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

Syria: Jerusalem

The Fall of Jerusalem

By Henry Hart Milman (1791–1868)


TITUS, on the Mount of Olives; Evening.

IT must be,—

And yet it moves me, Romans! It confounds

The counsels of my firm philosophy,

That Ruin’s merciless ploughshare must pass o’er,

And barren salt be sown on yon proud city.

As on our olive-crownéd hill we stand,

Where Kedron at our feet its scanty waters

Distills from stone to stone with gentle motion,

As through a valley sacred to sweet peace,

How boldly doth it front us! how majestically!

Like a luxurious vineyard, the hillside

Is hung with marble fabrics, line o’er line,

Terrace o’er terrace, nearer still, and nearer

To the blue heavens. Here bright and sumptuous palaces,

With cool and verdant gardens interspersed;

Here towers of war that frown in massy strength,

While over all hangs the rich purple eve,

As conscious of its being her last farewell

Of light and glory to that fated city.

And, as our clouds of battle dust and smoke

Are melted into air, behold the Temple,

In undisturbed and lone serenity

Finding itself a solemn sanctuary

In the profound of heaven! It stands before us

A mount of snow fretted with golden pinnacles!

The very sun, as though he worshipped there,

Lingers upon the gilded cedar roofs;

And down the long and branching porticos,

On every flowery-sculptured capital,

Glitters the homage of his parting beams.

By Hercules! the sight might almost win

The offended majesty of Rome to mercy.

JAVAN, at the Fountain of Siloe.

There have been tears from holier eyes than mine

Poured o’er thee, Zion! yea, the Son of Man

This thy devoted hour foresaw and wept.

And I,—can I refrain from weeping? Yes,

My country, in thy darker destiny

Will I awhile forget mine own distress.

I feel it now, the sad, the coming hour;

The signs are full, and never shall the sun

Shine on the cedar roofs of Salem more;

Her tale of splendor now is told and done:

Her wine-cup of festivity is spilt,

And all is o’er, her grandeur and her guilt.

O fair and favored city, where of old

The balmy airs were rich with melody,

That led her pomp beneath the cloudless sky

In vestments flaming with the orient gold;

Her gold is dim, and mute her music’s voice;

The heathen o’er her perished pomp rejoice.

How stately then was every palm-decked street,

Down which the maidens danced with tinkling feet;

How proud the elders in the lofty gate!

How crowded all her nation’s solemn feasts

With white-robed Levites and high-mitred Priests;

How gorgeous all her Temple’s sacred state!

Her streets are razed, her maidens sold for slaves,

Her gates thrown down, her elders in their graves;

Her feasts are holden mid the Gentile’s scorn,

By stealth her priesthood’s holy garments worn;

And where her Temple crowned the glittering rock,

The wandering shepherd folds his evening flock.

When shall the work, the work of death begin?

When come the avengers of proud Judah’s sin?

Aceldama! accursed and guilty ground,

Gird all the city in thy dismal bound,

Her price is paid, and she is sold like thou;

Let every ancient monument and tomb

Enlarge the border of its vaulted gloom,

Their spacious chambers all are wanted now.

But nevermore shall yon lost city need

Those secret places for her future dead;

Of all her children, when this night is passed,

Devoted Salem’s darkest, and her last,

Of all her children none is left to her,

Save those whose house is in the sepulchre.

Yet, guilty city, who shall mourn for thee?

Shall Christian voices wail thy devastation?

Look down! look down, avenged Calvary,

Upon thy late yet dreaded expiation.

O, long-foretold, though slow-accomplished fate,

“Her house is left unto her desolate”;

Proud Cæsar’s ploughshare o’er her ruins driven,

Fulfils at length the tardy doom of heaven;

The wrathful vial’s drops at length are poured

On the rebellious race that crucified their Lord!