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

Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia: Nile, the River

To the Nile

By Bayard Taylor (1825–1878)

MYSTERIOUS flood,—that through the silent sands

Hast wandered, century on century,

Watering the length of green Egyptian lands,

Which were not, but for thee,—

Art thou the keeper of that eldest lore,

Written ere yet thy hieroglyphs began,

When dawned upon thy fresh, untrampled shore

The earliest life of man?

Thou guardest temple and vast pyramid,

Where the gray Past records its ancient speech;

But in thine unrevealing breast lies hid

What they refuse to teach.

All other streams with human joys and fears

Run blended, o’er the plains of History:

Thou tak’st no note of man; a thousand years

Are as a day to thee.

What were to thee the Osirian festivals?

Or Memnon’s music on the Theban plain?

The carnage, when Cambyses made thy halls

Ruddy with royal slain?

Even then thou wast a God, and shrines were built

For worship of thine own majestic flood;

For thee the incense burned,—for thee was spilt

The sacrificial blood.

And past the bannered pylons that arose

Above thy palms, the pageantry and state,

Thy current flowed, calmly as now it flows,

Unchangeable as fate.

Thou givest blessing as a god might give,

Whose being is his bounty: from the slime

Shaken from off thy skirts the nations live,

Through all the years of Time.

In thy solemnity, thine awful calm,

Thy grand indifference of Destiny,

My soul forgets its pain, and drinks the balm

Which thou dost proffer me.

Thy godship is unquestioned still: I bring

No doubtful worship to thy shrine supreme;

But thus my homage as a chaplet fling,

To float upon thy stream!