Part of the reason Petra gained notoriety after its rediscovery in 1812 was because of the written work of one man – John Burgon. Though he never visited, his award-winning poem from 1845 describes Petra so perfectly, it certainly seemed like he had! In addition to Indiana Jones and the Left Behind books, it was Burgon’s poem that helped to form my idea of the Rose Red City before I ever stepped a foot in its blushing sand.
It seems no work of Man’s creative hand,
by labour wrought as wavering fancy planned;
But from the rock as if by magic grown,
eternal, silent, beautiful, alone!
Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine,
where erst Athena held her rites divine;
Not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane,
that crowns the hill and consecrates the plain;
But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,
that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;
The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,
which Man deemed old two thousand years ago,
match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
a rose-red city half as old as time.
—John Burgon, 1845
Having read my posts and seen my pictures, don’t you think Burgon hits the nail on the head?
Inspired by Burgon’s poem as I wandered the ruins, I decided to pen my own sonnet to honor both his memory and my own bumbling, opposite-of-poetic adventure in Petra.
A Cleft in the Rock, or Petra by Mule
by Angie Orth
My Bedouin guide promised to show me the way,
So I entered the Siq at the first light of day.
I sought traces of intrigue and spies and great mystery,
Finding none I pondered tales of ancient history.
Handsome Indiana Jones was nowhere to be found,
Across uneven miles of rust red, rocky ground.
Empty tombs and carved vaults and dark graves I searched,
Like a Nabatean queen atop a noble steed, I lurched.
Hushed, enormous, ruddy and eerie,
Petra might be like Mars; at least, that’s my theory.
Hollywood promised adventures and escapades,
But in the real world, Petra by mule equals Medicaid.
Limitless and vast, not enough time on the clock,
I can’t wait to go back to this cleft in the rock.
My Petra adventure was sponsored in part by Visit Jordan. All opinions and hideous attempts at poetry are my own.