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Desert Poems

Table of Contents

  1. The Lure of the Desert Land by Madge Morris Wagner
  2. Sand of the Desert in an Hour-Glass by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  3. Desert of Arabia by Robert Southey
  4. Ozymandias of Egypt by Percy Bysshe Shelley
  5. Ozymandias of Egypt by Horace Smith

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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;"

  5. 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.