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
Servia
Servia
Richard Henry Stoddard (1825–1903)
 
(From Wratislaw)

WHERE now the Servian and the Turk,
Born foes, as slave and master are,
Are at their grim old murderous work,
Grappling in most unequal war,
Six hundred years ago, or more,        5
The land was wasted, as to-day,
Overrun, as when the shore gives way
And the wild waves devour the shore,
By Tartar tribes as wild as they,
The barbarous horde of Genghis Khan,        10
Who scourged mankind as never man
Before or since, as if he were
Hell-sent to pitch his dark pavilions
Upon the grave of slaughtered millions,
And make the earth a sepulchre!        15
Down from the steppes of Tartary
His countless thousands swept for years,—
His long-haired horsemen with their spears.
His bowmen with their arrows keen;
Such pitiless fiends were never seen        20
Till then, and worst of all was he,
Destruction’s self, whose iron tread
Shook kingdoms: peaceful peoples lay
Secure before him in Cathay;
He passed that way and they were dead!        25
Across the swift, swollen winter rivers,
Across the hot, parched summer sands,
With bended bows and bristling quivers,
And spears and scimitars in their hands,
Rushed Tartar, Mongol, Turkoman,        30
To do the bidding of Genghis Khan,—
Through Russia, Poland, down to where
Morava is; they halted there.
Before they came there was—if not
Perpetual peace, which nowhere reigns,        35
So darkly Nature shapes our ends—
There still were times when men forgot
They had been foes, and might be friends,
Having the same blood in their veins.
Princes and peoples prospered. Now—        40
How do we track the savage sea,
When its spent waves no longer roar,
But by their ravage of the shore
Whose once tall cliffs have ceased to be?
Such was the track of Genghis Khan,        45
Who from his boyhood overran
The lands, and made their rulers bow
To his imperious will or whim,
As if the world belonged to him.
Temples and towers were trampled down,        50
Were pillaged, and were set on fire;
Pagoda, mosque, and Christian spire,
The great walled city, little town,
The herdsman’s hut, the monarch’s hall,—
He pillaged and destroyed them all:
*        *        *        *        *
        55
The work of death was never done,
For everywhere along their track
Were flights of vultures; everywhere
The wolves came trooping from their lair,—
Came famished, and went glutted back.        60
The smoke of battle dimmed the sun,
And darkness like a funeral pall
Was on the ruins,—all were black,
Save when the embers smouldered red:
It was as if the Earth were dead,        65
And they heaped ashes on her head!
They halted in Morava. Nay,
They were defeated there and then,
By Slavic chiefs and Slavic men,—
Warriors more desperate than they,        70
Whose spears and lances cleft their way
To where their horsemen were at bay,
And horse and rider rolled in dust;
And whose sharp swords with lightning thrust,
Ringing on helmet, armor, shield,        75
Pierced, clove, until they turned and fled,
And left them masters of the field
Piled with a hundred thousand dead!
 
 
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