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Last Days of Pompeii

Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Book Overview: 

Last Days of Pompeii is a novel written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Once a very widely read book and now relatively neglected, it culminates in the cataclysmic destruction of the city of Pompeii by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

The novel uses its characters to contrast the decadent culture of first-century Rome with both older cultures and coming trends. The protagonist, Glaucus, represents the Greeks who have been subordinated by Rome, and his nemesis Arbaces the still older culture of Egypt. Olinthus is the chief representative of the nascent Christian religion, which is presented favorably but not uncritically.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . . cups were emptied and refilled at that glowing board, they sang the following strain:

BACCHIC HYMNS TO THE IMAGE OF DEATH I Thou art in the land of the shadowy Host, Thou that didst drink and love: By the Solemn River, a gliding ghost, But thy thought is ours above! If memory yet can fly, Back to the golden sky, And mourn the pleasures lost! By the ruin'd hall these flowers we lay, Where thy soul once held its palace; When the rose to thy scent and sight was gay, And the smile was in the chalice, And the cithara's voice Could bid thy heart rejoice When night eclipsed the day.

Here a new group advancing, turned the tide of the music into a quicker and more joyous strain.

II Death, death is the gloomy shore . . . Read More