Nicholas Michell

The pilgrim stands on famed Chaldaea's plain,
Th' immortal fields of Glory's ancient reign:
Hillah's small town is humming far away,
And o'er the desert dies the golden day.
What meets the eye ? No stately-waving trees,
No sweet-lipped flowers that scent the passing breeze:
Stern Desolation here hath reared her throne,
And darkly calls this fated land her own.
Vast mounds sweep near us, clothed with stunted grass,
Or strewn with shattered urns, and rings of brass;
And on, and on they wind, and cross, and meet,
Wrecks of proud towers, and many a gorgeous street.
But who shall say where dwelt, in former age,
The high or low, the warrior, prince, or sage?
Wild asses browse where stood the Ninian gate,
The lizard crawls where monarchs moved in state;
In Beauty's rosy garden wormwood springs;
Where cooed Love's ring-doves, vultures flap their wings:
To trace the walls' vast round, skill vainly tries,
And o'er each shapeless ruin History sighs;
Man's last poor pride, the very tombs are gone —
And this was famed, earth-conquering Babylon!*
Albeit though doubt and mystery round us spread,
Each mark of ancient grandeur hath not fled.
Far in the Western wild, begirt by sands,
A rugged pile, like some grim giant, stands:
Rude stones, that once, perchance, with beaming grace
Had glowed in statues, strew its circling base;
Though crushed the halls that Time's dread secrets keep,
Still, stage on stage, the crumbling platforms sweep:
High on its brow a dark mass rears its form,
Defying ages, mocking fire and storm:
Struck by a thousand lightnings, still 'tis there,
As proud in ruin, haughty in despair.
Oh! oldest fabric reared by hands of man!
Built ere Art's dawn on Europe's shores began!
Rome's mouldering shrines, and Tadmor's columns gray,
Beside yon mass, seem things of yesterday!
In breathless awe, in musing reverence, bow, '
Tis hoary Babel glooms before you now;
The tower at which th' Almighty's shaft was hurled,
The mystery, fear, and wonder of the world!


*Author's Note: On the eastern bank of the Euphrates, a few miles above the modern town of Hillah, are immense mounds formed of decayed buildings, and covered with bricks, broken pottery, and masses of bitumen. They lie in various positions ; some are round, others square, while they measure from 500 to 1,000 yards in circum ference; long ridges also branch away from these, and intersect each other, strongly suggesting the idea that they are the remains of former streets.

Main Location:

Ruins of Babylon, Iraq