Pompey's Pillar

Nicholas Michell

Pillar of Pompey! gazing o'er the sea,
In solemn pride, and mournful majesty!
When on thy graceful shaft, and towering head,
In quivering crimson, day's last beams are shed,
Thou look'st a thing some spell with life supplies,
Or a rich flame ascending to the skies.
Ah! well the ill-starred memory dost thou keep
Of Rome's famed son, who perished on yon deep:
Dark was the hour brave Pompey sought this strand,
Flying from foes to die by Treachery's hand.
As fell the stroke on him she could not save,
Cornelia's shriek was heard along the wave,
And viewless nymphs, that rode the ocean-gale,
Felt for her woe, and answered to her wail.
He who once vanquished kings, gave crowns away,
Alone, unhonoured, on the sea-beach lay,
Till, wrung by grief, an old man, drawing near,
Gazed on the hero's corpse with many a tear,
And raised a funeral pile, and scattered flowers,
Praying his soul might enter heavenly bowers:
Flame — dust — a darksome pit, not tomb of state;
So set the star of him men named the Great.*

* Author's Note: Pompey, escaping to Egypt after the battle of Pharsalia, was murdered off the coast before the eyes of his wife. The freedman, Philip, with one soldier, alone was found to perform the honour of funeral rites to the conqueror of Alithridates.

Pompey's Pillar still stands in Alexandria, amidst the rubble of ancient ruins. It is an impressive 90 feet high.

Main Location:

Pompey's Pillar, Alexandria, Egypt

The soaring Pompey's Pillar in Alexandria