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Poem by Bayard Taylor


THE wild and windy morning is lit with lurid fire;
The thundering surf of ocean beats on the rocks of Tyre, --
Beats on the fallen columns and round the headland roars,
And hurls its foamy volume along the hollow shores,
And calls with hungry clamor, that speaks its long desire:
"Where are the ships of Tarshish, the mighty ships of Tyre?"
Within her cunning harbor, choked with invading sand,
No galleys bring their freightage, the spoils of every land,
And like a prostrate forest, when autumn gales have blown,
Her colonnades of granite lie shattered and o'erthrown;
And from the reef the pharos no longer flings its fire,
To beacon home from Tarshish the lordly ships of Tyre.
Where is thy rod of empire, once mighty on the waves, --
Thou that thyself exalted, till Kings became thy slaves?
Thou that didst speak to nations, and saw thy will obeyed, --
Whose favor made them joyful, whose anger sore afraid, --
Who laid'st thy deep foundations, and thought them strong and sure,
And boasted midst the waters, Shall I not aye endure?
Where is the wealth of ages that heaped thy princely mart?
The pomp of purple trappings; the gems of Syrian art;
The silken goats of Kedar; Sabæa's spicy store;
The tributes of the islands thy squadrons homeward bore,
When in thy gates triumphant they entered from the sea
With sound of horn and sackbut, of harp and psaltery?
Howl, howl, ye ships of Tarshish! the glory is laid waste:
There is no habitation; the mansions are defaced.
No mariners of Sidon unfurl your mighty sails;
No workmen fell the fir-trees that grow in Shenir's vales
And Bashan's oaks that boasted a thousand years of sun,
Or hew the masts of cedar on frosty Lebanon.
Rise, thou forgotten harlot! take up thy harp and sing:
Call the rebellious islands to own their ancient king:
Bare to the spray thy bosom, and with thy hair unbound,
Sit on the piles of ruins, thou throneless and discrowned!
There mix thy voice of wailing with the thunders of the sea,
And sing thy songs of sorrow, that thou remembered be!
Though silent and forgotten, yet Nature still laments
The pomp and power departed, the lost magnificence:
The hills were proud to see thee, and they are sadder now;
The sea was proud to bear thee, and wears a troubled brow,
And evermore the surges chant forth their vain desire:
"Where are the ships of Tarshish, the mighty ships of Tyre?"

Bayard Taylor

Bayard Taylor's other poems:
  1. The Return of the Goddess
  2. Gettysburg Ode
  3. America to Iceland
  4. To M. T.
  5. Daughter of Egypt

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