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 Nile

By Lucretius (c 99–55 B.C.)

(From The Nature of Things, Book VI)
Translated by J. M. Good

THE NILE now calls us, pride of Egypt’s plains:

Sole stream on earth its boundaries that o’erflows

Punctual, and scatters plenty. When the year

Now glows with perfect summer, leaps its tide

Broad o’er the champaign, for the north-wind now,

The Etesian breeze, against its mouth direct

Blows with perpetual winnow; every surge

Hence loiters slow, the total current swells,

And wave o’er wave its loftiest bank surmounts.

For that the fixed monsoon that now prevails

Flows from the cold stars of the northern pole

None e’er can doubt; while rolls the Nile adverse

Full from the south, from realms of torrid heat,

Haunts of the Ethiop-tribes; yet far beyond

First bubbling, distant, o’er the burning line.

Then ocean, haply, by the undevious breeze

Blown up its channel, heaves with every wave

Heaps of high sands, and dams its wonted course:

Whence narrower, too, its exit to the main,

And with less force the tardy stream descends.

Or, towards its fountain, ampler rains, perchance,

Fall, as the Etesian fans, now wide unfurled,

Ply the big clouds perpetual from the north

Far o’er the red equator; where, condensed,

Ponderous, and low, against the hills they strike,

And shed their treasures o’er the rising flood.

Or, from the Ethiop-mountains, the bright sun

Now full matured, with deep dissolving ray

May melt the agglomerate snows, and down the plains

Drive them, augmenting, hence, the incipient stream.