Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Africa
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Africa: Vol. XXIV.  1876–79.
 
Introductory to Africa
Africa
Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810–1876)
 
Translated by K. F. Kroeker

YE zones, so strange and wondrous,
Thou distant magic land,
Where swarthy men are roving
Burnt by the sun’s fierce brand;
Where all things glow and sparkle,        5
Where Phœbus’ golden beam
The genuine gold doth darken
That flashes bright in every stream.
 
Thy forests dark and deserts
Are present to my view,        10
Thy feathery palms are mirrored
In lakes of deepest blue;
The wild beasts’ roar is sounding
From cleft and cavern black,
With heavy bales and costly        15
The Arab loads his camel’s back.
 
There, too, the curly negro
Gold-dust in rivers seeks,
And there Mount Atlas gravely
Rears heaven-supporting peaks;        20
The sunlight tinges brightly
Its crags with radiant blush,
While elephants gray and sombre
With ponderous step the meadows crush.
 
To dip his mane in the river        25
The lion stoopeth down,
And swiftly as the lightning
Canoes dart, light and brown;
They pass o’er depths securely,
And dates and rosin bear,        30
And from the waves dark faces
All dripping and all wet appear.
 
O zone! So hot and glowing,
Queen of the earth art thou!
Sand is thy mantle flowing,        35
The sun doth crown thy brow:
Of gold, thou queenly woman,
Are all the clasps and rims,
That fasten with fiery splendor
The garment to thy burning limbs.        40
 
The strand, with rocks and quicksands,
Naked and parched with heat,
Cut into shapes fantastic,
Is a footstool for thy feet;
The ocean far beneath it        45
Its edge doth hem and braid,
Washing thy sandals, foaming,
As an anxious and a willing maid.
 
On dazzling mats of scarlet
Thou liest thoughtful and calm,        50
The spotted panthers are licking
The fingers of thy left palm;
While skilfully thy right hand,
Sparkling with jewels rare,
Into a tress is twisting        55
The lion’s mane of tawny hair,
 
And then again, untwining it,
Into a five-toothed prong,
Dost comb the hair’s dense tresses
His curvéd back along:        60
His flanks are proudly heaving;—
Anon, with the same hand
Commandingly thou scarest
The slim giraffes across the sand.
 
Upon thy shoulder sitting        65
In his plumage’ bright display,
With chattering and with screaming
Perches a parrot gay;
He lays his beak so crooked
Against thy listening ear,        70
With voice both loud and ringing
Relates he stories strange to hear.
 
A silken turban, broidered
With flowers, decks thy hair,
A rich and costly necklace,        75
Such as sultanas wear,
Of thousand links close-knitted
To chain compact and sound,
With golden coil encircles
Thy neck which sun and heat have browned.        80
 
Who is there, that has seen thee
In all thy splendor quite?
Dense forests ever screen thee,
Waving with leafy night
Before thy golden crescent,        85
Before thy cheek’s rich bloom,
Before thy lips of ruby,
Before thine eye which flashes gloom.
 
None, none have yet beheld thee,
O Queen, from face to face,        90
Although full many a suitor
Advanced with fearless pace
To lift the veil that covers
Thy brow with mystic fold,—
Ah, with his life atoned he        95
The attempt he ventured all too bold!
 
From off thy throne thou rosest
With menace dread to see,—
“Arouse ye, O my lions,
Tear him, and fight for me;        100
O sun! thy living fire
From cloudless tent on high
Hurl down on the offender
With scorching ardor, hot and dry!
 
“Subdue his strength, ye vapors,        105
With sultry poisonous breath,
And let at every palm-tree
A javelin threaten death;
Ye curly-headed negroes,
Haste, bring to me his blood,        110
Let fly your hissing arrows,
And take an aim full sure and good!”
 
Then up doth bound the lion,
Roaring with fierce delight,
And strikes his paw unwieldy        115
In the breast of the hapless white;
From every bush a warrior
With hideous grin doth leap,
And with its breath of poison
Simoom the desert plain doth sweep.        120
 
His spur the Jolof presses
Deep in his charger’s side;
How can the fainting pale-face
Such rage as this abide?
All gashed and gory, sinking        125
A corpse upon the sand,
He cruelly hath perished,
O dread Sultana, through thy hand!
 
Thee, whom he fain desired
To disclose to every eye,        130
And who didst therefore bear him
Displeasure kindled high;
Thee, in thy sanctuary,
He would have glorified,
Wherefore didst thou deter him        135
To publish thine own fame and pride?
 
The negro-kings who saw thee
Thirst for the white man’s blood,
Now offer it unto thee
In humble suppliant mood;        140
The golden bowl doth brandish,
Flashing in blood-red sheen,
That many a drop of crimson
Is sprinkled on thy veil of green.
 
Thy swelling lips thou pressest        145
Against the vessel’s rim,
On the yellow sand thou gazest
With savage smile and grim;
The corpse before thee is lying,
Fiercely the sun doth sting;        150
Through ages and through nations
Thy murdered suitors’ fame shall ring!
 
 
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