

In her last throes Judæa fought with Rome;

On yon fair Mount that blessed discourse was given

By One who spoke as angels speak in heaven.

Lo! on the lake, day’s farewell smiles expire,

And night’s deep shadows wrap each rocky spire;

Struggling with winds, and tossed on surges dark,

The Apostles urge in vain their laboring bark;

No friendly moon,—not e’en a star on high

Casts on their course its mild celestial eye.

See! near their ship that calm and awful form,

Who walks the waves, unheeding night and storm;

Far o’er the lake they see strange lustre gleam,

And round his head a lambent glory beam;

Shrinking in fear, with eyes that wildly stare,

They deem that form a spectre gliding there;

But, soft as music to the saint who dies,

Floats o’er Time’s gulf from opening Paradise,

His voice now sounds along the troubled wave,

And calms their fears,—the blessed One comes to save!

He who shall search for cities famed of yore,

Few wrecks will find on lone Tabaria’s shore:

Where stood tower-crowned Chorazin, men forget;

A palm-tree marks thy sight, Gennesaret.

Tiberias, Herod’s pride, still flaunteth fair,

But not the cross, the crescent triumphs there;

With zeal for Islam’s creed men’s bosoms burn,

And brows to Mecca, not to Salem, turn.

No more Bethsaida gleams across the flood;

An ancient watch-tower tells where Magdal stood

Clothed with green moss,—Time’s sad but fragrant pall,—

Many a dark bath extends its mouldering wall;

They sink to dust, yet Health still spreads his wings

O’er the warm fountain’s life-reviving springs.