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

Syria: Palmyra (Tadmor)

Tadmor of the Wilderness

By Jesse Erskine Dow (1809–1850)

BENEATH the arch of eastern skies,

On Syria’s barren wild,

Where oft the scowling sand-storm flies,

And hides the desert child,

How beautiful to catch the sight

Of Tadmor’s mountain purple height!

And while the flush of evening glows

Upon the western sky,

Unequalled by the blushing rose

Where Sharon’s zephyrs sigh,

How sweet to hear the camel-train

Come tinkling home across the plain!

Gigantic loom the “desert ships,”

As steadily they come;

While joyfully the Kabyl skips

Along his houseless home,

And shakes his spear with childlike glee,

And cries, “The boundless waste for me!”

The boundless waste, the fruitless sea,

Where scorching rays are cast,

The steed that with the wind can flee,

When danger gathers fast,

The scanty tent, the brackish spring,

And Night, that comes with jewelled wing:

The solitude where footprints die,

And prowling lions tread,

Where caravans of wealth sweep by,

In watchfulness and dread:

And sink to sleep and wake to know

That Ishmael is still their foe.

And now, behold, from towering hill,

The howling city stand

In silver moonlight sleeping still,

So beautiful and grand;

No sadder sight has earth than this:

’T is Tadmor of the Wilderness.

Half buried in the flowerless sand

Whirled by the eddying blast,

Behold her marble columns stand,

Huge relics of the past;

And o’er her gates of solid stone

The sculptured eagle fronts the sun.

Palmyra! thou wert great indeed,

When through thy portals passed

The Persian on his weary steed,

And found a rest at last

From Samiel’s breath, and war’s alarms,

Beneath thy tall and waving palms.

Zenobia, mistress of the East,

In glory rested here;

’Neath yonder porch she held her feast,

While satraps bowed in fear;

And oft the silver strain came up,

While Bacchus filled her golden cup.

And here she oped her portals wide,

And called the wise around;

And hither, in her days of pride,

The sage a refuge found;

And Arab chief and Rabbin hung

On gray-haired wisdom’s silver tongue.

When Rome’s fierce thousands hither came,

O’er yonder sands she fled,

And here returned in grief and shame,

A sovereign captive led;

While loud her people’s wail arose

Above the shouts of conquering foes.

And when the gleaming cohorts flung

Their banners o’er thy head,

And cymbals clashed and clarions rung,

Before Aurelian’s tread,

Then died thy race, and sank thy towers,

And desert lightnings seared thy flowers.