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


The Simoom

By Martin Farquhar Tupper (1810–1889)

(From The African Desert)

IT comes, the blast of death! that sudden glare

Tinges with purple hues the stagnant air:

Fearful in silence, o’er the heaving strand

Sweeps the wild gale, and licks the curling sand,

While o’er the vast Sahara from afar

Rushes the tempest in his wingéd car:

Swift from their bed the flame-like billows rise

Whirling and surging to the copper skies,

As when Briareus lifts his hundred arms,

Grasps at high heaven, and fills it with alarms;

In eddying chaos madly mixt on high

Gigantic pillars dance along the sky,

Or stalk in awful slowness through the gloom,

Or track the coursers of the dread simoom,

Or clashing in mid air, to ruin hurled,

Fall as the fragments of a shattered world!

Hushed is the tempest, desolate the plain,

Stilled are the billows of that troubled main;

As if the voice of death had checked the storm,

Each sandy wave retains its sculptured form:

And all is silence, save the distant blast

That howled, and mocked the desert as it passed;

And all is solitude, for where are they,

That o’er Sahara wound their toilsome way?

Ask of the heavens above, that smile serene,

Ask that burnt spot, no more of lovely green,

Ask of the whirlwind in its purple cloud,

The desert is their grave, the sand their shroud.