Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “The Coliseum” (Text-09), Broadway Journal, July 12, 1845, 2:41, col. 2


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[page 41, column 2, continued:]

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 alter’d and an humble man,

Amid 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!

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 gilded hair

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

Here, where on golden throne the monarch loll’d,

Glides, spectre-like unto his marble home,

Lit by the wan-light of the horned moon,

The swift and silent lizard of the stones!

 

But stay! these walls — these ivy-clad arcades —

These mould’ring plinths — these sad and blacken’d shafts —

These vague entablatures — this crumbling frieze —

These shatter’d cornices — this wreck — this ruin —

These stones — alas! these gray stones — are they all —

All of the fam’d, 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 melody from Memnon to the Sun.

“We rule the hearts of mightiest men — we rule

“With a despotic sway all giant minds.

“We are not impotent — 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.”

 


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Notes:

In a letter to James R. Lowell (July 2, 1844), Poe listed “The Coliseum” as one of six among “my best poems . . . but all have been hurried and unconsidered.”


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[S:1 - BJ, 1845] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poems - The Coliseum (Text-09)