The Coliseum

- 1809-1849
     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 Judaean 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 wanlight—wan light of the horned 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.”

More by Edgar Allan Poe

To Helen

Helen, thy beauty is to me
    Like those Nicean barks of yore,
That gently, o'er a perfumed sea,
    The weary, way-worn wanderer bore
    To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long wont to roam,
    Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
    To the glory that was Greece.
And the grandeur that was Rome.

Lo! in yon brilliant window-niche
    How statue-like I see thee stand!
    The agate lamp within thy hand,
Ah! Psyche from the regions which
    Are Holy Land!


The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crisped and sere—
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year:
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
In the misty mid region of Weir—
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

Here once, through an alley Titanic,
Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul—
Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.
These were days when my heart was volcanic
As the scoriac rivers that roll—
As the lavas that restlessly roll
Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek
In the ultimate climes of the pole—
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek
In the realms of the boreal pole.

Our talk had been serious and sober,
But our thoughts they were palsied and sere—
Our memories were treacherous and sere,—
For we knew not the month was October,
And we marked not the night of the year
(Ah, night of all nights in the year!)—
We noted not the dim lake of Auber
(Though once we had journeyed down here)—
Remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,
Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

And now, as the night was senescent
And star-dials pointed to morn—
As the star-dials hinted of morn—
At the end of our path a liquescent
And nebulous lustre was born,
Out of which a miraculous crescent
Arose with a duplicate horn—
Astarte's bediamonded crescent
Distinct with its duplicate horn.

And I said: "She is warmer than Dian;
She rolls through an ether of sighs—
She revels in a region of sighs:
She has seen that the tears are not dry on
These cheeks, where the worm never dies,
And has come past the stars of the Lion
To point us the path to the skies—
To the Lethean peace of the skies—
Come up, in despite of the Lion,
To shine on us with her bright eyes—
Come up through the lair of the Lion,
With love in her luminous eyes."

But Psyche, uplifting her finger,
Said: "Sadly this star I mistrust—
Her pallor I strangely mistrust:
Ah, hasten! —ah, let us not linger!
Ah, fly! —let us fly! -for we must."
In terror she spoke, letting sink her
Wings until they trailed in the dust—
In agony sobbed, letting sink her
Plumes till they trailed in the dust—
Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust.

I replied: "This is nothing but dreaming:
Let us on by this tremulous light!
Let us bathe in this crystalline light!
Its Sybilic splendour is beaming
With Hope and in Beauty tonight!—
See!—it flickers up the sky through the night!
Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming,
And be sure it will lead us aright—
We safely may trust to a gleaming,
That cannot but guide us aright,
Since it flickers up to Heaven through the night."

Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her,
And tempted her out of her gloom—
And conquered her scruples and gloom;
And we passed to the end of the vista,
But were stopped by the door of a tomb—
By the door of a legended tomb;
And I said: "What is written, sweet sister,
On the door of this legended tomb?"
She replied: "Ulalume -Ulalume—
'Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!"

Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
As the leaves that were crisped and sere—
As the leaves that were withering and sere;
And I cried: "It was surely October
On this very night of last year
That I journeyed—I journeyed down here!—
That I brought a dread burden down here—
On this night of all nights in the year,
Ah, what demon hath tempted me here?
Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber—
This misty mid region of Weir—
Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber,
This ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir."

To My Mother

Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,
The angels, whispering to one another,
Can find, among their burning terms of love,
None so devotional as that of "Mother,"
Therefore by that dear name I long have called you—
You who are more than mother unto me,
And fill my heart of hearts, where Death installed you
In setting my Virginia's spirit free.
My mother—my own mother, who died early,
Was but the mother of myself; but you
Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,
And thus are dearer than the mother I knew
By that infinity with which my wife
Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life.