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

Arabia: Aden


By Sir William Jones (1746–1794)

An Arabian Eclogue Written in 1768

YE maids of Aden! hear a loftier tale

Than e’er was sung in meadow, bower, or dale.

The smiles of Abelah, and Maia’s eyes,

Where beauty plays, and love in slumber lies;

The fragrant hyacinths of Azza’s hair,

That wanton with the laughing summer-air;

Love-tinctured cheeks, whence roses seek their bloom,

And lips, from which the zephyr steals perfume,—

Invite no more the wild unpolished lay,

But fly like dreams before the morning ray.

Then farewell, love! and farewell, youthful fires!

A nobler warmth my kindled breast inspires.

Far bolder notes the listening wood shall fill:

Flow smooth, ye rivulets; and, ye gales, be still.

See yon fair groves that o’er Amana rise,

And with their spicy breath embalm the skies;

Where every breeze sheds incense o’er the vales,

And every shrub the scent of musk exhales!

See through yon opening glade a glittering scene,

Lawns ever gay, and meadows ever green!

Then ask the groves, and ask the vocal bowers,

Who decked their spiry tops with blooming flowers,

Taught the blue stream o’er sandy vales to flow,

And the brown wild with liveliest hues to glow?

Fair Solima! the hills and dales will sing;

Fair Solima! the distant echoes ring.

But not with idle shows of vain delight,

To charm the soul or to beguile the sight;

At noon on banks of pleasure to repose,

Where bloom intwined the lily, pink, and rose;

Not in proud piles to heap the nightly feast,

Till morn with pearls has decked the glowing east;

Ah! not for this she taught those bowers to rise,

And bade all Eden spring before our eyes:

Far other thoughts her heavenly mind employ,

(Hence, empty pride! and hence, delusive joy!)

To cheer with sweet repast the fainting guest;

To lull the weary on the couch of rest;

To warm the traveller numbed with winter’s cold;

The young to cherish, to support the old;

The sad to comfort, and the weak protect;

The poor to shelter, and the lost direct;—

These are her cares, and this her glorious task:

Can heaven a nobler give, or mortals ask?

Come to these groves and these life-breathing glades,

Ye friendless orphans and ye dowerless maids!

With eager haste your mournful mansions leave,

Ye weak, that tremble; and, ye sick, that grieve;

Here shall soft tents, o’er flowery lawns displayed,

At night defend you, and at noon o’ershade;

Here rosy health the sweets of life will shower,

And new delights beguile each varied hour.

Mourns there a widow, bathed in streaming tears?

Stoops there a sire beneath the weight of years?

Weeps there a maid, in pining sadness left,

Of tender parents and of hope bereft?

To Solima their sorrows they bewail;

To Solima they pour their plaintive tale.

She hears; and, radiant as the star of day,

Through the thick forest gains her easy way:

She asks what cares the joyless train oppress,

What sickness wastes them, or what wants distress;

And, as they mourn, she steals a tender sigh,

Whilst all her soul sits melting in her eye:

Then with a smile the healing balm bestows,

And sheds a tear of pity o’er their woes,

Which, as it drops, some soft-eyed angel bears

Transformed to pearl, and in his bosom wears.

When, chilled with fear, the trembling pilgrim roves

Through pathless deserts and through tangled groves,

Where mantling darkness spreads her dragon wing,

And birds of death their fatal dirges sing,

While vapors pale a dreadful glimmering cast,

And thrilling horror howls in every blast;

She cheers his gloom with streams of bursting light,

By day a sun, a beaming moon by night;

Darts through the quivering shades her heavenly ray,

And spreads with rising flowers his solitary way.

Ye heavens, for this in showers of sweetness shed

Your mildest influence o’er her favored head!

Long may her name, which distant climes shall praise,

Live in our notes, and blossom in our lays!

And, like an odorous plant, whose blushing flower

Paints every dale, and sweetens every bower,

Borne to the skies in clouds of soft perfume

Forever flourish, and forever bloom!

These grateful songs, ye maids and youths, renew,

While fresh-blown violets drink the pearly dew;

O’er Azib’s banks while love-lorn damsels rove,

And gales of fragrance breathe from Hagar’s grove.

So sung the youth, whose sweetly warbled strains

Fair Mena heard, and Saba’s spicy plains.

Soothed with his lay, the ravished air was calm,

The winds scarce whispered o’er the waving palm;

The camels bounded o’er the flowery lawn,

Like the swift ostrich or the sportful fawn;

Their silken bands the listening rosebuds rent,

And twined their blossoms round his vocal tent:

He sung, till on the bank the moonlight slept,

And closing flowers beneath the night-dew wept;

Then ceased, and slumbered in the lap of rest

Till the shrill lark had left his low-built nest.

Now hastes the swain to tune his rapturous tales

In other meadows, and in other vales.