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And from out of the windy Scythian waste,
And the Indian jungles interlaced,
And the valleys cradled in the stone
Of Kaf, the world's gigantic zone,*
And wide Armenia's pastoral lands,
And awful Egypt, and the sands
At the solemn heart of Africa.
Obedient to their mighty Shah,
They swarm'd like flies; and, after these,
From the distant islands of the seas
Came more and more; and all address'd
Their minds towards that strange behest,
That they might see, with living eyes,
Like a slowly-kindling dawn, uprise
The glow of this new Paradise,
The City of Earthly Eden.

* The Orientals regarded Kaf (Caucasus) as a
stony girdle round the earth.

For twenty years, with labour stark,
They mined and dug by light and dark,
And the naked divers dived for pearls
In the Indian ocean's perilous swirls,
And the slaves collected, piece by piece,
Saffron and myrrh and ambergris.
Then they search'd the deserts far away,
And the grassy steppes; till, on a day,
They found a plain of vast extent,
Through which four flashing rivers bent
Their interwoven course from where,
In the hot horizon's quivering air,
The soft blue mountains lay like smoke,
Or mists of morning; and they broke
The soil, and, under the hollow sphere
Of the heavens, eternal and austere,
They mark'd the circuit of the walls,
And the flanking towers at intervals,
And cried, with a roaring, Bacchanal sound,
"Behold, behold, the chosen ground
That shall, in the lapse of time, be crown'd
By the City of Earthly Eden!"

Then day by day, and year by year,
The severing deserts, sandy and sere,
Were cross'd by the long processional lines
Of the camels moving from the mines,—
Moving slowly under the sun,
Endlessly moving, one by one,
Each over his gliding shadow steering
His ship-like way, as the shadow, veering,
And dwindling now, and now dilating,
On the sun's great course kept humbly waiting.
From the tracts and countries across the sea
Came the wingèd vessels boundingly,
With jasper, of many a freakish stain,
And the spiky coral with blushing grain,
All virgin-fresh from the cloister' d caves
And the lonely dimness under the waves,
And agate, and red cornelian,
And perfumed woods from which there ran
With a motion that linger'd reluctantly there
Gums worthy to weep in the glamour and glare,
And to breathe their odours into the air,
Of the City of Earthly Eden.

Up in its loveliness rose the gleam
Of the palaces wrought in that city of dream;
Up rose each lofty pavilion,
Tier by tier, till it lighten'd and shone
Far over the plain with a restless rain
Of splendour, dazzling eye and brain.
In channels of gold, through the streets below,
The wandering rivers were made to flow,
Feeding with freshness, up from their roots
(Till the sap laugh'd out into flowers and fruits),
The trees that were planted reposingly
Wherever the water glimmer'd by:
And high in the heavens, like ice and fire
Commingled, one central diamond spire
Froze in its burning across the domes,
And the towers and temples and Sybarite homes,
And the columns and ramparts and pyramids,—
Alluring and distant, like something that bids
All men turn aside from the deserts, and rest
From the fever and fume and the wearisome quest
Of life, and repose, as a bird in its nest,
In the City of Earthly Eden.

Proud and exulting, the Ruler of men
Saw his vision of glory completed; and then
He marshall'd his warriors, host on host,
Many and bright as the waves on the coast,
And trooping like waves in a measured accord,
And the women who own'd him as husband and lord,
And the dancing maidens, dancing in time
To the rhythm of their anklets' chime,
And the slaves and the courtiers, and all who lay
In the light of his presence, like stars in the ray
Of the moon, when the moon is full-orb'd in the sky:
And he in the midst, with his sovereign eye,
That kindled superbly whenever the blast
Of the trumpets came whirling and eddying past,
Proclaim'd the new Paradise made by his will.
As he spoke, the air, hearkening, dropp'd awfully still;
And when he had finish'd, that princely rout,
In the freshness of early dawn, set out
With much of hope, and something of doubt,
And a flutter of fear, that crept about
For the City of Earthly Eden.

Into the deserts they rode. Each night
They dreamt some dream of the coming delight,
And all day long through the trampling throng
Flow'd the wave of a heart-uplifting song.
At length, o'er the solitude, lucid and vast,
And dilating and sun-like, the city grew fast;
When suddenly, out of the distance, came
A cry of such might that it burnt like flame
Through the hosts of the monarch, and parch'd into sand
Every creature that heard it. But still in that land
The city remains, and for aye shall remain,
Shut round by the hush of the desert plain,
Inaccessible, lonely, unpeopled, remote.*
But out of the noon of its splendours float
Strange beams, which are seen in the dark far away;
And the people, beholding that effluence, say:
"Sheddád the Mighty, thy doom was just!
Dust thou liest within the dust;

* The story here related is an Arabian legend,
which Mr. Lane has eloquently rendered in the
Notes to his translation of The Thousand and One
Nights. The site of the marvellous city is supposed
to be in the deserts of Aden, at the extreme south of
the Arabian peninsula. Occasionally, as tradition
affirms, a wanderer in the desert comes accidentally
upon the gorgeous mass of palaces and pavilions, and
finds them vacant; but this is very seldom. The
reader will observe that the story has a similarity to
that of Zobeide in The Arabian Nights. The existence
of the deserted, but magnificent, city of Petra,
in the midst of a rocky wilderness, may have led to
the invention of this fable.

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