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

Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia: Nile, the River

The Awakener in the Desert

By Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810–1876)

Translated by G. E. Shirley

BESIDE the Nile, mid desert sands,

A royal-looking lion stands,

As yellow as the sand he treads,

Or the Simoom that round him spreads.

A royal mantle’s shaggy train

Waves round his breast, his ample mane;

A royal crown of passing show,

His stiff hair, bristles on his brow.

He lifts his head and roars amain;

So wild and hollow is the strain,

It booms along the desert sand

And shakes the flood on Mœris’ strand.

Stiffens the panther’s roseate hide,

The fleet gazelle flies terrified;

Camel and crocodile ashore

List to the monarch’s angry roar.

Its echoes from the Nile rebound,

The Pyramids fling back the sound,

The royal mummy, brown and weary,

It wakes from out his slumbers dreary.

He rises in his narrow shrine,

“Thanks, Lion, for that roar of thine!

Thousands of years in sleep I ’ve passed,

Awoke by thy loud roar at last.

“Long time I ’ve dreamed away, ah me!

Years fringed with splendor, where are ye?

When victory’s banners round me flew,

Lion, thy sires my chariot drew.

“High on a golden car I rolled,

Its pole was bright with burnished gold,

And spokes and wheels with pearls did shine;

The town of a hundred gates was mine.

“This foot-sole too, now dry and spare,

Trod on the black Moor’s matted hair,

On Indian’s yellow brow was placed,

On necks of children of the waste.

“And this right hand once swayed the world,

Now with stiff byssus close enfurled;

What yonder hieroglyphics tell

This bosom bore and knew full well.

The tomb that now enshrines me here,

With my own hand I helped to rear;

I sat upon the spear-girt throne,

My steward made the brickfields groan.

“My subject, the broad-bosomed Nile,

Rocked me on rapid keel awhile;

Long have I lain in deep repose,

The Nile-stream yet as ever flows.

“While I its Lord—” He said no more,

Ceased had the Desert Wakener’s roar,

And sank again the monarch’s head

Down in the silence of the dead.