Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Greece
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Greece and Turkey in Europe: Vol. XIX.  1876–79.
 
Turkey in Europe, and the Principalities
Constantinople (Byzantium, Stamboul)
The Turk at Constantinople to the Frank
Richard Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton (1809–1885)
 
WHEN first the Prophet’s standard rested on
The land that once was Greece and still was Rome,
We deemed that his and our dominion
Was there as sure as in our Eastern home:
We never thought a single hour to pause        5
Till the wide West had owned Mohammed’s laws.
 
How could we doubt it? To one desert tribe
The truth revealed by one plain-seeming man
Cut off the cavil, thundered down the gibe,
And formed a nation to its lofty plan;        10
What barrier could its wave of victory stem?
Not thy religious walls, Jerusalem!
 
The impious wars that stained the faithful host
Might for some years the ripe success delay;
But when we once stood firm on Europe’s coast,        15
’T was as the dawning of that final day
That could not close till Islam’s flag was furled
O’er the last ruins of the Roman world.
 
For History is not silent what we did,
Long ere we crushed to dust the Grecian name:        20
It was no Western to whom Bajazid
Surrendered his long heritage of fame;
The shame of Hungary was not less sure,
Because your victor crouched before Timour.
 
Hard was the penalty of broken faith,        25
By Ladislaus paid on Varna’s plain;
For many a Knight there met unhonored death,
When, like a god of vengeance, rose again
Old Amurath from his far home, and cried,
“Now Jesus combats on Mohammed’s side!”        30
 
Nor was the mission of our Master stayed,
When seated safe on this imperial throne;
Witness the wonders wrought before Belgrade,
The fields whose very loss none blushed to own;
Witness St. John’s proud island-chevaliers,        35
Thrust from their lordship of two hundred years.
 
Thus did we justify the faith by works;
And the bright Crescent haunted Europe’s eye,
Till many a pope believed the demon Turks
Would scour the Vatican, ere he could die:        40
Why was our arm of conquest shortened? Why?
Ask him whose will is o’er us, like the sky.
 
The dome to heavenly wisdom consecrate
Still echoes with the Muslim’s fervent prayers;
The just successor of the Khaleefate        45
Still on his brow the sign of empire wears;
We hold our wealth without reserve or fear,
And yet we know we are but tented here.
 
Millions of Christians bend beneath our rule,
And yet these realms are neither theirs nor ours,        50
Sultan and subject are alike the tool
Of Europe’s ready guile or banded powers;
Against the lords of continent and sea
What can one nation do, one people be?
 
Therefore regardless of the moment’s shame,        55
Of wives’ disdain, and children’s thoughtless woe,
Of Christian triumph o’er the Prophet’s name,
Of Russia’s smile beneath her mask of snow,
Let us return to Asia’s fair domain,
Let us in truth possess the East again!        60
 
Men of the West! Ye understand us not,
We you no more: ye take our good for ill;
Ye scorn what we esteem man’s happiest lot,—
Perfect submission to creative will;
Ye would rejoice to watch from us depart        65
Our ancient temperance, our peace of heart.
 
Let us return! if long we linger here,
Ye will destroy us, not with open swords,
Not with such arms as brave men must not fear,
But with the poisoned shafts of subtle words;        70
Your blank indifference for our living creed
Would make us paltry Infidels indeed.
 
What can ye give us for a faith so lost?
For love of duty, and delight in prayer?
How are we wiser that our minds are tost        75
By winds of knowledge on a sea of care?
How are we better that we hardly fear
To break the laws our fathers held most dear?
 
Aping your customs, we have changed e’en now
The noble garb in nature’s wisdom given,        80
And turban that, on every Muslim’s brow,
Was as a crown at once for earth and heaven;—
The sword, with which the sire Byzantium won,
Sleeps in yon deep unwielded by the son.
 
Let us return! across the fatal strait        85
Our fathers’ shadows welcome us once more;
Back to the glories of the Khaleefate,
Back to the faith we loved, the dress we wore,
When in one age the world could well contain
Haroòn Er-Rasheed and your Charlemagne!        90
 
 
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