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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 wan light of the horned moon,
The swift and silent lizard of the stones!
But stay! these walls—these ivy-clad arcades—
These moldering plinths—these sad and blackened shafts—
These vague entablatures—this crumbling frieze—
These shattered cornices—this wreck—this ruin—
These stones—alas! these grey 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.”
Source: The Best of Poe: Literary Touchstone Classic, ©2005 Prestwick House. All Rights Reserved. Full copyright.
reliquary – a container for religious relics
Judaean king – a reference to ancient Israel. When joined with the next line, it is likely that the term Judaean king means Jesus Christ.
Gethsemane – the garden where Jesus was taken prisoner before he was crucified
Chaldee – a language used during biblical times
swarthy – dark in color
thistle – a tall thorny plant
lolled – lounged
arcades – passageways
moldering – decaying
plinths – the bases of columns
entablatures – the parts of buildings that rest on columns
frieze – an ornamental band surrounding a column or room
Echoes – a reference to Echo, the nymph from Greek mythology who loved Narcissus. Narcissus, however, loved only himself. Consequently, Echo languished and withered away, due to unanswered love, until only her voice remained.
Memnon – a monument on the west bank of the Nile, a legend exists concerning one of two very large statues there. Because of a large crack that ran through it, the stone emitted a moaning sound as it was warmed by the sun. The statue was believed to represent King Memnon, and the sound was said to be his greeting his mother, Eos.
despotic – with absolute power
impotent – powerless