There shrines, and palaces, and towers
Are — not like any thing of ours —
Oh no! — O no! — ours never loom
To heaven with that ungodly gloom!
Time-eaten towers that tremble not!
Resemble nothing that is ours.
Around, by lifting winds forgot,
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.
No holy rays from heaven come down
On the long nighttime of that town,
But light from out the lurid sea
Streams up the turrets silently —
Up thrones — up long-forgotten bowers
Of scultur’d ivy and stone flowers —
Up domes — up spires — up kingly halls —
Up fanes — up Babylon-like walls —
Up many a melancholy shrine
Whose entablatures intertwine
The mask — the viol — and the vine.
There open temples — open graves
Are on a level with the waves —
But not the riches there that lie
In each idol’s diamond eye,
Not the gaily-jewell’d dead
Tempt the waters from their bed:
For no ripples curl, alas!
Along that wilderness of glass —
No swellings hint that winds may be
Upon a far-off happier sea:
So blend the turrets and shadows there
That all seem pendulous in air,
While from the high towers of the town
Death looks gigantically down.
But lo! a stir is in the air!
The wave — there is a ripple there!
As if the towers had thrown aside,
In slightly sinking, the dull tide —
As if the turret-tops had given
A vacuum in the filmy heaven.
The waves have now a redder glow —
The very hours are breathing low —
And when, amid no earthly moans,
Down, down, that town shall settle hence,
All Hades, from a thousand thrones,
Shall do it reverence,
And Death to some more happy clime
Shall give his undivided time.
Originally published in the Southern Literary Messenger in August 1836.
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