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

Arabia: Desert of Arabia

The Oasis

By Robert Southey (1774–1843)

(From Thalaba the Destroyer, Book IV)

STILL o’er the wilderness

Settled the moveless mist.

The timid antelope, that heard their steps,

Stood doubtful where to turn in that dim light.

The ostrich, blindly hastening, met them full.

At night, again in hope,

Young Thalaba lay down:

The morning came, and not one guiding ray

Through the thick mist was visible,

The same deep moveless mist that mantled all.

O for the vulture’s scream,

Who haunts for prey the abode of humankind!

O for the plover’s pleasant cry

To tell of water near!

O for the camel-driver’s song!

For now the water-skin grows light,

Though of the draught, more eagerly desired,

Imperious prudence took with sparing thirst.

Oft from the third night’s broken sleep,

As in his dreams he heard

The sound of rushing winds,

Started the anxious youth, and looked abroad,

In vain! for still the deadly calm endured.

Another day passed on;

The water-skin was drained;

But then one hope arrived,

For there was motion in the air!

The sound of the wind arose anon,

That scattered the thick mist,

And lo! at length the lovely face of Heaven!

Alas!—a wretched scene

Was opened on their view.

They looked around, no wells were near,

No tent, no human aid!

Flat on the camel lay the water-skin,

And their dumb servant difficultly now,

Over hot sands and under the hot sun,

Dragged on with patient pain.

But O the joy! the blessed sight!

When in that burning waste the travellers

Saw a green meadow, fair with flowers besprent,

Azure and yellow, like the beautiful fields

Of England, when amid the growing grass

The bluebell bends, the golden king-cup shines,

And the sweet cowslip scents the genial air,

In the merry month of May;

O joy! the travellers

Gaze on each other with hope-brightened eyes,

For sure through that green meadow flows

The living stream! And lo! their famished beast

Sees the restoring sight!

Hope gives his feeble limbs a sudden strength,

He hurries on!—

The herbs so fair to eye

Were senna, and the gentian’s blossom blue,

And kindred plants, that with unwatered root

Fed in the burning sand, whose bitter leaves

Even frantic Famine loathed.