Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “[The Coliseum]” (Text-03), Politian manuscript, 1835


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Type of the antique Rome — rich reliquary

Of lofty contemplation left to Time

By buried centuries of pomp and power!

At length at length after so many days

Of weary pilgrimage, and burning thirst

(Thirst for the springs of lore that in thee lie)

I stand, an altered and an humble man

Amid thy shadows, and so drink within

My very soul thy grandeur, gloom and glory!

She comes not, and the spirit of the place

Oppresses me!

Vastness and Age and Memories of Eld

Silence and Desolation and dim Night

Gaunt vestibules, and phantom-peopled aisles

I feel ye now — I feel ye in your strength!

O spells more sure than e’er Judæan king

Taught in the gardens of Gethsemane

O spells more potent than the rapt Chaldee

Ever drew down from out the quiet stars!

She comes not and the moon is high in Heaven!

Here where a hero fell, a column falls

Here where the mimic eagle glared in gold

A secret vigil holds the swarthy bat

Here where the dames of Rome their yellow hair

Waved to the wind, now wave the reed and thistle:

Here where on ivory couch the Cæsar sate

On bed of moss lies gloating the foul adder:

Here where on golden throne the monarch lolled

Glides spectre-like unto his marble home

Lit by the wan light of the horned moon

The swift and silent lizard of the stones.

These crumbling walls — these tottering arcades

These mouldering plinths — these sad and blackened shafts

These vague entablatures: this broken frieze

These shattered cornices, this wreck, this ruin,

These stones, alas! these grey stones are they all

All of the great and the colossal left

By the corrosive hours to Fate and me?

Not all the echoes answer me — not all:

Prophetic sounds and loud arise forever

From us and from all ruin unto the wise,

As from the granite Memnon to the sun.

We rule the hearts of mightiest men: we rule

With a despotic sway all giant minds.

We are not desolate we pallid stones,

Not all our power is gone — not all our Fame

Not all the magic of our high renown

Not all the wonder that encircles us

Not all the mysteries that in us lie

Not all the memories that hang upon

And cling around about us as a garment

Clothing its in a robe of more than glory.

 


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Notes:

This version of the poem was incorporated into his play “Politian,” written in 1835. Using the sequence assigned by T. O. Mabbott, it appears near the beginning of scene XI.


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[S:0 - MS, 1835] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poems - [The Coliseum] (Text-03)