Ballade of Cleopatra's Needle

Andrew Lang

Ye giant shades of RA and TUM,
Ye ghosts of gods Egyptian,
If murmurs of our planet come
To exiles in the precincts wan
Where, fetish or Olympian,
To help or harm no more ye list,
Look down, if look ye may, and scan
This monument in London mist!

Behold, the hieroglyphs are dumb
That once were read of him that ran
When seistron, cymbal, trump, and drum
Wild music of the Bull began;
When through the chanting priestly clan
Walk’d Ramses, and the high sun kiss’d
This stone, with blessing scored and ban—
This monument in London mist.

The stone endures though gods be numb;
Though human effort, plot, and plan
Be sifted, drifted, like the sum
Of sands in wastes Arabian.
What king may deem him more than man,
What priest says Faith can Time resist
While _this_ endures to mark their span—
This monument in London mist?


Prince, the stone’s shade on your divan
Falls; it is longer than ye wist:
It preaches, as Time’s gnomon can,
This monument in London mist!

Cleopatra's Needle is an ancient Egyptian obelisk which was transported to London and erected on the Embankment by the River Thames in 1878.

Poetry Atlas has a number of poems about this obelisk and its twin that now stands in New York's Central Park.

Main Location:

Cleopatras Needle, Victoria Embankment, London

Cleopatras Needle by the Thames in London

Image in public domain