Earth is a waste of ruins; so I deemed,
When the broad sun was sinking in the sea
Of sand, that rolled around Palmyra. Night
Shared with the dying day a lonely sky,
The canopy of regions void of life,
And still as one interminable tomb.
The shadows gathered on the desert, dark
And darker, till alone one purple arch
Marked the far place of setting. All above
Was purely azure, for no moon in heaven
Walked in her brightness, and with snowy light
Softened the deep intensity, that gave
Such awe unto the blue serenity
Of the high throne of gods, the dwelling-place
Of suns and stars, which are to us as gods,
The fountains of existence and the seat
Of all we dream of glory. Dim and vast
The ruins stood around me,—temples, fanes,
Where the bright sun was worshipped,—where they gave
Homage to him who frowns in storms, and rolls
The desert like an ocean,—where they bowed
Unto the queen of beauty, she in heaven
Who gives the night its loveliness, and smiles
Serenely on the drifted waste, and lends
A silver softness to the ridgy wave
Where the dark Arab sojourns, and with tales
Of love and beauty wears the tranquil night
In poetry away, her light the while
Falling upon him, as a spirit falls,
Dove-like or curling down in flame, a star
Sparkling amid his flowing locks, or dews
That melt in gold, and steal into the heart,
Making it one enthusiastic glow,
As if the God were present, and his voice
Spake on the eloquent lips that pour abroad
A gush of inspiration,—bright as waves
Swelling around Aurora's car, intense
With passion as the fire that ever flows
In fountains on the Caspian shore, and full
As the wide-rolling majesty of Nile.

Over these temples of an age of wild
And dark belief, and yet magnificent
In all that strikes the senses,—beautiful
In the fair forms they knelt to, and the domes
And pillars which upreared them,—full of life
In their poetic festivals, when youth
Gave loose to all its energy, in dance,
And song, and every charm the fancy weaves
In the soft twine of cultured speech, attuned
In perfect concord to the full-toned lyre:
When nations gathered to behold the pomp
That issued from the hallowed shrine in choirs
Of youths, who bounded to the minstrelsy
Of tender voices, and all instruments
Of ancient harmony, in solemn trains
Bearing the votive offerings, flowing horns
Of plenty wreathed with flowers, and gushing o'er
With the ripe clusters of the purple vine,
The violet of the fig, the scarlet flush
Of granates peeping from the parted rind,
The citron shining through its glossy leaves
In burnished gold, the carmine veiled in down,
Like mountain snow, on which the living stream
Flowed from Astarte's minion, all that hang
In Eastern gardens blended,—while the sheaf
Nods with its loaded ears, and brimming bowls
Foam with the kindling element, the joy
Of banquet, and the nectar that inspires
Man with the glories of a heightened power
To feel the touch of beauty, and combine
The scattered forms of elegance, till high
Rises a magic vision, blending all
That we have seen of glory, such as drew
Assembled Greece to worship, when the form,
Who gathered all its loveliness, arose
Dewy and blushing from the parent foam,
Than which her tint was fairer, and with hand
That seemed of living marble parted back
Her raven locks, and upward looked to Heaven,
Smiling to see all Nature bright and calm;—
Over these temples, whose long colonnades
Are parted by the hand of time, and fall
Pillar by pillar, block by block, and strew
The ground in shapeless ruin, night descends
Unmingled, and the many stars shoot through
The gaps of broken walls, and glance between
The shafts of tottering columns, marking out
Obscurely, on the dark blue sky, the form
Of Desolation, who hath made these piles
Her home, and, sitting with her folded wings,
Wraps in her dusty robe the skeletons
Of a once countless multitude, whose toil
Reared palaces and theatres, and brought
All the fair forms of Grecian art to give
Glory unto an island girt with sands
As barren as the ocean, where the grave
And stately Doric marked the solemn fane
Where wisdom dwelt, and on the fairer shrine
Of beauty sprang the light Ionian wreathed
With a soft volute, whose simplicity
Becomes the deity of loveliness,
Who with her snowy mantle, and her zone
Woven with all attractions, and her locks
Flowing as Nature bade them flow, compels
The sterner Powers to hang upon her smiles.
And there the grand Corinthian lifted high
Its flowery capital, to crown the porch
Where sat the sovereign of their hierarchy,
The monarch armed with terror, whose curled locks
Shaded a brow of thought and firm resolve,
Whose eye, deep sunk, shot out its central fires,
To blast and wither all who dared confront
The gaze of highest power; so sat their kings
Enshrined in palaces, and when they came
Thundering on their triumphal cars, all bright
With diadem of gold, and purple robe
Flashing with gems, before their rushing train
Moving in serried columns fenced in steel,
The herd of slaves obsequious sought the dust,
And gazed not as the mystic pomp rolled by.
Such were thy monarchs, Tadmor! now thy streets
Are silent, and thy walls o'erthrown, no voice
Speaks through the long, dim night of years, to tell
These were once peopled dwellings; I could dream
Some sorcerer in his moonlight wanderings reared
These wonders in an hour of sport, to mock
The stranger with the show of life, and send
Thought through the mist of ages, in the search
Of nations who are now no more, who lived
Erst in the pride of empire, ruled and swayed
Millions in their supremacy, and toiled
To pile these monuments of wealth and skill,
That here the wandering tribe might pitch its tents
Securer in their empty courts, and we,
Who have the sense of greatness, low might kneel
To ancient mind, and gather from the torn
And scattered fragments visions of the power,
And splendor, and sublimity of old,
Mocking the grandest canopy of heaven,
And imaging the pomp of Gods below.
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