'Death looks gigantically down'

  "The City" (graphite on paper), by Josefina Auslender, at Corey Daniels Gallery, Wells, Maine.

"The City" (graphite on paper), by Josefina Auslender, at Corey Daniels Gallery, Wells, Maine.

"LO! Death has reared himself a throne

In a strange city lying alone

Far down within the dim West,

Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best

Have gone to their eternal rest.        

There shrines and palaces and towers

(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 rays from the holy heaven come down

On the long night-time of that town;

But light from out the lurid sea

Streams up the turrets silently,     

Gleams up the pinnacles far and free:

Up domes, up spires, up kingly halls,

Up fanes, up Babylon-like walls,

Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers

Of sculptured ivy and stone flowers,       

Up many and many a marvellous shrine

Whose wreathëd friezes intertwine

The viol, the violet, and the vine.

 

Resignedly beneath the sky

The melancholy waters lie.        

So blend the turrets and shadows there

That all seem pendulous in air,

While from a proud tower in the town

Death looks gigantically down.

 

There open fanes and gaping graves       

Yawn level with the luminous waves;

But not the riches there that lie

In each idol’s diamond eye,—

Not the gayly-jewelled dead,

Tempt the waters from their bed;      

For no ripples curl, alas,

Along that wilderness of glass;

No swellings tell that winds may be

Upon some far-off happier sea;

No heavings hint that winds have been       

On seas less hideously serene!

 

But lo, a stir is in the air!

The wave—there is a movement there!

As if the towers had thrust aside,

In slightly sinking, the dull tide;    

As if their tops had feebly given

A void within the filmy Heaven!

The waves have now a redder glow,

The hours are breathing faint and low;

And when, amid no earthly moans,        

Down, down that town shall settle hence,

Hell, rising from a thousand thrones,

Shall do it reverence.''

 

-- "The City in the Sea,'' by Edgar Allen Poe

  Wells Beach in 1908.

Wells Beach in 1908.

  Wells Beach in 2017.

Wells Beach in 2017.