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Short poem

William Wilfred Campbell (1858?-1918)

Out of Pompeii

              1She lay, face downward, on her beaded arm,
              2     In this her new, sweet dream of human bliss,
              3Her heart within her fearful, fluttering, warm,
              4     Her lips yet pained with love's first timorous kiss.
              5She did not note the darkening afternoon,
              6     She did not mark the lowering of the sky
              7O'er that great city. Earth had given its boon
              8     Unto her lips, love touched her and passed by.

              9In one dread moment all the sky grew dark,
            10     The hideous rain, the panic, the red rout,
            11Where love lost love, and all the world might mark
            12     The city overwhelmed, blotted out
            13Without one cry, so quick oblivion came,
            14     And life passed to the black where all forget;
            15But she,—we know not of her house or name,—
            16     In love's sweet musings doth lie dreaming yet.

            17The dread hell passed, the ruined world grew still,
            18     And the great city passed to nothingness:
            19The ages went and mankind worked its will.
            20     Then men stood still amid the centuries' press,
            21And in the ash-hid ruins opened bare,
            22     As she lay down in her shamed loveliness,
            23Sculptured and frozen, late they found her there,
            24     Image of love 'mid all that hideousness.

            25Her head, face downward, on her bended arm,
            26     Her single robe that showed her shapely form,
            27Her wondrous fate love keeps divinely warm
            28     Over the centuries, past the slaying storm,
            29The heart can read in writings time hath left,
            30     That linger still through death's oblivion;
            31And in this waste of life and light bereft,
            32     She brings again a beauty that had gone.

            33And if there be a day when all shall wake,
            34     As dreams the hoping, doubting human heart,
            35The dim forgetfulness of death will break
            36     For her as one who sleeps with lips apart;
            37And did God call her suddenly, I know
            38     She'd wake as morning wakened by the thrush,
            39Feel that red kiss across the centuries glow,
            40     And make all heaven rosier by her blush.


1] Mount Vesusius erupted in A.D. 79, destroying the city ofPompeii that rested on its southeast fringe. The deep layerof volcanic ash covered victims, who eventually disappearedcompletely, leaving spaces in the ash. Archaeologists havemade plaster casts of these, some of which could be seen in Room IIIof the Antiquarium at this site during Campbell's lifetime.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: William Wilfred Campbell, The Dread Voyage: Poems (Toronto: William Briggs, 1893), pp. 87-89. B-10 5840 Fisher Library.
First publication date: September 1892
Publication date note: Published in Century.
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 4:2002/1/17

Composition date: 1892
Rhyme: ababcdcd

Other poems by William Wilfred Campbell