First World War Poetry Digital Archive

‘Long ages past in Egypt . . .’

  Long ages past in Egypt thou wert worshipped   And thou wert wrought from ivory and beryl.   They brought thee jewels and they brought their slain,   Thy feet were dark with blood of sacrifice.   From dawn to midnight, O my painted idol,   Thou satest smiling, and the noise of killing   Was harp and timbrel in thy pale jade ears;   The livid dead were given thee for toys.   Thou wert a mad slave in a Persian palace,   And the King loved thee for thy furious beauty,   And all men heard thy ravings with a smile   Because thy face was fairer than a flower.   But with a little knife so wantonly   Thou slewest women and thy pining lovers,   And on thy lips the stain of crimson blood,   And on thy brow the pallor of their death.   Thou art the dream beheld by frenzied princes   In smoke of opium. Thou art the last fulfilment   Of all the wicked, and of all the beautiful.   We hold thee as a poppy to our mouths,   Finding with thee forgetfulness of God.   Thou art the face reflected in a mirror   Of wild desire, of pain, of bitter pleasure.   The witches shout thy name beneath the moon,   The fires of Hell have held thee in their fangs.

Citation

“‘Long ages past in Egypt . . .’,” by Owen, Wilfred (1893-1918). The Estate of Wilfred Owen.

The Complete Poems and Fragments of Wilfred Owen edited by Jon Stallworthy first published by Chatto & Windus, 1983. Preliminaries, introductory, editorial matter, manuscripts and fragments omitted. via First World War Poetry Digital Archive, accessed May 24, 2024, http://ww1lit.nsms.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/items/show/10524.

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