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

Arabia: El Ghor

The Rock in El Ghor

By John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)

DEAD Petra in her hill-tomb sleeps,

Her stones of emptiness remain;

Around her sculptured mystery sweeps

The lonely waste of Edom’s plain.

From the doomed dwellers in the cleft

The bow of vengeance turns not back;

Of all her myriads none are left

Along the Wady Mousa’s track.

Clear in the hot Arabian day

Her arches spring, her statues climb;

Unchanged, the graven wonders pay

No tribute to the spoiler, Time!

Unchanged the awful lithograph

Of power and glory undertrod,—

Of nations scattered like the chaff

Blown from the threshing-floor of God.

Yet shall the thoughtful stranger turn

From Petra’s gates, with deeper awe,

To mark afar the burial urn

Of Aaron on the cliffs of Hor;

And where upon its ancient guard

Thy Rock, El Ghor, is standing yet,—

Looks from its turrets desertward,

And keeps the watch that God has set.

The same as when in thunders loud

It heard the voice of God to man,—

As when it saw in fire and cloud

The angels walk in Israel’s van!

Or when from Ezion-Geber’s way

It saw the long procession file,

And heard the Hebrew timbrels play

The music of the lordly Nile;

Or saw the tabernacle pause,

Cloud-bound, by Kadesh Barnea’s wells,

While Moses graved the sacred laws,

And Aaron swung his golden bells.

Rock of the desert, prophet-sung!

How grew its shadowing pile at length,

A symbol, in the Hebrew tongue,

Of God’s eternal love and strength.

On lip of bard and scroll of seer,

From age to age went down the name,

Until the Shiloh’s promised year,

And Christ, the Rock of Ages, came!

The path of life we walk to-day

Is strange as that the Hebrews trod;

We need the shadowing rock, as they,—

We need, like them, the guides of God.

God send his angels, Cloud and Fire,

To lead us o’er the desert sand!

God give our hearts their long desire,

His shadow in a weary land!