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The Last Man, Edited by Steven E. Jones

from Volney's Ruins, Vol. I, chapter 2


Here, said I, once flourished an opulent city; here was the seat of a powerful empire. Yes! these places, now wild and desert, were once animated by a living multitude; a busy crowd circulated in these streets now solitary. Within these walls, where now reigns the silence of death, resounded incessantly the noise of the arts, and the shouts of joy and festivity: these piles of marble were regular palaces; these fallen columns adorned the majesty of temples; these ruined galleries traced the public palaces. Here assembled a numerous people for the sacred duties of their religion, and the affecting cares of their subsistence; here industry, parent of enjoyments, collected the riches of all climates; and the purple of Tyre was exchanged for the precious thread of Serica; the soft tissues of Cassimire for the sumptuous tapestry of Lydia; the amber of the Baltic for the pearls and perfumes of Arabia; the gold of Ophir for the tin of Thulé: and now behold what remains of this powerful city; a miserable skeleton! what of its vast domination; a doubtful and empty remembrance! To the noisy concourse which thronged under these porticoes succeeds the solitude of death. The silence of the grave is substituted for the hum of public places; the wealth of a commercial city is changed into hideous poverty; the palaces of kings become the den of wild beasts; flocks fold on the area of temples, and filthy reptiles inhabit the sanctuary of the gods. Ah! how has so much glory been eclipsed! how have been annihilated so many labours! Do thus then perish the works of men! thus vanish empires and nations! . . .

Published @ RC

October 1997