Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Africa: Vol. XXIV. 1876–79.

Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia: Assouan (Syene)


By Joseph Ellis (1815–1891)

(From Caesar in Egypt)

ONWARD to Ombi,—there to note, as chief,

Its Ptolemaic fane, in pride columnar,

On mound conspicuous at those level shores;

And then to Ultima Thule of Egyptus,

Where commerce, checked by rocky, foaming falls,

In much suspends its course. Syéne this,

Of bold, romantic aspect, rearing up

Amid the waters,—shaggy cliffs around;

With greenest groves of palm and lebbek tree;

Where Nubian girls are seen, unheedfully

Cooling their slender limbs in Nilus’ wave.

Syéne—school of science most remote

Of first observatory, temple eke,

Where learned hierophants, star-gazing, dwelt,

Or, at the Solstice, watched their sacred well,

One day illumined by the vertic sun,

Its circled marge by classic foot impressed

Of king and priest, and ancient traveller,

Herodotus, Eudoxus, Manetho sage.

And here the gnomon on that day marks not

At noon the looked-for shadow on the dial.

Here too the quarry from whose womb have sprung,

In tinctured granite, carved and polishéd,

Obelisk, and temple, and colossal form

Spread o’er the face of Egypt’s mystic land.

Near, the twin island Elephantiné,—

A sylvan nook one time the seat of kingdom;

With temples and green gardens interspersed,

“Islet of flowers,” so named, and then again,

On, to the rocky isle of Philæ, placed

Below the rushing rapids, in a lake

Serene, translucent, of the river’s bend,—

A swan upon its bosom! and environed

By granite bluffs fantastic,—where is found

Shaded by palm-groves, that most affluent temple—

To Isis dedicate, in earliest time,—

Joined by the later fane, of triune worship,

To God Osiris, Isis, and their son.