Nicholas Michell

Baalbec! thou glorious city! where the sun,
Long ages back, mysterious worship won;*
Where, turning eastward, myriads bent the knee,
Well might Day's burning god be proud of thee.
As now he sinks behind the cedar'd hills,
Bathing with gold the rocks and falling rills,
Doth he not view, with sad regretful eye,
The beauteous wreck of glories long gone by?
And teach the desert wind to creep and moan
Around each prostrate shaft and ivied stone?
And call Eve's genii forth, along the maze
Of pillar'd walks to spread his dying rays,
And hang their dewy tears on shrubs and flowers,
That deck with mournful grace Love's ruined bowers?

City of mystery! by whose hands were piled
These gorgeous fanes on Syria's lonely wild?
No record tells, but Roman art is here,
More rich than chaste, more splendid than severe.
Who reared yon stones? — or were they upward hurled,
The huge foundations of a granite world?
A hundred giants could not lift them there —
Did Eblis build their mass, or powers of air?
We ask in vain, and only marvelling stand,
And scarce believe that work by human hand.
And yet, perchance, far back in history's night,
These blocks were heaved by old Phoenician might,
And here, since Abraham walked the world, have lain,
The elder Baalbec's dark and sole remain.

On these the Roman's stately temples rise,
And e'en in ruin charm the wondering eyes.
Pass we the lonely pillar tow'rd the west,
High on whose top the stork hath built her nest,
And standeth now, with white and folded wing,
Watching the sun, like some carved lifeless thing*
Pass we the temple, beautiful as strange,
Round which rich-wrought Corinthian columns range,
With bending architrave and circling cell,
Where Christian priests now ring their holy bell;*
We mount the platform, and approach with awe
The mightiest shrine the kneeling Syrian saw:
No columns rise in front, the porch o'erthrown,
And spacious gateway heaped with many a stone;
Rude towers, by Moslems raised, o'erhang the wall,
And, built on ruins, fast to ruin fall.*
Slow we advance ; arcades once swept around,
Now shattered frieze, bust, cornice, strew the ground;
And still beyond a noble area sweeps,
And here fond Taste the wreck of beauty weeps.
As bursts that glorious picture on the sight,
The spirit feels a strange, yet sad delight;
We look and ponder, doubt and look again,
With dazzled eye, intoxicated brain:
The marble chambers opening round the court,
In ancient days the white-stoled priests' resort;
The frieze, with sculptured fruit and foliage, rich,
The quaint-carved arch, and decorated niche;
The fine relief where gods frown out in stone,
The fluted shaft, the pavement moss-o'ergrown;
And high o'er all, soft bathed in rosy air,
Yon columns of the sun so grand, so fair —
The wondrous scene enchants, o'erpowers the gaze,
Nor sighs the soul for Glory's brighter days;
For Ruin lends a charm, and hoary Time,
While darkening beauty, makes it half sublime;
And scenes like these send thought o'er backward years,
Speak to the heart, and wake the fount of tears.

Author's Notes: Baalbec — the city of Baal or the sun, called by the Greeks Heliopolis, which is but a translation of the Syrian name Baal, signifying also lord or master. Baal and Moloch have been sup posed to be names of the same god, who with Astarte, or the moon, was worshipped with peculiar splendour at Baalbec. Astarte is found sculptured on the Nimroud marbles standing on the back of a lion.

History maintains a singular silence regarding the magnificent buildings both at Baalbec and Palmyra. But notwithstanding the great antiquity of each city, the Corinthian order generally adopted in the temples, and the florid style, plainly indicate that the erection of these edifices cannot date back, at the farthest, more than two centuries before Christ, while they were undeniably the work of Greeks or Romans. With regard to Baalbec, we are led to believe from certain Roman coins in our possession, and on the testimony of one solitary writer, John of Antioch, that the Temple of the Sun was built by the Emperor Antoninus Pius.