Nicholas Michell

Behold a royal city! vast and lone,
Lost to each race — to all the world unknown;
Like famed Pompeii, 'neath her lava bed,
Till chance unveiled the "City of the Dead."
Palenque! — dark seat of kings! — as, o'er the plain,
Clothed with thick copse, the traveller toils with pain,
Climbs the rude mound the shadowy scene to trace,
He views in mute surprise thy desert grace.
At every step some palace meets his eye,
Some figure frowns, some temple courts the sky.
It seems as if that hour the verdurous earth,
By genii struck, had giv'n these fabrics birth,
Save that old Time hath flung his darkening pall
On each tree-shaded tower and pictured wall.
The royal palace decks its stately mound,
Girt by wild shrubs, by waving thistles crowned;
But strength still breathes throughout the lordly pile,
And lingering beauty sheds a mournful smile.*
We walk the rooms where kings and princes met,
Frown on the walls their sculptured portraits yet:
Strange their costume — ye see no native face,
Lip, brow, and hue bespeak an Ethiop race.
The square stone portals, smooth and glittering floors,
The spacious courts, and sounding corridors,
The picture-writing earliest races learn,
The giant figures, mournful, calm, and stern, —
All point to climes beyond the Eastern sea,
Egypt's old shores, or, far Cathay! to thee
How the bold ancients crossed the watery way,
By star or needle, 'tis not ours to say;
Enough we meet their gorgeous buildings here,
Their picture-art, and creeds of gloom and fear.
Lo! o'er the dense black mass of giant trees,
The moon upsprings, and sighs the midnight breeze;
Now looks Palenque — on ruin, ruin piled —
August, yet spectral — beautiful, yet wild:
The tower, just peering through the foliage green,
Bathed in the beams, a silvery point is seen;
The moss-grown palace, temple dark and still,
The shattered pillar thrown across the rill;
The fire-fly darting through the forest shade,
The owl's gray eyes that glare within the glade;
The spells of silence on all earth that lie,
Nought but the cold moon moving in the sky —
No sight like this may other ruins show;
They wake to wonder, while they melt to woe,
And seem to breathe one voice — that voice the knell
Of races gone, whose history none may tell.

*Author's Note: The grand palace at Palenque, in Chiapa, Mexico, the abode of ancient kings, surpassing in size the royal seat at Mitla, and the palace of the Incas in Peru, even now is a strikingly-fine edifice. It is raised on a platform 43 feet high ; its facade, which fronts the East, is 228 feet, and its depth no less than 180 feet. There are four teen square doors, and on some of the piers between these doors are figures in bas-relief of elegant workmanship, equalling anything of the kind found in Egypt. The building is divided into courts, cor ridors, and smaller apartments. Whoever the people were that planned and built this edifice, it must be granted they possessed much architectural skill, and a highly-cultivated taste.

The jungle site of Palenque makes it one of the most romantic of all the Mayan ruins in Mexico.

Main Location:

Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

The ruins of the Palace in the Mayan city of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico