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Desert Poems

Table of Contents

  1. Desert by Arthur Crew Inman
  2. The Lure of the Desert Land by Madge Morris Wagner
  3. Sand of the Desert in an Hour-Glass by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  4. The Desert Flock by Grace C. Howes
  5. Crossing the Desert by E. Richard Shipp
  6. Desert of Arabia by Robert Southey
  7. Ozymandias of Egypt by Percy Bysshe Shelley
  8. Ozymandias of Egypt by Horace Smith
  9. Bedouin Love Song by Bayard Taylor
  10. The Water-Carrier by Arthur Chapman
  11. The Oasis by Andrew Downing
  12. A Desert Rain by Andrew Downing
  13. Cactus by Alice Corbin
  14. Dust-whorl by Alice Corbin
  15. Grand Canyon of Arizona by John Lee Higgins

  1. Desert

    by Arthur Crew Inman

    Sands, unbroken by mosque or minaret,
    Unstruck by tower or battlement;
    Sands, endless, unbounded, eternal;
    Sands, quivering with reflected heat,
    Undulating as waves upon a frozen sea,
    Conjoining the sky in a coppered haze
    Where monstrous demons, sight-conjured,
    Tread reelingly a dance of sun-desire,
    Twisting and turning in a burning maze,
    Tireless, grotesque, sinister.

    Billow on billow of extended barrenness
    Horizons unto the uttermost beyond,
    As endless as the vast, unclouded firmament
    Within whose scintillating waste of blue
    The sun's wide curvature burns far and still.

    No spot of verdure meets the ever-seeking eye,
    No icy pool where anguished thirst may be slaked,
    No green oasis rearing crested palms aloft.
    None of these, but in their stead,
    Against the palpitating sheet of heat
    Fantastic scenes appear and disappear,
    Mocking mirages that quicken the eye with hope.

    Magic cities stretch, white-walled, their rampart lengths,
    Gay with a thousand fluttering pennons;
    Swift, heeling ships on sparkling waters ply,
    Each prow a-dazzle with the wind-flung spray;
    Broad-limbed trees spread emerald shade
    By charmed springs in forest deeps;
    Cascades, all silverly gleaming,
    O'er-leap some greeny-ferned hillside;
    Plains, diapered with verdant flowers, reach afar,
    Luring wearied feet to tread imagination's way,—
    Empty visions of an empty land
    Born of a brain whose nucleus is fire.

  2. The Lure of the Desert Land

    by Madge Morris Wagner

    Have you slept in a tent alone—a tent
    Out under the desert sky—
    Where a thousand thousand desert miles
    All silent round you lie?—
    The dust of the aeons of ages dead,
    And the peoples that trampled by?

    Have you looked in the desert's painted cup,
    Have you smelled at dawn the wild sage musk,
    Have you seen the lightning flashing up
    From the ground in the desert dusk?

    Have you heard the song in the desert rain
    (Like the undertone of a wordless rhyme?)
    Have you watched the glory of colors flame
    In its marvel of blossom time?

    Have you lain with your face in your hands, afraid,
    Face down—flat down on your face—and prayed,
    While the terrible sand storm whirled and swirled
    In its soundless fury, and hid the world
    And quenched the sun in its yellow glare—
    Just you, and your soul, and nothing, there?

    If you have, then you know, for you ve felt its spell,
    The lure of the desert land,
    And if you have not, then I could not tell—
    For you could not understand.

  3. Sand of the Desert in an Hour-Glass

    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    A handful of red sand, from the hot clime
    Of Arab deserts brought,
    Within this glass becomes the spy of Time,
    The minister of Thought.

    How many weary centuries has it been
    About those deserts blown!
    How many strange vicissitudes has seen,
    How many histories known!

    Perhaps the camels of the Ishmaelite
    Trampled and passed it o'er,
    When into Egypt from the patriarch's sight
    His favorite son they bore.

    Perhaps the feet of Moses, burnt and bare,
    Crushed it beneath their tread;
    Or Pharaoh's flashing wheels into the air
    Scattered it as they sped;

    Or Mary, with the Christ of Nazareth
    Held close in her caress,
    Whose pilgrimage of hope and love and faith
    Illumed the wilderness;

    Or anchorites beneath Engaddi's palms
    Pacing the Dead Sea beach,
    And singing slow their old Armenian psalms
    In half-articulate speech;

    Or caravans, that from Bassora's gate
    With westward steps depart;
    Or Mecca's pilgrims, confident of Fate,
    And resolute in heart!

