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.
 
India: Elephanta, the Island
The Cave of Elephanta
Elias D. Knight
 
AT length, O longing soul, thy foot hath trod
On holy ground; and at the portals dim
Of Elephanta’s sacred cave, I bow
In silent worship of its mysteries
Unfathomable!
                Before thy shrine supreme,
        5
O Bhagavat! I stand in wondering maze
Of meditation lost; and o’er the past—
Expanse immeasurable of years unknown—
I gaze in undefined perplexity!
Brahma, within his lotus-cup, in doubt        10
And grief involved, knew scarcely less of Thee
Than I! And in the voice mysterious,
That over the weird waste of waters came,
Unto his anxious ear, learned scarcely more
Of whence or where or how he gained his birth,        15
Than murmurs now among these echo-tones.
 
Anon, beside the brimming brink I kneel
Of Vishnu’s sacred spring; and, fearful, taste,
With trembling lips, of the amreeta’s juice,
Immortal flood! The magic-mingled draught        20
Thrills through my shuddering veins, and seems to chill,
My very blood!
                But who unmoved can gaze
Upon thy hideous and colossal shape,
O Siva! fell Destroyer! Prince of Death!
What terror-stricken tens of thousands, here,        25
Before thy gory feet have knelt, and thus,
With tortures terrible, sweltering in their blood,
Have died, with dismal groans, that groaned again
In endless echoes through this dreadful cave,
So vast, so monstrous, so incalculable!        30
Beyond the understanding of my soul
Are these stupendous mysteries! I stand
And gaze around, above, beneath; yet still
No key I find to the enigma!
                        Where
Are those whose superstitious skill hewed out        35
These lofty pillars from the solid rock?
Whose hands, with curious cunning, patient wrought
These sculptured capitals, gigantic, beautiful?
Where, too, are those whose sacrilegious zeal
Defaced and mutilated their magnificence?        40
The multiplying echoes answer, “Where?”
Destroyer, and destroyed, buried beneath
The silent, ever deepening dust of ages lost!
 
 
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