The Coliseum: Edgar Allan Poe's Poem About the Lone Ampitheatre

by Edgar Allan Poe

The Roman Colosseum, Rome, Italy
The Roman Colosseum, Rome, Italy. Kevin Clarkson

The following Edgar Allan Poe poem on the Roman Colosseum (spelled Coliseum by some, including Poe) was first published in the Baltimore Saturday Visiter (sic) on October 26, 1833. Poe eventually revised it a number of times, but never really was terribly happy with any of his poems.


Lone ampitheatre! Grey 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 love 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!
Gaunt vestibules! and phantom-peopled aisles!
I feel ye now: I feel ye in your strength!
O spells more sure then 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!<br/>
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 yellow hair
Wav'd to the wind, now wave the reed and thistle:
Here, where on ivory couch the Caesar sat,
On bed of moss lies gloating the foul adder:

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.

These crumbling walls; these tottering arcades;
These mouldering plinths; these sad, and blacken'd shafts;
These vague entablatures; this broken frieze;
These shattered cornices; this wreck; this ruin;
These stones, alas! - these grey stones — are they all;
All of the great 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 in old days from Memnon to the sun.
We rule the hearts of mightiest men: — we rule
With a despotic sway all giant minds.<br/>We are not desolate — 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 now and ever,
And clothe us in a robe of more than glory."