Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE HEAD OF MEMNON, by HORACE SMITH



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE HEAD OF MEMNON, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: In egypt's centre, when the world was young
Last Line: In those blest realms -- where naught shall pass away!
Alternate Author Name(s): Smith, Horatio
Subject(s): Egypt


IN Egypt's centre, when the world was young,
My statue soar'd aloft, -- a man-shaped tower,
O'er hundred-gated Thebes, by Homer sung,
And built by Apis' and Osiris' power.

When the sun's infant eye more brightly blazed,
I mark'd the labours of unwearied time;
And saw, by patient centuries up-raised,
Stupendous temples, obelisks sublime!

Hewn from the rooted rock, some mightier mound,
Some new colossus more enormous springs,
So vast, so firm, that, as I gazed around,
I thought them, like myself, eternal things.

Then did I mark in sacerdotal state,
Psammis the king, whose alabaster tomb,
(Such the inscrutable decrees of fate,)
Now floats athwart the sea to share my doom.

O Thebes, I cried, thou wonder of the world!
Still shalt thou soar, its everlasting boast;
When lo! the Persian standards were unfurl'd,
And fierce Cambyses led the invading host.

Where from the east a cloud of dust proceeds,
A thousand banner'd suns at once appear;
Nought else was seen; -- but sound of neighing steeds,
And faint barbaric music met mine ear.

Onward they march, and foremost I descried,
A cuirassed Grecian band, in phalanx dense,
Around them throng'd, in oriental pride,
Commingled tribes -- a wild magnificence.

Dogs, cats, and monkeys in their van they show,
Which Egypt's children worship and obey;
They fear to strike a sacrilegious blow,
And fall -- a pious, unresisting prey.

Then, havoc leaguing with infuriate zeal,
Palaces, temples, cities are o'erthrown;
Apis is stabb'd! -- Cambyses thrusts the steel,
And shuddering Egypt heaved a general groan!

The firm Memnonium mock'd their feeble power,
Flames round its granite columns hiss'd in vain,
The head of Isis, frowning o'er each tower,
Look'd down with indestructible disdain.

Mine was a deeper and more quick disgrace: --
Beneath my shade a wondering army flock'd;
With force combined, they wrench'd me from my base,
And earth beneath the dread concussion rock'd.

Nile from his banks receded with affright,
The startled Sphinx long trembled at the sound;
While from each pyramid's astounded height,
The loosen'd stones slid rattling to the ground.

I watch'd, as in the dust supine I lay,
The fall of Thebes, -- as I had mark'd its fame, --
Till crumbling down, as ages roll'd away,
Its site a lonely wilderness became!

The throngs that choked its hundred gates of yore,
Its fleets, its armies, were no longer seen;
Its priesthood's pomp, its Pharaohs were no more, --
All -- all were gone -- as if they ne'er had been!

Deep was the silence now, unless some vast
And time-worn fragment thunder'd to its base;
Whose sullen echoes, o'er the desert cast,
Died in the distant solitude of space.

Or haply, in the palaces of kings,
Some stray jackal sate howling on the throne:
Or, on the temple's holiest altar, springs
Some gaunt hyaena, laughing all alone.

Nature o'erwhelms the relics left by time; --
By slow degrees entombing all the land;
She buries every monument sublime,
Beneath a mighty winding-sheet of sand.

Vain is each monarch's unremitting pains,
Who in the rock his place of burial delves;
Behold! their proudest palaces and fanes
Are subterraneous sepulchres themselves.

Twenty-three centuries unmoved I lay,
And saw the tide of sand around me rise;
Quickly it threaten'd to engulf its prey,
And close in everlasting night mine eyes.

Snatch'd in this crisis from my yawning grave,
Belzoni roll'd me to the banks of Nile,
And slowly heaving o'er the western wave,
This massy fragment reach'd the imperial isle.

In London, now with face erect I gaze
On England's pallid sons, whose eyes upcast,
View my colossal features with amaze,
And deeply ponder on my glories past.

But who my future destiny shall guess?
Saint Paul's may lie, like Memnon's temple, low;
London, like Thebes, may be a wilderness,
And Thames, like Nile, through silent ruins flow.

Then haply may my travels be renew'd: --
Some transatlantic hand may break my rest,
And bear me from Augusta's solitude,
To some new seat of empire in the west.

Mortal! since human grandeur ends in dust,
And proudest piles must crumble to decay;
Build up the tower of thy final trust
In those blest realms -- where naught shall pass away!




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