The Evanescent City

George Sterling

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Great on the west, ere darkness crush her domes,
Wine-red the city of the sunset lies.
Below her courts the mournful ocean foams;
Above, no foam of cloud is in the skies.

Awhile I stand, a dreamer by the deep,
And watch the winds of evening sap her walls,
Till ashen armies to the ramparts sweep
And seas of shadow storm the gleaming halls.

So dies that far magnificence of light,
A conquered splendor on a crumbling pyre,
’Mid fall of crimson temples from their height
And ruined altars yielding up their fire.

So fades that city, one with all that finds
The nameless road that Beauty takes at last—
One with her dust upon the twilight winds
And all her music mingling with the Past.

“Farewell!” I whisper low—then thrill to see,
Unseen till now, eternal and afar,
Soul of dead day and pledge of peace to be,
The tranquil silver of the evening star.…

And even thus our city of a year
Must pass like those the shafted sunsets build,
Fleeting as all fair things and, fleeting, dear—
A rainbow fallen and an anthem stilled.

A rainbow fallen—but within the soul
Its deep indubitable iris burns;
An anthem stilled—yet for its ghostly goal
The incommunicable music yearns.

Only for Beauty’s passing shall we trace
The heavenly pathway that her feet have trod;
Only at her departure seek her face—
We that shall find it not this side of God.

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