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

Syria: Jehoshaphat (Kedron), the Valley

The Tomb of Absalom

By Lydia Huntley Sigourney (1791–1865)

IS this thy tomb, amid the mournful shades

Of the deep valley of Jehoshaphat,

Thou son of David? Kedron’s gentle brook

Is murmuring near, as if it fain would tell

Thy varied history. Methinks I see

Thy graceful form, thy smile, thy sparkling eye,

The glorious beauty of thy flowing hair,

And that bright, eloquent lip, whose cunning stole

The hearts of all the people. Didst thou waste

The untold treasures of integrity,

The gold of conscience, for their light applause,

Thou fair dissembler?
Say, rememberest thou

When o’er yon flinty steep of Olivet

A sorrowing train went up? Dark frowning seers

Denouncing judgment on a rebel prince,

Past sadly on; and next a crownless king

Walking in sad and humbled majesty,

While hoary statesmen bent upon his brow

Indignant looks of tearful sympathy.

What caused the weeping there?
Thou heardst it not,

For thou within the city’s walls didst hold

Thy revel brief and base. So thou couldst set

The embattled host against thy father’s life,

The king of Israel, and the loved of God!

He mid the evils of his changeful lot,

Saul’s moody hatred, stern Philistia’s spear,

His alien wanderings, and his warrior toil,

Found naught so bitter as the rankling thorn

Set by thy madness of ingratitude

Deep in his yearning soul.
What were thy thoughts

When in the mesh of thy own tresses snared

Amid the oak whose quiet verdure mocked

Thy misery, forsook by all who shared

Thy meteor-greatness and constrained to learn

There in that solitude of agony,

A traitor hath no friends!—what were thy thoughts

When death careering on the triple dart

Of vengeful Joab found thee? To thy God

Rose there one cry of penitence, one prayer

For that unmeasured mercy which can cleanse

Unbounded guilt? Or turned thy stricken heart

Toward him who o’er thy infant graces watched

With tender pride, and all thy sins of youth

In blindfold fondness pardoned? All thy crimes

Were cancelled in that plenitude of love

Which laves with fresh and everlasting tide

A parent’s heart.
I see that form which awed

The foes of Israel with its victor-might

Bowed low in grief, and hear upon the breeze

That sweeps the palm-groves of Jerusalem,

The wild continuous wail,—“O Absalom!

My son! My son!”
We turn us from thy tomb,

Usurping prince! Thy beauty and thy grace

Have perished with thee, but thy fame survives,—

The ingrate son that pierced a father’s heart.