Helen Of Tyre

Helen Of Tyre

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Helen Of Tyre

 

What phantom is this that appears

Through the purple mist of the years,

Itself but a mist like these?

A woman of cloud and of fire;

It is she; it is Helen of Tyre,

The town in the midst of the seas.

 

O Tyre! in thy crowded streets

The phantom appears and retreats,

And the Israelites that sell

Thy lilies and lions of brass,

Look up as they see her pass,

And murmur “Jezebel!”

 

Then another phantom is seen

At her side, in a gray gabardine,

With beard that floats to his waist;

It is Simon Magus, the Seer;

He speaks, and she pauses to hear

The words he utters in haste.

 

He says: “From this evil fame,

From this life of sorrow and shame,

I will lift thee and make thee mine;

Thou hast been Queen Candace,

And Helen of Troy, and shalt be

The Intelligence Divine!”

 

Oh, sweet as the breath of morn,

To the fallen and forlorn

Are whispered words of praise;

For the famished heart believes

The falsehood that tempts and deceives,

And the promise that betrays.

 

So she follows from land to land

The wizard’s beckoning hand,

As a leaf is blown by the gust,

Till she vanishes into night.

O reader, stoop down and write

With thy finger in the dust.

 

O town in the midst of the seas,

With thy rafts of cedar trees,

Thy merchandise and thy ships,

Thou, too, art become as naught,

A phantom, a shadow, a thought,

A name upon men’s lips.

 

 

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