    These have passed over it, or may have passed!
    Now in this crystal tower
    Imprisoned by some curious hand at last,
    It counts the passing hour,

    And as I gaze, these narrow walls expand;
    Before my dreamy eye
    Stretches the desert with its shifting sand,
    Its unimpeded sky.

    And borne aloft by the sustaining blast,
    This little golden thread
    Dilates into a column high and vast,
    A form of fear and dread.

    And onward, and across the setting sun,
    Across the boundless plain,
    The column and its broader shadow run,
    Till thought pursues in vain.

    The vision vanishes! These walls again
    Shut out the lurid sun,
    Shut out the hot, immeasurable plain;
    The half-hour's sand is run!

  4. The Desert Flock

    by Grace C. Howes

    Down from the mesa's wind-blown height,
    While sunset fires the western steep,
    Toward the low shelters of the night
    The herder guides his sheep.
    They huddle by, sun-drowsed and mute,
    As following some magic flute
    Four thousand banded sheep, and more,
    Across the dusty desert floor.

    How many ages, long since hid,
    Mankind has shepherded his flocks!
    On far Judean plains or mid
    The Attic hillside rocks
    And here today they seem to wear
    An undefined, sweet ancient air,
    Shuffling through the sunset glow
    As through a world of long ago.

  5. Sand of the Desert in an Hour-Glass

    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    The sun beats down on the desert sand,
    Old Pinto plods wearily on.
    The heat of hell is on this land,
    Its smoke shimmers languidly.
    Green grasses, flowers and trees rise
    Beside swift-running, noisy waters,
    Then fade away before my eyes—
    Nothing is there, nothing but desert sand.
    Dim in the distance against the sky,
    A haven of rest, the mountains bulk.

    "Oh, God! Must we die
    When life lies yonder?
    Must these drifted sands be our tomb
    Without mark or monument?
    Must this be our doom . . .
    A pile of bleaching, wind-blown bones?"

    * * * * * * * * * *

    "Come, Pinto, we can make it;
    We're going thru!"

  6. Desert of Arabia

    by Robert Southey

    How beautiful is night!
    A dewy freshness fills the silent air;
    No mist obscures, nor cloud, nor speck, nor stain,
    Breaks the serene of heaven:
    In full orbed glory yonder moon divine
    Rolls through the dark blue depths
    Beneath her steady ray
    The desert circle spreads
    Like the round ocean girdled with the sky
    How beautiful is night

    Who at this untimely hour
    Wanders o’er the desert sands?
    No station is in view,
    Nor palm-grove, islanded amid the waste.
    The mother and her child,
    The widowed mother and the fatherless boy,
    They at this untimely hour
    Wander o’er the desert sands.

    She cast her eyes around,
    Alas! no tents were there
    Beside the bending sands,
    No palm-tree rose to spot the wilderness;
    The dark blue sky closed round,
    And rested like a dome
    Upon the circling waste.
    She cast her eyes around,
    Famine and Thirst were there;
    And then the wretched mother bowed her head,
    And wept upon her child.

  7. Ozymandias of Egypt

    by Percy Bysshe Shelley

    I met a traveller from an antique land
    Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
    And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed;
    And on the pedestal these words appear:

    'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
    The lone and level sands stretch far away;"

  8. Ozymandias of Egypt

    by Horace Smith

    In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
    Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
    The only shadow that the Desert knows:—
    "I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,
    "The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
    "The wonders of my hand."— The City's gone,—
    Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
    The site of this forgotten Babylon.

    We wonder,—and some Hunter may express
    Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
    Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
    He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
    What powerful but unrecorded race
    Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

  9. Bedouin Love Song

    by Bayard Taylor

    From the Desert I come to thee
    On a stallion shod with fire;
    And the winds are left behind
    In the speed of my desire.
    Under thy window I stand,
    And the midnight hears my cry:
    I love thee, I love but thee,
    With a love that shall not die
    Till the sun grows cold,
    And the stars are old,
    And the leaves of the Judgment
    Book unfold!

