Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
In a strange city lying alone
Far down within the dim West,
Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best
Have gone to their eternal rest.
There shrines and palaces and towers
(Time-eaten towers that tremble not!)
Resemble nothing that is ours.
Around, by lifting winds forgot,
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.

No rays from the holy heaven come down
On the long night-time of that town;
But light from out the lurid sea
Streams up the turrets silently—
Gleams up the pinnacles far and free—
Up domes—up spires—up kingly halls—
Up fanes—up Babylon-like walls—
Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers
Of sculptured ivy and stone flowers—
Up many and many a marvellous shrine
Whose wreathed friezes intertwine
The viol, the violet, and the vine.

Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.
So blend the turrets and shadows there
That all seem pendulous in air,
While from a proud tower in the town
Death looks gigantically down.

There open fanes and gaping graves
Yawn level with the luminous waves;
But not the riches there that lie
In each idol’s diamond eye—
Not the gaily-jewelled dead
Tempt the waters from their bed;
For no ripples curl, alas!
Along that wilderness of glass—
No swellings tell that winds may be
Upon some far-off happier sea—
No heavings hint that winds have been
On seas less hideously serene.

But lo, a stir is in the air!
The wave—there is a movement there!
As if the towers had thrust aside,
In slightly sinking, the dull tide—
As if their tops had feebly given
A void within the filmy Heaven.
The waves have now a redder glow—
The hours are breathing faint and low—
And when, amid no earthly moans,
Down, down that town shall settle hence,
Hell, rising from a thousand thrones,
Shall do it reverence.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Edgar Allan Poe's poem The City In The Sea

14 Comments

  1. Jetmire MERSINI says:

    As I read the poem, slow by slow I felt like I had the paradise in front of my eyes…I could write pages about this gorgeous poem but I will try to be short and clear: being optimist is the key to the happiness..only in this way, things around us will seem beautiful. Everything around us (the sea, the flowers, the mountains etc) are created in a way to amaze us and serve us as well. If we are thankful, the beauty of the nature will follow us as long as we are alive. On the other hand, if we are pessimists things will change..everything around us will seem ugly and we won’t be able to know the reason why we live.

  2. true muzik says:

    to me this poem has a good description of the lost continent of Atlantis, as explained by Plato of this heavenly island ruled by an advanced civilization the was visible above the sea about 1500 to 2000 years ago or more, sylvia browne explains the city is about to reappear in this century! and the it was ruled by a civilization from the galaxy Andromeda, with unthinkable technology that ended in the destruction of this land.. and this island is located in the atlantic ocean, stretching from north\south america to african coast.. there has been satellite pictures of this island city that collapsed beneath the sea thousands of years ago, hence the name “A City in the Sea”, and lo! there is a stir, a movement on the wave..-Poe-try l0ver

  3. Gavin says:

    hello i am a poem noob you could say… haha, i am related to Edgar Alan Poe, i see the poe family at reuinions, any way we have a school report to do, and this was one of my favorite poems he has made. i read this and was like wow i can understand where hes comming from. i may have a long life ahead of me, but even at my age my worry is death, im not afraid of pain, or death, but of being forgotten, being known by my grandkids maybe, but then thats it i will be nothing, its hard to explain but it is my #1 fear of life, and this poem showed me that i am by far not the only one with this fear.

  4. Julie says:

    Wow! there was just something about this poem. The wide vocabulary and the depth to “The City in the Sea” I’ve been working on analyzing this poem for about two weeks now and when I came across this web site with this poem I was befudled with and uncontainable joy. How ironic… right? Well the poem, as I see it defineatly represents the poets life.(In this case Edgar Allan Poe’s gloomy depressed life.) In the first stanza, “the shrines, palaces and towers” represent the respectable graves “the good and bad, worst and best” may represent the remembered and unremembered of society and once they die, they all end in the gloom of a grave. We are all forgotten.

  5. Alexandra says:

    yet again, this poem is one of Poe’s spellbinding and breathtaking masterpieces…reading it is as if you are there…the best part, as with all of Poe’s poems, is to allot some free time, go to a quiet spot, read the poem…and then let your mind wander…you may even surprise yourself at the questions, answers, thoughts…memories and so much more that you will think…

  6. Christian says:

    hey thats very cool poem. may be this poem is the series of the annabel lee which he dedcated to his wife
    this The title of the poem seems to be a mysterious type of poem. This is one of Poe’s typical, ‘atmospheric’ poems, gloomy, and with the mystical, almost strange
    atmosphere that hints at, but never quite reveals, the supernatural horrors lurking beneath the surface. This is the supernatural horrors lurking beneath the surface. This is the true darker side of the sea not the violent and death-dealing aspect, but the ‘hideously calm’ waters that entomb a city ruled by death. -Christian

  7. Christian Obejas says:

    hey thats very cool poem. may be this poem is the series of the annabel lee which he dedcated to his wife
    this The title of the poem seems to be a mysterious type of poem. This is one of Poe’s typical, ‘atmospheric’ poems, gloomy, and with the mystical, almost strange
    atmosphere that hints at, but never quite reveals, the supernatural horrors lurking beneath the surface. This is the supernatural horrors lurking beneath the surface. This is the true darker side of the sea not the violent and death-dealing aspect, but the ‘hideously calm’ waters that entomb a city ruled by death. -Christian

  8. Ren Johnson says:

    Yah im doing this for an English report… Its cool cuz most everyone else is doing happy poems so mine is totally awesome! I have to memorize it for tomorrow (June 1st) and i got it down. It took my a couple days so im looking forward to seeing the reaction of the students to this poem. I really thought that it was very mournful and it really was a lot more than a project cuz it was inspiring. I have to use props and this poem really doesnt have a sole prop since it has many meanings. It kindof reminded me of atlantas but thats just technical…It probably is something relating to his life as one of u said… I never liked poetry but Poe really writes some cool literature!

  9. jenn says:

    yea this poem is definitely one of my favorites! the meaning i get from it is that the first two stanzas are about the city in the sea being its own heaven and in the third stanza the tone cahnges and in the last two stanzas the melancholy waters are now being described as a restless tormenting hell……perhaps poe was relating to himself in this poem ….perhaps he was trying to say just when he thought himself right for something he miscomprehended himself completely…perhaps the melancholy waters are his soul- a restless tormenting evil…anyone have any other perceptions?…

  10. GÜLER KOÇAK says:

    ıthink this poem magnificent.the words cannot explain the all senses in it.thats all…

  11. Dawn says:

    In this poem, I think Poe is trying to evoke a feeling of loneliness and isolation. There is no reference to any of the people in this poem having a soul…nor does the doomed city. Maybe he is making a paralell to a dead body with this poem…lonely, isolated, and having no soul.

  12. Michael Summers says:

    I think that it is wierd that this poem is almost uncommented on. I have been first to comment on a poem or two on this site, and it surprised me most to see this poem with ONLY 2 COMMENTS!!! I liked this poem and I find it to be inspiring for when i write my own poetry and short stories. I will use it for my project for one of my classes. I will make sure to write that this poem was taken from this site and written by Edgar Allen Poe when it is in my project.

  13. zach says:

    i thought it was very cool….that is weird that only one other person commented on it

  14. Niya says:

    I love this poem! Why am I the first to post a comment on this one? It’s a very fine poem. In fact, I think I’ll recite this one in class!
    Chow!

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