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Poems About Africa

Table of Contents

  1. Africa by James Montgomery
  2. Egypt by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  3. Egypt by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
  4. To the Nile by John Keats
  5. The Delta of the Nile by Nicholas Michell
  6. The Pyramids by Lord Houghton
  7. The Sphinx and the Pyramids by George Wilson
  8. Ozymandias of Egypt by Percy Bysshe Shelley
  9. Ozymandias of Egypt by Horace Smith
  10. The Papyrus by Robert Treat Paine
  11. Nubia by Bayard Taylor
  12. Madagascar Song by John Leyden
  13. On Being Brought from Africa to America by Phillis Wheatley

  1. Africa

    by James Montgomery

    Where the stupendous Mountains of the Moon
    Cast their broad shadows o'er the realms of noon
    From rude Caffraria, where the giraffes browse
    With stately heads among the forest boughs,
    To Atlas, where Numidian lions glow
    With torrid fire beneath eternal snow;
    From Nubian hills, that hail the dawning day,
    To Guinea's coast, where evening fades away;
    Regions immense, unsearchable, unknown,
    Bask in the splendor of the solar zone,—
    A world of wonders, where creation seems
    No more the works of Nature, but her dreams.
    Great, wild, and beautiful, beyond control,
    She reigns in all the freedom of her soul;
    Where none can check her bounty when she showers
    O'er the gay wilderness her fruits and flowers;
    None brave her fury when, with whirlwind breath
    And earthquake step, she walks abroad with death.
    O'er boundless plains she holds her fiery flight,
    In terrible magnificence of light;
    At blazing noon pursues the evening breeze,
    Through the dun gloom of realm-o'ershadowing trees:
    Her thirst at Nile's mysterious fountain quells,
    Or bathes in secrecy where Niger swells
    An inland ocean, on whose jasper rocks
    With shells and sea-flower wreaths she binds her locks.
    She sleeps on isles of velvet verdure, placed
    Midst sandy gulfs and shoals forever waste;
    She guides her countless flocks to cherished rills,
    And feeds her cattle on a thousand hills:
    Her steps the wild bees welcome through the vale,
    Trom every blossom that embalms the gale;
    The slow unwieldy river-horse she leads
    Through the deep waters, o'er the pasturing meads;
    And climbs the mountains that invade the sky,
    To soothe the eagle's nestlings when they cry.
    At sunset, when voracious monsters burst
    From dreams of blood, awaked by maddening thirst;
    When the lorn caves, in which they shrunk from light,
    Ring with wild echoes through "the hideous night;
    When darkness seems alive, and all the air
    In one tremendous uproar of despair,
    Horror, and agony;—on her they call;
    She hears their clamor, she provides for all,
    Leads the light leopard on his eager way,
    And goads the gaunt hyena to his prey.

  2. Egypt

    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    And now the winds that southward blow,
    And cool the hot Sicilian isle,
    Bear me away. I see below
    The long line of the Lybian Nile,
    Flooding and feeding the parched lands
    With annual ebb and overflow:
    A fallen palm whose branches lie
    Beneath the Abyssinian sky,
    Whose roots are in Egyptian sands.

    On either bank huge water-wheels,
    Belted with jars and dripping weeds,
    Send forth their melancholy moans,
    As if, in their gray mantles hid,
    Dead anchorites of the Thebaid
    Knelt on the shore and told their beads,
    Beating their breasts with loud appeals
    And penitential tears and groans.

    This city, walled and thickly set
    With glittering mosque and minaret,
    Is Cairo, in whose gay bazaars
    The dreaming traveller first inhales
    The perfume of Arabian gales,
    And sees the fabulous earthen jars,
    Huge as were those wherein tlie maid
    Morgiana found the Forty Thieves
    Concealed in midnight ambuscade;
    And seeing more than half believes
    The fascinating tales that run
    Through all the Thousand Nights and One,
    Told by the fair Scheherezade.

    More strange and wonderful than these
    Are the Egyptian deities—
    Ammon, and Emoth, and the grand
    Osiris, holding in his hand
    The lotus; Isis, crowned and veiled;
    The sacred Ibis, and the Sphinx;
    Bracelets with blue-enamelled links;
    The Scarabee in emerald mailed,
    Or spreading wide his funeral wings;
    Lamps that perchance their night-watch kept
    O'er Cleopatra while she slept,—
    All plundered from the tombs of kings.

  3. Egypt

    by Thomas Bailey Aldrich

    Fantastic Sleep is busy with my eyes:
    I seem in some waste solitude to stand
    Once ruled of Cheops: upon either hand
    A dark illimitable desert lies,
    Sultry and still,—a realm of mysteries;
    A wide-browed Sphinx, half buried in the sand,
    With orbless sockets stares across the land,
    The woefulest thing beneath these brooding skies,
    Where all is woeful, weird-lit vacancy.
    'T is neither midnight, twilight, nor moonrise.
    Lo! while I gaze, beyond the vast sand-sea
    The nebulous clouds are downward slowly drawn,
    And one bleared star, faint-glimmering like a bee,
    Is shut in the rosy outstretched hand of Dawn.

  4. To the Nile

    by John Keats

    Son of the old Moon-mountains African!
    Chief of the Pyramid and Crocodile!
    We call thee fruitful, and that very while
    A desert fills our seeing's inward span:
    Nurse of swart nations since the world began,
    Art thou so fruitful? or dost thou beguile
    Such men to honour thee, who, worn with toil,
    Rest for a space 'twixt Cairo and Decan?
    O may dark fancies err! They surely do;
    'Tis ignorance that makes a barren waste
    Of all beyond itself. Thou dost bedew
    Green rushes like our rivers, and dost taste
    The pleasant sunrise. Green isles hast thou too,
    And to the sea as happily dost haste.

