Ancient Thebes

Nicholas Michell

Thebes, hearing still the Memnon's mystic tones,
Where Egypt's earliest monarchs reared their thrones,
Favoured of Jove! the hundred-gated queen!
Though fallen, grand — though desolate, serene;
The blood with awe runs coldly through our veins,
As we approach her far-spread, vast remains.
Forests of pillars crown old Nilus' side,
Ob'lisks to heaven high lift their sculptured pride;
Rows of dark Sphinxes, sweeping far away,
Lead to proud fanes, and tombs august as they.
Colossal chiefs, in granite, sit around,
As wrapped in thought, or sunk in grief profound.
Titans or gods sure built these walls that stand
Defying years, and Ruin's wasting hand.
So vast, sublime the view, we almost deem
We rove, spell-bound, through some fantastic dream,
Sweep through the halls that Typhon rears below,*
And see in yon dark Nile hell's rivers flow.
Even as we walk these fanes, and ruined ways,
In musings lost, yet dazzled while we gaze,
The mighty columns ranged in long array,
The statues fresh as chiselled yesterday,
We scarce can think two thousand years have flown
Since in proud Thebes a Pharaoh's grandeur shone,
But in yon marble court or Sphinx-lined street
Some moving pageant half expect to meet,
See great Sesostris, come from distant war,
Kings linked in chains to drag his ivory car;
Or view that bright procession sweeping on,
To meet at Memphis far-famed Solomon,
When, borne by Love, he crossed the Syrian wild,
To wed the royal Pharaoh's blooming child.*

Author's Notes:

* Typhon: Typhon is the Principle of Evil in Egyptian my thology.

* Pharaosh's blooming child: Solomon, in the year B.c. 1014, married the daughter of the King of Egypt, and with that monarch contracted a friendly and close alliance. We need, perhaps, scarcely observe that the term Pharaoh is merely a prefix, Phra, in the Egyptian language, meaning the sun, and it was applied to all the Egyptian kings, in the same way as Caesar was assumed by the Roman emperors, and, in the present age, the title of Czar distinguishes the sovereigns of Russia.