Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Greece and Turkey in Europe: Vol. XIX. 1876–79.

Greece: Sparta


By Nicholas Michell (1807–1880)

(From Ruins of Many Lands)

LAND of the lordly mien and iron frame!

Where wealth was held dishonor, luxury’s smile

Worse than a demon’s soul-destroying wile!

Where every youth that hailed the Day-God’s beam,

Wielded the sword, and dreamt the patriot’s dream;

Where childhood lisped of war with eager soul,

And woman’s hand waved on to glory’s goal.

Ay, she sent forth her son in battle’s face,

Feared not his death, but only his disgrace;

Dropped on his home-borne corpse no woman’s tear,

So he had died in valor’s red career;

Wept only for the son who lost his shield,

And, choosing life to honor, fled the field.


What! are these stones, yon column’s broken shaft,

Where moss-crowned Ruin long hath sat and laughed,

These shattered steps, these walls that earthward bow,

All Sparta’s Royal Square can boast of now?

What! in the streets which swept on every side,

Do but wild poppies lift their crimson pride?

Plant of Oblivion! well thou here mayst bloom,

Type of unlettered Sparta’s hastening doom!

The Stoa’s walls with Persian trophies graced,

The circling course where brazen chariots raced,

The pillar, where each name ye once might see

Of those who fell at red Thermopylæ;

Juno’s bright shrine,—the city’s glittering eye,—

Ramparts below, and frowning towers on high,—

All, all are gone, like forms in troubled sleep,

Blooms in the spring or foam upon the deep,

Alone unchanged by battle, time, or blast,

Fresh as when born, Eurotas wanders past,

Breaks in soft kisses on the silver sands,

Trod in old times by valor’s conquering bands,

Mirrors the banks where temples shone of yore,

But ah! the bath of beauty’s train no more;

And further down, where snow-white lilies gleam,—

The drooping Naiads of the classic stream,—

To choiring winds the bubbling waters sigh,

Like Memory’s wail for glories long gone by.