The Reed Immortal

(Pliny tells us that the Egyptians regarded the papyrus as an emblem of immortality.)


REED of the stagnant waters,
Far in the Eastern lands
Rearing thy peaceful daughters
In sight of the storied sands !
Armies and fleets defying
Have swept by that quiet spot;
But thine is the life undying,
Theirs is the tale forgot.


The legions of Alexander
Are scattered and gone and fled ;
And the queen, who ruled commander
Over Antony, is dead ;
The marching armies of Cyrus
Have vanished in earth again ;
And only the frail papyrus
Still reigns o’er the sons of men.


Papyrus ! O reed immortal !
Survivor of all renown !
Thou heed’st not the solemn portal
Where heroes and kings go down.
The monarchs of generations
Have died into dust away;
O reed that outlivest nations,
Be our symbol of strength to-day !
T. W. Higginson.