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

Mesopotamia: Seleucia and Ctesiphon

Seleucia and Ctesiphon

By Nicholas Michell (1807–1880)

(From Ruins of Many Lands)

TWO cities moulder here—and can it be,

Seleucia! Ctesiphon! we gaze on ye?

Boast of the Greek, and pride of Parthia’s kings,

How has your glory flown on eagle wings!

The thrones of ivory, and the myrtle bowers,

The harems, full of Beauty’s choicest flowers,

The burning censers of the Magian train,

The bright-plumed hosts careering on the plain,—

Where are they now? The lowly turf I tread,

On which the daisy lifts its yellow head,

Veils the past scene of splendor,—Genii, come!

From cave and dell, your green and haunted home,

Shed memory’s tear, put wreaths of cypress on,

And mourn Seleucia! weep for Ctesiphon!

By ruin struck, and yet unbowed by years,

One noble relic on this waste appears:

See! where yon lofty-raised stupendous wall

Nods o’er the desert mounds, but will not fall;

Beneath the mighty arch we wander slow,

On sand-heaped floors the thorn and thistle grow.

And here dwelt Khosru, Persia’s tasteful king,

Lapped in each joy that power and splendor bring;

Here blazed that throne, all formed of pearls and gold,

Like sunset cloud round Mythra’s chariot rolled;

Here Indian slaves knelt down in glittering rows,

And Tyrian couches wooed to cool repose;

Breathed from a thousand urns each choice perfume,

Till fainting sweetness filled each dazzling room.

Here Barbud’s hand the harp-strings swept along,

Till all the trembling air seemed steeped with song.

The soul in dreams half thought her in the skies,

Mistaking earth for star-bright Paradise.