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

Central and Southern Africa: Soudan


By Richard Hengist Horne (1802–1884)

MUST I still live in Timbuctoo,

Midst burning and shifting sands,

In a small straw hut, near a foul morass,—

When the earth has sweet green lands?

No breath of air, no song of a bird,

And scarcely the voice of man,

Save the water-carrier’s wailful cry,

As he plods to fill calabash-can.

No fruit, no tree, no herbage, nor soil

Where a plant or root might grow,

Save the desert-shrub full of wounding thorns,

As the lips of the camels know.

The main street steams with the caravans,

Tired oxen and camels kneel down;

Box, package, and bales, are sold or exchanged,—

And the train leaves our silent town.

The white man comes, and the white man goes,

But his looks and his words remain;

They show me my heart can put forth green leaves,

And my withering thoughts find rain.

O, why was I born in Timbuctoo?—

For now that I hear the roar

Of distant lands, with large acts in men’s hands,

I can rest in my hut no more.

New life! new hope! and change!

Your echoes are in my brain;

Farewell to my thirsty home,

I must traverse the land and main!

And can I, then, leave thee, poor Timbuctoo,

Where I first beheld the sky?

Where my own loved maid now sleeps in the shade,

Where the bones of my parents lie!