A poem by Romanian poet Mihai Eminescu
Between far spreading Arab fields the Nile sweeps on its yellow way.
The fire and gold of Egypt skies unroll their splendour to the day,
Out of the deep slim rushes rise, fringing with green the flat brown barge;
Like heavenly gems the silent flowers glimmer and sparkle in the light,
Tender, tall and pure as snow some stand aloof and white,
Some fiery red, some blue like eyes that waste their sorrow's overcharge,
Among the weedy brakes that show wild in dense luxuriance, there
Are nests in which exotic birds display and preen their feather rare,
And lift their beaks in the sunlit air, and pour out sweet caressing song.
Drowned in its everlasting dreams, welling from sacred far off springs,
The Nile its silent legend and its restless yellow mirror swills
Towards the placid waiting sea, where does its soul at last belong.
Beside each bank green fertile plains in grateful smiling gladness lie.
On the horizon Memphis stands, a mighty mound against the sky;
Wall piled on wall, rock heaped on rock, a city raised by giant hands,
A thought fantastic built in stone, a human mind grown wondrous tall !
Like a mountain range in its ancient pride rise up the bastions of its wall
And clad by the day in a silver robe shine far across that prosperous land.
And it seems to rise from the glamour of dreams, from the empty wilderness of sleep,
From a hurricane of sand that the tempest's circling arm did reap;
Like a thunderous thought of the holy sea flung by the sky to earth again.
And there too rise from the trembling ground and stand in arrogant, timeless pride
The mighty pyramids of old, as strange and as strong as the death they deride;
Tombs which deep in their heavy breasts the epic of a scald contain.
Twilight falls... the Nile sleeps on and the stars rise secretly over the sky,
The moon on the sea her image throws, setting them midst the clouds to fly.
Who does the pyramid's door unclose? Who does across that threshold climb?
It is the lonely king, in a robe of scarlet embroidered with gems and gold;
'Tis he who enters the desert's tomb, and would the buried past unfold,
To break his heart in gazing back across the flooded ford of time.
In vain the kings of the earth endeavour with justice and with strength to reign,
Rarer grow the deeds that prosper, omens ill around them gain.
In vain indeed do they seek the reply to that riddle no man can tell.
Night falls. . . and the shadows creep out of the desert's outmost places,
Across the Nile's long ebb, just as over the tides of stricken races,
The brooding, lonely thoughts of that King like those deep shadows darkening fell.
The dream of the painted pyramids, of the cool flowing face of the Nile,
The restless murmur of trembling reeds, beneath the moon's embracing smile,
That look like giant sheafs of corn, or an army of silver headed spears,
The hidden light of waters and all night and desert's greatness
Conspire to unfold beneath the moon that Empire's glory and timeless night
And to conjure fantastic visions in air, and fill the deserts with strange chimeras.
The sacred river whispers on in the rippling voice of the fleeting tide
The tale of its endless flowing by, of the nameless folk that have lived by its side,
Till the soul is drunken with dreaming dreams as swift and as smooth as the river's tale.
Endless groves of shivering palms, that gleam in the moonbeams' golden light
And that lift their slender silver stems, like countless masts, to the luminous night,
While the waves on the river delight in their spray and the sky on its clouds sets sail.
In the stately ancient temples there, mid pillars of marble white as snow,
Each night the Gods in their raiments pure with measured places come and go,
While softly chanted to silver harps the songs of grey-haired priests arise.
To the endless sobbing winds of the sands, to the boundless dark of the night around,
From the topmost stones of the pyramid's crest each night re-echoes that ghostly sound
Of the Kings that moan in their mighty vaults, and fill the world's dome with their sighs.
An Arab tower stands erect, the river flowing at its feet,
And there the magus gazes down upon that mirror's yellow sheet;
For all the sky with all its stars is faithfully assembled there,
And his own image very small seeks out amidst those tangled rays
The secret of eternity, till with a wand he draws the ways
That lead to what is right and true, and what is valuable and fair.
And thus perchance above the surge of a bloodless, pale and effeminate folk,
Of villainous kings, debased with crime, of a priesthood concealed in corruption's cloak,
The magus night's inverted sign will read that foretells of destruction at last,
When the wind sweeps up from the desert's brow all its sand in a mountain crested wave
That swallows tall cities with temple and tower, and makes of each dwelling a grave,
Thus hiding the shame of a people defiled, of an era of darkness in time that is past.
Hurricanes blindly gallop on, till their chargers finally fall in the race,
And the wind-lashed flood of the risen Nile sweeps frantically over the desert's face,
That the best of Egypt's flowering plains are engulfed by the stream in its raging strife.
And from Thebes to Memphis the country is turned to a ruined and empty, desolate strand,
Where wandering tribes will plant their tents at night upon the scorching sand,
A homeless people ranging wide through the lonely legend of their life.
Once more the restless stars look down on the river's billowing mirror of gold,
The red flamingo takes its way across the waters as of old,
O'er antique Egypt once again the silver moonlight palely laves.
And the soul turns back from its journeying dreams to listen anew to the ancient story,
To the ears of the living present steals the wondrous pomp of the past in its glory
While strange prophetic voices rise from the stirring muttering lips of the waves.
Till Memphis lifts again its head above the desert's silver plan,
Shuddering still from the horrible shock of the tempest's blast of ruin and pain...
And the Bedouin Arabs beneath the moon look up with awestruck frightened eyes
And tell strange tales of flowers and stars that shine for an hour and pass away
Of cities that rise from the desert's bones and fade to dust at the close of day,
And songs that out of the musical land and from under the sea at sunset rise.
For bells there are beneath the sea, that muffled peal at evening hour,
And many a garden down in the Nile, with apple hanging orchard bower;
But under the silent desert sand a sad and stricken nation hides;
And when no one sees, these folk awake in their fallen cities that once were strong.
And into the halls of Memphis proud as in the olden days they throng,
And drink and dance and make carouse, while the moon o'er the heavens rides.
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