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ALEXANDER ON THE BANKS OF THE HYPHASIS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Lonely by the moonlit waters
Last Line: But whose altar is the tomb!
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia
Subject(s): Alexander The Great (356-323 B.c.)

LONELY by the moonlit waters
Does the conqueror stand,
Yet unredden'd by the slaughters
Of his mighty band.
Yet his laurel wants a leaf.
There he stands, sad, silent, lonely;
For his hope is vain:
He has reached that river only
To return again.
Mournful bends the matchless chief;
He -- the earth's unrivalled one --
He must leave his task undone.

Far behind the camp lies sleeping --
Gods! how can they sleep,
Pale fear o'er their slumbers creeping,
With a world to weep?
With a victory to win.
There they lie in craven slumber,
By their murmurs won --
Must their earthly weakness cumber
Jove's immortal son?
From the ardent fire within,
Is there no impelling ray
To excite their onward way?

No! beside that moonlit river
Stands the soldier-king,
While he hears the night-wind shiver
With a weary wing --
With a weary sound to him;
By the numerous shadows broken
On the river's brim --
From the mirror'd stars a token
That his star is dim --
Changed and sullen they appear.
To a great and fix'd despair
All things fate and omen are.

Far away the plains are spreading
Various, dark and vast --
Where a thousand tombs are shading
Memories from the past --
He must leave them still unknown.
All the world's ancestral learning --
Secrets strange and old --
Early wisdom's dark discerning,
Must remain untold.
Mighty is the hope o'erthrown-
Mighty was the enterprise
Which upon that moment dies.

With the moonlight on them sleeping
Stands each stately palm,
Like to ancient warriors keeping
Vigil stern and calm
O'er a prostrate world below.
Sudden from beneath their shadow
Forth a serpent springs,
O'er the sands, as o'er a meadow,
Winding in dark rings.
Stately doth it glide, and slow
Like an omen in a dream,
Does that giant serpent seem.

Silvery rose those far sands shining,
Where that shade was cast --
While the king with stern repining
Watched the serpent past.
Sadly did the conqueror say --
"Would my steps were like my spirit,
I would track thy path!
What those distant sands inherit,
What this new world hath,
Should grow bright around my way.
Ah! not mine, yon glorious sphere --
My world's boundary is here!"

Pale he stood, the moonlight gleaming
In his golden hair --
Somewhat of a spirit's seeming,
Glorious and fair,
Is upon that radiant brow.
Like the stars that kindle heaven
In the sacred night,
To those blue clear eyes were given
An unearthly light,
Though the large tears fill them now;
For the Macedonian wept
As his midnight watch he kept.

In those mighty tears' o'erflowing,
Found the full heart scope
For the bitter overthrowing
Of its noblest hope;
So will many weep again.
Our aspirings have arisen
In another world;
Life is but the spirit's prison,
Where its wings are furl'd,
Stretching to their flight in vain, --
Seeking that eternal home
Which is in a world to come.

Like earth's proudest conqueror, turning
From his proudest field,
Is the human soul still yearning
For what it must yield,
Of dreams unfulfill'd and powers;
Like the great yet guided ocean
Is our mortal mind,
Stirr'd by many a high emotion,
But subdued, confined; --
Such are shadows of the hours;
Glorious in the far-off gloom,
But whose altar is the tomb!

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