Monday, February 29, 2016

Hermes Trismegistus

By H.W. Longfellow

Still through Egypt's desert places 
Flows the lordly Nile, 
From its banks the great stone faces 
Gaze with patient smile. 
Still the pyramids imperious 
Pierce the cloudless skies, 
And the Sphinx stares with mysterious, 
Solemn, stony eyes.

But where are the old Egyptian 
Demi-gods and kings? 
Nothing left but an inscription 
Graven on stones and rings. 
Where are Helios and Hephaestus, 
Gods of eldest eld? 
Where is Hermes Trismegistus, 
Who their secrets held?

Where are now the many hundred 
Thousand books he wrote? 
By the Thaumaturgists plundered, 
Lost in lands remote; 
In oblivion sunk forever, 
As when o'er the land 
Blows a storm-wind, in the river 
Sinks the scattered sand.

Something unsubstantial, ghostly, 
Seems this Theurgist, 
In deep meditation mostly 
Wrapped, as in a mist. 
Vague, phantasmal, and unreal 
To our thought he seems, 
Walking in a world ideal, 
In a land of dreams.

Was he one, or many, merging 
Name and fame in one, 
Like a stream, to which, converging 
Many streamlets run? 
Till, with gathered power proceeding, 
Ampler sweep it takes, 
Downward the sweet waters leading 
From unnumbered lakes.

By the Nile I see him wandering, 
Pausing now and then, 
On the mystic union pondering 
Between gods and men; 
Half believing, wholly feeling, 
With supreme delight, 
How the gods, themselves concealing, 
Lift men to their height.

Or in Thebes, the hundred-gated, 
In the thoroughfare 
Breathing, as if consecrated, 
A diviner air; 
And amid discordant noises, 
In the jostling throng, 
Hearing far, celestial voices 
Of Olympian song.

Who shall call his dreams fallacious? 
Who has searched or sought 
All the unexplored and spacious 
Universe of thought? 
Who, in his own skill confiding, 
Shall with rule and line 
Mark the border-land dividing 
Human and divine?

Trismegistus! three times greatest! 
How thy name sublime 
Has descended to this latest 
Progeny of time! 
Happy they whose written pages 
Perish with their lives, 
If amid the crumbling ages 
Still their name survives!

Thine, O priest of Egypt, lately 
Found I in the vast, 
Weed-encumbered sombre, stately, 
Grave-yard of the Past; 
And a presence moved before me 
On that gloomy shore, 
As a waft of wind, that o'er me 
Breathed, and was no more.

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