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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Richard Henry Horne 1802–84

Pelters of Pyramids


A SHOAL of idlers, from a merchant craft

Anchor’d off Alexandria, went ashore,

And mounting asses in their headlong glee,

Round Pompey’s Pillar rode with hoots and taunts,

As men oft say, “What art thou more than we?”

Next in a boat they floated up the Nile

Singing and drinking, swearing senseless oaths,

Shouting, and laughing most derisively

At all majestic scenes. A bank they reach’d,

And clambering up, play’d gambols among tombs;

And in portentous ruins (through whose depths,

The mighty twilight of departed Gods,

Both sun and moon glanced furtive, as in awe)

They hid, and whoop’d, and spat on sacred things.

At length, beneath the blazing sun they lounged

Near a great Pyramid. Awhile they stood

With stupid stare, until resentment grew;

In the recoil of meanness from the vast;

And gathering stones, they with coarse oaths and jibes

(As they would say, “What art thou more than we?”)

Pelted the Pyramid! But soon these men,

Hot and exhausted, sat them down to drink—

Wrangled, smok’d, spat, and laugh’d, and drowsily

Curs’d the bald Pyramid, and fell asleep.

Night came:—a little sand went drifting by—

And morn again was in the soft blue heavens.

The broad slopes of the shining Pyramid

Look’d down in their austere simplicity

Upon the glistening silence of the sands

Whereon no trace of mortal dust was seen.