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

Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia: Thebes


By Richard Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton (1809–1885)

(From The Burden of Egypt)

WHO would not feel and satisfy this want,

Watching, as I, in Karnak’s roofless halls,

Subnuvolar lights of evening sharply slant

Through pillared masses and on wasted walls?

Who would not learn, there is no form but palls

On the progressive spirit of mankind,

When here around in soulless sorrow falls

That which seemed permanence itself, designed

To raze the sense of death from out all human mind.

For near the temple ever lies the tomb,

The dwelling, not the dungeon, of the dead,

Where they abide in glorifying gloom,

In lofty chambers with rich colors spread,

Vast corridors, all carved and decorated

For entertainment of their ghostly lord,

When he may leave his alabaster bed,

And see, with pleasure earth could scarce afford,

These subterranean walls his power and wealth record.

Often ’t was willed this splendor should be sealed

Not only from profane but priestly eyes,

That to no future gaze might be revealed

The secret palace where a Pharaoh lies,

Amid his world-enduring obsequies;

And though we, children of a distant shore,

Here search and scan, yet much our skill defies;

One chance the less, some grains of sand the more,

And never had been found that vault’s mysterious door.