Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Africa
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Africa: Vol. XXIV.  1876–79.
 
Introductory to Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia
Pelters of Pyramids
Richard Hengist Horne (1802–1884)
 
A SHOAL of idlers, from a merchant craft
Anchored off Alexandria, went ashore,
And mounting asses in their headlong glee,
Round Pompey’s Pillar rode with hoots and taunts,—
As men oft say, “What art thou more than we?”        5
Next in a boat they floated up the Nile,
Singing and drinking, swearing senseless oaths,
Shouting, and laughing most derisively
At all majestic scenes. A bank they reached,
And, clambering up, played gambols among tombs;        10
And in portentous ruins (through whose depths—
The mighty twilight of departed gods—
Both sun and moon glanced furtive, as in awe)
They hid, and whooped, and spat on sacred things.
 
  At length, beneath the blazing sun they lounged        15
Near a great Pyramid. Awhile they stood
With stupid stare, until resentment grew,
In the recoil of meanness from the vast;
And, gathering stones, they, with coarse oaths and gibes,
(As they would say, “What art thou more than we?”)        20
Pelted the Pyramid! But soon these men,
Hot and exhausted, sat them down to drink,—
Wrangled, smoked, spat, and laughed, and drowsily
Cursed the bald Pyramid, and fell asleep.
 
  Night came:—a little sand went drifting by—        25
And morn again was in the soft blue heavens.
The broad slopes of the shining Pyramid
Looked down in their austere simplicity
Upon the glistening silence of the sands
Whereon no trace of mortal dust was seen.        30
 
 
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