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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Americas: Vol. XXX. 1876–79.

Mexico: Uxmal, Yucatan

Contemplation on the Uxmal Ruins

By Venier Voldo

APPROACH and pause,—there is a feeling here

That stifles words and half provokes a tear;

That comes abroad with wonder overcast,

And coldly points to a mysterious past;

Like to some jewels rare whose each bright face

Doth mock the poor dead fingers they encase,

Or dungeon’s gloom that here and there hath won

A stream of light from some far-distant sun,—

So these strewn fragments pour their pregnant rays,

And speak of distant worlds and mightier days,

Of vast conditions with their human seas,

Of golden cities and voluptuous ease,

When was the pile that now such sadness wings

The awe of peoples and the pride of kings.

And such the fall that even nations know,

The gilt of thrones at best a fleeting show;

Thus Life and Death by Time are borne along,

Reactions each of Virtue and of Wrong;

Pause then and weep,—the place is all a grave,

The sepulchre of sovereign and of slave;

Here pride and state resolve to humble dust,

The toys and tools of luxury and lust,

And power that erst could dazzle and dethrone

Resigns its sceptre to a crumbling stone.

Is this the finis then of human might,

And this the fall from man’s remotest height,

Proud man who loves his filmy waifs to flaunt,

Replete with his own littleness and want?

Approach, vain god, and scan this empty scroll!

And earthiness behold thy earthy goal,

The consummation of a common lot,

Alike dismembered—and alike forgot.

Ah, this is not the all of human strife,

’T is but a page and not the book of life!

O God of Law! we bless thee for the text

That makes this world a preface to the next!

A pilgrimage of one short day and night,

An infant school, a fledgling’s trial flight,

Where Sense can catch a taste of Heaven’s sea,

And Mind a glimmer of the vast to be,

Yet store each deed and thought from very birth

In the great garner of immortal worth.