Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “The Coliseum” (Text-05), “Herring” manuscript, about 1841


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[Front:]

The Coliseum

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 kneel an altered and an humble man

Within thy shadows, and so drink within

My very soul thy grandeur, gloom, and glory.

 

Vastness, and Age, and Memories of Eld!

Silence, and Desolation, and dim Night!

Gaunt vestiblues 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 charms more potent than the rapt Chaldee

Ever drew down from out the quiet stars.

 

Here, where a hero fell, a column falls;

Here, where the mimic eagle glared in gold,

A midnight 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 throne the Cæsar sate,

On bed of moss lies gloating the foul adder!

Here, where on golden couch the monarch lolled,

Glides spectre-like unto his marble home,

Lit by the wan light of the hornéd 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? [back:]

 

“Not all,” the echoes answer me, “not all,

Prophetic sounds and loud, arise forever

From us and from all ruin unto the wise

As in the days from 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 us in a robe of more than glory.”

Edgar A Poe

 


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Notes:

Poe wrote this copy of the poem in an album for his cousin, Elizabeth Herring, about 1841. Below Poe’s poem, his wife, Virginia, wrote a copy of her husband’s poem “To — (‘Beloved, let thy generous heart’),” which she signed with her own name. The entries were probably written in her album when Elizabeth was visiting the Poes in Philadelphia, her father and sister having both moved there briefly about 1840. The original manuscript is now part of the Koester Collection in the HRCL of the University of Texas, at Austin.


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[S:1 - MS, about 1841] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poems - The Coliseum (Text-05)