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

Mexico: Tuloom, Yucatan


By Erastus Wolcott Ellsworth (1822–1902)

  • “The figure of the human hand is used by the North American Indians to denote supplication to the Deity or Great Spirit; and it stands in the system of picture-writing as the symbol for strength, power, or mastery, thus derived.”—Schoolcraft.

  • ON the coast of Yucatan,

    As untenanted of man,

    As a castle under ban

    By a doom

    For the deeds of bloody hours,—

    Overgrown with tropic bowers,

    Stand the teocallis towers

    Of Tuloom.

    One of these is fair to sight,

    Where it pinnacles a height;

    And the breakers blossom white,

    As they boom

    And split beneath the walls,

    And an ocean murmur falls

    Through the melancholy halls

    Of Tuloom.

    On the summit, as you stand,

    All the ocean and the land

    Stretch away on either hand,

    But the plume

    Of the palm is overhead,

    And the grass, beneath your tread,

    Is the monumental bed

    Of Tuloom.

    All the grandeur of the woods,

    And the greatness of the floods,

    And the sky that overbroods,

    Dress a tomb,

    Where the stucco drops away,

    And the bat avoids the day,

    In the chambers of decay

    In Tuloom.

    They are battlements of death:

    When the breezes hold their breath,

    Down a hundred feet beneath,

    In the flume

    Of the sea, as still as glass,

    You can see the fishes pass

    By the promontory mass

    Of Tuloom.

    Towards the forest is displayed,

    On the terrace, a façade

    With devices overlaid;

    And the bloom

    Of the vine of sculpture, led

    O’er the soffit overhead,

    Was a fancy of the dead

    Of Tuloom.

    Here are corridors, and there,

    From the terrace, goes a stair;

    And the way is broad and fair

    To the room

    Where the inner altar stands;

    And the mortar’s tempered sands

    Bear the print of human hands,

    In Tuloom.

    O’er the sunny ocean swell,

    The canóas running well

    Towards the isle of Cozumel

    Cleave the spume;

    On they run, and never halt

    Where the shimmer, from the salt,

    Makes a twinkle in the vault

    Of Tuloom.

    When the night is wild and dark,

    And a roar is in the park,

    And the lightning, to its mark,

    Cuts the gloom,—

    All the region, on the sight,

    Rushes upward from the night,

    In a thunder-crash of light

    O’er Tuloom.

    Oh! could such a flash recall

    All the flamens to their hall,

    All the idols on the wall,

    In the fume

    Of the Indian sacrifice,—

    All the lifted hands and eyes,

    All the laughters and the cries

    Of Tuloom,—

    All the kings in feathered pride,

    All the people, like a tide,

    And the voices of the bride

    And the groom!—

    But, alas! the prickly pear,

    And the owlets of the air,

    And the lizards, make a lair

    Of Tuloom.

    We are tenants on the strand

    Of the same mysterious land.

    Must the shores that we command


    Their primeval forest hum,

    And the future pilgrim come

    Unto monuments as dumb

    As Tuloom?

    ’T is a secret of the clime,

    And a mystery sublime,

    Too obscure, in coming time,

    To presume;

    But the snake amid the grass

    Hisses at us as we pass,

    And we sigh, alas! alas!

    In Tuloom.