Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE DREAM IN THE TEMPLE OF SERAPIS, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON



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THE DREAM IN THE TEMPLE OF SERAPIS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The heavy night is falling
Last Line: The temple of the god.
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia
Subject(s): Alexander The Great (356-323 B.c.); Temples; Mosques


THE heavy night is falling,
A dark and silent night,
And aloud the storm is calling
From the mountains' wooded height,
There is weeping in the pines.
But a voice of louder sorrow
Arises from the plain,
For the nations fear the morrow,
And ask for aid in vain,
From the old ancestral shrines
In the still and stately temple --
The temple of the god.

The kingly chiefs are seven
Who seek that ancient shrine,
To ask of night and heaven
An answer and a sign;
Pale as shadows pass they by.
They are warriors, yet they falter,
As with feet unshod
They approach thy mighty altar,
O Assyrian god!
Will the secret of the sky
Fill the stately temple --
The temple of the god?

Conquerors they enter,
In the conqueror's name;
The altar in the centre,
Burnt with undying flame --
Day and night that flame is fed.
Lamps from many a marble column
In the distance burn,
And the light is sad and solemn
As a funeral urn.
For the presence of the dead
Haunts the mystic temple --
The temple of the god.

Seven warriors were their number,
Seven future kings;
Down they laid them to their slumber
'Mid the silvery rings
Of the fragrant smoke that swept
From the golden vases streaming,
With their spice and oil,
And the rich frankincense steaming,
Half a summer's spoil.
Lull'd by such perfume they slept
In the silent temple --
The temple of the god.

Lay they in that sleep enchanted,
On the marble floor;
Many things their slumber haunted,
Things that were no more.
'Twas the phantasm of life:
Fierce and rugged bands were crowding
Round their youthful king;
Shaggy hides their wild forms shrouding,
While the echoes ring
With the shouts that herald strife;
Such now wake the quiet temple --
The temple of the god.

Next, a southern noon is sleeping
On embattled lines;
There the purple robe is sweeping,
There the red gold shines.
That young chief his own has won --
He who, when his warriors tasked him,
With his heart's free scope,
What was left himself, they ask'd him,
And he answer'd, "Hope."
What he said, that hath he done;
And his glory fills the temple --
The temple of the god.

Victory is like sunshine o'er him,
Wealth is at his side,
Crowns are in the dust before him,
Earth hath bow'd her pride
At the whisper of his breath.
But that laurell'd one is dying
On a fever'd bed:
"Leave him where he now is lying,
There the king is best," it said;
Such the oracle of death,
In that fated temple --
The temple of the god.

Such the moral of his story,
Such was heaven's reply;
Amid wealth, and power, and glory,
It is best to die!
Unto all that answer came.
From the highest to the lowest
Life draws deep a wasted breath:
Fate! thy best boon thou bestowest
When thou givest death.
Each that oracle may claim,
The words of that dark temple --
The temple of the god.





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