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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Africa: Vol. XXIV. 1876–79.

Introductory to Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia

The Pyramids of Egypt

By Winthrop Mackworth Praed (1802–1839)

YE marvels of this ancient land,

Ye dwellings of the dead,

Where crownéd brow and sceptred hand

Sleep in their dreamless bed,

Lone monuments of other days

Who lift to Heaven your ceaseless gaze,—

Speak, for within your murky stone

Philosophy may hear

An echo of a hallowed tone,

Telling to mortal ear

Lessons of wisdom deep and stern,—

Lessons which pride is slow to learn;—

Speak how the glory and the power,

The diadems of kings,

Are but the visions of an hour,

All unenduring things;

And how that Death hath made for all

A chamber in his silent hall.


We know, we know that all must die!

Where is our knowledge then,—

The plotting head, the beaming eye,

The boasts of mortal men?

In earth’s oblivion, dull and deep,

We sleep our unawakened sleep;

Like forms that float in twilight’s shade,

And ere the day are gone,—

When from his misty joyless glade

Stern Hades glideth on,

Wrapt in his robe of quiet gloom,

To call us to the silent tomb.

He will not loose in that dread hour

The monarch’s jewelled brow,

Won by the wealth, the pomp of power,

In which he joyeth now:

Poor mortal! while the sun of spring

Smiles on his warm imagining,—

Unhappy!—he hath thoughts of pride,

And aspirations vain,

And marches with a godlike stride,

Chilling the courtier train

With the cold glance of royal ire,

More dreaded than the lightning fire.

And what are these? in cold and cloud

The motley pageant flies!

Weep for the weakness of the proud,

The follies of the wise!

Ever within the golden ring

That rounds the temples of a king,

Death, Lord of all beneath the sky,

Holdeth his stubborn court;

And, as he gives to royalty

Its momentary sport,

Points his wan finger all the while

With shaking head and bitter smile:

And at the last the phantom thin

Leaps up within the hold;

And, with a little hidden pin,

Bores through his wall of gold.

What are we in our fate and fall?

Night, night, the jailer of us all,

Hath bound in her funereal chain

The beautiful, the brave,

The ignorant of human pain,

The lord of land and wave,

The shepherd of his people’s rest,

The ever and the wholly blest.

And straight among the courtier bands

The hired lamentings rise;

And there is striking of fair hands,

And weeping of bright eyes;

And the long locks of women fall

In sorrow round that gorgeous hall.

And last, upon some solemn day,

The tomb of all his race

Hath opened for his shivering clay

The dismal dwelling-place,

The dim abyss of sculptured stones,

The prison-house of royal bones.

These are the honors of the dead!

But, as I wander by,

And gaze upon yon marble bed

With lost and loitering eye,

Till back upon my awestruck soul

A thousand ages seem to roll,

I muse on thee, whom this recess

Hides in its pathless gloom,

Thy glory and thy nothingness,

Thine empire and thy tomb;

And call thee, Psammis, back to light,

Back from the veil of death and night.

Come from thy darkness! all too long

Thou lingerest in the grave;

Thou, the destroyer of the strong,

The powerful to save:

Come from thy darkness; set again

Thy saffron sandal on the plain;

And bid thy golden sceptre gleam

Its wonted radiance yet;

And let thy bright tiara beam

Around thy locks of jet;

And play the king upon this spot

As when—alas! thou listenest not!

Thy might hath fleeted from the day;

Thy very name is hid;

Yet pride hath heaped upon thy clay

A ponderous Pyramid;

And thou art kingly still, and blest

In a right royal place of rest.

O, what is this to thee or thine?

Some traveller idly stalks

Around the tomb of all thy line,

And tramples as he walks

With rebel foot and reckless eye,

The dust which once was majesty.

Thy portrait and thy eulogy

Traced by some artist hand,

And all that now remains of thee,

Dragged to a distant land,

Must be a thing for girls to know,

A jest, a marvel, and a show!