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Deform and desolate the fainting land!
No freshening breeze revives the lifeless air,
No living waters sweetly murmur there,
Dry fevers kindle pestilential fires,
All nature droops, and withered life expires!
But deep embosomed in that sandy plain,
Like distant isles emerging from the main,
A radiant spot with loveliest beauty crowned
Once bloomed in contrast with the scenes around,
By nature's lavish hand profusely graced,
The blessed Eden of the joyless waste.
On every side luxuriant palm-trees grew,
And hence its name the rising city drew,
And though their loveliness has passed away,
The name still lives and triumphs o'er decay.
Two sheltering hills precipitously swell
On either hand, and form a narrow dell:
Thence to the east with undulating bend
Wide and more wide their spreading arms extend,
Then sink at last with slow retiring sweep,
Like distant headlands sloping to the deep.
Outstretched within upon the silent plains
Lies the sad wreck of Tadmor's last remains;
Outliving still, through each succeeding age,
The tempest's fury, and the bigot's rage.
He wants no written record who surveys
But one short hour this scene of other days:
These mouldering piles, that sink in slow decay,
In stronger characters the tale convey
Than e'er were traced by man's divinest art,
These speak in simple language to the heart.
Far to the south what scenes of ruin lie, What sad confusion opens to the eye! There shattered columns swell with giant train, Line after line along the crowded plain, The loosened arch, the roofless colonnade Where midday crowds imbibed the cooling shade. John Henry Bright.
TADMOR OF THE WILDERNESS.
ENEATH the arch of eastern skies,
Bin Syria's barren wild,
Where oft the scowling sand-storm flies,
And hides the desert child,
How beautiful to catch the sight
Of Tadmor's mountain purple height!
And while the flush of evening glows
Upon the western sky,
Unequalled by the blushing rose
Where Sharon's zephyrs sigh,
How sweet to hear the camel-train
Come tinkling home across the plain!
Gigantic loom the "desert ships,"
As steadily they come;
While joyfully the Kabyl skips
Along his houseless home,
And shakes his spear with childlike glee,
And cries, "The boundless waste for me!"
The boundless waste, the fruitless sea,
Where scorching rays are cast,
The steed that with the wind can flee,
When danger gathers fast,
The scanty tent, the brackish spring,
And Night, that comes with jewelled wing:
The solitude where footprints die,
And prowling lions tread,
Where caravans of wealth sweep by,
In watchfulness and dread :
And sink to sleep and wake to know
That Ishmael is still their foe.
And now, behold, from towering hill,
The howling city stand
In silver moonlight sleeping still,
So beautiful and grand;
No sadder sight has earth than this:
'Tis Tadmor of the Wilderness.
Half buried in the flowerless sand
Whirled by the eddying blast,
Behold her marble columns stand,
Huge relics of the past;
And o'er her gates of solid stone
The sculptured eagle fronts the sun.
Palmyra thou wert great indeed,
When through thy portals passed The Persian on his weary steed,
And found a rest at last
From Samiel's breath, and war's alarms,
Beneath thy tall and waving palms.
Zenobia, mistress of the East,
In glory rested here;
'Neath yonder porch she held her feast,
While satraps bowed in fear;
And oft the silver strain came up,
While Bacchus filled her golden cup.
And here she oped her portals wide,
And called the wise around;
And hither, in her days of pride,
The sage a refuge found;
And Arab chief and Rabbin hung
On gray-haired wisdom's silver tongue.
When Rome's fierce thousands hither came,
O'er yonder sands she fled,
And here returned in grief and shame,
A sovereign captive led;
While loud her people's wail arose
Above the shouts of conquering foes.
And when the gleaming cohorts flung
Their banners o'er thy head,
And cymbals clashed and clarions rung,
Before Aurelian's tread,
Then died thy race, and sank thy towers,
And desert lightnings seared thy flowers.
OT in the lightning's flash, nor in the thunder,
nor the cloudy storm,
Will I array my form;
But part invisible these boughs asunder,
And move and murmur, as the wind upheaves
And whispers in the leaves.
Not as a terror and a desolation,
Not in my natural shape, inspiring fear
And dread, will I appear;
But in soft tones of sweetness and persuasion,
A sound as of the fall of mountain streams,
Or voices heard in dreams.
He sitteth there in silence, worn and wasted
With famine, and uplifts his hollow eyes
To the unpitying skies;
For forty days and nights he hath not tasted
Of food or drink, his parted lips are pale,
Surely his strength must fail.
Wherefore dost thou in penitential fasting
Waste and consume the beauty of thy youth?
Ah, if thou be in truth