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

India: Coromandel

The Ancient Sepulchres

By Robert Southey (1774–1843)

(From The Curse of Kehama)

WHEN the broad ocean on Ladurlad’s head

Had closed and arched him o’er,

With steady tread he held his way

Adown the sloping shore.

The dark green waves with emerald hue

Imbue the beams of day,

And on the wrinkled sand below,

Rolling their mazy network to and fro,

Light shadows shift and play.

The hungry shark, at scent of prey,

Toward Ladurlad darted;

Beholding then that human form erect,

How like a god the depths he trod,

Appalled the monster started,

And in his fear departed.

Onward Ladurlad went with heart elate,

And now hath reached the ancient city’s gate.

Wondering he stood awhile to gaze

Upon the works of elder days.

The brazen portals open stood,

Even as the fearful multitude

Had left them, when they fled

Before the rising flood.

High overhead, sublime,

The mighty gateway’s storied roof was spread,

Dwarfing the puny piles of younger time.

With the deeds of days of yore

That ample roof was sculptured o’er,

And many a godlike form there met his eye,

And many an emblem dark of mystery.

Through these wide portals oft had Baly rode

Triumphant from his proud abode,

When in his greatness he bestrode

The Aullay, hugest of four-footed kind,

The Aullay-Horse, that in his force,

With elephantine trunk, could bind

And lift the elephant, and on the wind

Whirl him away, with sway and swing,

Even like a pebble from the practised sling.

Those streets which never, since the days of yore,

By human footstep had been visited,

Those streets which nevermore

A human foot shall tread,

Ladurlad trod. In sunlight and sea-green,

The thousand palaces were seen

Of that proud city, whose superb abodes

Seemed reared by giants for the immortal gods.

How silent and how beautiful they stand,

Like things of Nature! the eternal rocks

Themselves not firmer. Neither hath the sand

Drifted within their gates and choked their doors,

Nor slime defiled their pavements and their floors.

Did then the Ocean wage

His war for love and envy, not in rage,

O thou fair city, that he spared thee thus?

Art thou Varounin’s capital and court,

Where all the sea-gods for delight resort,

A place too godlike to be held by us,

The poor degenerate children of the earth?

So thought Ladurlad, as he looked around,

Weening to hear the sound

Of mermaid’s shell, and song

Of choral throng from some imperial hall,

Wherein the immortal powers at festival

Their high carousals keep;

But all is silence dread,

Silence profound and dead,

The everlasting stillness of the deep.