Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII. 1876–79.

Rome, Ruins of

The Coliseum

By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

(From Manfred)

I DO remember me, that in my youth,

When I was wandering,—upon such a night

I stood within the Coliseum’s wall,

Midst the chief relics of almighty Rome;

The trees which grew along the broken arches

Waved dark in the blue midnight, and the stars

Shone through the rents of ruin; from afar

The watch-dog bayed beyond the Tiber; and

More near from out the Cæsar’s palace came

The owl’s long cry, and interruptedly,

Of distant sentinels the fitful song

Begun and died upon the gentle wind.

Some cypresses beyond the time-worn breach

Appeared to skirt the horizon, yet they stood

Within a bow-shot. Where the Cæsars dwelt,

And dwell the tuneless birds of night, amidst

A grove which springs through levelled battlements,

And twines its roots with the imperial hearths,

Ivy usurps the laurel’s place of growth;

But the gladiators’ bloody circus stands,

A noble wreck in ruinous perfection!

While Cæsar’s chambers and the Augustan halls

Grovel on earth in indistinct decay.

And thou didst shine, thou rolling moon, upon

All this, and cast a wide and tender light,

Which softened down the hoar austerity

Of rugged desolation, and filled up,

As ’t were anew, the gaps of centuries;

Leaving that beautiful which still was so,

And making that which was not, till the place

Became religion, and the heart ran o’er

With silent worship of the great of old!—

The dead, but sceptred sovereigns, who still rule

Our spirits from their urns.