    Look from thy window and see
    My passion and my pain;
    I lie on the sands below,
    And I faint in thy disdain.
    Let the night-winds touch thy brow
    With the heat of my burnings sigh,
    And melt thee to hear the vow
    Of a love that shall not die
    Till the sun grows cold,
    And the stars are old,
    And the leaves of the Judgment
    Book unfold!

    My steps are nightly driven,
    By the fever in my breast,
    To hear from thy lattice breathed
    The word that shall give me rest.
    Open the door of thy heart,
    And open thy chamber door,
    And my kisses shall teach thy lips
    The love that shall fade no more
    Till the sun grows cold,
    And the stars are old,
    And the leaves of the Judgment
    Book unfold!

  10. The Water-Carrier

    Arthur Chapman

    Steep is the trail to the mesa above her—
    Maid of the Zuñi-foik, tall and bare-armed;
    Browned by the kiss of the warm winds that love her—
    Maid whom the desert's breath never has harmed.

    Strange is the view that is stretched far below her—
    White sands that melt in a horizon blue;
    Sea without waves, without sail, without rower—
    Only the cloud-shadows ploughing it through.

    So she has paused, in her bright-colored blanket,
    And steadies the jar, while her breath rises fast,
    At a niche in the trail, where the beetling cliffs flank it,
    As her kindred have paused in the long ages past.

  11. The Oasis

    by Andrew Downing

    Deep in the desert's fiery heart—
    From bloom and verdure far apart—
    A fountain thrust its helping hand
    Up through the arid, burning sand;
    And lo! embroidery of green
    Along its silent course was seen;
    Its waters wandered o'er the plain
    To bless "The Land of Little Rain."

    So in some desert-place of life,
    Where drouth prevails, and storms are rife,
    Some healing fountain, hid from sight,
    Some radiant sun of love and light,
    Some potent sovereign of the hour,
    Asserts its strange, mysterious power—
    Repeats the miracle of spring,
    And sets the desert blossoming.

  12. A Desert Rain

    by Andrew Downing

    The cool rain poured in sudden haste
    Upon the thirsty sod,
    And life throughout an arid waste
    Rejoices, thanking God.

    Each wild and lonely desert flower
    Is royally arrayed,
    As if in one brief, stormy hour
    The world were newly made.

    Where vagrant breezes stray and waft
    The mesquite's sweet perfume,
    The green sahuaro's fluted shaft
    Lifts high a richer bloom.

    The palo verde blossoms glow
    Like jets of yellow fire,
    And every bird we love and know
    Pipes in the tuneful choir.

    The fair Altruria of the bees,
    Beneath the orange boughs,
    Hears whispered friendships of the trees
    As sweet as lovers' vows.

    Wee desert folk from strife forbear—
    Their deadly conflicts cease,
    As if responsive to the prayer
    For Universal Peace.

    No more on thorns the linnet hangs―
    Slain by the cruel shrike;
    The coiled crotalus sheathes his fangs,
    And does not care to strike.

    Here blooms the world like Aaron's rod,
    New verdure clothes the plain—
    The wondrous miracle of God
    That follows a desert rain!

  13. Cactus

    Alice Corbin

    The cactus scrawls crude hieroglyphs against the sky;
    It reaches with twisted, inquisitive fingers
    To clutch the throat of something and question

  14. Dust-whorl

    Alice Corbin

    The wind picks up a handful of dust,
    And sets it down—
    Faint spiral of lives
    Lived long ago on the desert.

  15. Grand Canyon of Arizona

    by John Lee Higgins

    Grim was the deep wild hollow
    Where a silver ribbon poured,
    Gulping the rocks that follow,
    Thundering as it bored.

    The temples were massive and red,
    The turrets and cupolas pearled;
    The olive slopes were curtains spread
    Draping under the world.

    I looked on the wide swung portals
    Of ghost haunted temples below
    For a pageant of brilliant immortals
    To enter and set them aglow.

    The jack pines raised their spires
    Out of a sea of sun
    Where the forest streaked with reddening fires
    Till the earth and the sky were one.

    I was thrilled in the mellow moonlight
    That heaped the pit to the rim
    With a yellow flood as the quivering night
    Was stealthily entering in.

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