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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

India: Coromandel

Maha-Balypooram the Sunken City

By Robert Southey (1774–1843)

  • (From The Curse of Kehama)
  • “And the natives of the place declared to the writer of this account, that the more aged people among them remembered to have seen the tops of several pagodas far out in the sea, which, being covered with copper (probably gilt), were particularly visible at sun-rise, as their shining surface used then to reflect the sun’s rays, but that now that effect was no longer produced, as the copper had since become incrusted with mould and verdigris.”—Chambers’ Asiatic Researches.

  • TO the sepulchres

    Of the ancient kings, which Baly in his power

    Made in primeval times; and built above them

    A city, like the cities of the gods,

    Being like a god himself. For many an age

    Hath Ocean warred against his palaces,

    Till, overwhelmed, they lie beneath the waves,

    Not overthrown, so well the awful chief

    Had laid their deep foundations. Rightly said

    The accursed, that no way for man was there,

    But not like man am I!


    Such was the talk they held upon their way

    Of him to whose old city they were bound;

    And now, upon their journey, many a day

    Had risen and closed, and many a week gone round,

    And many a realm and region had they passed,

    When now the ancient towers appeared at last.

    Their golden summits in the noonday light

    Shone o’er the dark green deep that rolled between.

    For domes and pinnacles and spires were seen

    Peering above the sea, a mournful sight!

    Well might the sad beholder ween from thence

    What works of wonder the devouring wave

    Had swallowed there, when monuments so brave

    Bore record of their old magnificence.

    And on the sandy shore, beside the verge

    Of Ocean, here and there, a rock-hewn fane

    Resisted in its strength the surf and surge

    That on their deep foundations beat in vain.

    In solitude the ancient temples stood,

    Once resonant with instrument and song,

    And solemn dance of festive multitude;

    Now as the weary ages pass along,

    Hearing no voice save of the ocean flood,

    Which roars forever on the restless shores;

    Or visiting their solitary caves,

    The lonely sound of winds, that moan around

    Accordant to the melancholy waves.