Nicholas Michell

Near Shiraz, giant groups of ruin stand,
The pride of taste, the boast of Persia's land:
The dark o'erhanging hills our footsteps gain,
Wild and majestic sweeps that mountain-chain;
No trees adorn the slopes, or corn, or flowers,
But ruined shrines of fire, and mouldered towers.
Ah! well the smile from azure skies hath gone,
And Nature here put Terror's garment on:
The clouds their inky pall have hung on high,
The blast comes muttering like a spirit by.

But where the forky lightning fiercest plays,
What shadowy columns meet the straining gaze?
Now wrapped in gloom, and now in light they stand,
As swift between them darts the fiery brand.
It seems as Ruin, revelling in high mirth
O'er fallen things, the beautiful of earth,
Led to this spot the demons of the storm,
To show and mock each lonely column's form:
Yet tower they still, though fierce as now the skies
Have launched their lightnings countless centuries,
Gazing upon the mountains, and on heav'n,
As endless years to them were also giv'n,
High raised above that wild and mournful plain,
Where pomp and pageant ne'er must shine again,
But the green turf wraps cities, and the waves
Of winding Kur* sweep past a million graves:
Throned on their rock, they look like kings afar,
The column'd pride of glorious Chil Minar!
Yes, storms! rage on! — at such an hour as this,
Grand is the scene at dark Persepolis.

We leave far west the ancient city's site,
And mount by marble steps the platform's height;
Here frowns a massive gateway, such as Nile
Sees on his banks, a strange and solemn pile,
And still another lifts its giant head,
The ground between with polished marbles spread.
There figures stand, of earth that scarcely seem,
Like those which filled the Apostle's wondrous dream,
The bull, the unicorn, and beauteous things,
Angels with starry wreaths, and high-spread wings;
While on each sweeping terrace' lofty face,
A countless host of human forms ye trace;
Kings, warriors, captives, from the granite start,
But rude the genius, coarse the sculptor's art.
Here, too, is carved that writing Europe's sage
Half fails to read in Wisdom's boasted age,
Strange, mystic, as those words once seen to fall
In spectral light on Babylonia's wall.

Author's Note: The river Kur, the aucient Cyrus, flows by the ruins, and through the great plain of Merdusht below.