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

Syria: Bethany

The House of Bethany

By Anonymous

SCARCE fifteen furlongs from the city-gates,

Embayed among the green Judæan hills

(Not yet the wrath was come to the uttermost

Upon that land), like a dew-drop in a leaf

Lay Bethany. Who knows not Bethany,

The town of Mary and her sister, loved

By our dear Lord, what time his blessed feet

Were known in Jewry? Who will place me there?

What spirit that whilom wont with viewless wing

Angelical, on ancient Olivet,

Temper the sultry wind of midsummer

For the pale forehead of the Son of Man,

Walking to Bethany, will bid the home,

By him beloved, stand as then it stood

Beneath the summer sky? No home, methinks,

Such as high fancy frames with delicate craft

In the sunny Orient,—where the half-shut eye

Sees the great stars and the transparent blue

Betwixt two marble columns,—and around

The rich red roses swing like wreaths of fire,—

And spouted water all night passioneth

Its silver weeping in a purple shell.

Not such a home in sooth, yet beautiful,

With lovelier beauty. Prospect is there thence

Of the Holy City, joy of all the earth,

Theatre of miracles and of mysteries;

And of that fane with all its marble pomp,

Which, moonlight-touched, might seem a great white rose

Worn in the night-dark hair of goddess old.

There to that home in Bethany came up

The city murmurs,—murmurs of that sea

Which roars or sobs forever in the streets,

With every drop of every wave a life;

And there the arméd heel and ringing tread

Of Pilate’s sentinels, pacing to and fro,

Was almost heard upon a quiet eve.

But to that home came too, forevermore,

Or came, or seemed to come,—an echo, blent

With Kedron’s murmurs of the mighty music

Up from the Temple, that had panted round

Fragrant and fadeless flowers, that live on

Steeped in the eternal sunset of their gold,

With incense rolling round about like clouds,

And silver lamps hung over them like stars,

And chants that hurried by them like a river;

There, too, were things wherewith the childlike East

Is well content to entertain the hours,—

Garden and grove, and marble to allure

The fountain,—and a sepulchre hard by.