Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
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James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
 
November 14
The Traveller at the Source of the Nile
By Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793–1835)
 
(November 14, 1770)

IN sunset’s light o’er Afric thrown,
  A wanderer proudly stood
Beside the well-spring, deep and lone,
  Of Egypt’s awful flood;
The cradle of that mighty birth,        5
So long a hidden thing to earth.
 
He heard its life’s first murmuring sound,
  A low mysterious tone;
A music sought, but never found
  By kings and warriors gone;        10
He listen’d—and his heart beat high—
That was the song of victory!
 
The rapture of a conqueror’s mood
  Rush’d burning through his frame,
The depths of that green solitude        15
  Its torrents could not tame,
Though stillness lay with eve’s last smile,
Round those calm fountains of the Nile,
 
Night came with stars;—across his soul,
  There swept a sudden change,        20
E’en at the pilgrim’s glorious goal,
  A shadow dark and strange,
Breathed forth the thought, so swift to fall
O’er triumph’s hour—And is this all?
 
No more than this!—what seem’d it now        25
  First by that spring to stand?
A thousand streams of lovelier flow
  Bathed his own mountain land!
Whence, far o’er waste and ocean track,
Their wild sweet voices call’d him back.        30
 
They call’d him back to many a glade,
  His childhood’s haunt of play,
Where brightly through the beechen shade
  Their waters glanced away;
They call’d him, with their sounding waves,        35
Back to his father’s hills and graves.
 
But, darkly mingling with the thought
  Of each familiar scene,
Rose up a fearful vision, fraught
  With all that lay between,—        40
The Arab’s lance, the desert’s gloom,
The whirling sands, the red simoon!
 
Where was the glow of power and pride?
  The spirit born to roam?
His weary heart within him died        45
With yearnings for his home;
All vainly struggling to repress
That gush of painful tenderness.
 
He wept—the stars of Afric’s heaven
  Beheld his bursting tears,        50
E’en on that spot where fate had given
  The meed of toiling years.
O happiness! how far we flee
Thine own sweet paths in search of thee!
 
 
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