Nicholas Michell

And this was proud Geraza, where the Jew,
Once lord of Gilead, only slavery knew;
Where Roman victors passed a life of ease,
'Mid all that mind could charm, or sense could please:*
They melted from the scene — the Moslems came,
Pillaged the palace, wrapped the shrines in flame,
And searched the dead, and broke the coffin-lid,
Lured by the wealth which Jew or Christian hid.*
They in their turn departed; long, long years
Have done their worst — Geraza still appears,
Queen-like and sad, on ruin gazing down,
No foe but Time, no subjects and no crown,
Her only guest Oblivion's shade, who keeps
"Watch o'er the scene, while Rome's pale genius weeps.
Behold this Arch of Triumph! — reared to whom?
No line declares — 'tis lonely as a tomb;
Yet here the monarch passed, or man of war,
While shouts rang round, and laurels decked his car;*
We walk beneath — Geraza rises near,
Not harsh the scene, not gloomy or severe,
But grandly beautiful, and softly mild —
Another Tadmor mourns upon the wild.*
The broken statue, column worn and rent,
The tottering tower, the grass-grown monument,
Are mixed with fairer objects — classic shrines,
Round which the row of rich-carved pillars shines,
And lengthened colonnades, like vistas seen
Narrowing to shadowy points in forests green.
Here spreads the huge Naumachia, where of old
Ships struck, in mimic fight, their beaks of gold;
That marble lake is dry, and flowrets fair,
And many a fragrant shrub, are blooming there.*
The circus still displays its ample bound,
Where glittering chariots ran their dizzy round:
The theatres, all open to the sky,
In size and grace with those of Hellas vie;
The broad deep orchestra, the circling seat,
The vaulted gallery, now the bat's retreat,
Crushed arch, stage clothed with brambles — such the scene,
The once fair haunt of Pleasure's bright-eyed queen.

Down where the winding streamlet frets and brawls,
The gorgeous baths uprear their massy walls;
Rich mouldings, dome-shaped roofs, attract the sight,
But fall'n the statues, gone the paintings bright:
Unlike Pompeii, here no lava spread,
Preserving art beneath its mantling bed.
Yet Time hath spared what well may show the grace,
The soft delights, and luxuries of the place:
Pillars, in squares and circles, mark the rooms
Where waters gushed, and floated rich perfumes;
Here did the Roman youth in crystal swim,
And there coy Beauty lave her snowy limb.*
Sweet still the verdant scene, for springing near,
Pure as the heaven- wed vestal's secret tear,
Purls by the limpid stream, and holds a glass
For wild gazelles to gaze in as they pass.
Flowers, too, perchance the offspring e'en of those
Planted by Roman maids, the banks disclose;
The rich-globed tulip trembles on the brink,
The fair Narcissus, love-sick, stoops to drink;
The brown bee hums, the insect spreads its wings,
And, perched on ruins, many a small bird sings.
Sure fauns might haunt this spot, so lone and still,
And lares dance at eve beside the rill;
Or, while the living fly this beauteous scene,
The shades of Roman dead might walk serene,
Hero and sage 'mid ruins pacing slow,
And maids with eyes of light, and brows of snow,
While Quiet folds her wing, and moonlight shines
O'er lone Geraza's mouldering towers and shrines.

Author's Notes:
* The remarkable rains of the Roman city of Geraza, the Ger gashi of the Hebrews, and now called Jerash, are situated among the mountains of Gilead, about a day's journey east of the Jordan; they were discovered by Dr. Seetzen thirty years ago, and have since been visited by Burckhardt, Buckingham, and a few other travellers.

* The followers of the Prophet of Mecca, ever impressed by the idea that treasures are concealed among the ruins of infidel cities, have ransacked all the tombs on the north and west of Geraza. Buckingham saw more than one hundred stone sarcophagi lying in heaps above the ground, being handsomely sculptured with shields and other devices in the Roman manner.

* Geraza is approached from the south by an isolated Gate of Triumph; it is composed of three arches, the central one being thirty feet high. The building is of the Corinthian order, and the summit is covered with grass and shrubs.

* On the left hand, after quitting the arch, the traveller sees an immense oblong basin formed of large stones, coated with fine masonry; this was evidently a Naumachia, or artificial lake, for the display of mock naval combats; the channels which supplied it with water are still seen. Wild plants grow at the bottom, and when Buckingham saw it, part of it was sown with corn.

* There are two large baths at Geraza, one on each side of the stream, which rising near a Corinthian temple flows south, and divides the city into two parts. These buildings consist of thick stone walls, portions of vaulted roofs, arches, and passages; broken columns show the dimensions of the ruined apartments, but no statues or other works of art have been found.