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Henry Abbey

(11 July 1842 - 7 June 1911 / Kingston, NY)

Along the Nile


To G. W. C.
We journey up the storied Nile;
The timeless water seems to smile;
The slow and swarthy boatman sings;
The dahabëah spreads her wings;
We catch the breeze and sail away,
Along the dawning of the day,
Along the East, wherein the morn
Of life and truth was gladly born.

We sail along the past, and see
Great Thebes with Karnak at her knee.
To Isis and Osiris rise
The prayers and smoke of sacrifice.
'Mid rites of priests and pomp of kings
Again the seated Memnon sings.
We watch the palms along the shore,
And dream of what is here no more.

The gliding Cleopatran Nile,
With glossy windings, mile on mile,
Suggests the asp: in coils compact
It hisses-at the cataract.
Thence on again we sail, and strand
Upon the yellow Nubian sand,
Near Aboo Simbel's rock-hewn fane,
Which smiles at time with calm disdain.

Who cut the stone joy none can tell;
He did his work, like Nature, well.
At one with Nature, godlike, these
Bland faces of great Rameses.
'T is seemly that the noble mind
Somewhat of permanence may find,
Whereon with patience, may be wrought
A clear expression of its thought.

The artist labors while he may,
But finds at best too brief the day;
And, tho' his works outlast the time
And nation that they make sublime,
He feels and sees that Nature knows
Nothing of time in what she does,
But has a leisure infinite
Wherein to do her work aright.

The Nile of virtue overflows
The fruitful lands through which it goes.
It little cares for smile or slight,
But in its deeds takes sole delight,
And in them puts its highest sense,
Unmindful of the recompense;
Contented calmly to pursue
Whatever work it finds to do.

Howadji, with sweet dreams full fraught,
We trace this Nile through human thought.
Remains of ancient grandeur stand
Along the shores on either hand.
Like pyramids, against the skies
Loom up the old philosophies,
And the Greek king, who wandered long,
Smiles from uncrumbling rock of song.

Submitted: Thursday, April 26, 2012

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