John William Burgon

It seems no work of Man's creative hand,
by labour wrought as wavering fancy planned;
But from the rock as if by magic grown,
eternal, silent, beautiful, alone!
Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine,
where erst Athena held her rites divine;
Not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane,
that crowns the hill and consecrates the plain;
But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,
that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;
The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,
which Man deemed old two thousand years ago,
Match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
a rose-red city half as old as time.

This poem won Burgon Oxford University's prestigious Newdigate Prize for Poetry in 1845. The last couplet has become one of the more famous in poetry. Burgon had never seen Petra. Sometimes this results in the finest poetry about places, as in the case of Percy Shelley; and Ozymandius, his poem about the Ramasseum in Luxor.


Main Location:

Petra, Jordan

The rose-red Treasury at Petra, seen through the narrow cleft entrance of the Siq