Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Asia
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII.  1876–79.
 
Syria: Bethany
The House of Bethany
Anonymous
 
SCARCE fifteen furlongs from the city-gates,
Embayed among the green Judæan hills
(Not yet the wrath was come to the uttermost
Upon that land), like a dew-drop in a leaf
Lay Bethany. Who knows not Bethany,        5
The town of Mary and her sister, loved
By our dear Lord, what time his blessed feet
Were known in Jewry? Who will place me there?
What spirit that whilom wont with viewless wing
Angelical, on ancient Olivet,        10
Temper the sultry wind of midsummer
For the pale forehead of the Son of Man,
Walking to Bethany, will bid the home,
By him beloved, stand as then it stood
Beneath the summer sky? No home, methinks,        15
Such as high fancy frames with delicate craft
In the sunny Orient,—where the half-shut eye
Sees the great stars and the transparent blue
Betwixt two marble columns,—and around
The rich red roses swing like wreaths of fire,—        20
And spouted water all night passioneth
Its silver weeping in a purple shell.
Not such a home in sooth, yet beautiful,
With lovelier beauty. Prospect is there thence
Of the Holy City, joy of all the earth,        25
Theatre of miracles and of mysteries;
And of that fane with all its marble pomp,
Which, moonlight-touched, might seem a great white rose
Worn in the night-dark hair of goddess old.
There to that home in Bethany came up        30
The city murmurs,—murmurs of that sea
Which roars or sobs forever in the streets,
With every drop of every wave a life;
And there the arméd heel and ringing tread
Of Pilate’s sentinels, pacing to and fro,        35
Was almost heard upon a quiet eve.
But to that home came too, forevermore,
Or came, or seemed to come,—an echo, blent
With Kedron’s murmurs of the mighty music
Up from the Temple, that had panted round        40
Fragrant and fadeless flowers, that live on
Steeped in the eternal sunset of their gold,
With incense rolling round about like clouds,
And silver lamps hung over them like stars,
And chants that hurried by them like a river;        45
There, too, were things wherewith the childlike East
Is well content to entertain the hours,—
Garden and grove, and marble to allure
The fountain,—and a sepulchre hard by.
*        *        *        *        *
 
 
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