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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 Seventh Plague of Egypt

By George Croly (1780–1860)

’T WAS morn,—the rising splendor rolled

On marble towers and roofs of gold:

Hall, court, and gallery below,

Were crowded with a living flow:

Egyptian, Arab, Nubian there,

The bearers of the bow and spear,

The hoary priest, the Chaldee sage,

The slave, the gemmed and glittering page,—

Helm, turban, and tiara shone,

A dazzling ring, round Pharaoh’s throne.

There came a man,—the human tide

Shrank backward from his stately stride:

His cheek with storm and time was tanned;

A shepherd’s staff was in his hand.

A shudder of instinctive fear

Told the dark king what step was near;

On through the host the stranger came,

It parted round his form like flame.

He stooped not at the footstool stone,

He clasped not sandal, kissed not throne;

Erect he stood amid the ring,

His only words,—“Be just, O king!”

On Pharaoh’s cheek the blood flushed high,

A fire was in his sullen eye;

Yet on the chief of Israel

No arrow of his thousands fell:

All mute and moveless as the grave,

Stood chilled the satrap and the slave.

“Thou ’rt come,” at length the monarch spoke;

Haughty and high the words outbroke:

“Is Israel weary of its lair,

The forehead peeled, the shoulder bare?

Take back the answer to your band:

Go, reap the wind; go, plough the sand;

Go, vilest of the living vile,

To build the never-ending pile,

Till, darkest of the nameless dead,

The vulture on their flesh is fed!

What better asks the howling slave

Than the base life our bounty gave?”

Shouted in pride the turbaned peers,

Upclashed to heaven the golden spears.

“King! thou and thine are doomed! Behold!”

The prophet spoke,—the thunder rolled!

Along the pathway of the sun

Sailed vapory mountains, wild and dun.

“Yet there is time,” the prophet said,—

He raised his staff, the storm was stayed.

“King! be the word of freedom given;

What art thou, man, to war with Heaven?”

There came no word. The thunder broke

Like a huge city’s final smoke,

Thick, lurid, stifling, mixed with flame,

Through court and hall the vapors came.

Loose as the stubble in the field,

Wide flew the men of spear and shield;

Scattered like foam along the wave,

Flew the proud pageant, prince and slave;

Or, in the chains of terror bound,

Lay, corpse-like, on the smouldering ground.

“Speak, King! the wrath is but begun,—

Still dumb?—Then, Heaven, thy will be done!”

Echoed from earth a hollow roar,

Like ocean on the midnight shore;

A sheet of lightning o’er them wheeled,

The solid ground beneath them reeled;

In dust sank roof and battlement;

Like webs the giant walls were rent;

Red, broad, before his startled gaze,

The monarch saw his Egypt blaze.

Still swelled the plague,—the flame grew pale,

Burst from the clouds the charge of hail;

With arrowy keenness, iron weight,

Down poured the ministers of fate;

Till man and cattle, crushed, congealed,

Covered with death the boundless field.

Still swelled the plague,—uprose the blast,

The avenger, fit to be the last;

On ocean, river, forest, vale,

Thundered at once the mighty gale.

Before the whirlwind flew the tree,

Beneath the whirlwind roared the sea;

A thousand ships were on the wave,—

Where are they? ask that foaming grave!

Down go the hope, the pride of years;

Down go the myriad mariners;

The riches of Earth’s richest zone,

Gone! like a flash of lightning, gone!

And, lo! that first fierce triumph o’er,

Swells ocean on the shrinking shore;

Still onward, onward, dark and wide,

Engulfs the land the furious tide.

Then bowed thy spirit, stubborn king,

Thou serpent, reft of fang and sting:

Humbled before the prophet’s knee,

He groaned, “Be injured Israel free!”

To heaven the sage upraised his wand:

Back rolled the deluge from the land;

Back to its caverns sank the gale;

Fled from the noon the vapors pale;

Broad burned again the joyous sun;—

The hour of wrath and death was done.