J.G. Whittier

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Where Time the measure of his hours By changeful bud and blossom keeps, And, like a young bride crowned with flowers, Fair Shiraz in her garden sleeps; Where, to her poets' turban stone, The Spring her gift of flowers imparts; Less sweet than those his thoughts have sown In the warm soil of Persian hearts: There sat the stranger, where the shade Of scattered date-trees thinly lay, While in the hot clear heaven delayed The long and still and weary day. Strange trees and fruit above him hung, Strange odors filled the sultry air, Strange birds upon the branches swung, Strange insect voices murmured there. And strange bright blossoms shone around, Turned sunward from the shadowy bowers, As if the Ghebers's soul had found A fitting home in Iran's flowers. Whate'er he saw, whate'er he heard Awakened feelings new and sad, - No Christian garb, nor Christian word, Nor church with Sabbath-bell chimes glad, But Moslem graves, with turban stones, And mosque-spires gleaming white, in view, And graybeard Mollahs in low tones Chanting their Koran service through. The flowers which smiled on either hand, Like tempting fiends, were such as they, Which once, o'er all of that Eastern land, As gifts on demon altars lay. As if the burning eye of Baal The servant of his Conqueror know, From skies which know no cloudy veil, The Sun's hot glances smote him through. "Ah me!" the lonely stranger said, "The hope which led my footsteps on, And light from heave around them shed, O'er weary wave and waste, is gone! "Where are the harvest fields all white, For Truth to thrust her sickle in? Where flock the souls, like doves in flight, From the dark hiding place of sin? A silent horror broods o'er all, - The burden of a hateful spell - The very flowers around recall The hoary magi'strates of hell! "And what am I, o'er such a land The banner of the Cross to bear? Dear Lord, Uphold me with thy hand, Thy strength with human weakness share!" He ceased; for at his very feet In mild rebuke a floweret smiles; How thrilled his sinking heart to greet the Star-flower of the Virgin's child! Sown by some wandering Frank, it drew It's life from alien air and earth, And told to Paynim sun and dew The story of the Saviour's birth. From scorching beams, in kindly mood, The Persian plants its beauty screened, And on its pagan sisterhood, In love, the Christian floweret leaned. With tears of joy the wanderer felt The darkness of his long despair Before that hallowed symbol melt, Which God's dear love had nurtured there. From Nature's face, that simple flower The lines of sin and sadness swept; And Magian pile and Paynim bowers In peace like that of Eden slept. Each Moslem tomb, and cypress old, Looked holy, through the sunset air; And, angel-like, the Muezzin told From tower and mosque the hour of prayer. With cheerful steps, the morrow's dawn From Shiraz saw the stranger part; The Star-flower of the Virgin-born Still blooming in his hopeful heart!