|Pompeii is an ancient Roman city that was destroyed by a volcanic eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. This poem was published in the posthumous anthology The Garden of Years and Other Poems (1904).|
The giant slept, and pigmies at his feet,
Like children moulding monuments of snow,
Piled stone on stone, mapped market-place and street,
And saw their temples column-girdled grow:
And, slowly as the gradual glaciers grope
Their way resistless, so Pompeii crept,
Year by long year, across the shelving slope
Toward the sea:—and still the giant slept.
Belted with gardens, where the shivered glass
Of falling fountains broke the pools’ repose,
As they had been asleep upon the grass,
A myriad villas stretched themselves and rose:
And down her streets, grown long and longer still,
Grooving the new-laid stones, the chariots swept,
And of a sudden burst upon the hill
Vast amphitheatres. Still the giant slept.
With liquid comment of the wooing doves,
With wanton flowers, sun-conjured from the loam,
Grew the white city of illicit loves,
Hostess of all the infamy of Rome!
A marble harlot, scornful, pale, and proud,
Her Circean court on ruin’s brink she kept,
Lulled by the adoration of the crowd
To lethal stupor. Still the giant slept.
Incense-encircled, pacing day by day
Through temple-courts reëchoant with song,
Sin-stunned and impercipient, on her way
She dragged her languid loveliness along.
With lips whereon a dear damnation hung,
With dark, dream-clouded eyes that never wept,
Flawlessly fair, the faulty fair among,
She kissed and cursed:—and still the giant slept.
Here, for a mute reminder of her shame,
Her ruins gape out baldly from their tomb;
A city naked, shorn of all but name,
Blinking and blind from all her years of gloom:
A beldam who was beauty, crying alms
With leprous lips that mouthe their prayers in vain;
Her deaf destroyer to her outstretched palms
Respondeth not. The giant sleeps again!
|This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.|