Arthur Henry Hallam

Beyond the clime of Tripoly, and beyond   
Bahr Abiad, where the lone peaks, unconform   
  To other hills, and with rare foliage crowned,   
Hold converse with the moon, a city stands   
  Which yet no mortal guest hath ever found.          
Around it stretch away the level sands   
  Into the silence: pausing in his course,   
The ostrich kens it from his subject lands.   
  Here with faint longings and a subdued force   
Once more was sought the ideal aliment           
  Of man’s most subtle being, the prime source   
Of all his blessings: here might still be blent   
  Whate’er of heavenly beauty in form or sound   
Illumes the poet’s heart with ravishment.   
  Thou fairy city, which the desert mound           
Encompasseth, thou alien from the mass   
  Of human guilt, I would not wish thee found!   
Perchance thou art too pure, and dost surpass   
  Too far amid the ideas ranged high   
In the Eternal Reason’s perfectness,           
  To our deject and most embaséd eye,   
To look unharmed on thy integrity,   
  Symbol of love, and truth, and all that cannot die.   
Thy palaces and pleasure-domes to me   
  Are matter of strange thought: for sure thou art           
A splendor in the wild: and aye to thee   
  Did visible guardians of the earth’s great heart   
Bring their choice tributes, culled from many a mine,   
  Diamond, and jasper, porphyry, and the art   
Of figured chrysolite: nor silver shine           
  There wanted, nor the mightier power of gold:   
So wert thou reared of yore, city divine!   
  And who are they of blisses manifold,   
That dwell within thee? Spirits of delight,   
  It may be spirits whose pure thoughts enfold,           
In eminence of being, all the light   
  That interpenetrates this mighty all,   
And doth endure in its own beauty’s right.   
  And oh, the vision were majestical   
To them, indeed, of column, and of spire,           
  And hanging garden, and hoar waterfall!   
For we, poor prisoners of this earthy mire,   
  See little; they the essence and the law   
Robing each other in its peculiar tire.   
  Yet moments have been, when in thought I saw           
That city rise upon me from the void,   
  Populous with men: and fantasy would draw   
Such portraiture of life, that I have joyed   
  In over-measure to behold her work,   
Rich with the myriad charms, by evil unalloyed.


Lying across the mighty Sahara Desert, for many years the ancient city of Timbuctoo was a romantic, fabled destination to Europeans. The Bahr Abiad (White Sea) is the Mediterranean.

Main Location:

Timbuktu, Tomboctou, Timbuctoo, Sahara Desert, Mali

The fabled city of Timbuktu in the Sahara Desert, Mali