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The Tower of Famine

Percy Shelley


Amid the desolation of a city

Which was the cradle and is now the grave

Of an extinguished people, so that Pity

Weeps o'er the shipwrecks of oblivion's wave,

There stands the Tower of Famine. It is built

Upon some prison-homes, whose dwellers rave

For bread and gold and blood: Pain linked to Guilt,

Agitates the light flame of their hours,

Until its vital oil is spent or spilt,

There stands the pile, a tower amid the towers

And sacred domes, each marble-ribbed roof,

The brazen-gated temples, and the bowers

Of solitary wealth. The tempest-proof

Pavilions of the dark Italian air

Are by its presence dimmed-they stand aloof,

And are withdrawn --- so that the world is bare: ---

As if a spectre, wrapped in shapeless terror,

Amid a company of ladies fair

Should glide and glow, till it became a mirror

Of all their beauty, --- and their hair and hue,

The life of their sweet eyes with all its error,

Should be absorbed till they to marble grew.


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