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The Coliseum

1. 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, 

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 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! 


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

These mouldering plinths — these sad and blackened shafts 


These vague entablatures — this crumbling frieze — 

These shattered cornices — this wreck — this ruin — 

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

All of the famed, 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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