Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “The Coliseum” (Text-11), The Poetry of the Sentiments, 1845, pp. 53-54


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[page 53:]

COLISEUM.

BY EDGAR A. POE.

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,

Within thy shadows — and so drink, within

My very soul, thy grandeur, gloom, and glory!

 

Vastness, and age! and memories of old!

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 CÆSAR sate

On bed of moss lies gloating the foul adder!

Here, where on ivory couch the monarch loll’d, [page 54:]

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 hold! — these dark, these perishing arcades,

These mouldering 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 proud 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 for ever

From us, and from all ruin, to 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:

This book was edited by Rufus Wilmot Griswold, and enjoyed numerous reprints until at least 1889, presumably from stereoplates. This poem appears in a section bearing the title “Admiration.” In the original, each page features an ornate oval border of vines and flowers. The formatting is unusual in that it indents the first line of each stanza, a choice that is not even followed for other poems in the collection. In the current presentation, blank lines have been added between stanzas.


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[S:1 - PS, 1845 (1853)] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poems - The Coliseum (Text-11)