Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Americas
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Americas: Vol. XXX.  1876–79.
 
Mexico: Cholula
Cholula
Nicholas Michell (1807–1880)
 
(From Ruins of Many Lands)

WHERE spreads Cholula’s plain, beneath the eye
Of Nature’s giants towering to the sky,
In mouldering pride, in solemn ruin, stands
That lordly pile, the “Mountain made by hands.”
No Attic grace, no Asian pomp, are here;        5
’T is simply grand, and savagely severe:
Pacing along its base, or climbing slow
Its terraced sides, to scan the scene below,
We feel that Babel’s tower could scarce surpass,
In rude wild majesty, this wondrous mass;        10
That far Chaldæa’s sons, or Egypt’s kings,
Sent their bold genius here on spirit wings;
For strange, between each nation, seems the tie
Of kindred creeds, of arts, and modes gone by;
Each worshipped day’s bright god, and watched afar        15
From lofty pyramids the midnight star;
Each with ambition burned vast tombs to raise,
Whose secret vaults should stand for endless days;
Yes, deep within this mount the Toltec laid
The bones of monarchs, now to dust decayed:        20
Primeval race! their story who shall show?
They built, they reigned, they died—is all we know.
 
  Thrice holy temple! immemorial tomb!
Linked with strange fables, and with tales of gloom;
High on its summit stood the sacred cell,        25
Where, screened from sight, the god was wont to dwell:
Here the stoled priest invoked the powers of air,
His offering burned, and breathed a nation’s prayer:
Here, while a paler beam each planet shed,
Mid shouts and music, human victims bled.        30
The sacred fire—that mystic symbol brought
Perchance from Persia’s hills, by magi taught—
Here blazed forever, save that fearful night,
Each rolling age, when priesthood quenched its light,
And trembling thousands, with the vanished ray,        35
Deemed life would fail, and earth would pass away.
 
  Man, ages, creeds, have melted from those plains;
Now o’er the giant structure quiet reigns.
Spring decks its mouldering sides with many a flower,
That courts the bee at morning’s dewy hour.        40
Where frowned the Toltec’s god, the Virgin now
Sheds her meek smile, and Christian votaries bow;
While, sadly sweet, the circling yew-trees wave,
And crosses deck the ancient Pagan’s grave.
“Ave Maria!” evening’s balmy breeze        45
Wafts the soft prayer, like music, through the trees;
Mid golden clouds, his curtained couch of sleep,
The sun o’erhangs the vast Pacific deep,
Gilds the far isles that tropic glories bear,
And charms to rest each storm-fiend brooding there.        50
“Ave Maria!” mountain, plain, and shore
Hear the loud gong, the crowd’s mad shout no more;
Soft as an angel’s sigh, the bell’s low sound
Steals from yon tower, and floats in whispers round.
Day smiles in death, and throws a crimson streak,        55
Like Beauty’s blush, along each snowy peak;
E’en Orizaba’s fires ascend on high,
The lurid flames turned roses in the sky.
Mild are the rites, and gentle is the creed,
Thus doomed red Moloch’s worship to succeed;        60
Eve’s purple charm, the music of the hour,
Pour on the soul their soft dissolving power,
Melt the full heart, and waft the thoughts above,
On wings of warm devotion, hope, and love.
 
 
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