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

Syria: Damascus

The Conversion of St. Paul

By John Keble (1792–1866)

THE MIDDAY sun, with fiercest glare,

Broods o’er the hazy, twinkling air;

Along the level sand

The palm-tree’s shade unwavering lies,

Just as thy towers, Damascus, rise

To greet yon wearied band.

The leader of that martial crew

Seems bent some mighty deed to do,

So steadily he speeds,

With lips firm closed and fixed eye,

Like warrior when the fight is nigh,

Nor talk nor landscape heeds.

What sudden blaze is round him poured,

As though all Heaven’s refulgent hoard

In one rich glory shone?

One moment,—and to earth he falls:

What voice his inmost heart appalls?—

Voice heard by him alone.

For to the rest both words and form

Seem lost in lightning and in storm,

While Saul, in wakeful trance,

Sees deep within that dazzling field

His persecuted Lord revealed

With keen yet pitying glance;

And hears the meek upbraiding call

As gently on his spirit fall,

As if the Almighty Son

Were prisoner yet in this dark earth,

Nor had proclaimed his royal birth,

Nor his great power begun.

“Ah! wherefore persecut’st thou me?”

He heard and saw, and sought to free

His strained eye from the sight:

But Heaven’s high magic bound it there,

Still gazing, though untaught to bear

The insufferable light.