  5. The Delta of the Nile

    by Nicholas Michell

    The stream that late turned busy towns to isles
    Hath curbed its flood: again the landscape smiles;
    The meads are full of flowers, the groves of birds,
    Through blooming clover stray the lowing herds;
    High waves the flax, the yellow lupin blows,
    Mid bright green leaves the ripening melon glows.
    The fellah, clad in blue loose-floating vest,
    Sings as he toils, with rude contentment blest.
    But chief from Delta's gardens Zephyr brings
    Luxurious sweetness on his balmy wings;
    For there her head the golden lily rears,
    The soft-eyed violet sheds her odorous tears,
    While the red rose unfolds his musky breast,
    And wooes the hovering sylph to fragrant rest.
    The bright kingfisher skims the level stream,
    His wings of purple glittering in the beam;
    And when the sun goes down o'er Damiat's vales,
    Burst into song a myriad nightingales.
    Beauty in every form that meets the eye,
    Freshness on earth, and splendor in the sky,
    Man's spirit scarce for Eden's bowers might pine,
    While scenes like these around him live and shine;
    Land of hoar tombs! dark home of Pharaoh's race!
    Thou 'rt old in all things save sweet Nature's face.

  6. The Pyramids

    by Lord Houghton

    After the fantasies of many a night,
    After the deep desires of many a day,
    Rejoicing as an ancient Eremite
    Upon the desert's edge at last I lay:
    Before me rose, in wonderful array,
    Those works where man has rivalled Nature most,
    Those Pyramids, that fear no more decay
    Than waves inflict upon the rockiest coast,
    Or winds on mountain-steeps, and like endurance boast.

    Fragments the deluge of old Time has left
    Behind it in its subsidence,—long walls
    Of cities of their very names bereft,—
    Lone columns, remnants of majestic halls,—
    Rich-traceried chambers, where the night-dew falls,—
    All have I seen with feelings due, I trow,
    Yet not with such as these memorials
    Of the great unremembered, that can show
    The mass and shape they wore four thousand years ago.

  7. The Sphinx and the Pyramids

    by George Wilson

    The shadow of the Pyramids
    Fled round before the sun:
    By day it fled,
    It onward sped;
    And when its daily task was done,
    The moon arose, and round the plain
    The weary shadow fled again.

    The Sphinx looked east,
    The Sphinx looked west,
    And north and south her shadow fell;
    How many times she sought for rest
    And found it not, no tongue may tell.

    But much it vexed the heart of greedy Time
    That neither rain nor snow, nor frost nor hail,
    Troubles the calm of the Egyptian clime;
    For these for him, like heavy iron flail,
    And wedge and saw, and biting tooth and file,
    Against the palaces of kings prevail,
    And crumble down the loftiest pile,
    And eat the ancient hills away,
    And make the very mountains know decay.

    And sorely he would grudge, and much would carp,
    That he could never keep his polished blade,
    His mowing sickle keen and sharp,
    For all the din and all the dust he made.
    He cursed the mummies that they would not rot,
    He cursed the paintings that they faded not,
    And swore to terrible Memnon from his seat;
    But, foiled awhile, to hide his great defeat,
    With his wide wings he blew the Lybian sand,
    And hid from mortal eyes the glories of the land.

  8. 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;"

  9. 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.

  10. The Papyrus

    by Robert Treat Paine

    Ancient wisdom may boast of the spice and the weed,
    Which embalmed the cold forms of its heroes and sages;
    But their fame lives alone on the leaf of the reed,
    Which has grown through the clefts in the ruins of ages.

  11. Nubia

    by Bayard Taylor

    A land of Dreams and Sleep,—a poppied land!
    With skies of endless calm above her head,
    The drowsy warmth of summer noonday shed
    Upon her hills, and silence stern and grand
    Throughout her Desert's temple-burying sand.
    Before her threshold, in their ancient place,
    With closéd lips, and fixed, majestic face,
    Noteless of Time, her dumb colossi stand.
    O, pass them not with light, irreverent tread;
    Respect the dream that builds her fallen throne,
    And soothes her to oblivion of her woes.
    Hush! for she does but sleep; she is not dead:
    Action and Toil have made the world their own,
    But she hath built an altar to Repose.

  12. Madagascar Song

    by John Leyden

    Beneath the shade of orange-trees,
    Where streams with stilly murmurs run,
    'T is sweet to breathe the fanning breeze,
    And watch the broad descending sun;

    While youths and maids, a jocund throng,
    With measured tinkling steps appear,
    And pour the sweet soul-lulling song,
    That melts and lingers on the ear.

    How softly wild the maiden's lay
    Whose pliant hand the rush-grass weaves!
    But sweeter hers who drives away
    The reed-birds from the ricen sheaves.

    My soul is bathed in song;—the dance
    Is sweeter than the maiden's kiss,
    As half-receding steps advance
    To picture love's enchanting bliss.

    Soft fall your voices, breathing kind
    The passion ne'er to be withstood,
    As raptured gestures slowly wind,
    To image pleasure's melting mood.

    The gales of evening breathe; the moon
    Is glimmering through the leaves above:
    Ah! cease, dear maids, the mellow tune,
    And give the night to joy and love!

  13. On Being Brought from Africa to America

    by Phillis Wheatley

    'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
    Taught my benighted soul to understand
    That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
    Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
    Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
    "Their colour is a diabolic die."
    Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
    May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.

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