Lo ! Death hath rear’d himself a throne
In a strange city, all alone,
Far down within the dim west —
And the good, and the bad, and the worst, and the best,
Have gone to their eternal rest.
There shrines, and palaces, and towers
Are — not like any thing of ours —
O ! no — O! no — ours never loom
To heaven with that ungodly gloom!
Time-eaten towers that tremble not!
Around, by lifting winds forgot,
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.
A heaven that God doth not contemn
With stars is like a diadem —
We liken our ladies’ eyes to them —
But there ! that everlasting pall!
It would be mockery to call
Such dreariness a heaven at all.
Yet tho’ no holy rays come down
On the long night-time of that town,
Light from the lurid, deep sea
Streams up the turrets silently —
Up thrones — up long-forgotten bowers
Of sculptur’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 — 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,
Hell rising from a thousand thrones
Shall do it reverence,
And Death to some more happy clime
Shall give his undivided time.